preparation for graduate study


Choosing an English Graduate Program


MA/PhD in English Language/Literature

There are a number of vehicles by which to investigate graduate programs at other schools. Your best resource in your search is UW Department of English faculty with whom you're studying as an undergraduate; they are generally familiar with programs at other universities within their interest areas. Another excellent way to start is by reading publications in scholarly journals by faculty who are involved in your area of interest. This will give you an idea of "who's who" in your field and what kinds of research are prominent at which institutions. It will also familiarize you with the names of faculty who may become potential graduate mentors for you.

As you begin your search, ask yourself some questions:

What do you want to study?
It's important to choose graduate programs that have the faculty and other resources (library, technical, etc.) to support your chosen areas of study. If your interest is in medieval literature, for example, then investigate schools that have strong medieval programs. Graduate admission committees, when reviewing your application, will be evaluating how you will fit into their particular communities of scholars and trying to match your background and interests with the interests of their faculty.

What kind of scholarly community are you looking for?
Different programs have different cultures, and these will vary with the size of the program, its geographical location, its current faculty, its current graduate students, and other factors. Some graduate programs have tightly-knit communities, whereas other programs, especially large programs, may have various subcommunities, perhaps based on subdisciplines (e.g., a language & rhetoric group, or an early Modern group). Some may work very collaboratively with other departments in an interdisciplinary fashion, while other programs maintain strict disciplinary lines. You can investigate this by contacting faculty and current graduate students in these programs.

Where are you willing to live?
Think about where you'd like to spend the next two to six years of your life. What's important to you in a geographic area? Climate? Urban/rural setting? Community diversity? Proximity to organizations/institutions? Social life/activities? Cost of living? Available health care? Proximity to family and friends? Availability of part time employment? Academic resources or scholarly groups/activities?


What kind of financial aid or support do you need?
Investigate the kinds of financial support available to graduate students in your targeted programs in the form of teaching assistantships, fellowships, grants, and other graduate student appointments. Many schools have general information listed on their web sites. For more specific information, query the individual programs. Some federal financial aid in the form of loans is available. Visit the UW Libraries pages on graduate student funding.

 

Here are some other places to begin investigating graduate programs:

The Modern Language Association (MLA) Guide to Graduate Programs in English Studies

Top English graduate program rankings from US News & World Report

The Peterson's Guide to Graduate and Professional Schools

Listing of the Carnegie Foundation Public and Priviate Doctoral/Research Institutions

Directory of U.S. Graduate Programs

You can also check the directories and resources located in UW's Suzzalo Library and at the UW Career Center.

MFA/MA in Creative Writing

There are a number of vehicles by which to investigate Creative Writing graduate programs at other schools. Your best resource in your search is UW Creative Writing Program faculty with whom you're studying as an undergraduate; they are generally familiar with programs at other schools. You should be actively reading the published work of faculty at your targeted schools.This will give you an idea of how your fiction or poetry may fit in with the kinds of writing that a particular program is known for or prominent in. It will also familiarize you with the names of faculty who may become potential graduate mentors for you.

You should also investigate each program and its requirements: do these things support the learning goals that you have set for yourself? (Some programs are highly structured and have requirements in critical theory, literature, foreign language or translation, and the like, while other programs are much "looser" and focus primarily on creative writing workshops.)

As you begin your search, ask yourself some questions:

With whom do you want to study? What program has writers whose work interests you?
It's important to choose graduate programs that have the faculty and other resources (library, technical, etc.) to support your studies in creative writing. It's also very important to choose a program where the faculty have interests that are similar to your own: if your interest is in experimental fiction, for example, then investigate schools where at least some of the writing faculty are experimentalists. Read the work of the creative writing faculty, and aim to study with writers whom you admire. MFA admission committees, when reviewing your application, will be evaluating how you will fit into their particular communities of writers and trying to match your background and interests with the interests of their faculty and current MFA students.

What kind of writing community are you looking for?
Some programs tend to have very closely-knit cohorts, with students and faculty spending a lot of time together outside of class; this is less true of programs located in urban areas, where other opportunities and events vie for attention. There may also be particular features associated with some programs that you'd like to have access to while you're a graduate student: reading series, literary journals, writers in residence or visiting scholars, and other literary and scholarly events.

Where are you willing to live?
Think about where you'd like to spend the next two years of your life. What's important to you in a geographic area? Climate? Urban/rural setting? Community diversity? Proximity to organizations/institutions? Social life/activities? Cost of living? Available health care? Proximity to family and friends? Availability of part time employment? Academic resources or writing groups/activities?

What kind of financial aid or support do you need?
Investigate the kinds of financial support available to graduate students in your targeted programs in the form of teaching assistantships, fellowships, grants, and other graduate student appointments. Many schools have general information listed on their web sites. For more specific information, query the individual programs. Some federal financial aid in the form of loans is available. Visit the UW Libraries pages on graduate student funding.


Here are some other places to begin investigating graduate programs:

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)

Poets and Writers information on MFA programs

The Modern Language Association (MLA) Guide to Graduate Programs in English

The Peterson's Guide to Graduate and Professional Schools

Directory of U.S. Graduate Programs

You can also check the directories and resources located in UW's Suzzalo Library and at the UW Career Center

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