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mobydickpic

Do any PhD English/Literature programs (seem to) explicitly prefer applicants who already have an MA?

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Long time lurker, first time poster.

I am currently in undergrad and am planning on applying to PhD English/Literature programs (with a few funded MAs sprinkled in) directly out of college.

But, I am wondering if anyone knows of any programs where applying without an MA from the get-go puts applicants at a disadvantage, in optics alone? i.e. Regardless of the quality of a applicant's SOP or WS, are there any PhD programs that seem to always prefer applicants who already have an MA?

I am fully aware that many applicants feel/become much better prepared for the PhD once they have already completed a Masters, or that the MA gives them the opportunity to hone their interests and write a more compelling paper for their writing sample — so, I imagine that for institutions that happily accept candidates with and without the MA, these students may more likely present great applications. I also have heard that a few programs (including Chicago, maybe Pitt too?) generally prefer to take students who have no prior graduate work, BA-only candidates. [I've also heard that some PhD rhet/comp programs definitely prefer that applicants already have the MA, but this question is specifically about literature programs.]

However, I was also wondering if—based on your knowledge, or simply your observations of past admissions results—you've noticed that any PhD programs seem to prefer that applicants already have an MA, regardless of the quality of their SOP and WS? 

(Secondarily, I'd love if you could also mention, in this thread, PhD programs that do seem to/explicitly prefer BA-only applicants, like Chicago?)

Edited by mobydickpic

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This is not my field, but a recommendation: I would look at the Current PhD Students page on the websites of the programs you are applying to. Often the students post where they got their previous degrees, so you can get a sense of whether students "generallý" had an MA before attending the program. I have also been annoyed by how dodgy some of these schools are on their sites regarding degree requirements, at least for musicology. They don't specifically say whether you "need" a bachelor's or masters', and its not stated bachelors cannot apply, but you look at the current students page and they all already have masters. 

It would seem unusual that any school would prefer the student to have an MA just for the sake of the MA. AFAIK, for more creative programs (I'm coming form a music perspective) such as music composition, english composition, fine arts, etc.  MA is usually needed before the PhD. But I think this is more because they are looking for a more impressive portfolio with awards and other recognitions, that requires time of any sort after completing a bachelors--often done in an MA.

 

Edited by klavierstucke

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10 hours ago, klavierstucke said:

AFAIK, for more creative programs (I'm coming form a music perspective) such as music composition, english composition, fine arts, etc.  MA is usually needed before the PhD. But I think this is more because they are looking for a more impressive portfolio with awards and other recognitions, that requires time of any sort after completing a bachelors--often done in an MA.

  

I think the advice on looking at program pages is a good one. However, an MA is usually not needed to apply for a PhD in English Literature.  From talking with various Graduate Directors, individuals with an MA are expected to show more for admission because they've had the extra time to develop. A lot of programs sort MA-holders and BA-holders into two separate piles and have different requirements for each. With that being said, there are programs that do require you to have an MA prior to applying.

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4 hours ago, Warelin said:

With that being said, there are programs that do require you to have an MA prior to applying.

@Warelin Is this requirement usually stated directly on the Prospective Students webpage? I haven't seen it anywhere, but maybe I just haven't looked at any of the programs with this requirement. Or, do you (or anyone reading) know of any of these programs?

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Thirding the advice that if a program's admissions page doesn't make their feelings towards MAs clear, looking at student profiles is a good way to gauge the situation.

Schools often have two separate degree completion times for students with different degrees at admission, e.g. an assumption that their program is 5+ years for students admitted with a BA but only 3+ or 4+ for those with an MA. The idea there, of course, is to give the students without a Masters a chance to take roughly the same amount of classes by the time they finish. If a program is structures that way, you can at least assume they take students with MA degrees, even if it's not necessarily their preference. For that, again, you'd probably want to check student profiles, although my own experience viewing those programs suggest they generally lean towards the BA candidates.

And then there are some scattered programs that only accept students with an MA or MFA; the University of Denver, where I start in a couple weeks, is one such program. They're rare by comparison, though.

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9 hours ago, mobydickpic said:

@Warelin Is this requirement usually stated directly on the Prospective Students webpage? I haven't seen it anywhere, but maybe I just haven't looked at any of the programs with this requirement. Or, do you (or anyone reading) know of any of these programs?

It is usually listed on the Prospective Students, FAQ or Requirements page. When I was doing my research (prior to applying and narrowing down my interests), I found a couple dozen programs that required an MA/MFA. Often in times though, an MA will not shorten your time to degree because a lot of places accept very few MA credits. In recent times, programs have moved more towards accepting an equal amount of BA and MA degree holders. Whether you hold an MA or BA may impact some of your stipend and funding type at certain universities though.

The University of Georgia states that an MA degree isn't required for admission into their PhD program but that the vast majority of their students selected for admission have an MA degree. University Accreditation Regulations prohibit graduate students from teaching unless they have an MA degree or 18 hours of graduate-level coursework. As a result, students without an MA would be nominated for a GRA at Georgia.

Tufts offers 4.5 years of financial support to students entering with an MA and 5.5 years of financial support to students entering with an MA. The main difference between the two here is that students with an MA bypass the TA program and begin teaching in Tuft's first year writing program during their second year.

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I feel like the era of you-must-have-an-MA-to-apply-to-PhD is almost fully over. When I applied to grad school (more than 10 years ago now), there were still a few prominent programs that required people to have an MA before going for the PhD, but even then those programs were rare. I was getting an MA, and one program I applied to accepted me on the condition that I do the MA all over again at their school before advancing to the PhD--but without funding for that extra MA. (Obviously I turned them down.) So yeah, even back then there was a sense among certain programs that you should be a fresh untainted BA. 

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