Issues to Consider

  • Graduate School in Literary History and Criticism

    Graduate School is Professional Boot Camp

    • It is difficult, trying, and often thankless. It can be lonely, too.
    • You will experience the transformation of passion into work—can you make it to the other side?
    • 65 to 70 percent attrition
    • You’ve got to develop scholarly expertise, develop teaching skills, and acquire some service experience.

    What a Typical Applicant Looks Like

    • At least a 3.0 average overall, higher within the major.
    • 1000 minimum GRE score, 5000 verbal
    • At least two enthusiastic, detailed recommendation letters from professors in English. At least three letters total. Together, they give a global sense of the applicant.
    • A piece of scholarly writing (ten to fifteen pages) that can impress.
    • A broad range of literary experiences.
    • A solid sense of what they’ve done as an undergraduate and why they’re interested in an advanced degree. They don’t necessarily know how they wish to specialize. You have both experience and goals.
    • The ability to communicate clearly, stylishly, and professionally.

    Applying is Expensive

    • You should apply to ten to fifteen graduate programs of varied prestige and kind.
    • Each application will cost about $100 (fee, test reporting, transcript).

    Know Your Schools

    • As one person has put it, “Research like your life depends on it”—because it does!
    • Once you have a plausible offer, make phone calls, visit campus, talk to students and faculty members, dig into the campus newspaper (strikes, tenure decisions, etc.), grad student culture, seminar experience, job placement.
    • Money: Do not pay for graduate school.
    • Prestige counts. The better the school, the better you look.

    Getting a Degree Does not Guarantee a Job

    • The profession is highly, highly competitive, particularly for jobs with lighter teaching loads and augmented research responsibilities.

    You Have Other Options

    • Most English majors are employed by business and industry and consider their English major to be a significant factor in their success. Various kinds of “word delivery” professions rank second (advertising, public relations, media, marketing), followed by education, public service, and law.
    • Diversify now: A second major, a concentration, foreign language.