Senior Essay Program Description

The Senior Essay Program offers qualified senior English majors in the College and General Studies the opportunity to write a substantial piece of critical writing (of approximately 10,000 words), under the guidance of a faculty member in the English Department.  It is not a requirement of the major, nor is it a requirement for receiving departmental honors.  


Applications for the 2021-2022 Senior Essay will be due by 11:59PM on November 5, and must include:  

  1. A completed application form (link here), which asks for relevant coursework and research experience, and the name and signature of a faculty member who has agreed to advise the project.  Note that it is the responsibility of the applicant to contact faculty to request advising; please do this early enough to adjust if your dream advisor is unavailable (and it is generally a good idea to have a more or less intelligible project to show prospective advisors).  If you need guidance in finding an appropriate faculty member, please contact a CUE member.  
  2. A research proposal of approximately 750 words, plus a preliminary one-page bibliography of primary and secondary sources.  
  3. Please email your research proposal and completed application form to [email protected].


Any applicant who submits the necessary application materials (see above), who has a GPA of at least 3.65 in the major, and who has secured a faculty advisor, will be automatically accepted to the program.  

If an applicant doesn’t meet the GPA cutoff, and/or does not have a faculty member signed on to advise the project, the CUE will evaluate the proposal in consultation with experts in the relevant fields – but cannot guarantee acceptance to the program (those determinations will be made within a week or so).  

Work Schedule

Participants in the program will meet with their advisors at least every two weeks during the spring semester, but will likely begin their reading and research toward the end of the fall semester.    

In addition, essay-writers will be required to attend a bi-weekly series of Essay Seminars, convened by the CUE, which will run from mid-November through late March.  These meetings will supplement individual advising with group sessions on research methods and advanced critical writing (in the fall), and draft workshops (in the spring). 

Please note:  if you wish to write a Senior Essay, but envision any conflicts with the rest of your academic program, please contact the DUS to discuss possible solutions.  

Program Deadlines
Final essay drafts will be due the first Monday in April. 

A preliminary draft (ca. 20 pages) will be due to supervisors on the first Monday in March.  

In addition, the Essay Seminar will have other smaller deadlines along the way.  

Evaluation and Credit

Academic credit for the course will appear on the Spring transcript as a 4-point course entitled “Senior Essay” (please let the DUS know if this presents a problem in terms of credit limits, and we can find a solution).  Faculty sponsors will submit an evaluation of the essay and a grade for the essay course to the CUE, and will also return final comments to the student.  The CUE will provide essayists with an additional set of written final comments, and will also consider Senior Essays as part of the process for determining departmental honors and prizes. 

Three of last year's prize-winning essays can be found here:

David Ehmcke (Hickey Prize), "Writing the Invisible:  Ariana Reines's Occult Poetics" & “Senior Essay Proposal – David Ehmcke

Rachel Page (Bunner Prize), "White House, Chocolate City: Reading DC in the Age of Marion Barry” & “Senior Essay Proposal – Rachel Page

Angelo Hernandez-Sias (Barratt-Brown Prize), "Winter Chemistry: Joy Williams and the Art of Coldness" & “Senior Essay Proposal Angelo Hernandez-Sias