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Graduating a year early = total confusion


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Hello everyone!

I'm currently an English major with a creative writing concentration and a Philosophy minor at Fordham University. I'm in my second year of undergraduate study but I'm definitely going to be graduating a year early. So, basically, I have to apply to grad schools for my English PhD in the fall and take my GRE as soon as possible. I'm just totally overwhelmed because the normal timeline of how to apply/what to do/when to test don't seem to apply to me.

I currently have a 3.6 GPA, but I'm confident that I can raise it to approximately a 3.7/3.8 by the time I graduate. I have a ton of extracurricular activities in which I hold leadership positions in, as well as internships and outside experience in related and semi-related fields. I'm positive I'm going to get some great references from my professors, seeing as I talk to professors more than I do students my age. I'm also going to do an independent study to write a senior thesis that should be completed in time to send in with my applications.

I feel like I'm in an okay position to apply to grad schools, but my graduating a year early is throwing me off. Will grad schools look down upon it because I'm younger? Will it look like I'm rushing through things, or just that I'm ambitious? What should I start doing now in preparation for my applications?

Also, what kind of schools should I apply to? I plan to stay in the Northeast. Cornell is my absolute top choice because of the combined MFA/English PhD program they have. Other schools I want to apply to are NYU, CUNY Graduate Center, Yale, etc. Any suggestions?

I don't have much guidance on how to navigate the application process, so I'm turning to GradCafe - I'll be ecstatic to receive any advice at all!

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Hi Squiddles, welcome!

I graduated a year early but then spent a year working on a research project. This gave me the time to contemplate what I really wanted to do and prepare myself for the application season. Applications can really take a lot out of you, and it may be hard to give them your best attention if graduating a year early (of course, it completely depends on how much you can handle!)

I don't think grad schools will look at you negatively because you are young. The content of your application is what counts. I would approach this question from a more personal matter. Are YOU ready? Do YOU know what you want? If you are positive that you want to get to grad school asap, then go for it. It's up to you.

I am very happy with my decision to graduate early and then take a year doing research. I have centered myself in this past year and am ready to set out to do what I want. I would suggest it to anybody. It seems like a lot of applicants now take a gap year or two. You are in an interesting situation in that, if you decide to take a year, you will still be entering grad school "on time."

In regard to your academic path, decide what you want to do. Read publications from professors you might want to work with. (FYI, extracurriculars aren't that important in a PhD application)

In regard to your personal path, please understand that there is no rush to go to grad school. It's a huge commitment, so make sure it is what you really want, especially after only three years of college!

Good luck : )

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I also graduated a year early and my final semester consisted of 16 course units, an honors thesis, GRE, GRE Subject, 14 grad school apps (and all the tailoring / essays that were included) as well as working two jobs. It's possible, but very difficult.

If I were in the business of giving out advice (which I'm not) I'd get a head start on studying for the GRE subject and compiling your database of grad programs that interest you, with emphasis placed on the who and the why for each one. Wouldn't hurt to start churning ideas for the SOP, Diversity Statements, and the writing samples. Try and think about how everything will come together as a whole ie. how your scholarly research is reflected in your creative writing, which, itself, is informed by your life experience.

I'm not going to lie, it's a horrible, horrible process. So the earlier you can get started, the better.

P.S. If you're at Fordham, perhaps go seek out Prof. Bugg. His wife was invaluable to my application process, and I hear that he's equally kind.

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It isn't too common to graduate a year early. I know a ton of people who have done it, some of which then applied to and were accepted to different grad programs. My only comment is to be aware that the AdComs will decide on your application with respect to your GPA when you apply and not what you intend to graduate with. If you are intending to raise your GPA, they will not see the whole thing, but they will see trends.

Good Luck.

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