Graduate School in English
This is a space for present and former English majors considering graduate study in English.
Any discussion of graduate school at this point needs to begin with sober realism: the academic job market in the humanities has been bad for a long time and continues to deteriorate, due to structural changes in colleges and universities. Most college courses are no longer taught by tenured or tenure-track professors. Thomas H. Benton (a pseudonym for William Pannapacker of Hope College) has written two widely-read articles discouraging students from going to graduate school: So You Want to Go to Grad School? and, more recently, Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go. Penn professor Peter Conn looks at the academic job market and concludes that, as graduate programs continue to produce PhDs, We Need to Acknowledge the Realities of Employment in the Humanities.
We have chosen the resources on this page to help students consider carefully what it means to undertake graduate study today.
Graduate Study in Literature
The Modern Language Association (MLA), which is the principal professional organization for English teachers in higher education, offers Career Resources and Advice to Graduate Students: From Application to Career. You can get a general sense of programs' reputations from the U.S. News World & Report Rankings; those come with the usual caveats about the limits of ranking educational programs.
You can now find good commentary about graduate education from graduate students and faculty. Some of the most useful resources gain their energy from compiling multiple perspectives: see, for example, Advice for Undergraduates Considering Graduate School from the Survey of Doctoral Education and Career Preparation, these Metafilter comments on graduate school in English (archived), and this active LiveJournal community: So you want to go to grad school?
Faculty offering their advice include Washington and Lee's Suzanne Keen, Washington and Jefferson's Linda Troost, and the English department of UC-Santa Barbara, who write specifically about Preparing Your Statement of Purpose. If you choose to go to graduate school, you may profit from reading Robert Peters's book Getting What You Came For.
Naturally, you may also consult with Grinnell faculty about graduate school. Many students ask their advisers and other faculty about the process, and we run an annual information session that allows students to hear multiple faculty perspectives on graduate study in literature and creative writing.
Graduate Study in Creative Writing
Continuum publishes The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Students, whose author, Tom Kealey, is one author of The MFA Blog, which offers an MFA Tip Sheet, a post on opportunities after the MFA.
Poets & Writers magazine offers a database of MFA programs as part of its larger section of Tools for Writers. They have also published Seth Abramson's list of top 50 MFA programs (with explanation), and an excellent MFA Resource Database. Abramson has also compiled a list of MFA programs ranked by funding packages.
Grinnell students are also welcome to consult our faculty, particularly the creative writing faculty, on graduate work in creative writing and what programs might best suit each student's interests.