We are finally at the last of the topics for the “10 Things I Wish I had Known as an English Major.” This particular part of the presentation dealt with how to prepare for grad school. While I’m not currently thinking about grad school since I took the job route after graduation, more than likely I’ll be going back for my master’s degree in the future (although I’ll probably go for communication). Therefore, I am going to rely on the information in the PowerPoint to provide tips for those who are preparing for the post-graduate college search.
Most college graduate application deadlines are between early December and mid-February, although some colleges accept applications all the way up to July. You should check to make sure what the deadlines are for each school you are applying to in order to give yourself time to prepare. You will need your application packet, including reference letters, gathered and submitted by the deadline date. Therefore, you need to make sure you have given yourself (and your professors and other references) enough time to gather all the documents you will need for your application packet before you send it in.
Your GRE score counts – the higher you score, the better chance you have to get into the college or university of your choice. The scale for the GRE is 200 to 800 for quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning and 1 to 6 for analytical writing. If you are going to grad school for English, some English programs overlook QR (math) scores for high VR and AW scores. Therefore, if you score high in those areas you may have a chance. Some universities want a combined score of at least 1000. You should make sure you know what the minimum requirements are for each school that you want to apply to.
Graduate schools require that you submit an analytical writing sample (or creative writing sample for MFA programs). The writing sample is typically 10 to 20 pages in length. You will need to submit one long or two short papers depending on the university. In 400 level classes you will generally have to write a 10-20 page paper so you should fill this requirement; if not, then taking the English honors class is a good way to tackle a long research paper that you can use for applications. It’s better to get this done ahead of time so you can have professors look at it and give you critiques on how to improve your writing.
You will need to submit three professional references from professors as part of your graduate application. Remember how I suggested earlier in the posts that you should get to know your professors? This is just another reason why. Since you need recommendations from professors to go to grad school or get a job, it’s better to get to know them so they can write a really good recommendation letter for you. Trust me, they’ll be happy to do it for a student they think is worth the effort. The more you go to them for advice or help during their office hours or show a willingness to improve and learn, the more you build up a relationship with them. It will be worthwhile in the long run.
Most grad schools require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA or a 3.5 GPA. Grades are important but are not always proof of your abilities as an English student. You should also focus on your test scores and writing sample. The better your test scores and the better quality your writing sample, the greater chance you will have even if your GPA is a little low.
Most universities allow you to apply and submit material online. Your GRE scores and transcripts will have to be mailed, however, which can take as many as two to three weeks, so start applying early! The more universities you apply to, the better your chances of being accepted. Most first-time application fees range from $50 to $65, but can be as much as $90 (Stanford U.), so you’ll need a good bit of money saved for the application process.
The MFA Writing Program
- Three letters of recommendation.
- Writing sample: 20-30 pages of fiction, usually from a single novel or a collection of short stories; 10-20 pages of poetry.
- Statement of purpose.
- Most programs recommend GRE scores, but not all programs require them. Subject test rarely required.
- Some universities recommend you research their faculty and apply to their programs if their tastes in writing are similar to your own.