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Background: I’m a rising (undergraduate) junior transferring to a different school starting with this upcoming semester. At my previous school I was an English/Philosophy double major, but I took way more philosophy courses than English, so that at my new school if I want to complete my double major I’ll have to take about 37 credits of English courses, most of which are major requirements + 5 or 4 gen eds + three or so elective philosophy courses.

My preference would be to take more than three philosophy courses, especially as I’m still deciding whether I want to pursue graduate school in English or Philosophy, and if I go with the latter I’ll need letters of recommendation (I didn’t form many close relationships with professors at my previous school, so this is basically my only option). I’ve found that if I switch to a Philosophy major and English minor, I’ll have way, way more freedom with regard to credits. I'd essentially get to take whatever I want in the next two years, so I could split my attention evenly between Philosophy and English.

Here’s my problem: I really would like to leave myself the option of pursuing grad school in English, and I don’t know if I can do that with just an English minor. As far as I can tell, it varies by program. I know that some allow it, but I don’t know how common it is. Right now, what I'm most concerned about is whether I could still make a strong applicant to the top English MA/PhD programs.

Would my best course of action be to simply contact each individual program and ask about their requirements for applicants?

P.S. Any outside resources on this subject would be appreciated. I can't locate much information about this online.

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    What country are you applying in?
    – astronat
    Jul 7 at 7:14
  • @astronat I'm in the United States. Sorry for not making that clear. Jul 7 at 17:07
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I really would like to leave myself the option of pursuing grad school in English, and I don’t know if I can do that with just an English minor. As far as I can tell, it varies by program.

I would recommend choosing potential graduate schools that you want to apply to in advance so that you can make the optimal decisions right now. If schools that you want to attend do not have a hard requirement, then no problem. If schools that you want to attend do have a hard requirement, then you need to make certain decisions while you are still in your undergrad.

Would my best course of action be to simply contact each individual program and ask about their requirements for applicants?

If schools that you most want to attend have a hard requirement (listed on their website, for instance), then it might be good to ask about your situation. But for schools that do allow it, this does not seem like you would learn any new information.

Right now, what I'm most concerned about is whether I could still make a strong applicant to the top English MA/PhD programs.

There are two major things to consider here:

  • Do you believe that you are a strong candidate? If not, consider what steps you need to take in your undergraduate education to prepare yourself for grad school.
  • Assuming that your answer to the first question is affirmative, do you think your application would convey that you are a strong candidate?

Many graduate school applications in the humanities require some form of the following:

  • GRE test scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Past transcripts
  • Statement of purpose
  • Writing sample

Check what different programs require for admission, and tailor your application accordingly. If your philosophy training has given you adequate skills to write well, your writing sample and GRE scores should demonstrate that. Past transcripts should show a high number of English courses taken. Letters of recommendation from faculty even outside your field could be very valuable. And finally, your statement of purpose should indicate why you believe you are a strong candidate, which carries significant weight when evaluating a potential new student.

Good luck!

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Since you haven't indicated a country, this answer is only valid for US (and, perhaps similar places).

It is fairly common for people with a BS here to enter doctoral studies in a different field. This is due to the very general nature of the US undergraduate education, with only "a bit" of specialization in the major. US undergraduates get a "taste" of many different fields, some quite different from their main interest. US doctoral programs are usually defined with this in mind and the early year(s) have advanced coursework leading to some comprehensive exams demonstrating a broad knowledge of your field. If you have any "lacks" you can use this period to get up to speed.

So, having "only" a minor in English wouldn't necessarily be any handicap at all, and, there are surely instances of philosophy or history majors entering English for doctoral studies as well as the opposite.

The answer of Kevin Miller lays out the usual application requirements (though GRE is fading a bit in importance). Note that letters of recommendation are relatively important in US (compared to some other places) and you need to make your case about your future in the SoP.

I'd suggest that if you keep your hand in both fields, even without a double major and make enough faculty contacts so that you get good letters in either field, then you should fare OK.

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