Graduate programs in English are ubiquitous, but not all are created equal.  When choosing which schools to apply to and writing your English Statement of Purpose it is a good idea to keep your ultimate goals in mind.  If your goal is professional development it might not matter too much where you attend.  If your goal is a professorship your pedigree is going to have an enormous bearing on your ability to find a job.  The better programs will offer full funding to their students, and a good piece of advice in this field is, “If they’re not paying you to be there, you shouldn’t be.”

Most programs want you to have an idea of what area you would like to specialize in when you apply, and will ask you to designate a field on the application.  This designation is in no way binding, and you are certainly free to change your area of interest once you are accepted.  English departments are especially forgiving about this, and it is rarely seen as problematic if an applicant writes that they have not completely settled on a specialization in their English Statement of Purpose.  Something to keep in mind, though, is that programs often divide up their number of openings and distribute them across specializations – so if you indicate 20th century American on your application you will be evaluated alongside the other 20th c Americanists.

Below are a few essays submitted to English Literature programs.  If the applicant indicated a specialization it is provided in parentheses.

English Statement of Purpose Examples:

1. Farms & Agrarian Literature (19th C American)

2. The Living Nature of Past Literature (Medieval & 20th C)

3. Imitating Literature (20th C American)

{Need more help with your English Statement of Purpose? Check out our ebook Hacking Your Statement of Purpose for a concise guide to writing and revising your Statement of Purpose.}