Frequently Asked Questions

Please note:  This department teaches the study and creation of literature written in English.  If you are looking for courses in English as a second language, please visit our Additional Information page.

Getting Help with Writing in General while at Barnard

Questions about Courses

Can First-year Students take English courses?

  • A list of courses designated as open to First-year students is included in the handbook, which can be downloaded from the Dean of Studies' web page.
  • A more frequently up-dated list of additional English offerings can be found on our course announcements page.

How do I . . .

Questions about the English Major

How do I . . .

Get more general information about the English Department:

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I am a Transfer Student

How do I . . .

If you are not a prospective English major:

Transfer students who did not pass a satisfactory course at their previous institution are not required to take "First-Year English" (ENGL BC1201 or 1204), but must take Essay Writing (ENGL BC3103 or 3104) or a 3-point literature course from the Barnard English department offerings.  Please note that some English courses require sign-ups. (Creative Writing courses require an application form and writing sample.

The course must be taken at Barnard, not Columbia.  Creative writing courses will not count.  This requirement is separate from the GER requirement in literature, which is an additional requirement.  Thus, one English literature course cannot serve to fulfill both the First-year English and the GER requirements.

More information can be found on the First-years' Blog.

If you are a prospective English major:

Barnard English majors are required to take certain core English courses at Barnard.   If you are a Sophomore, even if only thinking of majoring in English, you should take Critical Writing (ENGL BC3193).   Juniors should enroll in a Colloquium (ENGL BC3159 or 3160).  (Course descriptions are listed in Barnard's online course directory.)  In either case, please contact the English Department as soon as possible as sign-ups are required for these courses and they fill up early.

You can find a complete description of the English major and its requirements through our "Requirements" link.  For details about using courses taken elsewhere as substitutes for Barnard English requirements, visit our "Substitutions" page.

Declare your major as soon as possible to facilitate planning your program and completing your requirements.  (See "Questions about the English major" above.)  Once you have declared, we can give you an English professor as an adviser enabling you to receive the best and most up-to-date guidance.  Major Declaration forms are available from the Registrar and in our office.

If you want to enroll in Creative Writing:

Submit a writing sample as soon as possible.  All Barnard Creative Writing courses require an application and the deadline to apply is a week before the first day of classes.  If the deadline has passed, however, space may still be available.  More details can be found on our "Forms & Procedures" page.

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Preparing for after Graduation

Beyond Barnard

There are many opportunities available for English Majors. Here are some resources to get you started.  We list these sites for your information only; their inclusion does not imply that we endorse them. 

For more information about Summer Programs, Graduate Programs and Internships that may be of interest to English students are posted on the Department's bulleting boards between rooms 405 and 407 Barnard Hall. Please also consult the Department's Internship Page.

For more information about graduate schools, visit the Dean of Studies' After Barnard section on their website. Also, please speak with your adviser.

Articles and References

Looking for a job

Professional Associations

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Faculty Recommendations for Jobs or Graduate School

Some members of the department will write letters for students whom they have not gotten to know, provided they come in, introduce themselves, and spend some time discussing their plans.  Other members of the department feel comfortable writing only for students they know personally, and do not wish to write letters for students whom they did not get to know in large lecture courses.  Some professors prefer not to write letters unless students have received high grades; others are willing to write letters for students who have not done distinguished work.  Please consult with individual instructors about their policies.

Your recommendation is important to you, so you should spend some time making sure that you have prepared materials that will enable you to get the best endorsement possible.  It will be helpful to have the following materials with you when you come to see a faculty member to discuss a recommendation:

  • Your transcript, with grades in the faculty member's courses highlighted.
  • Your current resume.  This should include your academic activities, work experience at school and during summers, extracurricular activities and internships.  It should also include your academic and non-academic awards and recognition.  Make sure it has your contact information (address, telephone, e-mail).
  • A personal statement.  You should discuss your educational and career plans and how you decided on them. This statement should not be a recapitulation of your resume.  It should be personal in every sense of the word; it should give some insight into your values, your aspirations, your hopes and even your fears. You should avoid abstractions and write about yourself and your experiences.  This statement can be a copy of whatever personal application essay is being asked for by the school(s) in question.
  • All forms needed to complete the recommendation.  For pre-law or pre-medical students, this generally involves a single form from the pre-professional adviser.  For students applying to graduate or fellowship programs there are usually separate forms for each institution.  You can also use the universal form provided by the Dean of Studies; if you choose to do this, make sure the recommendations are returned to the Dean of Studies office and placed in your file.  For internships and employment recommendations, supply the name and address of the organization.  Indicate if the faculty member should use a form or if the recommendation is to be a letter written on departmental letterhead.
  • A list of all schools or organizations to which the recommendation is to be sent.  Sometimes a faculty member will write different letters to different schools. Others may reserve the right to refuse to write letters for one or more of the schools on your list, and they will inform you if that is the case.
  • If the faculty member is sending your recommendation directly to the interested party, include addressed envelopes. Postage is helpful but not necessary.  If the recommendation is to be returned to the Dean of Studies, it is your responsibility to instruct that office to send the records and provide envelopes and postage.
  • If your recommendation must be submitted online, provide clear, written instructions for the faculty member writing your recommendation.
  • A cover letter with any special instructions and deadlines for these forms to be completed. Include your address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
  • Plan in advance and allow at least several weeks, if not longer, for a faculty member to write a recommendation. Most will not be able to write recommendations during final-exam week of the semester and the vacation week that follows.  Some will be available during the summer vacation, but others may not, so you should find out from each faculty member when he or she will be able to write for you.
  • Do follow up with each school or employer to determine if the recommendation has reached its destination.
  • Please tell the professors who have written for you to which schools, jobs or internships you were accepted and (if you can bear it), from which of these you were rejected.  The information will help them to guide students who follow in your footsteps.

Good luck!!

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page last updated 10/16/14