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English and Creative Writing

Opportunities After Graduation

Graduate School

Learning about graduate programs

If you are interested in going to graduate school you will want to talk with faculty. Younger faculty, especially Professors Corey and Mengelkoch, may be particularly helpful. The following is just a quick and useful primer cobbled together for your use.

  • Graduate school talk: Attend the annual graduate school talk open to all English majors and minors, and given every spring – usually in the spring.
  • Resources and guides: Consult recent media like

    - The CAC’s graduate school website - it is an especially helpful site!!

    - The Chronicle for Higher Education 

    - Peterson’s Graduate Programs in the Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences

    - Guide to American Graduate Schools. Ed. Harold R. Doughty

    - The Real Guide to Graduate School: What You Better Know Before You Choose Humanities and Social Sciences. Ed. Robert Clark and John Palatella.   

  • Websites: Thoroughly explore university websites, paying particular attention to funding options, expected times for completion of a graduate degree, and faculty interests.

  •  Types of programs and degrees: Be sure to know what types of degrees and programs are out there, and where. 

    - Programs: full-residency and low-residency (MA, MAT, MFA, PhD)

    - Degrees: MA, MFA, PhD.  For the most part, MFAs and PhDs qualify one for a tenure-track position at a college or university, where tenure refers to the status that a professor attains when her/his appointment is secure rather than provisional.  Those holding MAs often teach at colleges and universities as well, and their positions may be full-time, continuing, and supplemented with benefits.

  • State of the profession: Learn about the profession by going to the Reports and Resources section of the Association of Departments of English here, here, or here

 Application Requirements 
  • Standardized tests: Most programs will require the General Record Examination (GRE), and many require the Subject Area Test in English.  Like the SAT, preparation for the GRE and Subject Test is helpful, and these can be taken more than once.  Coordinate tests with your application.  See the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website. 

  • Due dates: Most applications are due in December or January, especially if you’re applying for financial aid; interviews are not always necessary, but they can be valuable as a means of gaining information about a department and putting a face to your application.

  • Requirements: Applications are often submitted directly to the graduate school and may require an application essay, a writing sample, recommendation letters, transcripts, and test scores.  Your application essay should demonstrate your motivations for graduate school and your familiarity with the program; your writing sample should demonstrate quality work relevant to the program; and your recommendation letters should come from professors familiar with you and your work.

Advice for Getting Recommendations for Graduate Programs
  • Selection: You should carefully select references. Note: your references are typically asked to comment on your academic performance, which includes honors and awards; traits such as motivation, integrity, and reliability; and your ability to work independently and with others. Those who know you well, and think highly of your abilities, will be most able to comment on your abilities that are relevant to the graduate program you are seeking. 

  • Conferences: After selecting your references, you will need to arrange a time to meet with your references to give them information about the programs to which you are applying, review the guidelines and expectations of the letter of recommendation, present the submission instructions, and provide a written schedule of deadlines for all application materials. You will need to give them adequate time to write a letter of recommendation: a month is preferable. During these conferences it is also advisable to bring hardcopies of a resume or cv that details your college and extramural experiences, academic history, interests, and career goals, as well as a portfolio of creative writing, work produced for an internship, or publications.

  • Final Steps: A few days before the deadlines for each program, follow up with your references to make sure that the recommendations will be submitted on schedule. Once all your deadlines have passed, or the reference has indicated that all the recommendation letters have been submitted, then write a thank you note. Lastly, and very importantly, inform your references immediately when you are accepted into programs, and let them know your final decision when you have made it.

What to Avoid
  • Last minute requests

  • Lack of information about the program and degree you are seeking