Prepare for Graduate School

A degree in English provides you a great foundation for graduate school and professional degrees such as law or medical school. Why? Because it teaches the close reading, analysis, and writing required by most graduate programs. 

Check out the advising website for class recommendations that prepare you for these programs. But in addition to taking classes, there's more to do to get ready for grad school.

As you get ready for graduate school, consider the following information about

 Also check out the BYU-Idaho Guide to Graduate School.

The Application Process

Applying to graduate school or a professional program takes time and money. Be wise with both. Here are some recommendations as you begin this process. 

Selecting Schools

Most school counselors will recommend a three-tiered system for selecting schools. Apply to your dream school, a credible second-tiered school, and a sure thing.

Be realistic about the entry requirements. Can you go to Harvard with a degree from BYU-Idaho? Yes. And our graduates have been very successful there. But these applicants had excellent GPAs, as well as impressive internships, activities, and other experiences. Remember that the degree you earn is the bare minimum. If you want to go to a top-tier graduate school, you will need much more to stand out than just a GPA. Check out Student Opportunities for ways to build your application portfolio.

Here are some other considerations when selecting a graduate program.

Time Management

Applying to graduate school takes time. Start pulling together your application materials at least a semester before the application deadline.

Letters of Recommendation

Graduate programs require letters of recommendation, and your professors will be your best resource. They can talk about your current academic abilities and your potential in graduate school.

If you are planning to go to grad school, don't sit in the back of the classroom and never make comments. Your professors will write more effective letters if they know you. Take more than one class from the instructor. Visit them during their office hours. A strong letter might help out a weak GPA or poor GRE/LSAT score.

You can ensure a better letter of recommendation by doing the following. 

  • Give the instructor plenty of time to write your letter.
  • Provide a sample of the work you completed in class, and remind the instructor of the projects that you completed in the class.
  • Explain your career goals and how you've prepared to meet them.
  • Describe your activities and experiences outside of the classroom.

Personal Statements

Most graduate programs require a personal statement. This short essay will be one of the most significant components of the application portfolio.

First, the personal statement is your writing sample. Like all good writing, have a claim that your essay will support. Typically, your implied claim will be "You want me in your graduate program because . . ." Provide evidence through concrete details that support your claim. Revise, revise, revise. Then proofread. Make sure there are no grammatical or mechanical errors.

Show your personality. Many graduate programs want to feel confident that you are a fit for their program. Choose experiences and examples that are unique to you. Check out BYU Law School's checklist for writing personal statements. Its suggestions apply to most graduate programs. 

Graduate School

With a degree in English, you may consider a Master's degree in a liberal arts program such as English, Creative Writing, Art History, or many other areas of study. Here are some considerations for graduate school.


In graduate school, you may choose to specialize, selecting to focus on a general MA (Master of Arts) in literature, rhetoric and composition, or technical writing. Creative writers typically choose between an MA in literature and an MFA, which is a terminal degree for creative writing. 

Undergrad Courses

As you plan your undergraduate degree, find out if the graduate program you want requires a foreign language. Then you can use your elective credits to meet this requirement.


Some graduate schools require the GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations. Some programs require the general exam, which focuses on reasoning, basic math, and analytical writing.

Other programs may require a subject-specific exam such as the Literature in English test. If you need to take the subject-specific exam, take careful notes in your survey and literature classes. These will be invaluable as you review for this test.

Considering the graduate school's application deadlines, determine the best time to take the GRE. Take a few practice tests (you can find free tests online). Typically, you'll take the exam at least one semester before the application deadlines. This will give you plenty of time to retake the exam, if necessary.

ISU/BYU-Idaho MA Partnership

BYU-Idaho has partnered with ISU to help you earn your MA while finishing your undergraduate degree. Find out how.

Professional Degrees

Professional degrees are advanced degrees that focus on professional practice rather than specific subject matter. Most common professional degrees are medical, law, pharmacy, business, and social work.

A degree in English provides an excellent foundation for professional degrees because you will be trained in analysis, close reading, logic, and writing. These skills will help you succeed in both your program and your profession.

Even if you choose a major other than English, consider how English electives can improve your chances for success in your professional degree. Check out the advising website for recommendations of specific classes that will prepare you for your career.