Jump to content

seeking advice: slightly older nontrad Eng/Lit student


Recommended Posts

I will be thirty-one years old this summer and graduated at the end of 2005 with a BA in English and a minor in Latin My academic career was respectable but unimpressive. I graduated magna cum laude with a GPA of 3.625, earned a UROP grant, wrote my senior thesis (creative writing poetry portfolio) under the guidance of a respected poet-professor, and won an honorable mention in some Academy of America Poets contest. However, I didn't cultivate any personal relationships with any professors and didn't work towards my BA with any intention of preparing for postgraduate work. At the time I believed graduate school was an impossible dream, financially and intellectually, something reserved for an elite, elect few.

After spending the last few years working entry-level corporate marketing jobs, I have determined that my passions for reading, researching and writing are the clearest indicators I have of where my real aptitudes lie and of what I would be better off doing with my life. Further research has indicated that continuing my education is not as out of reach as I had feared...although I feel there is much work to be done before I can pursue that path.

I would like to earn an MA in English literature, with an eye towards a PhD. I feel that my background is not strong enough to gain admission to a PhD program quite yet, and I am hoping an MA would give me that strength while offering the chance to decide if I truly want to commit to fulfilling the PhD requirements. I am also considering some comparative lit and interdisciplinary programs – I am certain that I want to study literature, with some good ideas of specific interests, contexts, focuses, etc., but I am still debating just what would be the best sort of program in which to bring my diverse but related interests together in a coherent unified whole...but that is a discussion for another post.

My problem is that, having been out of school for a few years, with pretty much no relevant work experience (I don't think copy writing counts!), no relationships with professors and no worthy academic writing samples, I am in no way prepared to begin the application process.

I am very confident in my ability to score well on the GRE general and literature tests prior to applying. I know that, given the chance, I will do exceptionally well in a graduate program. But what can I do now to ensure that I have that chance to prove myself? I realize that, in this day and age, it is almost ridiculous to worry about 30 as being too old or too long out of school to return, but I still do.

I am reading voraciously in my free time, and I may try to contact some of the professors I studied with years ago. I would also like to take a class or two, while I am gearing up for the application process, to ease myself back into the academic mindset, prove that I am still capable of success in a classroom, and hopefully cultivate some good relationships with a professor or two. However, I looked at the local community college and all the classes there are so 'low level,' I feel that I would be wasting my time, and maybe even doing more harm than good to my academic record. What are my options for taking graduate level classes at a university without applying to an actual degree program? Would professors be willing to work with me and maybe even offer some guidance if I am not a “real” student, given my plans and aspirations?

I have lots of other concerns – funding, finding the right program, narrowing the focus of my studies, etc. In many ways I am just beginning this journey. Though I never planned on grad school during undergrad, I started thinking about it almost immediately after I left the university; this has been a goal I return to over and over during the past few years, but I am just now starting to seriously consider it as a realistic possibility. I feel like I have wasted so much time since graduation, floundering around in a cubicle while my intellect smoldered, and now I am anxious to get serious and get moving forward. Unfortunately, I don't think I can enter a graduate program until at least next fall but now I am so anxious that I feel like there are a million things to do at once, and at the same time, I don't quite know where to begin.

As you can tell, I am all over the place with my thoughts right now. I think I'll save most of my questions for separate posts. In the meantime, any advice, encouragement, suggestions, etc. would be most appreciated. Anyone else in here with similar backgrounds and experiences? I love reading this forum and I am excited to be a part of all the fun!

Edited by JasonRH
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Congrats on your plans to pursue graduate school! It sounds like a generalist master's degree is the way to go for you, and I think it sounds like you could pitch yourself as a strong master's candidate.

I'll latch onto one question you asked, about taking classes. Hard to answer about the willingness of professors to help work with, since it'd probably depend on the person (or program)—but in general I think it's a good move, especially since undergrad is so far behind you. It'll help you get back into the academic swing of things, look good on the application, and hopefully get you some guidance, if not a letter, from the professor. This is anecdotal, but I'll share nonetheless: one of my colleagues from my MA program moved to my city because his partner was coming to medical school. For "fun," he signed up to take a literature seminar that interested him. The professor was so impressed with him in class that she convinced him to apply to the program and helped him get in past the deadline.

Edited by runonsentence
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.