MA Program FAQs

What will I do with my M.A.?
Many M.A. students are secondary school teachers or future teachers seeking to acquire greater content-knowledge of literature, to develop their skills in reading and analyzing different kinds of texts, and to learn new skills for improving student writing.  Others aim to strengthen their background in literary studies or writing studies in preparation for a Ph.D. program.  Still others view the M.A. as an all-purpose degree that will help them improve as readers, writers, and thinkers generally—abilities that can serve them professionally in publishing, journalism, library science, non-profit, or business careers.  Finally, some seek the degree for largely personal reasons, to pursue intellectual questions that their education and career paths have not allowed them the opportunity to explore.

Is this good preparation for a Ph.D. program?
Yes.  While very strong undergraduates who are certain that they want to obtain a Ph.D. should consider applying directly to doctoral programs, those who desire to strengthen their background in literary studies, to develop a greater facility with research methods and theory, or simply to get the feel of an English graduate classroom will be served well by an M.A. in English.

What is the admissions process?
Candidates for matriculation in the M.A. must have achieved a B average or better in their undergraduate work and a score of not less than 500 on their Verbal GRE. Students must also submit a personal statement and letters of recommendation, preferably from undergraduate professors in the field.  Most applicants will have majored in literature (English, comparative, or foreign) at the undergraduate level. However, students with strong academic credentials from any field may apply.  You can apply online here: http://www.montclair.edu/graduate/prospective/app.php

What are deferred and conditional matriculation?
If a student has a strong application but lacks a background in English, she or he may be granted deferred matriculation, which means that she/he must first take a small number of stipulated undergraduate courses in English, and pass with a stipulated G.P.A. (usually B+).  These credits will not count toward the M.A. if the student is fully admitted.  If a student has some weak spots in his or her application—grades, scores, letters, writing ability—but has an appropriate background, she/he may be granted conditional matriculation, which means that, prior to matriculation, she/he must pass a small number of graduate classes with a stipulated G.P.A.  These courses will count toward the M.A. if the student is fully admitted.

What courses are required?
You must take 33 credits (11 courses).  These include two required classes, ENGL 605: Literary Research and ENLT 514: Theoretical Approaches to Literature, as well as a 3-credit thesis ENGL 698.  Of your remaining 8 courses, 4 must be in a single concentration: American, British, or International Literature, or Writing Studies.  The final 4 courses may be selected from any 500 or 600-level ENGL, ENLT or ENWR course (with the exception of ENGL 571, which is an Education class).

What is a concentration?
As an M.A. student in English, you are required to take at least four of your courses (12 credits) in a single concentration.  The four concentrations are English, American, and International Literatures, and Writing Studies.

May I change my concentration?
Yes, you may change your concentration, provided you have taken, or will be able to take, the four courses in the new concentration.  Change of concentration form.

Can I take graduate courses before I matriculate?
Generally not.  In exceptional cases, non-matriculated students must obtain the approval of the departmental Graduate Program Coordinator in order to enter graduate courses in English.

Do you teach creative writing?
Montclair State does not offer an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and the courses in our M.A. program are in literary analysis and writing studies.  Occasionally a creative writing class will be offered as an elective.  However, studying literature of the past and present can provide important background for those seeking to develop as writers of fiction, poetry, drama, or film.

How do I apply for a Graduate Assistantship (GAship)?
You apply at the same time that you apply for admission to the program.  The application contains a line for you to indicate your interest in an assistantship.  In the spring before you formally enroll, you will be contacted by the Graduate Director for an interview.

What kind of work will I do as a GA?
Graduate Assistants generally work in one of three capacities.  Some work in the Center for Writing Excellence (CWE), mostly in a one-on-one tutoring capacity; Writing Center GAs receive training for their work in the CWE.  Others serve as teaching assistants for the undergraduate Film Program, working closely with full-time film faculty.  Still others serve as research assistants for full-time English Department faculty.

What are the benefits of a GAship?
GAs receive a full tuition waiver and a stipend.  As of spring 2011, the stipend is $7,000.  More information on GAships.

What are the requirements of a GAship?
GAs must maintain full-time status (9 credits) and work 20 hours per week, September-June.  If you have fewer than 9 credits to complete before earning your degree, you may take the number of remaining credits.

Are there other scholarships available?
Yes.  See the English Department home page for information on the Mary Bondon, Lawrence Conrad, and Murray Prosky scholarship awards.

May I take an independent study?
You are allowed to take an independent study as part of your program, so long as you have the approval of the professor with whom you intend to study, and of the Graduate Director.  It is best to approach a professor with a well-developed and focused plan of study, including a reading list, timetable, and rationale. 

Can I transfer credits from another program?
Up to six credits can be transferred. These must be graduate-level courses related to your program of study and must be approved by the Graduate Director.  In addition to a sealed transcript, please provide the Graduate Director with the following information: University name and location; course number and name; year and semester taken; grade; syllabus or long course description.

Can I receive credit for courses taken outside the English department?
Up to six credits from outside the English Department can be counted. These must be graduate-level courses and must be approved by the Graduate Director.  Generally, these should come from an adjacent or related field such as Modern Languages, Linguistics, Philosophy, History, or the like.  In most cases, they will be from within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Can I take undergraduate courses?
No.  Undergraduate classes will not count for graduate credit.

Do you offer summer classes?
Usually, a few summer classes are offered. However, the vast majority of courses are offered in the Fall and Spring terms, and students should not expect to complete a significant portion of their coursework during the summer. We do not offer pre- or post-session courses.

How many courses must I take each semester?
Full-time students must take three courses per semester.  Part-time students must take at least one course per year.  The M.A. must be completed in six years.

How long to I have to finish my degree?
You have six years to complete your degree, including the thesis.

May I take a semester off?
You may take a semester off, but you will be charged a continuing matriculation fee.