A Guide to the Best Universities for an English Major

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Majoring in English

English is one of those majors that are both very popular and very broad. People choose to major in English for a variety of reasons. Some plan on becoming teachers or writers, others want to work in law or business, and many just love to read and write. It’s a major that prepares you for a variety of possible occupations, and also shows future employers that you have valuable writing and critical thinking skills.

Probably every college in the US has an English program of some sort, and many of those programs are high quality. Great English major programs can be found in large schools and small schools alike, in every state in the country. So when looking for a college to attend as an English major, it’s best to first put some thought into what area of study you’d like to focus on.

With that in mind, here are the top ten schools in the United States for the three most common types of English majors—creative writing, English education, and literature. Each has been chosen because it has a highly competitive and top-ranked English program, and because it is a well respected school overall with better-than-average academics ratings. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some of the best and should be given serious consideration.

Creative Writing

Creative writing occupies the artistic side of the English major, and can be a fun and rewarding college program. You might specialize in poetry, prose, or creative nonfiction, or dabble in each. All of these schools are excellent places for dedicated writers to study, although you’ll want to take a good look at the classes offered at each and the professors’ publications to make sure you will be able to specialize in whatever form of creative writing you prefer.

Top Schools:

  • Colby College—Maine
  • Emory University—Georgia
  • Hamilton College—New York
  • Johns Hopkins University—Maryland
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—Massachusetts
  • New York University—New York
  • Oberlin College—Ohio
  • Smith College—Massachusetts
  • University of Miami—Florida
  • Washington University in St. Louis—Missouri

English Education

This program is for those who want to become junior high or high school English teachers (elementary education is another story entirely). Each of the schools in this list has a top-notch education program as well as being great choices for an English major, and will be able to provide a solid background in both disciplines as well as the specifics of teaching English literature and writing.

Top Schools:

  • College of New Jersey—New Jersey
  • Boston University—Massachusetts
  • Juniata College—Pennsylvania
  • Providence College—Rhode Island
  • Syracuse University—New York
  • University of Connecticut— Connecticut
  • University of Georgia—Georgia
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—Illinois
  • University of Maryland, College Park—Maryland
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities—Minnesota


Though there will still be plenty of required writing classes, a literature major focuses on reading, understanding, and critiquing the books and other texts that have made an impact on our culture and society. Literature majors often specialize in one or more disciplines, such as American literature, British literature, Women’s Studies, or Multicultural literature. So you’ll want to check out the specific classes at each of these colleges to see what types of programs are offered.

Top Schools:

  • Bennington College—Vermont
  • Brandeis University—Massachusetts
  • Claremont McKenna College—California
  • Columbia University, School of General Studies—New York
  • Hamilton College—New York
  • New York University—New York
  • Reed College—Oregon
  • Swarthmore College—Pennsylvania
  • University of Southern California—California
  • Washington University in St. Louis—Missouri

Finding the Right School

With any college major, it’s best to know as early as possible what you might specialize in and what direction you think your career might take. For no one is this more true than the English major. So whether you’re interested in creative writing, teaching, literature, or some other field of study (such as ESL or publishing), make sure you’re choosing a college that will be a good match for your interests. Each of the schools in the above lists have earned their place as one of the best universities for an English major, and just might turn out to be the college you’re looking for.


Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges: 2011

The Best 371 Colleges: 2010 Edition by The Princeton Review

Fiske Guide to Colleges: 24th Edition by Edward B. Fiske

This post is part of the series: Top Colleges for English Majors

English is a broad and popular field of study, and there are a lot of competitive and highly respected colleges with excellent English programs. This series covers the top US colleges for majors in creative writing, literature, and English education.

  1. Want to Major in English? Here Are The Top University Choices
  2. Colleges for Writers, What Are the Best?
  3. The Ten Top Literary Colleges in the US