So You Want to Apply to Grad School?

So You Want to Apply to Grad School?


So you want to go to graduate school but you don’t know where to start. Look no further! We have information from Dr. William Stockton, Director of Graduate Studies, and current graduate student, Allison Daniels, to give you tips on the application process. 

Will Stockton is a Professor of English. His latest book is 33 1/3: The B-Sides: New Essays by 33 1/3 Authors on Beloved and Underrated Albums (Bloomsbury, 2019). He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2007 and has worked at Clemson since 2010. 

How many English graduate programs does Clemson have

Stockton: Clemson has two Master of Arts programs. One is the MA in English, which is the traditional Masters in English literature. It trains people to be literary scholars; some of these people have plans to teach in high school, while others want to pursue their Ph.D. The second program is the Masters in Writing, Rhetoric and Media, which attracts students who want to pursue a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition or work as content creators and web designers.  

What do you look for in a graduate application?

Stockton: The graduate application requirements include a statement of purpose, writing sample, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a GRE score. The most important component is the personal statement and writing sample. They count more than anything in most graduate programs. 

What are some ideas that make a student stand out in the application process?

Stockton: A good personal statement largely articulates a clear sense of academic direction. We want to see what analytical questions the student is invested in exploring and what the student wants to do with their MA. We also look for applicants to demonstrate familiarity with Clemson’s English department. A student should indicate how Clemson and its faculty can assist them on their path to meet their academic objectives. A good writing sample is the best piece of writing a student has that demonstrates the skills central to the program. 

If you were applying to Clemson’s English graduate program, how would you personalize your application?

Stockton: I would be very specific about the kinds of intellectual questions that engage me. I would clearly state what areas of academic inquiry I want to pursue and why I want to pursue them.

Allison is a graduate student in English from Dillon, South Carolina. She graduated with her undergraduate degree in English from Clemson in May of 2018. During that time she was the sports editor for The Tiger, the student newspaper, interned at the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, and worked as a Writing Fellow. Her academic interests include creative writing and cultural studies. When she isn’t working or in class, you can find her at Clemson sporting events.

What is the hardest part of the graduate application?

Daniel: The personal statement because it is two-fold. First, it is hard to talk yourself up even though it is needed. Also, it requires a lot of focused ideas about what you want to do with your career and why this particular graduate program is right for you while also continuing to be personal and unique. 

What advice would you give to a student applying to the graduate program? 

Daniel: I always recommend the personal statement be a reflection of you and your academic goals. It can be a piece of your life story that made you want to go to grad school. Do not be afraid to make it personal. Also, when submitting the writing samples, make sure it reflects you as an individual. If you are passionate about your work, your personality will shine through and be noticed. 

If you were on the application committee, what would you look for in a student’s submission?

Daniel: I would look for confidence and passion through your writing. It will reflect how confident and committed you will be in the classroom and will show that it is a path you really want to pursue.


By: Ashley Jones


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