Applying to Top-20 programs, or not? in Literature, and Rhetoric and Composition Posted 9 hours ago 14 hours ago, WildeThing said: Having a PhD from Harvard looks better than one from Florida State, generally. The academic job market in our field is rough and research suggests that graduates from programs in a lower tier very rarely find jobs in higher tiers. The more prestigious the program you get into, the more options you ostensibly have in the future... For instance, Florida State is not usually considered as prestigious as Harvard but if you're interested in working on Samuel Beckett they might be a better choice because some very respected scholars work there whereas Harvard does not have a dedicated Beckettian (to my knowledge). I'd like to elaborate a bit more on @WildeThing's post here. I think there are a few things to consider here. There isn't a single degree that could guarantee you that you'd be considered equally at all schools. Some teaching-focused schools are hesitant to hire ivy-league grads because they're concerned that the individual might leave them when a research-focused position opens up. They're also concerned that ivy-league grads and other top10/top20 schools may not have enough teaching experience or may not want to be in an environment that focuses on teaching. A school in the top 20 may not rank as highly in certain disciplines. Notre Dame, Rochester, and George Washington University are known widely for their early modern program. WUSTL is very strong in (Post)Modernism, Drama Studies (modern), Gender and Sexuality Studies and is expanding in Transatlantic and Transnational. Tufts has traditionally been strong in Gender Theory. Pittsburgh has a really strong Film concentration in English. Rice is strong in Gender and Sexuality, Medical Humanities, Postcolonial and Ecocritism. None of these are top 20 programs, but have built a strong concentration in the listed that likely rival schools that are considered to be in the top 20. However, if the goal is to teach at a R1 school, it is much easier to accomplish from a top 20 program. But there are also post-docs that might help you accomplish your goal. I've had friends who have gotten a degree from ivy leagues schools who still had to complete postdocs before landing in a TT position. I have friends who have graduated from schools ranked in the 30s who have landed tenure track jobs at ivy-league schools. It might also be important to note that the majority of schools that are hiring are not R1 schools but rather teaching-focused institutions. These institutions are more likely to care about your teaching ability and record, but it's important to not disregard original research. I'm not sure more options is necessarily correct here, but I think there is a difference in the types of positions that are most readily available to you upon graduation based upon the connections you have access to. Lastly, I also want to note that a school accepts you because they believe in you. Sometimes, even the brightest students fail due to unforeseen circumstances or not feeling supported enough. An acceptance from any school doesn't mean anything if you can't graduate from it.