Admission FAQs

What grades are required for admission, and how are they calculated?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies minimum requirement for admission to any graduate program at Dalhousie is a B average.  The Englsih Department Graduate Committee, however, expects applicants to have an A- average (3.7 GPA on the 4.3 scale) in the last two years (or equivalent) of undergraduate work.

PhD Applicants will have MA grades considered as part of the most recent two years of study.

How we calculate your GPA

Do I have to follow through with the research I propose with my application?

No.  The Graduate Committee understands that applicants may be unsure of their thesis topic. The Statement of Intent is considered an example of your ability to communicate a research topic in a clear, concise, and compelling way.  It's expected that your interests may change. PhD applicants are, however, expected to have a clear and well-developed thesis topic.

I see your MA and PhD programs require knowledge of a second language. Do I have to have this before I can apply? What level of competency are you looking for?

The second language requirement is for graduation, not admission, so feel free to apply even if English is your only language.  The Graduate Coordinator determines what constitutes competency in a second language on a case-by-case basis.  Usually, if you are not already fluent in another language, then an introductory university-level class in a second language with a grade of C or better is required.

If you have no knowledge of a language other than English, you can complete an introductory level language course at Dalhousie at no extra charge.

What are the requirements for students who have English as a second language?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies sets the minimum admission requirements for English language competency.  Because our graduate students are expected to have an excellent knowledge of English, the Graduate Committee looks for TOEFL (or other approved test) scores significantly higher than the minimum required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and near-native language competency in the applicant’s written work. 

Do you offer graduate work in TESL / Education / Linguistics / Creative Writing / Professional Writing?

No.  Our graduate programs are based on the study of English literature and culture, and we do not have the courses or the supervisory expertise to accept students who wish to pursue studies in other fields.

If I am accepted into the MA Program, can I then automatically move to the PhD?

No.  Each year is a new competition, and any of our MA students who wish to stay at Dalhousie for the PhD must apply accordingly. Because our PhD Program is small, we cannot accept all applicants.

I didn’t take an Honours undergraduate degree. Can I still apply to the MA program?

If the institution you attend offers an Honours BA, this is the preferable route in preparation for graduate work. In any case, you must complete a four-year undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.7 on the 4.3 GPA scale.   

My undergraduate major is in another discipline. Can I still apply to the MA Program?

It depends on how many upper-level English courses you have completed.  The Graduate Committee will consider the number and range of English courses on your transcript(s).

I completed my undergraduate degree some time ago. Can I still apply to the MA program?

The Graduate Committee reviews the caliber of your transcript(s) and the range of courses completed. If you have not taken courses for some time, however, it may be difficult to find suitable academic referees. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to consider taking an upper-level undergraduate English course or two to brush up on your academic skills as well as secure new referees.

Documents Required

I completed the online application but haven't heard anything yet. What’s up?

It can take a week or more before the Department of English receives the information you submit online. Once we receive your application file, we will contact you via email to let you know your application was received and if any further supporting documention is required.

Is there a separate application for scholarships?

Yes, we strongly encourage all applicants to apply prior to January 15 to be considered for entrance scholarships such as the Isaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship (Dalhousie's most prestigious award), the Eliza Ritchie Doctoral Scholarship for Women, the James Robinson Johnson Scholarship for African Canadians, the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship, and the Nova Scotia Black and First Nations Graduate Entrance Scholarship, along with many other awards and prizes.

Applications received after January 31 can be considered for Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) Fellowships.

For more information see our Money Matters page with information on admissions and financial aid.

Is there a separate application for Teaching Assistant positions?

Full-time students who are offered admission are normally offered a Teaching Assistant position (unless they are asked to perform Research Assistant duties).  TA positions are governed by the CUPE 3912 Collective Agreement.  Most of the TA positions in the Department of English are at the TA260 or TA130 level, both of which require an average of 10 hours work per week during the term. If you are not a full-time graduate student and wish to apply for a TA position, job postings are advertised on the employment section of our website and on the employment opportunites bulletin board outside the Department of English main office.

How does the online reference system work?

The online application offers the option of listing referees and their academic email addresses. An academic email address is required by the system, and it will not accept personal email addresses such as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. Referees will then receive an automatic email with a direct link to Dalhousie’s online reference system, where they can complete the reference form and upload additional documents.

I completed the online application but my referees have not yet received their email requests – should I be worried?

No. To be considered legitimate, all references must be submitted either through Dalhousie’s electronic reference system or signed and mailed directly to the Department of English.

Please note that if you have entered the email address incorrectly, it cannot be changed and a signed paper copy will be required.

My referees want to (or have to) mail you their references. Do they have to use the Confidential Reference Letter form, or can they just send a regular reference letter?

Your referees should complete the Confidential Reference Form, and, if they wish, attach a more detailed letter outlining your academic strengths.  The information on the form helps the Graduate Committee understand your strengths in relation to your peers.


Do the Confidential Reference Letters have to be completed by professors, or can I use my work supervisor as a reference?

At least one and preferably both of the references should be from faculty members who have taught you in upper-level classes.  The Graduate Committee is looking for evidence that you can succeed in a graduate program, and the people best equipped to speak to your academic abilities are those who have taught you and understand the challenges you will face in graduate school. 

Can I mail you my transcript or does my university have to do that?

You can mail us a copy of your transcript as long as it’s sealed (i.e. you were given a copy in a sealed envelope by your university and did not open it).  Alternatively, you can have your transcript sent directly from your university to the English Department.

Not all my fall grades are on my transcript yet. Is that a problem?

Have a copy of your transcript(s) sent to the English Department for the January 15 deadline.  If there are fall grades missing, we’ll be in touch if the Graduate Committee needs them to evaluate your application.

I completed the online application form, my referees filled in the electronic reference forms, and my university is sending you copies of my transcript. The only item left is my 500-word Statement of Intent. Do I have to mail that to you?

You can email your Statement of Intent to our Graduate Administrator at gradengl@dal.ca

Deadlines/ Timing

What is your deadline for applications? What if my application arrives after the deadline? What if the deadline is on a weekend?

The recommended deadline for applications is January 15 so the Graduate Committee can consider nominees for external scholarships. Technically, applications can be accepted as late as mid-May, yet all available scholarship funds may have already been allocated by this date. It is in your best interest to apply prior to January 15. If January 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, applications will be accepted on the following Monday.


I applied online before January 15. This means I’ll be considered for all scholarships, right?

When you apply online, it can take a week or more before the Department of English receives your application file. Additionally, we can’t consider your application until it is complete, including official transcript(s), your Statement of Intent, and references. We’ll do our best to ensure your application is considered for all available funding, but there are some deadlines we don’t control (such as the Killam Scholarship nomination deadline).  Ideally, you should apply several weeks early and make arrangements for transcript(s) and references to arrive on or before January 15.

Can I start the graduate program in January?

The normal entry date for our full-time programs is September. Whether students can be admitted in January is decided by the Graduate Committee on a case-by-case basis. Note that there will normally be no funding available for January admissions.

Do I need to find a supervisor before I apply?

No. However, it’s always a good idea to check our faculty directory to confirm we can provide supervision for the period/topic you have in mind.

I am planning on finishing my degree over the summer and won’t graduate until the fall. Does this mean I can’t apply for September admission?

You can absolutely apply for September admission.  Any acceptance will be conditional on producing a final transcript confirming that your degree has been conferred. Note that Department of English requires the official transcript within 90 days of beginning a graduate program at Dalhousie. 

Calculating Your Admission GPA

Although the Faculty of Graduate Studies minimum GPA requirement is a 3.0 (B average), it is rare that students who have less than a 3.7 (A- average) will be offered admission to a graduate program in the Department of English.  Your admission GPA is not the same as your cumulative GPA.  Based on guidelines supplied to us by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, here are some examples of how your admission GPA will be calculated:

MA Applicants

Your admission GPA will be based on the last two years of study (or equivalent) of your undergraduate degree. If, like most applicants, you apply before completing your undergraduate degree, we will consider the courses in which you are currently enrolled, and finalize our calculations as grades for these courses become available. If your university applied a different grade scales, grades and/or percentages will be converted as follows:



GPA Equivalent


































Click here for our Faculty of Graduate Studies GPA calculation guidelines.

For MA applicants, previous Master's-level courses cannot be included in calculating a Dalhousie admissions GPA.

PhD Applicants

Grade Point Averages for PhD applicants are based on the most recent two years (or equivalent) of study, including MA courses.

Funding FAQs

How much will the program cost?

For information on program costs, please see our Student Accounts website, which will include regular updates.

Please note that total figures include tuition and all ancillary fees, such as the Student Health Plan, Dalplex membership, and Bus Pass and that International students are charged a differential fee. Tuition and fees are updated annually.

What funding can I expect to receive from Dalhousie?

Funding packages vary depending on the caliber of your application and will be detailed in the Graduate Committee's letter of offer.

If you are a candidate for a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) scholarship, you should look into applying either through the university where you are currently enrolled or, if you are not currently a student, you can inquire directly to SSHRC about their "Talent" program

Tuition and fees are automatically deducted from funding amounts and the remaining balance paid over the course of the year.

In addition, current graduate studies are normally eligible for Teaching Assistant positions. Teaching Assistant salaries are governed by the Collective Agreement between Dalhousie and CUPE local 3912.  Most of our TAs are at the TA130 or TA260 level, which require 10 hours work per week during the term.


What’s a SSHRC?

The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) holds annual competitions for graduate scholarships. The Canada Graduate Scholarship at the MA level is currently valued at $17,500 and can be held for a one-year period at a Canadian university. SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships can be held for up to four years, and are valued at $20,000 per year. Canada Graduate Scholarships at the doctoral level can be held for up to three years and are valued at $35,000 per year.

What’s a Killam?

Dalhousie University is one of Canada's five Killam Universities. The Killam Endowment at Dalhousie University in honour of Izaak Walton Killam (1885-1955), one of Canada's most eminent financiers, was established by his widow, Dorothy Johnston Killam, before her death in 1965. Through the Killam Endowments, the university maintains a number of major programs: Killam Predoctoral Scholarships, general graduate scholarships in the sciences and engineering, Killam Postdoctoral Fellowships, four Killam Research Chairs, twelve Killam Science Professors, and the Dorothy J. Killam Lecture Series.  Note that you do not apply for a Killam, but are nominated based on the strength of your application. To be eligible for Killam nomination, you must have applied for external funding, especially SSHRC. Learn more about Killam scholarships.

What is the Special Provost - Alumni Scholarship?

Special Provost-Alumni Scholars (FASS) are selected on the basis of nominations made by departments.  Canadian students who have applied to enter a FASS PhD program are eligible for nomination for Special Provost-Alumni Scholarships (FASS) only if they are eligible, and have applied, for Tri-Agency doctoral funding (e.g. SSHRC, CIHR, NSERC CGS-D scholarships, Vanier CGS-D’s).

Special Provost-Alumni Scholarships (FASS) offer a minimum $20,000/year, including a teaching assistantship or equivalent, for four years.

I’m an international student. What scholarships are available for me?

International students are eligible may be eligible for FGS funding and can be nominated for Killam scholarships if they have already applied for other external funding. If you are from a Commonwealth country, you should apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship or Abdul Majid Bader Graduate Scholarship

Are there opportunities for Research Assistants?

Faculty members with research grants sometimes fund graduate student assistants. Depending on the grant holder, an RA can be included as part of a funding package or paid at an hourly rate.

What happens if I’m successful in winning external funding?

If you win a major external award, you may be eligible for the President’s Award, which covers tuition fees for up to two years.

Is funding available for Conferences / Research Trips?

Yes. The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) offers one Conference Travel Grant or both MA and PhD students, and a Research Travel Grant or PhD students. We encourage our students to take advantage of these opportunities. Given that FGS funding does not always cover the full cost of attending a conference or conducting research outside of Halifax, the English Department makes additional funds available. Students must apply to FGS to be eligible for Department of English travel funding.

What is the Special Provost-Alumni Scholarships (FASS) Award?

Dalhousie awards Special Provost-Alumni Scholarships (FASS) on a competitive basis to four outstanding graduate students planning to enroll in a PhD program in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Special Provost-Alumni Scholars (FASS) are selected on the basis of nominations made by departments.  Canadian students who have applied to enter a FASS PhD program are eligible for nomination for Special Provost-Alumni Scholarships (FASS) only if they are eligible, and have applied, for Tri-Agency doctoral funding (e.g. SSHRC, CIHR, NSERC CGS-D scholarships, Vanier CGS-D’s).

Special Provost-Alumni Scholarships (FASS) offer a minimum $20,000/year, including a teaching assistantship or equivalent, for four years.

Graduate Seminar FAQs

Can I audit or take undergraduate classes as part of my graduate degree?

Undergraduate courses cannot be counted toward a graduate degree, but can be taken as “ancillary” classes out of interest or to fill a gap in an undergraduate record.  There are no additional fees charged for ancillary courses, but both MA and PhD students are normally permitted to take only one during the course of their respective programs.

I want to design a reading class to replace one of my required seminars. What do I do?

Directed Reading courses are available only if there is no course offered in the student’s declared research area, and only if the professor is willing and available to take on the extra teaching. (Note that if there is no course key to their research interests offered in their first year, PhD students may defer one three-credit hour course to second year.)  The student and professor must devise a syllabus including a week-by-week outline of the material to be covered as well as a detailed Method of Evaluation. The Directed Reading must also be approved by the Graduate Committee, which may instead require the student to enroll in a related course already on offer. In exceptional circumstances, students may take a maximum of two three-credit hour ENGL5000.03 Directed Reading courses per degree.

Can I take graduate classes if I’m an undergraduate student?

No. Graduate courses are designed for outstanding students with established academic records, and all students enrolled in graduate courses are expected to participate at a similar level.  Undergraduate students would have difficulty meeting the expectations of a graduate course.

Can I take a graduate class if I’m a graduate student in another discipline?

Yes, as long as the professor agrees that you are qualified to engage as an active participant.  You should, however, first discuss the option with your own department’s Graduate Coordinator to ensure that the English course suits your program of study, and the Graduate Coordinator for English must also agree. If the course is at or near capacity, graduate students in English have priority.

Supervisor FAQ

What is the process for finding a supervisor?


Supervisors should be secured by about mid-January, and there is a workshop on prospectus and thesis writing offered by the Department in the first part of the Winter Term. MA Thesis Prospectuses are due in the second part of the Winter Term, so students normally have four to five weeks following the workshop to work on the prospectus. Supervisors guide students through prospectus writing and approve the version submitted to the Graduate Committee, which may accept, ask for revisions, or reject the prospectus altogether. 

Students who have a clear idea of their research interests will usually start looking for a supervisor early in the Fall Term and expect an answer about mid-November.

How do I ask a faculty member to be my supervisor?

Thesis writers should have an idea of their topic before approaching a prospective supervisor. Students should be ready to discuss a general thesis topic, and should not approach a faculty member with a “will you be my supervisor” request and nothing else. You should also keep the following in mind:

1.    Be flexible with your topic.  At this stage it might be imprudent to be absolutely certain of your argument, texts, and approach. A professor might be interested in your topic, but may suggest changing some of the authors, secondary sources, theories, etc.  Be open to suggestions, especially if you are determined to work with a particular professor.

2.    Don’t think it an imposition for you to ask a professor to supervise.  Faculty members expect to work with graduate students, and it’s often one of their more enjoyable tasks. They are usually happy to hear about research plans and make suggestions.

3.    Speak to a number of potential supervisors, and don’t worry that a professor will be slighted if not asked. It’s also a good idea to talk to more than one prospective supervisor to gauge who might be most interested in your topic and who gives the most useful feedback.

4.    Don’t take it personally if professors decline. It may be that they find your project too far from their own area of expertise or that they have already agreed to supervise others.

5.    Don’t forget about professors you haven’t taken a course with or the many adjunct faculty members you may not have met. It’s helpful also to know that professors teaching in the Fall Term are sometimes overwhelmed with requests.  

6.        Making your first approach via email is perfectly acceptable. After the initial contact, however, you should be prepared for a more nuanced discussion.  It is sometimes helpful to email one or more professors with your topic and ask if there would be a good time to meet.