MA and Ph.D. Programs in English
MA and Ph.D. Programs in English (back
Students considering applying to graduate programs in English
should speak to an undergraduate advisor early in their programs.
Advisors can help plan a suitable
program of courses and later can offer advice on where, when, and how to apply.
Arguably the most difficult part of applying to graduate
programs is finding the right one, and the process can lead to
considerable soul-searching. For some, location will be the most
important factor, while for others the quality of the program or
the presence of particular scholars will be most important.
Regardless of each applicant's particular needs, all applicants
will need to find their own personal balance amongst the following
Reputation of the Program and/or University
Offerings (strengths in particular specializations)
Requirements and Timeline
Availability of Financial
Aid and Assistantship
Such an important decision requires considerable research and
reflection. With most universities maintaining a prominent
presence on the internet, much of the research can be conducted
online simply by looking at individual university web sites. The
University of Florida maintains a reasonably up-to-date list of links
to colleges and universities. The MLA
Guide to Doctoral Programs is an online searchable database
with increasingly detailed information about graduate programs in
the United States and Canada. Also, U.S.
News and World Report has a thorough
site on graduate schools, which includes a section
ranking graduate programs. Please note, however, that you must
pay a fee to see the complete U.S. News and World Report
rankings and educators are increasingly speaking out against how
incomplete and potentially deceptive such rankings can be.
Faculty members in the CSULA English Department are another
valuable source of information on graduate programs. Besides
considerable knowledge about their own graduate school experience,
most will have contacts throughout the country and will be
especially knowledgeable about their specialization.
Finally, if you are considering applying to a graduate program in
English, you should keep the following in mind:
Be sure to
check the requirements, policies and deadlines of each
to financial aid deadlines, which are often earlier than the
deadline for admissions applications.
If a program you are considering
requires applicants to take the Graduate Record
Examination (GRE), you should plan to take the GRE in the Fall
term of your last year as an undergraduate. Taking the exam
early will ensure your scores arrive in time to the graduate programs you've chosen.
preparation for the study of law [is] the
study of poetry, and
especially lyric poetry”
Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme
Law schools do not recommend any particular major for
undergraduates interested in applying to law school.
But they do recommend that undergraduates choose majors that will
enable them to develop skill in careful
reading and effective writing—the precise
skills that English majors develop. It comes as no surprise then
that English is among the top three or four most common majors of
law school applicants, and that English majors consistently score
well above the average on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).
That English is one of the most sensible choices for pre-law
students is made clear by the advice offered to
students looking for the "best" undergraduate major for
law school by Law School Admission Council:
Law schools want
students who can think critically and write well, and who have
some understanding of the forces that have shaped the human
experience. These attributes can be acquired in any number of
college courses, whether in the arts and humanities, the social
sciences, or the natural sciences.
career that is narrowly based or vocationally oriented may not be
the best preparation for law school. As long as you receive an
education including critical analysis, logical reasoning, and
written and oral expression, the range of acceptable college
majors is very broad. What counts is the intensity and depth of
your undergraduate program and your capacity to perform well at an
academically rigorous level.
This emphasis on thinking critically and writing well leads Professor Daniel R. Pinello of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York
to offer the following advice:
years ago, a survey was sent to law-school deans (the
“presidents” of law schools). One of the questions on the
survey was what majors the deans recommended students have in
college in order to prepare effectively for law school. The four
majors most frequently recommended by law-school deans were (in
alphabetical order) English (sometimes called literature),
history, philosophy, and political science (sometimes called
government). Thus, my recommendation to those students wanting to
go to law school is that they major in one of those fields.
Moreover, if English turns out not to be the major selected, then
it should be considered seriously as a minor because writing well
is absolutely essential to success in the law. ("Advice for Getting Into Law
What do Henry Paulson, CEO of Goldman Sachs, Michael Eisner,
former CEO of the Walt Disney Corporation, and Donald Regan,
former chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch have in common? All
received undergraduate degrees in English. Contrary to popular
myth, you do not need an undergraduate degree in business to get a
job in business or to apply to graduate business schools.
According to the College Board, "graduate business schools
generally prefer applicants who've completed a broad,
well-rounded, and challenging curriculum, with no one major
preferred over another" (The Pre-Professional Degree Business).
However, while no one major is preferred over another, coursework
in English is often cited for honing verbal and written
communications skills, which are not only critical in the business
world but basic to success on the Graduate
Management Admissions Test (GMAT).
The centrality of communication skills helps explain what
appears to be a curious anomaly: English majors tend to outscore
business majors on the GMAT. And for years, a considerable number
of the students accepted into top business schools have come from
liberal arts backgrounds, with English and history among the most
common undergraduate majors.
If you are an English major and are considering applying to a
graduate business school, you should consider including some coursework
in more technical fields such as economics, statistics, and math.
While such coursework is usually not required for graduate
business schools, it will better prepare you for the GMAT.