PhD Application Requirements

The Rhetoric & Writing Program uses MSU’s new Graduate Admissions Management System (GAMS), for all application materials. Please read the instructions provided under the Submission Instructions link on this website.

To be considered for admission to the doctoral program in Rhetoric & Writing, you must provide the materials described below.  Please feel free to let us know how your interests fit with the concentrations that we offer.

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

NOTE: At the “Academic and Personal Statement” prompt on the application form, please write “program-specific statement uploaded to GAMS,” and substitute the personal statement specified below; make sure this specific statement is included in the materials uploaded to GAMS.

  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. See Submission Instructions for details about this process. (Transcripts of work taken at MSU need not be requested.)
  2. A curriculum vitae (CV), uploaded via the GAMS portal.
  3. A personal statement, uploaded via the GAMS portal, that addresses your goals in pursuing a doctorate in Rhetoric & Writing at MSU. The Graduate Committee wants to know: Why do you want to pursue this degree at MSU? What kinds of preparation do you have for doctoral work? What interests, qualifications, and, most importantly, professional goals of yours will be served by completion of this degree?
  4. A statement of teaching philosophy, uploaded via the GAMS portal. In no more than one single-spaced page, discuss your experience or potential as a teacher of writing and/or rhetoric; talk about your philosophy of teaching (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?).
  5. At least two writing samples, uploaded via the GAMS portal, (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 uploading a document with the web URL embedded in it to the GAMS portal.
  6. 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. At least one of the letters should address your qualifications as a teacher (or your potential for teaching), and one should directly address your academic performance in a graduate program.

NOTE:When you create your profile & application in the GAMS portal, you will provide contact information for each of your recommenders. The system will send an e-mail to each of them containing a link so they can upload your letters directly into your GAMS application file. All recommendation letters are due by the application deadline. Please fill out this portion of your gams application well in advance of that deadline so that the Committee has your letters of recommendation in hand when we review your file in mid-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.

PhD Admission Requirements
To be admitted to the program on regular status, an applicant must:

  • have a master’s degree or the equivalent.
  • have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in graduate level courses.

Admissions decisions are made by the Rhetoric & Writing Graduate  Committee. Applicants who do not meet the criteria stated above may be admitted provisionally. Conditions for regular admission, including the completion of collateral coursework, must be satisfied during the first year of study.

PhD application materials are due by December 1st.


Please direct all general questions regarding admissions, or inquiries about the PhD program, to Dr. Malea Powell, Director of Rhetoric & Writing, 235C Bessey Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1047, 517.355.2400,

International applicants are advised to complete application as early as possible to allow time for processing of visas and other documents. See for additional information.

NOTE: The Rhetoric & Writing PhD program does not consider transfer requests from students enrolled in other MSU doctoral programs. We do consider applications from such students as new applications as long as said applicants have no more than one year (or the equivalent) of coursework in that other doctoral program.