Attend the informational meeting held by the grad school advisors in the English Department. It is usually held on an evening in September. The advisors can help answer specific questions you have. This is a once-a-year meeting, so don't miss it expecting there will be another.
Begin researching graduate programs. This includes speaking with professors about particular programs suited to your interests, and sending away to different graduate schools for information. You can find graduate school information and addresses in the English Department files and at the reference section of the library. It would be helpful to start thinking about your particular period/critical/genre interests in the field of literature, as this will help you decide what schools to consider. Do not, however, think of your current leanings as graven in stone.
Take as many literature classes as possible to help prepare for the Subject Test. You should take Modern Critical Theory, as well. Also, be thinking about any papers in your literature classes that might be worked into a graduate school writing sample. Consult with your professors about the kind of paper appropriate for submission to graduate school. Your best grade is not necessarily your best paper. Graduate admissions committees look for specific kinds of skills and papers when evaluating submissions. Senior Seminar papers are most likely to be appropriate for submission, but not necessarily. Be sure to consult with one of the grad school advisors.
Take the General GRE Test by June. Begin studying for the test Spring semester. The best study guides for the General test (you will need both guides) are The Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE and ETS' practice book for the General GRE. For more information, visit the GRE website.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Year
Keep compiling and looking at graduate school information.
Start studying for the Subject GRE. Get a hold of Norton anthologies and review class notes. Beware! It is hard to study without accountability, such as friends or a schedule might provide. For more information, visit the GRE website.
Fall Semester Senior Year
Form a study group right away with two to three people who will present the different literary periods. Choose to present those periods that you have not had a class in. Plan on meeting for about two hours for one night a week, and obtain practice tests published by ETS. The other publishing companies tend to have questions a bit harder than those given by ETS.
Register for the October Subject test.
Narrow down your list of graduate schools and start obtaining applications.
Begin revisions on your writing sample and write out a Statement of Purpose. Use the graduate school catalog for the particular school you are applying to in order to write specific and thoughtful statements of intent. Be specific in your statement of intent; persuade the reader of your readiness for graduate school in terms of confident but realistic expectations.
Allow professors plenty of time to write your recommendations. This means that you must have your applications because they often contain the recommendation forms.
Allow plenty of time (three weeks to a month) for compiling recommendations and completing writing sample and Statement of Purpose revisions. Also allow the registrar's office plenty of time to get transcripts out.
Pay close attention to the specific requests of each graduate application. Some want duplicate copies and other special information.
Obtain any fellowship applications you can find. These also require writing samples, transcripts, and recommendations.
Think about entering your writing sample in undergraduate literature conferences. This requires a written abstract.
Send off your applications a few weeks before the deadline! (The time is usually mid-December.)
Note: The application process becomes quite stressful and rushed when these guidelines and calendar are not followed.
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