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Grades to Programs

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Hello All,

I'm well aware that "fit is the deciding factor" when it comes to schools, but I am having trouble finding programs that I truly want to go to / think I should have a shot for. I have a 3.5 with a 3.8 in the major from a very solid university (non-Ivy, but not invisible either). I'm interested in Contemporary American Literature, with emphasis on Diaz, Morrison, DeLillo, Wallace, and others; reaching as far back as Milton depending on the topic. Anyhoo, this isn't my Statement of Purpose; I just want to know if there are schools that accept good but not sterling GPAs.

On top of that, AS STUDENTS AND HUMAN BEINGS (although that seems contradictory at first glance), do you like your programs? Why? Should I attend as well? 10/10: would go again?


Thank you.

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That major GPA is good, so it should even things out, and especially if the lower grades were in your first couple of years. Some programs (Penn State comes to mind), only even ask for your last 60 (or so) hr GPA. UT Austin says this: "Successful candidates typically possess transcripts with a preponderance of “A”-level grades in their upper-division English and related courses....Applicants are unlikely to be disadvantaged by rocky starts to their college careers." And even Harvard says this: "While candidates’ overall GPA is important, it is more important to have an average of no lower than A- in literature courses (and related courses)." (How necessarily true those statements are, really, though, I don't know. I'll leave that for experienced applicants to comment on.). So, really, if the classes pulling your GPA down are classes you took your freshman year, or things for your math/science requirements, I wouldn't worry too much. If they're in upper level humanities-related courses (whether English or, say, Philosophy or History, etc.), you'll probably need to explain it in your SoP, if there were extenuating circumstances, but even then, I'm not sure if it's a complete death sentence (and especially if you have a record of research in your field, a clear sense of direction in your SoP, good LoRs, a polished writing sample, and even fairly above average Verbal/AWA and Subject GREs as needed.)

All that said: per your interests, definitely check out UT Austin (especially if Wallace is a particular interest [which, judging by your username (!) might be the case]--they have all his archives there! which is partly why I'm applying there :) ) IU Bloomington might also be a good option. I just did my undergrad there (with a thesis on Wallace & American Postmodernism), and while I can't comment, based on your short intro, whether you'd be a theoretical/genre fit, there're definitely Profs there that work/teach courses on 3/4 of the authors you listed (Morrison, Wallace, Diaz, the latter of which was here a few years ago). I had a great time here (though not really familiar with the grad program, I think very highly of the faculty overall), and so highly recommend (if there wasn't the whole problem with doing your PhD at the same institution as your BA, I'd have a strong inclination to stay, myself). If you end up with any specific Q's about IU, just let me know! 

Otherwise, I'd say that if there are any particular scholars' work on any of those authors you've found particularly interesting, see where they teach, and then if that program more generally would work for you. Or, there's always the more general slogging through program pages and faculty profiles to see where there's a fit--even if not by author, by theoretical perspective or genre (Sci Fi for Diaz, etc.).

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