How to Apply


Thank you for your interest in the graduate program in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Following is a description of our application process.

The electronic application will be available in early September. The electronic application may be found by navigating from the Graduate Division’s admission website. Complete instructions are included with the application. Please note that you may apply to only one graduate program at UC Berkeley for any given term.

The criteria for admission to our program include competitive undergraduate/graduate GPAs, strong statements of academic purpose and personal history, a writing sample in an area relevant to your intended field of research (up to 10 pages maximum, double spaced), and three letters of recommendation. The GRE is no longer required. Please do not submit GRE scores. Preparation in at least one language other than English is required, with additional language preparation strongly recommended and preferred.

The Admissions Committee interprets comparativism broadly. Students are accepted into the department as a whole. They are not accepted to work with a specific faculty member alone, and applications are not strengthened by any previous correspondence from an applicant to a faculty person. Specific descriptions of each component of the application can be found below. 

Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is a 500-word document that lays out your intellectual history and future research interests.  The statement should address: a) previous study of languages, cultures, literature and other fields as relevant; b) the areas of research you wish to pursue through graduate-level work; and c) your particular interest in pursuing a degree in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. 

Personal Statement

Your personal statement of up to 500 words should help us understand what has led you to want to pursue graduate study in Comparative Literature, particular challenges or inspirations you might have encountered, difficulties you might have overcome, as well as what you hope to do with your training. This statement will also help the admissions committee decide whether to nominate you for a Chancellor’s Fellowship, which are awarded to exceptional applicants who also advance the Regents’ goals for diversification of the academy.

The Writing Sample

The writing sample of ten double-spaced pages should demonstrate facility in the detailed analysis of the form and language of a text (commonly referred to as “close reading”), connected to a clear argument about the aesthetic and / or political and / or historical stakes of your interpretation. Although the sample should be written in English, it will strengthen your application if you include close analysis of a text or texts written in a language other than English. If your sample is drawn from a longer paper or thesis, you are welcome to include an explanatory note of up to 100 words to contextualize the extract for the committee. You may submit multiple sections of a longer work, but the total number of pages cannot exceed ten, and we much prefer a consecutive ten-page sample.  

The Department of Comparative Literature at Berkeley admits for the fall term only. All applications for Fall 2024 admission must be electronically submitted no later than 8:59:59 p.m. PST, December 4, 2023. It is important for applicants to begin the process, including soliciting letters of recommendation, well in advance of the deadline. All components of the application, including letters of recommendation, must be submitted by the December 4 deadline.

One of the most important sections of our application is the Statement of Background in Languages and Literatures. You will see this listed as its own section of the Comparative Literature application. If you would like to see the background statement before beginning the application process, please follow the link provided just above. N.B.: When filling out this statement on the application, be very sure to save it as an Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF. This is the only format in which it will be readable when included as part of the application.

Students from countries where the principal language is not English and who have not enrolled for at least a year in a degree program at a university in an English-speaking country are required to take the TOEFL. Please note that although this page of the application is coded as “optional,” it is required for these students. TOEFL scores must be submitted electronically to UC Berkeley by ETS in order to be considered official. You can find more information about this requirement on the Graduate Division's admissions website.

Forms to apply for University fellowships are included in the graduate application. As being selected for University fellowship support is competitive and funds are limited, applicants are encouraged to explore other sources of financial support. Application for need-based financial aid may be made by submitting a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Support in the form of teaching assistantships in Comparative Literature or related departments on campus may be available on a very limited basis in the student’s first year in the program.

You are responsible for soliciting three letters of recommendation to support your application. The graduate application provides detailed instructions on how to invite your recommenders to submit their letters. Please consult the online application for details. We strongly prefer electronic receipt of all letters of recommendation, but we are aware that some recommenders insist on providing handwritten, hard copy letters. If your recommenders fall into this category, have them mail their letters directly to us at the following address: Graduate Admissions, Department of Comparative Literature Graduate Office, 4125 Dwinelle Hall # 2510, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-2510.

If you have further questions, please contact Rita Lindahl-Lynch in the Graduate Office,

N.B.-the application must be submitted by 8:59:59 p.m., December 4, 2023. No application submitted later than December 4 will be considered for the 2024-25 academic year.