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Graduate School Advice

Department of English

  • Most applications are due in December and January. Start early!
  • Talk to your advisor and professors about your interests and plans. Identify graduate programs with good placement rates and reputable faculty in your field of interest. Request applications from those in which you are most interested.
  • Most schools require you to take the Graduate Record Exam. You must register in advance both for the general and subject tests. Don't take them on the same day! To get your results in time for application deadlines, register to take the exams in September and October. Prepare for these exams by taking practice tests, shoring up your weaknesses, and reviewing your coursework.
  • Your statement of purpose is crucial! Be prepared to work through several drafts with your advisor. Give evidence that you are a good citizen of the world of literary studies. Avoid jargon, cant, insults, boasting, and excessive humility. Hundreds of applicants apply for a dozen or so openings at each school, so give the committee a reason to look closely and positively at your proposal.
 Adjust your application to the school to which you are applying. Using web resources, your advisor, and the MLA bibliography, identify the faculty  members in the department whose interests seem most likely to correspond to your own. Make references to these faculty members (it's best to include more than one) in your statement.
  • Carefully choose a sample of your best writing, research, and thinking. You may want to revise your best essay just one more time. (And submit that essay for the Clark Essay Prize!) In your statement of purpose, briefly explain your choice of this sample.
  • You will need at least three strong letters of recommendation. Early in the fall, approach three professors who know your work well and in whose courses you have done your best work. Ask each professor individually whether she or he would be willing to write on your behalf. If the professor expresses reservations or suggests that you might get a letter from someone else, heed that advice!
The Modern Language Association's articles on Graduate Education and the Job Search,  http://www.mla.org//resources/documents#tab02