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Graduate MA/PhD FAQ


Q: I’m applying for one of your graduate programs in literature, but I’m a little nervous about my GRE scores. What do your admissions committees look for in an application?
A: Standardized test scores are a small part of what admissions committees consider when reviewing applications. Both the M.A. program and the Ph.D. program have a minimum requirement of scores at or above the 60th percentile on the verbal and analytic scales of the GRE so your scores should be close to or above that. We don’t usually take the Math score into account. The Statement of Purpose, the writing sample, and the three letters of recommendation all carry more weight than test scores.

Q: What does the committee look for in a Statement of Purpose?
A: The more specific this is, the better. Rather than simply saying that you like to read or that you enjoy studying literature, you should mention specific authors, periods, and critical approaches or ideas that you’re interested in and want to study more intensively. Especially when applying on the doctoral level, you should discuss in detail an area of research that you want to pursue, including the historical period(s), particular authors, and specific topics or theoretical approaches. For example, if you’re applying for the doctoral program, the committee will give preference to someone who discusses the graduate paper they wrote on a specific research topic (such as interrogations of gender identity in Volpone as reflected in the staging conventions of Early Modern drama) and then articulates their plans for continuing their research.

Q: What does the committee look for in a writing sample?
A: To apply to the M.A. program you should have a ten page research paper. For the doctoral program, the writing sample should be a 25 page research paper. In both cases, the committee will look for the originality of your ideas and how extensive your background research is. At the doctoral level, it’s always a plus if your analysis incorporates some literary theory. At both levels, since we’re English professors, we do also consider how well written a paper is.

Q: Does the doctoral program admit people directly with an undergraduate degree?
A: No. The doctoral program requires a Masters degree in English or a related field (e.g., Creative Writing, Education) for admission.

Q: What can I do with an M.A. in English?
A: In addition to preparing you to pursue doctoral work in literary and cultural studies, an M.A. can also prepare you to pursue a Ph.D. in Film Studies, Media Studies, American Studies, or Composition and Rhetoric. M.A.s interested in teaching often find employment at the secondary or junior college level. Those interested in entering the work force find employment in companies and industries where communication skills (especially writing) are in demand.

Q: I hear the job market is pretty tight for Ph.D.s. What is the placement rate for your doctoral program? Will I be able to get a job?
A: The job market for Ph.D.s is, indeed, difficult, but our overall placement rate from 1996 to 2012 is 72% of our doctoral graduates in fulltime tenure track positions as English professors in colleges or universities, which is well above the national average of roughly 34%. The remaining graduates decided to pursue alternate careers, usually in administration or business, or wanted to teach at the high school level. All of our graduates are working full time in positions that utilize the skills they gained while getting their degree. Nobody is driving a cab.

Q: You cannot imagine how much food my cat eats each week. What forms of financial support are available to me as a graduate student?
A: Most graduate students in English receive positions as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) teaching English 101 and 102, our Composition courses. The compensation includes salary and waiver of University tuition. On the doctoral level, we guarantee funding for five years to everyone we admit, either in the form of GTA positions or, for qualified applicants, in the form of scholarships that range from one to three years, after which they receive a teaching assistantship. For M.A. students awarded a GTA, compensation is guaranteed for two years.

Q: Do you offer graduate courses online?
A: We do not currently have online graduate courses.

Q: How long will it take to get my degree?
A: For M.A. students enrolled full time, the M.A. degree is a two year program. The time it takes to complete the Ph.D. depends on how long it takes you to write your dissertation but is normally five or six years.

Q: How can I arrange a campus visit?
A: Applicants to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs can arrange a campus visit by contacting the Director of Graduate Studies. However, given the numbers of applications to the Ph.D. program, the department can only arrange campus visits for students who have received an offer of admission.

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