What You Need to Know

  • The upcoming APPLICATION DUE DATE is December 1, 2015, for applicants for the entering class of 2016.
  • The application, including the statement of purpose, the writing sample, the names of three recommenders, and unofficial transcripts must be submitted VIA THE WEB.  Late applications will not be accepted.
  •  The Stanford CollegeNet Application will be available as of mid September, 2015.
  •  Please note that we will accept  official transcripts, and official test scores after the application deadline. However, since the first round of evaluation begins in mid-December it is important that files be as complete as possible at that time.  All letters of recommendation should be uploaded by December 15.
  • Interfolio letters of recommendation may be sent by email to Rachel Meisels (
  • Admissions decisions will take place during the last two weeks of February, 2016.
  • Applicants will be notified by early March, 2016.

Student Services Officer

Monica Moore (for questions about the application process)
Phone: (650) 725-1477
Fax: (650) 725-1838

Modern Thought and Literature
450 Serra Mall, Building 460, Room 219
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2022

Application Procedures

To apply for admission, please go to Graduate Admissions.

The email address for Graduate Admissions, Registrar’s Office, is .

The Program in Modern Thought and Literature seeks to admit students who, as individuals, exhibit great intellectual capacity and the intent to carry out innovative interdisciplinary programs of study, and who, as a group, are of diverse backgrounds and interests. Successful applicants show a commitment to literary or cultural studies, but must also be prepared to make their way in their chosen non-literary field or fields. All applicants will be evaluated in accordance with the University’s strong affirmative-action policy. The Program has a commitment to supporting non-traditional and emergent forms of scholarship. We accept students who have just completed their undergraduate degrees and also welcome students who have pursued careers or degrees in other fields.

An application to the Program in Modern Thought and Literature must include the following elements:

Statement of Purpose

Of primary importance, the statement of purpose should demonstrate that the applicant’s focus is interdisciplinary and can be effectively pursued at Stanford.  You should suggest a project or two that would provide a sense of how you wish to pursue interdisciplinary study, and why the Program in Modern Thought and Literature is a good fit for you.  Although there is no hard and fast requirement regarding length, the Statement of Purpose should be a concise description of your academic goals, no longer than 1500 words.

In addition to the statement of purpose, you will be asked to complete a supplemental section regarding your proposed interdisciplinary project. 

Because they must forge links among disciplines and seek out relevant faculty members from across the university, students in Modern Thought and Literature need to develop their projects earlier than students in more traditional fields. Applicants should also bear in mind that the academic job market is overwhelmingly discipline-focused. Please answer the following questions BRIEFLY (2-3 sentences for each) to indicate that you’ve considered these issues. It’s of course assumed that your project will change and evolve as you study; this is in no way a binding statement of purpose. (*All three questions are required.)

1. What is the central question you intend to pursue?

2. Describe the need for an interdisciplinary approach.

3. Explain the relevance of your project to at least one discipline or field within which you could situate yourself upon completion of your doctoral degree.

Similar issues should be addressed by those not planning to pursue an academic career. Where do you see your project taking you?

Writing Sample

Submit a critical or analytic sample of scholarly writing, approximately 7000 words maximum. Although we encourage applicants to choose writing samples that display their interdisciplinary interests, this is not a requirement. Choose a sample that reflects your best scholarly work. The writing sample should not be a sample of creative writing. Applicants may submit two or more shorter samples to a total of about 7000 words, but keep in mind that shorter samples are usually less well suited to demonstrate your research and argumentation skills.

The writing sample and letters of recommendation should again indicate your preparedness for interdisciplinary work, and why your interests would be best served in a program such as ours.

Finally, we give close attention to grades and GRE scores.

Completed applications must be submitted by the due date above.

Only On-Line Applications Will be Accepted

Please note: there is no paper option for applications. All applications must be submitted online. Letters of recommendation should also be submitted online. Modern Thought & Literature will accept letters by mail only in exceptional cases and when absolutely necessary. Your Statement of Purpose, your Writing Sample, and your Unofficial Transcripts must be uploaded with your online application. 

Official transcripts are a University requirement, but are not required for the application evaluation process itself.

They may be submitted in January.

Official transcripts should be mailed to the Modern Thought & Literature office:

Modern Thought and Literature
Admissions Committee
450 Serra Mall, Building 460, Room 219
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2022

  • University application forms (submitted online)
  • A statement of purpose (submitted online)
  • Transcripts from every post-secondary institution you have attended for at least one year as a full-time student (submitted online; official transcripts mailed to address below)*
  • Three letters of recommendation (although we much prefer that the letters of recommendation will be submitted online, we will accept mailed letters when necessary); recommendation packets sent through Interfolio may be sent via email to
  • GRE general test scores (subject tests are not required) The Stanford score recipient number is 4704. No department identification is needed.
  • A recent (non-fiction) writing sample of approximately 7000 words.  PLEASE NOTE:  The Writing Sample must be submitted online. Check the Graduate Admissions website for information concerning the application fee or fee waiver. Fee waiver available to US citizens only.