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Econ major applying to Comp Lit PhD programs?

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Hi everyone,

I am glad to have found this website! I need some advice (or motivation) regarding my tricky situation, so I thought it would be a good idea to start a new topic. 

I am from Turkey, did both my BS and MA degrees here at English-speaking universities. I am currently preparing applications for a number of comparative literature PhD programs in the US. But I come from rather an unusual background as my undergraduate degree was in economics. Well, it wouldn't be that unusual if I were to propose a topic lying at the intersection of economics and literature. I have no intention to go back to anything economic in the near future though. Broadly speaking, I am interested in medieval mysticism in Islamic and European world.

I will not go into the details of why I ended up studying economics but I did not like it and graduated with a mediocre GPA (3.05). I actually held this belief that I was just a mediocre student until I started to take elective courses from other departments. A's in those courses changed my mind, leading to a lot of research as to whether it was possible to make a smooth shift towards one of my lifelong interests, namely literature and philosophy. It turned out that it could be possible to do graduate studies in these fields. Long story short, since I was still torn between these two, I decided to go to a prestigious MA program in cultural studies where I wrote a thesis on medievalism in 20th century Turkey (GPA: 4.0).

I just defended my thesis and am currently working as an assistant editor in a publishing house (I have been writing fiction myself for more than 10 years now -magical realist work set in medieval era). 

TOEFL: 110

GRE: Verbal: 162 Quantitative: 170

Languages: Turkish, Persian, German, Latin (beginner).

Also a huge interest in digital humanities.

Now, obviously my undergraduate GPA won't impress anyone in the selection committee. The question is whether it would be an excuse that I majored in economics. Some schools set a minimum GPA requirement that I don't meet. Would that mean they will outright reject my application? And overall, how would a degree in an irrelevant field affect my odds of getting in a Comp Lit PhD program? (Honestly, going through some departments' websites, I have not seen anyone with a similar background). 

Finally, what do you think I should highlight the most, particularly in the SOP?

Thanks for any replies!





Edited by arslanty
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I had a similar situation. I come from a Political Science and Economics BA background but I'm about to begin the doctoral journey in Comparative Literature and an Area Studies dual title phd. I think the fact the I came from another background was one of my strong points. In my SoP I highlighted my  interests in comp. lit. and then related it to some areas within topics in my BA such as post-colonialism, informal markets etc. I said how learning these topics actually gave me a firm foundation to go off on in my specific interests in comp. lit. I also did an MA in an Area studies (don't want to reveal which area as it would divulge too much about myself) before and I think this is perhaps what also got me in. It's worth noting that all through my undergrad,  i had been trying to connect my major to literature and my senior thesis was on literature and feminism which thankfully my professor agreed to. You can certainly do it. I got some interviews at some really great schools and will be heading to a great school which is also ranked highly in the US and the world. Good luck. 

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