How to Apply


Connect here to the Graduate College and Discover More About ISU


Application Deadline: January 5, 2016

January 5 is the single application deadline for admission consideration for entry the following academic year (beginning fall term) into all six graduate degree programs in the Department of English.

All application documents are to be received no later than January 5 to ensure maximum consideration for admission and support available from the Department of English (assistantships, scholarships, fellowships). The deadline represents the endpoint in the application process (i.e., the completion of your application file) rather than the beginning of the process.  Applications are not reviewed until after the January 5 deadline and decisions may not be finalized until late February or early March.

Applicants are responsible for collecting the required documents and uploading them into the ISU application system to form a complete application by January 5.  We strongly recommend you complete the online application form and submit it early for transcript evaluations to be done and for email notifications to be sent to recommenders to upload their recommendation. You will not be able to edit the actual application form once it is submitted. However, other required documents may be uploaded no later than the deadline.  This gives you time to work on and finalize the required supplemental documents (personal statement, writing samples, curriculum vitae) and upload copies of exam scores as they become available. If you have recently taken exams (GRE, TOEFL, IELTS) and scores are not yet available, please leave these areas blank on the application form and upload a PDF copy of your scores once you have online access to them or receive them from ETS.

In addition to the preferred and required minimum criteria given below (GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL or IELTS scores), applicants are also evaluated on factors such as performance on writing samples, quality of the cover letter, letters of recommendation, and program match—all of which influence the applicant’s admission status. We do not offer conditional admission to nonnative speaking applicants not meeting the minimum TOEFL/IELTS score requirement.

If you are a current graduate student at ISU or have previously graduated from any graduate program at ISU, please contact Teresa Smiley ( for special instructions. You do not submit an online application and pay the application fee again.

If you have questions about the online application system, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office.  Application Instructions are also available to download from their website.

Teresa Smiley                                                                        Graduate Admissions Office
Graduate Program Staff Assistant                                       Iowa State University
English Department                                                               100 Enrollment Services Center
227 Ross Hall                                                                                                                        1-800-262-3810 (toll free)


Spring admission:  contact Teresa Smiley  ( if you have questions.  Consideration is limited to our three MA programs and no assistantships, scholarships, or fellowships are available from the Department of English with spring admission. The same application requirements and procedures apply with a deadline of October 15.


Application Requirements and Instructions

All of the following application components are required and must be uploaded electronically via the Iowa State University Office of Admissions online application system:

  • Graduate online application completion and fee payment
    (Note: Your application is not received by ISU until you click “Save and Submit” and pay the application fee.) We recommend you submit the actual application form ASAP and upload documents as available or completed.
  • GRE General Test official scores are required from all applicants and must be reported directly to ISU by ETS (no Subject Test required) and a copy of exam scores uploaded into the online application system. Test scores are required regardless if applicant possesses other graduate degrees. If official scores cannot be sent by ETS at the time of application (more than five testing years old), the exam must be retaken.  Register to take the exam or request score reports at   Iowa State University Inst Code: 6306

Preferred minimum scores:
MA: 154 Verbal OR 4.5 Analytical Writing*
MFA: 154 Verbal AND 4.5 Analytical Writing
PhD: 158 Verbal AND 5.0 Analytical Writing; 147 Quantitative for ALT major only
(*Master’s level TESL/AL program applicants who are nonnative speakers of English and not requesting consideration for assistantships, fellowships, or scholarships are not required to submit GRE scores.)

  • TOEFL or IELTS official scores reported directly to ISU by ETS (nonnative speaking applicants only) and a copy of exam scores uploaded into the online application system. Test scores are not required if the applicant has earned (or will earn) a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a country where English is the only official language.  The Department of English required minimum scores are higher than those required by ISU in general.  The department will only consider applications once the required minimum score is met, a copy uploaded into the online application system, and official scores reported directly to ISU by ETS.  The department does not offer conditional admission to applicants not meeting the required minimum scores.  Register to take the exam or request score reports at  Iowa State University Inst Code: 6306

Required minimum scores:
MA and MFA:  100 IBT; 600 PBT; 7.0 IELTS
PhD:  111 IBT; 640 PBT; 8.0 IELTS
(Note:  Minimum score of 25 IBT Writing or 7.0 IELTS Writing for teaching assistantship consideration)

  • An audio or video file demonstrating competence in spoken English (all nonnative speaking applicants only) must be sent electronically as an email attachment to  This file cannot be uploaded into the admissions application system. This speaking sample should include 3-5 minutes of extemporaneous speaking.  You might, therefore, begin by talking informally about your educational background and your reasons for pursuing graduate study.
  • Scanned official academic transcripts and degree statements issued by the institution where you earned (or will earn) a degree for all undergraduate and graduate work.
    Preferred overall minimum undergraduate GPA:
    MA and MFA:  3.25
    PhD:  3.50
  • Three letters of recommendation are to be submitted electronically using the electronic letter of recommendation option in the online application system.  These letters should be from persons qualified to comment on your preparation for graduate study in the major to which you are applying.  If applying for a teaching assistantship, at least one of your references should comment on your teaching experience and abilities or on your potential to teach.  If a recommender does not wish to submit an online LOR, you must download the Letter of Recommendation form, complete the appropriate sections, and send the form to your recommender.  You must include our email address ( or postal address (Department of English, Graduate Studies Program, 227 Ross Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-1201 USA) for the recommender to submit their recommendation directly to the program.  The use of dossier services such as Interfolio is also acceptable for transmitting letters (to electronically via email).
  • Curriculum vitae including educational background, awards, accomplishments, and teaching/tutoring experience must be uploaded as a supplemental document into the online application system.
  • Statement of purpose and personal goals according to the individual program specifications below entered into the Statement of Purpose application field (if less than 500 words) or uploaded as a supplemental document into the online application system (make a notation “Uploaded as separate supplemental document”). If seeking a teaching assistantship, elaborate on your relevant experience.

MA English:  Statement of purpose of up to 500 words that explains your preparation for graduate study, your career goals and research interests, and specifically why you want to study at Iowa State.  We are particularly interested in knowing how your abilities, experiences, awards, and achievements relate to and demonstrate your ability to pursue graduate work in literature.

MA RCPC and MA TESL/AL:  1-3 double-spaced pages.  Please state preparation for graduate study, including reasons and objectives for study in the major to which you are seeking admission.

MFA CWE:  2-3 double-spaced pages maximum.  Be sure to include information about the creative writing projects you have completed or are currently working on, as well as any publications or prizes for creative work.  In order to articulate how the MFA in CWE suits your interests, experience, and creative projects, it’s useful to touch on a few of the following topics:

1.  Fieldwork experiences in natural or urban landscapes that have influenced your aesthetic
2.  Writers or currents of environmental thought that have influenced your work
3.  Issues of place, landscape, the natural world, or environment with which your work engages
4.  Organizations you’ve work with or activities related to environmental issues (if any)
5.  Writing projects you can imagine tackling that have an environmental dimension

Please include in your statement of purpose any teacher-training you’ve had, as well as any previous teaching, tutoring, and/or mentoring experience if seeking a teaching assistantship.  Applicants for the Hogrefe Fellowship in Creative Writing must incorporate a statement indicating your wish to be considered for the fellowship and explaining what you hope to achieve in your work as the Hogrefe Fellow.

PHD ALT and RPC:  1-3 double-spaced pages.  Please state preparation for graduate study, including reasons and objectives for study in the doctoral program to which you are seeking admission.  If seeking a teaching assistantship, elaborate on your relevant experience.

  • Writing sample(s) are required from all applicants according to these program specifications.  They are to be uploaded as supplemental documents into the online application system.  All writing samples are to be double-spaced.

MA English, RCPC, and TESL/AL:  Expository writing sample (8-20 double-spaced pages) demonstrating critical analysis and research skills in the intended major.  Applicants typically submit an essay they produced for an undergraduate or graduate course in English or a related field.

MFA CWE:  Two double-spaced writing samples are required.
1] Creative writing sample of no more than 25 pages (prose) or 15 pages (poetry may use 1.15 spacing) demonstrating exemplary ability in one genre, although once admitted, students will not be restricted to working in one genre.
2] Expository prose writing sample (5-10 pages) displaying a command of accepted grammatical rules for written English (such as a scholarly research essay for an undergraduate or graduate course in English demonstrating critical and research skills).  Applicants for the Hogrefe Fellowship in Creative Writing (see below) do not need to submit writing samples electronically via email as well.

PhD ALT and RPC:  Writing sample demonstrating critical analysis and research skills with cover sheet contextualizing the document.  Applicants may include two documents totaling a maximum of 35 pages, but at least one document must demonstrate critical analysis and research skills.