FAQ for Current Students
Is it a requirement that I complete my coursework before taking my comprehensive exams?
Do the comprehensive exams have an oral component?
They do not. All comprehensive exams are written.
Can I work another job while receiving funding as a Graduate Assistant?
Students on assistantship cannot work outside of school without permission. You can read more about this policy here.
How do PhD students apply for 4th year funding?
The Director of the Center for Writers will send a call for applications in the fall semester. These applications are typically due December 1st. Students will be notified of funding in April of the following semester. As a reminder, fourth-year funding is not guaranteed, and all students should plan to complete their doctoral degree in three years.
Can students take a workshop outside of their genre?
Sometimes. MA students can enroll in a workshop outside of their genre after completing six hours in their main genre. PhD students will need to complete twelve hours in their main genre. All requests for taking a workshop outside of your genre must be approved in advance by the Director of the Center for Writers.
Who is my advisor and what should I know about advising/signing up for classes?
Your advisor will be assigned early in your first year of studies. It is usually a professor in your genre. You can also find the information in SOAR. Students should review their degree plan ahead of their advising appointment and select potential courses before meeting with your advisor. Students should follow the advice they’re given at advising. Enrolling in different classes will likely cause headaches down the line and could jeopardize progress to degree. Students must take care of the immunizations requirement and required training(s) to register for classes. There could be a grace period in the first semester, but there won’t be in the second, and this will prevent you from registering. We’ve had students delayed because of immunizations and CITI training.
Can I enroll in 500-level literature courses?
Students can take no more than six hours of literature courses at the 500-level during their degree. No more than one should be taken in a semester.
How do I form my dissertation/thesis committee?
At the end of their third semester of studies, PhD students should start with selecting a director (a professor in your genre) and discuss the committee with your director. MA students will usually be assigned a director. The other two members will be the other faculty in your genre and a faculty member in literature. You should consult with your director about this professor in literature.
During non-pandemic times, students should ask faculty in-person to serve on their committees. Once you have received confirmation from the committee, e-mail the director of your committee and CC the rest of the members, confirming your choices. At this point, your dissertation/thesis director will submit the paperwork to form the committee.
How many hours of coursework do I need to take per semester?
A funded student must take at least nine hours (at the graduate level) each semester to retain funding. Some of these hours may include thesis or dissertation hours.
Do I need to embargo my thesis or dissertation?
Yes, we recommend this. Allowing your thesis or dissertation to be available via library databases can prevent you from publishing the work elsewhere.
Where can I learn more about the doctoral comprehensive exams?
Additional details can be found here. Your dissertation director or advisor can provide information as well.
Do MA students take qualifying exams or comprehensive exams?
No. The successful oral defense of your MA thesis is required, but MA students do not take separate qualifying or comprehensive exams.
What is the required GPA to complete the PhD and MA?
A 3.0 GPA is required for graduation.
What takes place during qualifying exams, and when do they happen?
The qualifying exam is an exam that takes place after nine hours of graduate work have been completed, and it involves the student, two professors in the student’s main genre, and faculty with whom the student has had classes. Occasionally the Director of the Center will be present. The purpose of the meeting is to be certain the student is doing well in the program and to help the student with any difficulties they might be having. The student delivers to the committee a portfolio of scholarly and creative work from the first nine hours of his/her first semester(s) in the program. It should contain, at minimum, one substantial essay from an academic course and either a short story or a selection of poems (usually five to ten) the student submitted to workshop.
The committee convenes without the student present, discusses the work, determines areas of strength and weakness, then comes to a preliminary opinion as to the student’s qualification for continuing in the program. The committee then provides the student with a helpful critique of the work in hand, highlighting strengths and weaknesses as discussed above. Additional discussion turns on particulars of the student’s program, including secondary area of study, major figure or area of interest, coverage areas, languages or research tools, any difficulties the student might have, general questions about procedures, etc. After this discussion the student is excused and there is further opportunity for discussion among committee members. A final opinion of the student’s qualification is settled upon.
If the student is deemed qualified, the student is recalled, congratulated, and sent
on their way with the good wishes of the committee.
If there are problems with the student’s work, these are put plainly to the student in a manner designed to help the student repair the problems. In cases where the student has not met program standards, a student will not pass the qualifying exam and will have a second opportunity to complete this requirement. In these circumstances, we encourage students to work closely with their committee to make adjustments and pass the exam successfully.
How do I satisfy the foreign language/allied field requirement?
There are a few ways to accomplish this:
- Complete 6 graduate credit hours with grades of "C" or better in one of the following language sequences: FRE 501-FRE 502, SPA 501-SPA 502, or GER 501-GER 502. Some schools may require a "B" for the courses.
- Complete 9 semester hours (undergraduate or graduate) with grades of "C" or better in an approved foreign language.
- Achieve an acceptable minimum score on the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)
test in French (43), Spanish (48), or German (39).
Students whose first language is not English have already met the foreign language requirement by earning scores acceptable for admission on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or Pearson Test of English (PTE) examination.
In lieu of a foreign language, students may also choose to complete a research tool
from an allied field. See below.
What constitutes a research tool / allied field?
PhD students can complete a research tool / allied field by pursuing six hours of graduate studies in another field that has relevance to a student’s creative / scholarly work. A student’s allied field must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, who takes availability, timeline, and relevance into consideration when making that decision. Potential options include women’s studies, history, journalism, or digital humanities. This list is not meant to be exhaustive.
Can I receive funding for summer courses?
Students must request a summer tuition waiver if they're on assistantship and need hours or classes over the summer. The Director of Graduate Students will send an email about this request in the Spring. If students don't request funding by the deadline, they're liable to pay for those classes or hours.
Which forms am I responsible for completing?
Visit the Graduate School’s website here for a full list of forms and deadlines. Students in creative writing do not need to fill out the Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Form.
Visit the Graduate Student Success page for additional information on policies, including a guide to formatting your thesis/dissertation. Please remember it is the student’s responsibility to be aware of these deadlines and ensure that the appropriate forms are completed on-time. The Graduate School deadlines are firm.
What if I find myself overwhelmed by my teaching or assistantship duties?
You must contact the Director of Graduate Studies or the Director of the Center for Writers right away so that the situation can be corrected. Graduate assistants are neither expected nor permitted to work more than twenty hours per week in carrying out assistantship tasks. This is not likely to happen and can usually be resolved with time-management tips, but it is crucial that you reach out if any issues arise.