Top Schools for English Language and Literature

Review the typical characteristics of a school with a strong English program. Read about three schools with nationally ranked English programs, and explore the language and literature degrees they offer. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Characteristics of Top Schools for English Language and Literature?

A top school could match your literary passion with faculty specialties. Some schools offer broad opportunities, such as joining the editorial board of a literary publication, entering writing contests or participating in special interest reading groups. Noted authors may visit campus. Special library facilities or collections could be available. The following schools might be of interest to you.

What Are Three Top Schools for English Language and Literature?

Duke University in Durham, NC

Duke University was ranked eighth in U.S. News & World Report's national university rankings in 2019 and tied for 13th in the best graduate English programs in that same year (www.usnews.com). The Duke University Press publishes several literary online and print journals, including South Atlantic Quarterly, American Literature and NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction. Undergraduates may take independent studies in creative writing or research.

Students can join the Poetry Working Group, attend the Americanist Speaker Series or enroll in the English Majors Union by committing to an honors thesis. Only ten doctoral candidates are allowed into the graduate program each year. There is no terminal master's option, but a joint Juris Doctor and Master of Arts is possible. Duke sponsors the Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature. Access to the library blogs, including the Digital Collections Archive and Devil's Tale for the rare book, manuscript and special collections, may help your research. You could receive these degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Juris Doctor/Master of Arts in English
  • Doctor of Philosophy in English

Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ

In 2019, Rutgers University tied for 56th among U.S. News & World Report's 2019 national universities and also tied for 15th place in the publication's graduate English program list in the same year. Winners of contests for poetry, creative writing, African American literature, Shakespearean interpretation, essay writing or new media projects are able to read their work at an annual Honors Symposium.

The English honors program, which is for juniors with a B+ GPA, requires a thesis and an independent research class for credit. You must pursue the Doctor of Philosophy to be admitted to the graduate program, though the master's degree can be awarded if you've completed certain doctoral requirements. You could enroll in a Writing Seminar to help you produce a dissertation chapter that could be published. The Plangere Writing Center in the School of Arts and Sciences offers workshops, tutoring, guest lecturers, conferences and opportunities for undergraduates to pursue upper-level writing courses. Plangere produces creative spinoffs like Writers House where students can focus on their writing or participate in filmmaking or Web design. These degrees are offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Master of Arts in Literatures in English
  • Dual Bachelor of Arts/ Master of Arts in English
  • Doctor of Philosophy in English

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) tied for third for graduate English in U.S. News & World Report's 2019 list and was ranked eighth among the publication's national universities rankings in 2019. As an English major, you can design an individualized program or choose from other concentrations, such as American Literature and Culture, Celtic Studies or Law and Literature. The Honors Program requires you to prepare a thesis, subject to committee approval.

The L. Barry Pick Prize for Best Undergraduate Thesis and other prizes and competitive awards can be earned. You might win a travel or research grant. All admitted doctoral candidates receive the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, covering tuition, fees and health insurance for five years. Penn offers interest-based reading groups, like the Eighteenth-Century or Film Studies group. The library system includes the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and sponsors events that include readings by noteworthy authors. These degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts in English
  • Master of Arts in English
  • Doctor of Philosophy in English

More Top English Language and Literature Graduate Schools

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition*
University of California - Berkeley4 year, PublicBerkeley, CA$14,000
Harvard University4 year, PrivateCambridge, MA$47,000
Stanford University4 year, PrivateStanford, CA$51,000
Columbia University4 year, PrivateNew York, NY$48,000
Princeton University4 year, PrivatePrinceton, NJ$51,000
Yale University4 year, PrivateNew Haven, CT$42,000
Cornell University4 year, PrivateIthaca, NY$30,000
University of Chicago4 year, PrivateChicago, IL$59,000
University of California - Los Angeles4 year, PublicLos Angeles, CA$13,000
University of Virginia 4 year, Public Charlottesville, VA$19,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

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