Additional requirements

Applying to a graduate program in English

Application files should be completed by January 31 to be considered for Fall admission. However, in order to be considered for specific scholarships, we urge that your file be complete by January 15.

Please review our requirements in the Graduate Studies Calendar or contact the Graduate Assistant at for more information. 

Application Procedure

All applications to the graduate program should be submitted directly to the English Department and include the following items:

  1. Application form (paper copy or online)
  2. Application fee (can be paid online or by cheque)
  3. Official transcript(s) (all post-secondary academic transcripts must be original and sent confidentially from the originating institution to Dalhousie university)
  4. Two letters of recommendation with confidential reference form attached.  If you apply online you have the option of having references submitted electronically.
  5. Prospective MA students: A 500-word statement describing specific interests in the program to be pursued
  6. Prospective PhD students:  A 500-word statement describing the proposed area of thesis work

Writing Samples:

Please note that a formal writing sample (as distinct from the 500-word statement of intent and interests) is NOT required of applicants to our MA or PhD programs. However, we reserve the right to ask for a sample of scholarly writing (normally a recent essay) when we receive an application from someone whose first language is not English, or who comes from a university whose grading system is unfamiliar to us.
Application files should be completed by January 31 to be considered for Fall admission. However, in order to be considered for specific scholarships, we urge that your file be complete by  January 15.

Admission Requirements


By university regulation, admission to a one-year MA program requires the equivalent of a BA with Honours in English from Dalhousie. In practice, this means that a four-year degree with major in English, even one with distinction, is not sufficient for admission if from a university where there is an honours program and the student has not chosen to take it. Students who have done a degree with major rather than honours can prepare themselves to make a competitive application by doing extra work beyond the BA. Very capable students may sometimes be allowed to do honours seminars here: those interested should consult the Chair of the Department by March of the year preceding the seminars. Theoretically, it is possible to apply to do a qualifying year; in practice, however, students are rarely formally admitted to a qualifying year.  

While the basic criteria for admission are an honours BA in English and an average of B or better, admission is very competitive. The Graduate Committee looks for a strong undergraduate record, with an average of A- or better in the classes of the last two years and a solid historical coverage in English classes; for a strong statement of scholarly interests and aims (the 500 word statement); and for detailed letters of reference from two scholars who know the applicant’s work well. Our graduate programs presume prior knowledge of many different periods and nationalities of English literature. Applicants with less historical coverage might be admitted on the condition that they take one or even two courses of the three in specified fields here.

To be eligible for admission to graduate work at Dalhousie, applicants who have English as a second language must show proof of proficiency as per the Faculty of Graduate Studies admission requirements; to make a successful application to the MA in English, fluency is required and scores on English language proficiency tests should reflect this. Applicants from abroad whose first degrees are from a non-English-language university will need a first MA in order to apply to our MA program. Applicants from abroad with an MA from a non-English-language university should apply to our MA rather than our PhD program. Applicants whose first language is not English should submit a writing sample in addition to the usual statements. That sample could be an essay written for an English course.


Applicants must have an MA in English from Dalhousie, or the equivalent. Please consult the information above on admission criteria for the MA; comparable standards apply for the PhD. As we admit only three or four PhD students each year, competition is stiff, and excellent candidates may well not be admitted, particularly those for whom we cannot offer the appropriate program or supervision. Applicants for the PhD program should be especially careful to describe their areas of planned research in the application: the strengths of the Department change from time to time, and supervisory committees in some areas of concentration are sometimes not available.

All applicants for the MA and PhD are urged to apply for a SSHRC fellowship (Canadian Graduate Scholarships for the MA, SSHRC Doctoral Awards for the PhD) during the fall preceding admission. See the SSHRC website for details.