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Top 10 Colleges for English

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of a female student holding her things.

Top 10 Colleges for English

English as a program or degree encompasses the study of language, literature, and writing, offering students a multifaceted exploration of human expression and communication. Through the study of literature from the top college for English major, students explore the rich history of human experience, encountering diverse perspectives, cultures, and historical contexts. They analyze and interpret literary texts, grappling with complex themes, characters, and narratives that reflect the complexities of the human condition.

Additionally, English programs emphasize critical thinking, analytical skills, and effective communication, equipping students with versatile tools applicable to a wide range of academic, professional, and personal endeavors. Furthermore, the study of writing within an English program fosters creativity, self-expression, and the mastery of language, empowering students to articulate their ideas persuasively and engage meaningfully with the world around them.

Choosing the best schools for pursuing an English degree is crucial for ensuring an optimal college experience and academic journey. The quality of the English program, faculty expertise, curriculum offerings, and extracurricular opportunities can significantly impact students’ educational outcomes and personal growth. A reputable English program with distinguished faculty members, diverse course offerings, and robust resources can provide students with a rich and rewarding academic experience.

Moreover, attending a college with a supportive learning environment, vibrant literary community, and opportunities for hands-on learning and research can enhance students’ passion for literature and writing, foster intellectual curiosity, and prepare them for success in their future careers and endeavors. Therefore, selecting the right college for studying English is essential for students seeking a transformative educational experience that nurtures their love of literature, hones their writing skills, and prepares them to make meaningful contributions to society.

Top 10 Colleges for English

1. UC Berkeley – Department of English

  • Location: Wheeler Hall, Berkeley, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $13,000 – $15,000
  • Degrees Offered:
    • Major in English
    • Ph.D in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 3.5%

The English major curriculum is crafted to immerse students in the rich history of literature written in English, spanning various historical epochs, geographical locales, and cultural contexts. It aims to foster an appreciation for diverse literary traditions and equip students with the tools for rigorous literary and cultural analysis. Additionally, the program emphasizes the refinement of critical writing abilities.

UC Berkeley campus

Starting from the Fall 2021 semester, students who opt for the English major will follow the updated curriculum. This includes a series of three intimate seminars (English 90, 100, and 190), led by faculty members. These seminars are designed to hone fundamental skills in literary comprehension and critical writing, ensuring students develop a robust foundation for engaging with literature thoughtfully and analytically.

At the heart of the major lies English 45A-45B-45C, a comprehensive exploration of English literature from Chaucer to the mid-20th century, encompassing British, American, and anglophone literary traditions. Complemented by the mandatory Shakespeare course, this sequence lays the groundwork in literary history, paving the way for more focused and specialized studies.

2. Yale University – Yale English Department

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Estimated Tuition: $80,000 – $85,000
  • Degrees Offered:
    • Major in English
    • MA in English
    • Ph.D. in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 6.1%

The undergraduate English program at Yale instills foundational research and writing skills in students while fostering their abilities in argumentation and analysis. Structured to progress from introductory literature and writing courses to advanced independent research during the junior and senior years, the program imbues students with a profound understanding of history as it intersects with and is conveyed through language.

Those inclined towards creative writing encounter a diverse range of courses taught by accomplished professional writers. Yale’s renowned creative writing program, an integral part of the English major rather than a separate entity, stands out as one of the nation’s premier programs.

Noteworthy for the accomplishments of its faculty, students, and alumni, as well as the dedication of its instructors, the program challenges individual student writers to push their creative boundaries, drawing inspiration from reading, research, and personal experiences to fuel narrative and lyrical innovation.

Students engage with various literary genres—including fiction, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, nonfiction prose, and journalism—and frequently experience the fulfillment of publication or performance, both locally and nationally.

3. Boston University – English Department

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: $21,000 – $28,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Arts in English
    • Master of Arts in English and American Literature
    • Doctor of Philosophy in English and American Literature
  • Acceptance Rate: 19%

The central mission of BU’s English department encompasses the study of literature in all its richness and diversity, from the ever-evolving canon of past works in their stylistic and social complexity to the emerging cultural, media, graphic, and digital forms of the 21st century.

Boston University signage

Students encounter medieval romances and Shakespearean tragedies, biting social satires and meditative lyrics, realist novels and avant-garde writing, Hollywood movies, graphic novels, slave narratives, and performance art—among many other forms. In exploring such works and different theories of literary and cultural study, English students develop the critical, linguistic, and imaginative skills required to grasp not only the histories of earlier cultures but also how these histories have influenced the cultural productions that define the contemporary world.

Most English courses are seminar-size (under 20 students), offering individual attention and energetic dialogue with peers. Courses emphasize attentive reading, rigorous analysis, original thinking, effective writing, and careful research. Students develop these capacities with some of the best teachers at BU: faculty have won over a dozen teaching and advising awards, including several Metcalf Awards, the University’s highest teaching honor.

4. University of Iowa – College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

  • Location: English-Philosophy Building, Iowa City, Iowa
  • Estimated Tuition: $20,000 – $38,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in English
    • Major in English and Creative Writing
    • Master of Arts in English
    • Doctor of Philosophy in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%

Studying writing and literature at Iowa transcends mere enjoyment of delving into the world of books and engaging with hundreds of kindred spirits among students and professors. It serves as a pathway to a successful career and a fulfilling life.

The study of literature yields a deeper understanding of shared cultural history and individual lived experiences, while creative writing fosters the recognition of the potency of our unique voices. Together, these disciplines enable the advocacy for a fairer society, a healthier environment, democratic values, and personal happiness.

Employers emphasize the importance of hiring individuals who demonstrate diligence, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and strong communication skills—precisely the proficiencies cultivated through English studies at Iowa. Graduates pursue diverse career paths in publishing, the arts, nonprofit organizations, and business sectors. Many enter the field of education as public school teachers, while others pursue careers in law, politics, and public service.

5. Emory University – College of Arts and Sciences

  • Location: Callaway Memorial Center, 537 Kilgo Circle, Atlanta, GA
  • Estimated Tuition: $40,000 – $45,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in English
    • Ph.D. in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 8%

The English Major at Emory focuses on three key areas: studying works of literature written in English (including literature from various regions like the Americas, the British Isles, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean), developing critical skills in interpreting texts, and refining writing abilities. Through the study of English, individuals can enhance their understanding of their own and others’ cultures while acquiring practical linguistic skills applicable in various professional and academic contexts.

Emory University

The curriculum covers a wide range of traditional periods and genres of literary study, along with innovative areas such as digital humanities, applied literary research, and interdisciplinary fields like literature and science, disability studies, and studies in race, gender, and sexuality. Emory’s Rose Library boasts exceptional archival collections in fields such as African American literature, Irish literature, and 20th-century poetry, providing students with unparalleled opportunities to uncover new insights that reshape our perception of the world.

6. University of Pennsylvania – College of Arts and Sciences

  • Location: Fisher-Bennett Hall, 3340 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
  • Estimated Tuition: $40,000 – $45,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in English
    • MA in English
    • Ph.D. in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%

Students majoring in English explore language, literature, and culture across the globe and through various forms of media. From books and manuscripts to theater, film, TV, and digital platforms, English majors traverse the diverse realms where English is present, honing their critical and expressive abilities.

The faculty within the department are recognized as some of the most accomplished in the university for their teaching prowess. Alumni of the English program pursue careers spanning a wide spectrum of professions, ranging from law and medicine to consulting and education. Over the past two decades, graduates have particularly excelled in fields such as advertising and social media.

The English major comprises 13 courses, divided into a Core of 6 courses and additional Electives. Throughout their studies, majors are required to participate in The One Series seminar (previously known as the Junior Research Seminar) and complete 4 Advanced Seminars, some of which may count towards the core requirements. The structure of the major is designed to offer students flexibility and choice while ensuring a comprehensive grounding in literary history and interpretation.

7. Purdue University – College of Liberal Arts

  • Location: Oval Dr, West Lafayette, IN
  • Estimated Tuition: $10,000 – $30,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • BA in English
    • MA and HD in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 11%

Purdue’s English Department ensures students receive personalized attention and guidance from exceptional educators and scholars who influence perspectives on literature, linguistics, and writing. An English degree equips individuals with the essential skills for success in any chosen career path, embodying the adaptability inherent in a liberal arts education.

Purdue University archway

Within the pursuit of a BA in English, students can opt for one of two distinct concentrations: Literature or English Language in a Global Context.

In both concentrations, students benefit from access to exclusive English department learning communities, internships, scholarships, study abroad programs, and more, laying the groundwork for academic achievement and future endeavors.

All liberal arts majors equip students with skills recognized as vital for executive success and leadership: effective communication and listening, understanding of diverse perspectives, creative and critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the capacity to forge connections across intricate concepts.

8. Williams College – The English Department

  • Location: Mission Park Drive, Williamstown, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: $40,000 – $50,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in English only
  • Acceptance Rate: 9%

Williams College has clinched the top spot in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of National Liberal Arts Colleges. While it’s not officially a competition (though let’s be honest, it kind of is), it’s evident that Williams’ English department likely played a significant role in this achievement.

Annually, the department hosts a series of readings titled “Lit:”, featuring esteemed contemporary writers such as Claudia Rankin and Dean Young multiple times each semester. What better way to take a guilt-free study break than by attending readings by your favorite authors? From day one, the English department ensures that every undergraduate student begins thinking like an English major.

As freshmen, students are required to craft a comprehensive major plan outlining their academic trajectory over the next four years—a process that sounds more promising than creating a vision board.

Upon declaring the major, all English majors are required to draft a concise written plan outlining their intended path to completion of the program. In this plan, students are prompted to actively contemplate how they can effectively dive into the diverse array of genres, historical epochs, and national and cultural literary traditions encompassed within English literature.

Additionally, they are encouraged to articulate their desire to focus on a specific intellectual interest within the field of English. Students are advised to initiate discussions regarding their Major Plan with a faculty member as soon as they develop an interest in the major. Furthermore, junior majors are mandated to schedule meetings with faculty advisors to review and refine their Major Plans as they enroll in courses.

9. University of Michigan – College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

  • Location: 435 S. State Street, 3187 Angell Hall Ann Arbor, MI
  • Estimated Tuition: $15,000 – $40,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in English
    • Ph.D. in English Language & Literature
    • Ph.D. in English & Women’s and Gender Studies
    • Ph.D. in English & Education
  • Acceptance Rate: 20%

The English Major nurtures critical thinking, creativity, and cultural understanding. Intention, care, and imagination are regarded as pivotal for interpreting the world and crafting its narratives. The award-winning faculty and staff foster an environment conducive to cultivating these qualities here at UM.

The Department offers minors in both English and Creative Writing for students interested in pursuing literary studies alongside a major in another field.

Dedicated to the instruction of writing, especially for first-year students, the English Department Writing Program serves approximately 6,700 students from across the university throughout the academic year. A wealth of information on writing studies can be found in the First-Year Writing section of the department’s website.

Michigan Stadium ("The Big House") at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Michigan offers abundant opportunities in the English discipline for forward-thinking students. Notable programs include the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Ph.Ds in English language and literature, English and education, and English and women’s studies. Additionally, for students preparing to transition into the professional sphere, Michigan provides exceptional networking prospects for English majors. With over 18,000 alumni in the major alone, there is a vast pool of potential employers to tap into.

10. New York University – Collee of Arts and Sciences

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $45,000 – $50,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Major in English Literature
    • MA in English
    • Ph.D. in English
  • Acceptance Rate: 13%

The department provides a comprehensive and diverse curriculum encompassing literary history, critical theory, dramatic literature, theatre history, and literary culture. Its courses afford students the opportunity to engage deeply with literary works that mirror the values and aspirations of various cultural traditions.

Students have the option to major or minor in English Literature, with the additional possibility of pursuing a major in English Literature within the Creative Writing Track. Alternatively, students may opt to major or minor in Dramatic Literature, which is a specialized program offered within the English department.

NYU’s faculty directory boasts a lineup akin to a blockbuster movie cast: luminaries like Jonathan Safran Foer, E.L. Doctorow, Colson Whitehead, and Zadie Smith are among the renowned writers who could be guiding your literary journey. With such acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning talents at the helm, students can rest assured they’re in excellent hands.

The English department provides a plethora of academic options, including a major, a minor, a creative writing minor, and an accelerated master’s program. Creative writing enthusiasts benefit from the Lillian Vernon Creative Writing House, a dedicated space on NYU’s campus for readings and workshops.

What should you consider in choosing a college for English?

Choosing the right college for studying English involves considering various factors that can significantly impact your academic and personal growth. English programs vary widely across institutions, so it’s crucial to evaluate each college based on your individual preferences and goals. Here are six key considerations to keep in mind when selecting a college for English:

1. Program Reputation and Faculty Expertise

One of the foremost factors to consider is the reputation of the English program and the expertise of its faculty members. Look for colleges with distinguished faculty who are renowned scholars, accomplished writers, or experts in specific literary fields. A program with esteemed faculty can provide invaluable mentorship, guidance, and opportunities for intellectual engagement. Research the faculty’s publications, awards, and areas of specialization to ensure they align with your interests and academic aspirations.

2. Curriculum and Course Offerings

Evaluate the curriculum and course offerings within the English program. Consider whether the curriculum covers a broad range of literary genres, historical periods, and cultural perspectives. Look for colleges that offer courses aligned with your interests, whether it’s Shakespearean drama, contemporary literature, creative writing, or critical theory. Additionally, inquire about opportunities for interdisciplinary study or concentrations within the English major, such as film studies, gender studies, or rhetoric.

3. Extracurricular Opportunities

Explore the extracurricular opportunities available to English majors outside of the classroom. Consider joining literary magazines, writing workshops, or student organizations dedicated to literature and creative writing. Look for colleges that host author readings, literary festivals, or writing conferences, providing opportunities to interact with renowned writers and scholars. Engaging in extracurricular activities can enhance your writing skills, foster a sense of community, and enrich your overall college experience.

Group of students laughing together.

4. Resources for Writers and Researchers

Assess the resources available to support your writing and research endeavors. Look for colleges with well-equipped libraries, extensive archives, and digital databases specializing in literature and literary criticism. Consider whether the college provides funding or grants for undergraduate research projects, conference presentations, or creative writing initiatives. Access to resources such as writing centers, peer tutoring, and academic advising can also contribute to your academic success and personal development.

5. Study Abroad Opportunities

Investigate the study abroad opportunities offered by the college, especially if you’re interested in exploring literature from different cultural contexts or studying abroad enhances your academic goals. Look for English programs that facilitate semester-long exchanges, international internships, or immersive study abroad experiences focused on literature, language, or creative writing. Studying abroad can broaden your perspectives, deepen your understanding of global literature, and enrich your cultural experiences.

6. Alumni Success and Career Support

Consider the career support and alumni network available to English majors at the college. Research the career outcomes of alumni, including their employment rates, job placements, and success stories in various fields such as publishing, journalism, education, or academia. Look for colleges that offer career counseling, internship placements, resume workshops, or networking events specifically tailored to English majors.

Additionally, consider whether the college has strong connections to literary agencies, publishing houses, or media organizations that can facilitate internships or job opportunities in the literary and creative industries.

In conclusion, choosing the right college for studying English requires careful consideration of various factors, including program reputation, curriculum offerings, extracurricular opportunities, resources for writers and researchers, study abroad options, and career support. By thoroughly evaluating each aspect of the college experience, you can find a college that aligns with your academic interests, personal goals, and aspirations for the future.

What can you do with a degree in English?

A degree in English opens doors to a diverse array of career opportunities, leveraging the analytical, communication, and critical thinking skills cultivated through the study of language, literature, and writing. English graduates possess versatile skills applicable across various industries, making them highly sought after in today’s job market. Here are ten career paths commonly pursued by individuals with a degree in English:

Writing and Editing

English graduates often pursue careers as writers or editors in diverse fields such as publishing, journalism, marketing, or technical writing. They may write articles, blog posts, press releases, or marketing content, or edit manuscripts, reports, or publications for clarity, coherence, and style.

Education

Many English majors pursue careers in education, teaching literature, writing, or language arts at the primary, secondary, or post-secondary levels. They may work as teachers, professors, or educational consultants, inspiring students to appreciate literature, develop writing skills, and critically analyze texts.

Publishing

English graduates can find employment in the publishing industry, working for publishing houses, literary magazines, or online platforms. They may serve as editors, literary agents, or publishing assistants, acquiring, editing, or promoting literary works for publication.

Public Relations and Communications:

English majors are well-equipped for careers in public relations, corporate communications, or media relations. They may write press releases, speeches, or marketing materials, manage social media accounts, or develop communication strategies to enhance brand reputation and engagement.

Content Creation and Digital Media

With their writing and analytical skills, English graduates excel in content creation and digital media roles. They may work as content creators, social media managers, or digital marketers, producing engaging content, managing online platforms, and analyzing audience feedback to inform content strategies.

Advertising and Marketing

English majors with a knack for storytelling and persuasion often thrive in advertising and marketing careers. They may work as copywriters, content strategists, or marketing consultants, crafting compelling messages, slogans, or ad campaigns to captivate audiences and drive consumer engagement.

Law and Advocacy

English graduates possess strong analytical and argumentative skills, making them well-suited for careers in law and advocacy. They may work as lawyers, legal analysts, or policy researchers, conducting legal research, drafting briefs, or advocating for social justice causes.

a gavel, pens and books laid down beside each other on a table

Business and Administration

English majors bring valuable communication and problem-solving skills to roles in business and administration. They may work in human resources, management, or corporate communications, facilitating effective communication, managing projects, or developing organizational policies and procedures.

Nonprofit and NGO Work

English graduates often pursue careers in the nonprofit sector or with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), working in roles such as grant writing, fundraising, program coordination, or community outreach. They may advocate for social causes, support underserved populations, or promote environmental sustainability through their work.

Freelance Writing and Consulting

English majors have the flexibility to work as freelance writers, consultants, or independent contractors, offering their expertise in writing, editing, or communications to clients across various industries. They may write articles, manuscripts, or grant proposals, provide editing services, or offer communication consulting to businesses or organizations.

In conclusion, a degree in English from the top colleges for English offers a wide range of career opportunities across diverse industries, leveraging the versatile skills acquired through the study of language, literature, and writing. English graduates can pursue careers in writing and editing, education, publishing, public relations, content creation, advertising, law, business, nonprofit work, and freelance consulting, among other fields.

With their strong communication, critical thinking, and analytical abilities, English majors are well-prepared to excel in today’s dynamic job market and make meaningful contributions to society.

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