preparation for graduate study


What can I do to prepare for graduate school while I'm still an undergraduate?

English Literature and Language (MA/PhD)

Undergraduate students planning graduate study in English literature and language can do a number of things to prepare:

Seek faculty mentors: English faculty are your best resource for graduate school preparation. They can assist you in discovering and developing your academic interests in English literature and language study, make suggestions about schools and programs, supervise independent writing and research you may take on as an undergraduate, and write letters of recommendation to graduate programs.

Take at least one course in critical theory: ENGL 300 to 305 or C LIT 400. ENGL 304 (Contemporary Criticism) is especially helpful.

Take additional upper-division courses beyond the minimum course work required in the undergraduate major. Choose courses from your area of interest or focus in literature and language study.

Complete the English Department Honors Program if at all possible. Applications are accepted each year during Spring Quarter. Applicants must have a minimum UW GPA of 3.30 and a minimum UW English GPA (in 200-level courses and above) of 3.70. Honors students complete a three-quarter cohort program, enrolling in an honors seminar in Autumn and Winter quarters and completing a supervised honors thesis in Spring quarter. For more information, visit the English Honors page.

Work toward fulfilling the graduate school's foreign language requirement: Most graduate programs require two to three years of study in a foreign language (a basic reading knowledge) -- some programs require proficiency in more than one foreign language. While language study can sometimes be completed after a student begins the graduate program, it's always a good idea to fulfill the requirement before entering the program if you can: you are going to be very busy with your graduate courses and your teaching, leaving you with little time to study languages. Check the language requirements for each graduate program you're considering.

Consider taking a graduate seminar. Graduate courses are sometimes open to advanced undergraduates with the instructor's permission. Graduate course descriptions are available on line. (Click on the course number link, if active, for a description written by the faculty member who'll be teaching the course during a particular quarter.)

Begin to develop your critical writing sample: Most graduate programs have a January deadline for students seeking admission for the following autumn, so you'll need to have your critical writing sample ready early. The critical writing sample is usually 15-25 pages of your best writing, often a revised paper from an undergraduate course or part of a senior project. It is always for the best if the paper concerns works or issues within or closely related to your stated areas of interest for graduate study. If you've written a paper for an English course that you're thinking of developing into your writing sample, talk with your instructor. He or she may have suggestions for you on how to improve it, or may be willing to work with you on further revisions.

Begin to write your statement of purpose: English Undergraduate Advising offers Statement of Purpose Workshops every autumn quarter. Watch your englmajors e-mail for workshop dates. Some relatively low-cost statement of purpose writing courses are also offered through the UW Women's Center. Your statement of purpose is an extremely important part of your application materials; you should plan to spend a lot of time on it and rewrite it many times. For English Advising's online information about statement of purpose writing, click here.

Investigate schools and programs. Ask faculty and current graduate students for their recommendations. Request admission packets and begin to look over the materials. Click here for the rankings of English graduate programs from US News & World Report.

Start a Credential File. Most graduate programs will ask you to waive your right to see your letters of recommendation. You can direct those writing recommendations for you to send them to a service such as Interfolio . The service will archive letters and send them out to graduate programs upon your request. There is a fee for this service.

Prepare to take the Graduate Records Exams (GRE). Some students choose to take GRE preparation courses; others use books or software programs. Most schools will require both the General Test and the Subject Test in Literature. Check with each school for their admission requirements. Some relatively low-cost preparation courses are offered through the UW Women's Center . You can visit GRE online at www.gre.org .

Creative Writing (MFA/MA)

Undergraduate students planning graduate study in creative writing can do a number of things to prepare:

Seek faculty mentors: Creative Writing Program faculty are your best resource for graduate preparation. They can make suggestions about schools and programs, supervise independent studies in creative writing that you may pursue as an undergraduate, and write letters of recommendation to MFA/MA Creative Writing programs.

Take additional upper division workshops in creative writing in your genre (fiction or poetry). Some schools do offer an MFA/MA program in creative non fiction. In this case, taking expository writing courses ENGL 381 and 481 (special topics) will stand you in good stead.

Work toward the graduate school's foreign language requirement: Most graduate programs require two to three years of study in a foreign language (a basic reading knowledge). While language study can sometimes be completed after a student begins the graduate program, it's always a good idea to fulfill the requirement before entering the program if you can: you are going to be very busy with your graduate courses, leaving you with little time to study languages. Check the language requirements for each graduate program you're considering.

Begin to develop your creative writing sample: Most graduate programs have a January deadline for students seeking admission for the following autumn, so you'll need to have your creative writing sample ready early. Tell the creative writing faculty members with whom you're studying that you're putting together your creative writing sample for graduate programs; they may have suggestions for you or be willing to work with you on an individual basis. Poets should prepare to send 6-20 poems (depending on the program); prose writers should prepare to send 10-50 pages in story or novel form (depending on the program). Check with each MFA/MA program you're considering to find out what's required.

Begin to develop your critical writing sample: Some Creative Writing graduate programs will ask you to submit a critical writing sample along with your creative writing sample. Check with each MFA/MA program you're considering to find out what's required. The critical writing sample is usually 12-20 pages of your best critical writing, often a revised paper from an undergraduate course or part of a senior project. If you've written a paper for an English course that you're thinking of developing into your writing sample, talk with your instructor. He or she may have suggestions for you on how to improve it, or may be willing to work with you on further revisions.

Begin to write your statement of purpose: English Undergraduate Advising offers Statement of Purpose Workshops every autumn quarter. Watch your englmajors e-mail for workshop dates. Some relatively low-cost statement of purpose writing courses are also offered through the UW Women's Center. Your statement of purpose is an extremely important part of your application materials; you should plan to spend a lot of time on it and rewrite it many times. For English Advising's online information about statement of purpose writing, click here.

Investigate schools and programs. Ask creative writing faculty for their recommendations. Request admission packets and begin to look over the materials. Click here for the Associated Writers and Writing Programs guide to writing programs.

Start a Credential File. Most graduate programs will ask you to waive your right to see your letters of recommendation. You can direct those writing recommendations for you to send them to a service such as Interfolio . The service will archive letters and send them out to graduate programs upon your request. There is a fee for this service.

Prepare to take the Graduate Records Exam (GRE). Some students choose to take GRE preparation courses; others use books or software programs. Most schools will require both the General Test and the Subject Test in Literature. Check with each school for their admission requirements. Some relatively low-cost preparation courses are offered through the UW Women's Center. You can visit GRE online at www.gre.org.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL)

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a specialized field; students hoping to enter an MAT(ESOL) program should talk with a graduate TESOL adviser about their plans and about undergraduate courses they may be able to take as undergraduates in language study,composition/ rhetoric, TESOL, and linguistics. Click here for information about UW Department of English MAT(ESOL) advising.

Seek faculty advising: Faculty involved in, or with interests in, TESOL or areas related to TESOL such as language study, linguistics, and composition/rhetoric are your best resource for TESOL program preparation and advising.

Consider completing language, rhetoric, and writing undergraduate courses within the English undergraduate major, such as ENGL 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 381,471, 472, 473, 478, 479, and 481.

Consider completing a Linguistics major or minor, including course work in sociolinguistics, syntax, phonology, language development, phonetics, morphology, etc.

Work toward the graduate school's foreign language requirement: Most graduate programs require two to three years of study in a foreign language (a basic reading knowledge) -- some programs require proficience in more than one foreign language. While language study can sometimes be completed after a student begins the graduate program, it's always a good idea to fulfill the requirement before entering the program if you can: you are going to be very busy with your graduate courses and your teaching, leaving you with little time to study languages. Check the language requirements for each graduate program you're considering.

Get some experience in teaching, tutoring, or working with speakers of other languages. There are many volunteer opportunities in the Seattle-area that will provide these kinds of experiences. There are also a number of private language academies in the Seattle area that routinely hire college students for tutoring positions. Many public schools and colleges/universities welcome classroom volunteers. If you're not sure where to begin searching, start with academic advisers, career counselors, non profit community and social service agencies, school districts, the Seattle-area Yellow Pages under "Language Schools," and the UW Carlson Center in 171 Mary Gates Hall. You can also get involved with the UW Language Exchange Program as a classroom facilitator or language partner, or seek a tutoring position with the Odegaard Writing and Research Center. Investigate positions at other writing and research centers on campus for tutoring opportunities.

Take additional related upper division courses beyond the minimum course work required in your English or Linguistics major/minor. Choose courses from areas related to TESOL. Ask faculty and TESOL advisers for recommendations.

Begin to write your statement of purpose: English Undergraduate Advising offers Statement of Purpose Workshops every autumn quarter. Watch your englmajors e-mail for workshop dates. Some relatively low-cost statement of purpose writing courses are also offered through the UW Women's Center. Your statement of purpose is an extremely important part of your application materials; you should plan to spend a lot of time on it and rewrite it many times. For English Advising's online information about statement of purpose writing, click here. The statement of purpose for TESOL should include information on relevant experience, familiarity with, a commitment to, and the relation of career goals to the field of TESOL, as well as your academic potential and teaching ability.

Investigate schools and programs. Ask faculty for their recommendations. Request admission packets and begin to look over the materials.

Start a Credential File. Most graduate programs will ask you to waive your right to see your letters of recommendation. You can direct those writing recommendations for you to send them to a service such as Interfolio. The service will archive letters and send them out to graduate programs upon your request. There is a fee for this service.

Prepare to take the Graduate Records Exams (GRE). Some students choose to take GRE preparation courses; others use books or software programs. Most schools will require both the General Test and the Subject Test in Literature. Check with each school for their admission requirements. Some relatively low-cost preparation courses are offered through the UW Women's Center. You can visit GRE online at www.gre.org.

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