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Where Do I Begin?


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Hey all!

Here’s my question, in short: How in the world do I start narrowing down my list of possible grad schools?

I'm hoping to apply to graduate programs this December so that I can begin in Fall 2012. I’m interested in a Masters or PhD in postcolonial literature, specifically focusing on transnational and immigrant literatures and the ways in which cultures are blending and interacting in the 21st century.

But I’m not asking where you think I should apply (unless you have any ideas), or if I can get into those programs. I know that I need to do my own research! But I’m feeling very overwhelmed by the sheer number of English graduate programs, the myriad possibilities and choices that I have to wade through in order to find the right program. I don’t need to stay in a certain place, and I’m not sure yet if I should just get a Masters’ or go straight to PhD….so I just have no idea where to begin.

Do any of you who are further into the process have any advice for me about how to narrow the possibilities? What are the basic things I can look for so that I can start creating a more manageable list to research? What was your plan of attack?

Thanks so much!

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I know how you feel (I did my master's in lit); it is tough when applying to English lit, because just about school has a grad program for lit.

I relied heavily on professors to help me narrow my list. This is the ideal, I think, but it's not always possible for everyone, especially if you're far out of your undergrad coursework.

Reading can also help; not only articles, but try looking through conference programs to get a sense for which schools have the kind of faculty you'd want to work with (or are producing grad students who are doing the kind of work you could see yourself doing, as well). The MLA is the biggie, of course, though that'll mostly be faculty or ABD grads, and it's a bit of a stuffy conference; perhaps some other gradcafers who are more familiar with postcolonial lit can suggest some other conference programs you should consider perusing online.

Edited by runonsentence
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Definitely understand how you feel jessicamarie! Looking for programs can be overwhelming since there a ton of great schools out there. In my case, I started my school search by looking at lists of the strongest programs for my field...my field of interest was African American lit. I also included schools where certain professors I was interested in taught at in addition to including schools where these professors attended. By the end of my search, I had about 25 possible schools I could attend! I sat down with my advisor afterward and he helped me weed down schools (professors usually know the politics of certain schools and professors/departments you want to avoid) in addition to suggesting schools that I should add, especially lower-reach schools.

Although you aren't really looking for a list of schools to consider, I would strongly recommend you look into the University of Pittsburgh, which is pretty strong in post-colonial literature. I attended Pitt this past year and only have good things to say about my overall experience. I don't know what area you are interested in exactly, but there is one professor, Shalini Puri, who specializes in Caribbean lit, and 2 professors who specialize in African Literature, Susan Andrade and Lily Saint. They are all pretty great.

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Agreeing with the above, your professors are great for advice on where to apply. I had a preliminary list of fifteen schools to look at, and after discussing it with my advisor and getting his suggestions, I narrowed it down to seven programs. (And ended up adding a few that I hadn't considered before, including the one I will actually be attending this fall.)

Take a look at articles and journals that you're really interested in. Are there authors you have read whose research have really popped in your mind? See where they are currently teaching, and take a look at those programs.

Once you have a preliminary list, contact professors at the institutions! Not everyone will reply, but you may get a better idea of where may be a good fit, and save yourself some money on application fees if you find some that simply don't fit.

Hope this helps. Best of luck!

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Thank you, everyone! I appreciate the advice. I hadn't thought to look through conference programs or journals for names and programs. I'll hopefully be starting a list soon that's much more manageable. Thanks again!

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