Graduate Study in English
This document is intended as a resource for students interested in graduate study in English. All students regardless of major or year are encouraged to contact faculty members for more information (see “Who to contact” below). Also, students are encouraged to consult the “Timeline for students Interested in Graduate Study in English,” available from the departmental homepage.
Reasons for graduate study
- Further study in particular area of English language or literature
- Interest in research
- Desire to teach
- Interest in writing or editing
Types of programs and degrees
- Programs: full-residency and low-residency (USC-Columbia/Warren Wilson College)
- Programs: USC-Columbia alone (M.A., M.A.T., M.F.A., Ph.D.)
- Degrees: M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D. For the most part, M.F.A.s and Ph.D.s qualify one for a tenure-track position at a college or university, where tenure refers to that status that a professor attains when her/his appointment is secure rather than provisional. Those holding M.A.s often teach at colleges and universities as well, and their positions may be full-time, continual, and include benefits.
- 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 Website: http://www.ets.org/gre/.
- 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 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.
The University of South Carolina at Columbia provides a good example of a variety of degree options. Even if you don't plan to apply to USC, their website provides information relevant to most programs: http://www.cas.sc.edu/engl/grad/index.html, http://www.cas.sc.edu/engl/grad/admissions.html.
- Teaching at colleges and universities. View the Modern Language Association’s reports on jobs advertised for the past two years: http://www.mla.org/pdf/sept_rpt_jil0910.pdf; http://www.mla.org/pdf/jil_report200809.pdf.
- Teaching at other institutions.
- Other: jobs requiring skilled analysts and writers; for instance, editing for publications or presses, writing in almost any context but especially marketing and public relations.
What to do while at Wofford to prepare for graduate study
- Vary course work: Familiarity in a variety of areas (our categories) will help prepare you for the English literature subject test if you need to take it; knowledge of literary theory has proven particularly valuable to those pursuing a graduate degree; some find courses in English grammar and education (Education 200) valuable as well.
- Get to know your professors: Whether through departmental lunches, seminars, or advising, Wofford encourages you to find faculty members who can serve as mentors; these relationships can lead to persuasive recommendation letters demonstrating familiarity with your achievements.
- Consider special programs or opportunities: Whether in studies concentrations (for example, African-American studies or gender studies), Community of Scholars, the Writing Center, Sigma Tau Delta, or various Honors options, locate opportunities that increase and demonstrate your skills and engagement.
- Research schools for program information, funding opportunities, graduate student statistics (average GRE and GPA of incoming students), acceptance rates, and job placement rates: Compile a portfolio of programs that interest you. As with selecting college, consider a range of schools—from those where your admission is questionable to those where your admission is certain. Consider options like an M.A. if you think you need to gain more experience before enrolling in Ph.D. program or transferring to another school.
Who to contact for more information
- If you are an English major or minor interested in graduate study in English language or literature, you might consult your advisor about programs and the application process.
- If your interest stems from a particular course, you might consult the professor teaching that course.
- A committee within the English department is responsible for reviewing the department’s preparation of undergraduate students for graduate study. Students should feel free to contact any member. Current members include professors Amy Sweitzer, John Ware, and Kim Rostan.