Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose
There likely are as many different successful approaches to producing this document as there are good applicants. Nevertheless, compelling personal statements invariably reveal the “intellect” beneath the writing sample as a recognizable person, someone whose combination of professional energy and personality suggests the potential for good colleagueship, for collaboration, and for inspired teaching.
Accounts of your intellectual evolution; personal experiences that helped you develop a sense of profession; activities that suggest your interest in and capacity for teaching; activities that evidence your training for archival research or field work. All are potentially informative. A summary of the high-points on your CV and your general commitment to literary study and university-level teaching are not particularly informative.
Since we admit students to the program as whole, little is gained by simply citing faculty you imagine might mentor your graduate careers.
Applicants who hold the M.A. degree are strongly encouraged to formulate a research agenda in this document. We realize, and indeed almost expect, that your views of topic and method will change during your career with us. However, we want to see your present understanding of those matters in your application.
The statement of purpose can be 1 or 2 pages.
Applicants who hold the B.A. degree are neither expected nor particularly encouraged to designate a research agenda. We want to see how clearly you understand the difference between being an English major and seeking to orient yourself in an academic discipline; the difference between advancing through the certifying process of a professional degree program and growing into a scholar-teacher.