Selecting a Graduate School

Finding a Graduate School that Fits Your Needs

Look for a school that aligns with your career goals and research interests. Also, look at the faculty teaching at the school. Do their research interests match yours? Graduate programs look for students who align with their faculty's expertise.

Here are just a few areas to consider as you apply to graduate schools.

Areas of Study

Find the program that best suits your career goals. Some MA programs are primarily literature and creative writing based. Others specialize in rhetoric/composition or technical writing. Other programs are more diverse. Consider emerging fields such as Digital Humanities and Culture or Communication in Digital Media.

Funding

Believe it or not, graduate programs will help you pay for school. The magic word is funding. Ask what type of funding the program will provide through scholarships or by providing graduate students teaching and research job opportunities. Some programs will waive out-of-state tuition.

So, ask about funding and teaching opportunities. These will build your résumé and reduce your overall debt.

Faculty

In graduate school, your relationship with specific faculty is a key part of the graduate experience. What's the school's reputation for faculty/student relationships? Larger graduate programs might give you less time with faculty but more research opportunities. Talk to graduates from the program to find out about their experiences with their faculty.

Here are just a few comments from alumni about how their experience working with faculty shaped their graduate experience:

Perhaps because the master's program is their terminal degree, [the faculty] focus their attention on that level of graduate study.

[I] still meet with a favorite faculty member for lunch when [I] make an occasional visit to Boise.

My professors fanned my fire about academics, and when I graduated, I received compliments about my thesis work. It was a breakthrough experience for me.

Job Placement

Consider how the program gives you opportunities outside the classroom. Any more, the degree is the bare minimum for employers. What did you do beyond your coursework? Look for programs that extend beyond the classroom. Will you have a chance to teach your own classes? Will they all be first year composition course or will you get a chance to teach a variety of classes? Does the program give you opportunities in areas such as writing programs and ESL program? These programs, if you take advantage of them, go a long way toward making you more attractive on the job market.

Location

Remember that you'll be living there for 2-5 years. Find a place that appeals to your lifestyle.

And don't forget online programs. More and more you'll find programs that offer all or some of their degree online. When looking at online programs, look for accredited, not-for-profit programs. These are more widely accepted, particularly if you are planning on an academic career.

School Rankings

Talking to graduates who have experienced the program offers key insights into the school. But also check out the school's overall reputation.

The U.S. News and World Report annual ranks graduate schools and programs. Here's their ranking of English programs for 2017.

Here are the top 5 PhD programs in creative writing:

  • Florida State University
  • University of Houston
  • University of Nevada at Las Vegas
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Utah