Graduate Program Application FAQ

What should the statement of purpose cover?

The statement (2 pages) should define and emphasize your preparation, special skills, strengths, and goals. Let us know your main areas of interest and your reasons for pursuing graduate studies, and describe how our program in comparative literature may suit your needs.

What should I use as my writing sample?

You are welcome to use a copy of an undergraduate research paper or a piece of professional writing (you may wish to revise it first). It should reflect your writing style, analytical approach, and scholarly concerns. Writing samples are typically 10-15 pages.

Should I contact individual faculty members before applying?

If you have questions that are not answered in this section, you’re welcome to contact either the graduate program coordinator, Marshall Brown (mbrown@u.washington.edu) or faculty in your field of interest (see academic profiles and contact information). We are here to help you. Such contact will not affect the application procedure, since admissions are approved collectively by the department, which considers the written material included in your dossier.

What is the weight of each item in my dossier?

Each item helps us evaluate your suitability for the graduate program. We are especially concerned with your academic interests, writing skills, and previous experience. The Statement of Purpose, writing sample and recommendation letters should convey such concrete information and typically count more heavily than quantifiable scores.

Should I apply to the Department of Comparative Literature or to the department of my primary literature (such as English, German, or Asian Languages and Literature)?

There many variables to consider, some of which are: Comparative Literature is often more theory-oriented and less concerned with the history of specific literary traditions; Comparative Literature requires knowledge of a number of languages and literatures; Comparative Literature is often more interdisciplinary. Our students have usually been successful in finding teaching jobs also in departments of a single literature or that have a language teaching component.

Should I apply to study Comparative Literature if my main interest is in film studies?

If your main interest is in film of various countries of origin, your place is with us, as the department is also home to the Program in Cinema Studies. If you are interested in literature and film in a specific language, you should consider enrolling in the relevant department and taking our film classes as electives.

What does it mean if I’m not admitted or am not offered financial support?

We have a limited number of available TA positions, some of which are linked to a particular teaching department. With the available resources we strive to form a graduate student body that balances various interests and fields. We make the best estimate we can of your likely happiness and success at the University of Washington. Many students we cannot admit end up in other, equally-reputable universities.

Here are some links to help identify funding resources: