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Sarah Lawrence College doesn't require you to declare a specific major, just a general area of concentration (social sciences, humanities, sciences, or arts). So I just took lots of random humanities classes and creative writing. I didn't plan on grad school at the time (in the 90s!). So I had to do a lot of canon reading on my own to fill in the gaps (got a 650 on the subject test, not amazing but good enough to prove I knew the basics). I believe that probably my overall application had to be extra strong in order to earn me consideration against English majors (170 GRE verbal, 3.73 undergrad GPA but 3.9 in lit classes, 4.0 in the single semester of MA I did, and I spent over 6 months on the writing sample and SOP).

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My BA is in communication.  I knew I wanted to get more into the English/composition side of things, so I did my MA in English. I'm glad I did because during the process I found there is a whole field of people working right on the intersection of these two fields and that that is exactly where I want to be -- so I'll be doing my PhD in Rhetoric & Professional Comm.  I'd be happy to answer any questions if you think I can be helpful.

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I technically have a BS in English instead of a BA because my primary degree was in Biology (I double-majored). I think it tends to make my application pretty hit or miss--either it's disregarded immediately as too weird/not showing a proper commitment to an English program, or it makes me stand out and look interesting/memorable.

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My BA is in film, and I (will) have an interdisciplinary MA, but with a focus on lit and theory. I think it did hurt me a little bit, not having the English BA, but only in that it was a real struggle to fill in parts of the canon that I just didn't get with all those lit survey requirements that people have as English majors. Self-study of the Nortons when you have super exciting MA-level readings and work going on was very difficult (in terms of motivation), and I ended up with only a 620 on the Lit GRE, which I'm sure kept me out of some places.

 

But it's definitely do-able, as long as you're willing to show that you've done work in literature and/or that you're willing to fill in some of those gaps on your own.

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My situation was a bit different from yours, but what I have heard from professors at Columbia and Berkeley is that having a different undergraduate major is actually a plus for you if your statement, writing sample, and perhaps Literature GRE scores (for schools which look at those) are strong.  If this is the case, then having studied something else makes you stand out to the adcom in a good way. One of my profs said that when an applicant has as strong a writing sample as someone else who studied Lit undergrad, she is more curious and impressed by the applicant, and if the applicant can spin her/his studies-in-another-area to explain how it might inform their interest in literature, they actually have a significant edge over other applicants. 

 

If you wanted to have more coursework in English lit, and you still live near your undergrad institution, you might email some professors in the English department and ask to audit a class or two. Building good relationships with these professors might help you in your application process--they might end up writing your recommendations!   :)

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My BA is in English, but with a focus on Creative Writing, not Lit.  With that being said, I focused entirely on Lit in my MA, so I don't think it made too much of a difference in my PhD applications.

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I have a BA in English Literature and Language, BUT my first degree is from 6 years prior, a BS in Computer Science.

 

The combined fields and the order of my degrees has definitely allowed me to stand out - that and having working experience as a programmer/tech worker in between.

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My BA is in English, but with a focus on Creative Writing, not Lit.  With that being said, I focused entirely on Lit in my MA, so I don't think it made too much of a difference in my PhD applications.

What about a Writing major? They do that at my school.

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My BA is in international affairs. Then I got a masters in international affairs, and when PhD apps for int'l affairs didn't go well, I did the whole "what am I going to do with my life" thing, and got into an English masters program. My experiences and insights with this?  Best decision of my life. The English part, that is.

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I have a BA in English Literature and Language, BUT my first degree is from 6 years prior, a BS in Computer Science.

 

The combined fields and the order of my degrees has definitely allowed me to stand out - that and having working experience as a programmer/tech worker in between.

 

Warning: (in regards to your pending Oxford status) doing one of those British English language masters degrees may turn you into a linguist! It turns out linguists also love a good computer scientist, so you'd be popular at least :P

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My BA is in philosophy (MA in English). The advice I received was to show how my BA in philosophy ties into my research in English literature. I imagine the connection between an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a PhD in literature was easier to make than some other potential connections, but I do think that it's important to show that your scholarship is cohesive rather than attempting to claim that you want to go in a new direction, etc.

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