Advice from the Graduate Student Relations Coordinator

Some of the advice frequently given out in one-on-one meetings with the graduate student relations coordinator applies more broadly to the MA in English student population.  Here are the top ten pieces of advice from the graduate programs manager to all MA in English students.

1.  Stay in touch with the department. Talk to your faculty advisor, visit with the graduate academic coordinator, and always ask your questions.  The department faculty and staff are happy to help and glad to know more about you and your goals in and beyond your program of study.  Even after you leave the program, we want to hear from you with news, updates, etc.  We are a community of scholars, researchers, and writers, so we invite students and alumni to stay connected in their programs of study and outside Mason.

2Read, print out, and refer back to your advising sheet.  Advising sheets act as checklists for program requirements.  It is a good idea to review your advising sheet during each registration period to look at your progress and evaluate which courses to take in the coming semester.

3.  Familiarize yourself with the courses section of the English department website.  All English department courses are listed on the site.  Each course has drill down options to reach more information including the semester in which the course is offered, the catalog course description, the most current section-specific course description, the instructor of the course, the syllabus for the course, and the time and place of the course.  This course information is the most current course information available to our graduate students as the information changes as shifts are made to teaching assignments, room assignments, etc.

4.  Think about writing a thesis.  If you are interested in writing a masters thesis or you want to know more about the thesis option (an option for all MA in English students), talk to your faculty advisor, the graduate director, or the student relations coordinator early in your program of study to figure out if a thesis is appropriate to your goals in and beyond the program. 

5.  Do not take a class outside your program's degree requirements without getting prior approval to do so.  You are welcome to ask the graduate director for an exception and approval to take the class for credit, but that request should be made prior to registration.  Requests for exceptions go to the graduate director and should include a statement about why the course in question is beneficial to you and to your degree program. Elective credits (each program has some) allow you the chance to take classes not on the advising sheet.  You don't need prior approval to take a graduate English course as elective credit.  You do need prior approval to take graduate classes outside the English department as elective credit.  Undergraduate courses (including language courses) never count toward the completion of an MA in English.

6.  Don't wait until the last minute when submitting paperwork.  Forms and proposals often require multiple signatures from individuals in various campus offices.  Please do not submit things at the last minute.  There is no guarantee a form can be processed if there isn't time to circulate it to the appropriate offices for approval.

7.  Remember the foreign language proficiency requirement.  As an MA in English student you are required to prove intermediate proficiency in a foreign language by coursework equivalent to Mason's 210 level, translation exam, placement exam, or waiver when English is your second language.  Language coursework from high school does not meet this requirement.  As mentioned above in number six, don't wait until the last minute to discuss your options for meeting this requirement. 

8.  Pay attention to emails sent out to the graduate student listserv.  The department routinely sends out information to graduate students via our graduate student listserv.  Please read this information and respond if necessary.  Each Monday morning, you receive the latest A Weekly Update, a newsletter with information about the coming week.  The newsletter is also your voice.  If you would like to suggest article topics, report news, share community events, etc. through the newsletter, you are invited to do so each week.

9.  Stay in touch.  Okay, this was also number one on the list, but it is so important that it is included as number nine too.  Please stay in touch with the department.  It is the best way to avoid surprises and registration errors or problems.  Plus, the community is stronger when we all stay in touch.

10.  Graduation is not automatic.  You must file an intent to graduate in Patriotweb.  There are deadlines associated with filing an intent to graduate.  Those deadlines are set by the Office of the Registrar.  It is best to file your intent to graduate early.  Fortunately, it is easy to file an intent to graduate.  More information on graduation and degree conferral...