Thinking of Grad School?


About two weeks ago I went to a panel discussion about Graduate School programs in the English Department. It was put on by Ball State professors Joyce Huff (General Program), Megumi Hamada (TESOL/Linguistics), Robert Habich (Literature), Micheal Donnelly (Rhetoric and Composition), and Cathy Day (Creative Writing). There was a lot of information shared with me about each individual program and Graduate School as a whole.

General Requirements:

Every institution will have different requirements for GPA and GRE scores, but there are some requirements that every school will require.

  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Scholarly/Critical Writing Sample or Creative Writing Sample (the length will depend on the institution)
  • Statement of Purpose (Vince Gotera of University of Northern Iowa wrote this really awesome informative article about Statement’s of Purpose

Notes about TESOL and Linguistics:

TESOL stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” and Linguistics is the science of language; it’s important to note that neither of these require you to be multilingual. There are three kinds of classes that make-up this degree. They are formal linguistics (some examples are semantics, syntax, and phonology & phonetics), applied linguistics (sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and discourse analysis), and TESOL (teaching methods, second language acquisition). If you’re looking for more information about the TESOL/Linguistics program, this article by Michelle Bagwell is helpful.

Notes about Literature:


Here’s the back of me(red flanel) at the discussion

One of the most common misconceptions about getting a Masters degree in literature is that you’re going to study a specific period, or individual author. Yeah, that’s not the case, or at least it isn’t at Ball State University. The MA program focuses on teaching a wide array of authors and researching. In a P.h.d degree you’ll probably get more specific. Here’s a video that gives advice about getting an MA in Literature. Even though the woman in the video talks about wanting to be a teacher, Cathy Day gave me some great advice about wanting to be a professor when she told me, “The thing to remember is that college professors don’t only want to “be” professors, ie teachers. We want to “be” writers, philosophers, biologists, chemists, etc. and that’s how you get a job in the academy: on the strength of your reputation and credentials in those areas.”

Notes about Rhetoric and Composition:

The Rhetoric and Composition field focuses on: teaching the history of Rhetoric and Composition, pedagogy, researching, and digital literacy. In a conversation that I had with Micheal Donnelly, he told me that he started off with an MA in English, but when he taught a first year composition class he realized that he had a lot of interest in the Rhetoric and Composition field and decided to make that his focus. There is a lot of emphasis put on how to teach composition to students in this field. This article talks about what a degree in Rhetoric and Composition does for the individual who receives it.

Notes about Creative Writing:

At Ball State, the MA Creative Writing program focuses on a multi-genre approach where students study all of the different styles of creative writing. This approach will vary depending on the institution, some will have a genre-specific program where you have to choose. The goal of these institutions will be to leave with a publishable creative project. The focus will be on teaching craft and technique, as well as revision strategies. Cathy Day shared her advice with the individuals there when she said, “Don’t go into a Creative Writing Graduate School program if you’re not funded, in fact, I forbid it.” If you’re looking for more information about Graduate School programs in Creative Writing, the Literary Citizenship blog created this article with helpful links on information about everything from writing statements of purpose to Post-MFA advice:

I hope this article helps inform you about the different options if you decided to go to Grad School for an English degree. If there are any other questions about grad school, or suggestions about what could be added to make this article more informative let me know in the comments.

grad school



  1. Yes! I was really upset I had to work during this shindig, and I’m glad you posted about it so I still got to see some of the important facts and advice. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Wow, this was really great to read. I couldn’t make it out to the presentation, either, so your recap and sharing of information is super helpful. I’m glad that you decided to post this this week. It’s definitely something I need to start thinking about. And your links are helpful as well!

  3. I guess my question is how do you know you should get a master? What jobs or career paths in particular is a master degree advisable to have?

  4. You make lots of good points here. In my experience, one of the most important factors in applying is the recommendation letter. Chose people who will speak well of your work, and give them plenty of notice. You likely won’t be the only person asking for a recommendation.

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