Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Prospective Students
Home > Graduate Programs > Prospective Students > PhD Application Requirements

PhD Application Instructions 

All applications to our PhD program must go through MSU’s Graduate Admissions Management System (GAMS) 

To be considered for admission, fellowships, and graduate assistantship funding you must provide all of the materials described below by December 1st 

Please read all instructions carefully before beginning your application process. 

International applicants are advised to complete the application as early as possible to allow time for processing of visas and other documents. See  http://grad.msu.edu/apply/ for additional information. 

The Graduate Programs in WRAC do not consider transfer requests from students enrolled in other MSU doctoral programs. We will consider applications from such students as new applications as long as they have no more than one year (or the equivalent) of coursework in that other doctoral program. 


PhD Application Steps: 

  1. A completed Application for Graduate Study, along with payment of the application fee. The application form is available at http://grad.msu.edu/apply/. You must apply online. (There is a separate form for international applicants.) The MSU application code for the Rhetoric & Writing PhD is 5752– please take care to enter the correct code on your application. 

NOTE: At the “Academic and Personal Statement” prompt of the online application form, please write “program-specific statement uploaded to GAMS.” Your Statement of Purpose is part of the PDF specified in #4 below. Do not cut and paste the required Statement to the online application. 

Once you have completed and submitted your online application, you will receive an e-mail prompting you to create an account on the Graduate Admissions Management System (GAMS) portal and providing further instructions for using that System. 

  1. One copy of each transcript from each college or university that you have attended. Transcripts should be sent directly from the Office of the Registrar at each institution you have attended to MSU. (Transcripts of work taken at MSU need not be requested.)   

If the institution(s) from which you send transcripts use an electronic transcript service, simply direct that institution to send transcripts to the Graduate School at MSU — your transcript will be attached to your electronic application when it arrives. If you are sending transcripts from institutions that use paper copies, please have those transcripts sent to:  WRAC Graduate Program; Michigan State University; 434 Farm Lane; 235 Bessey Hall; East Lansing, MI 48824; Attn: Melissa Arthurton. 

  1. Three letters of recommendation from persons qualified to assess your ability to pursue advanced graduate study. Letters of recommendation should address your potential to do doctoral-level research and writing and your qualifications (or potential) for teaching.  

NOTE: When you create your profile in GAMS portal, you will provide contact information for each of your recommenders so that GAMS can send a link for them to upload their letters directly into your GAMS profile. All recommendation letters are due by December 1st. Please create your GAMS profile well in advance of that deadline so the WRAC Graduate Advisory Committee has your letters of recommendation in hand when we review your file in early December. If you wait until the application deadline to specify your recommenders in GAMS, it will not be possible for your letters to arrive by the application deadline. 

  1. A single PDF compiling the following items in the order listed below. Save this PDF with your last name and upload it to GAMS in any materials category. 

  • A curriculum vitae (CV) 

  • 3-5 page Statement of Purpose tell us about your professional goals, interests and qualifications. 

NOTE: Since this is one of the most important parts of your application materials, we’d like to offer some drafting suggestions. A typical applicant will tell us what they’d like to learn about, what they’d like to write about, narrate the accomplishments on their CV, and represent themselves as good students, well-equipped for doctoral study. While those things are interesting, they don’t give us much insight into who you are now, who you want to become, and how the R&W program can help you get there. We’re especially interested in statements that show us what kinds of intellectual questions interest you, what kinds of scholarship and research you’re curious about, what kinds of challenges inspire you. Additionally, we respond best to statements that demonstrate your sense of identity as a scholar, and intellectual, a teacher, an activist and show how your life experiences. learning, and accomplishments contribut to that identity and to your future goals. Finally, we definitely want you to tell us why you want to join the intellectual community in our programs – what do we do that excites and interests you? how are we a good fit for you (and vice versa)? are there specific faculty here whose work inspires, intrigues, challenges, or excites you? (we’re not looking for name-dropping here – we’re looking for connections that will tell us more about you). Additionally, since we’ll be selecting some admitted application to nominate for University fellowships, you might also want to consider the fellowship criteria as you craft your Statement. They are: demonstrated academic excellent; an articulated commitment to research goals well matched to the program or emphasis area; evidence of leadership potential or the capacity to make a distinctive professional or scholarly contribution; contributes to a diverse educational community (as evidenced in personal history and experience, research goals, or experience in promoting understanding among persons of different backgrounds); come from diverse backgrounds (racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, geographic, disciplinary, etc.). 

  • 1 page Statement of Teaching Philosophy in which you discuss your experience or potential as a teacher of writing and rhetoric; talk about your philosophy of writing (what are your goals as a writing teacher? what general approach do you take?); and indicate how you teach (e.g., what sorts of approaches and strategies do you employ, or would you employ, in teaching a writing, rhetoric or literacy class?). 

  • Two writing samples (e.g., major research paper, summary of master’s thesis, or digital documents). At least one sample should be an academic paper showing your ability to do sustained critical analysis, research, review, or evaluation at an advanced level. At least one piece should be single-authored. If you wish to direct us to an online sample (a web-site or multimedia piece), please do so by embedding the URL in the PDF compilation. Please provide a short contextual statement for each of your samples. 


Please direct all general questions regarding admissions, or inquiries about the PhD program, to Prof. Malea Powell, Associate Chair of Graduate Studies in WRAC, powell37@msu.edu. 

If you have a question regarding receipt and/or status of your application materials, or if you have a problem with GAMS, please contact Melissa Arthurton viarwapplic@msu.edu