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. Preparation in at least one language other than English is required, with additional language preparation strongly recommended and preferred.

Overall, the Admissions Committee interprets comparativism broadly. It welcomes writing samples which examine literary works from two or more linguistic traditions. A writing sample might also, or alternatively, involve a clear theoretical focus, or employ methodologies based on regional or area studies, as well as traditional philological skills. Students with a declared interest in one or more language tradition are encouraged to submit writing samples demonstrating clear evidence of work in the said literature/s, in the form of close readings of texts read in the original language/s as well as attendant foreign language scholarship.

The Department of Comparative Literature at Berkeley admits for the fall term only. All applications for Fall 2021 admission must be electronically submitted no later than 8:59:59 p.m. PST, December 1, 2020. 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 1 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.

Very important: If you expect or wish to be considered a California resident in the fall of 2021, be sure that you have read and understood the section labeled Legal Resident Help in the Residency Status section of the Biographical Information page of the application. Objective evidence that you intend to make California your permanent home includes all of the following: registering to vote in California; registering your car, if you have one, and getting a California driver’s license (or DMV i.d. card if you do not drive); opening a local bank account; a house or apartment lease or rental agreement; local utility bills. In order to be considered a California resident at the start of the fall 2021 semester, all of this collected evidence must be dated no later than August 24, 2021 (or thereabouts).

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, Department of Comparative Literature, 4125 Dwinelle Hall #2510, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-2510, telephone 510/642-2629, email

N.B.-the application must be submitted by 8:59:59 p.m., December 1, 2020. No application submitted later than December 1 will be considered for the 2021-22 academic year.