US Universities that offer a second bachelor's degree?


I’m a junior (second year) studying linguistics at Cambridge (I’m also an international student here). I’m thinking about doing a second BA in English literature, because I like it more than linguistics. Also because I want to pursue a creative writing MFA in the future and would like some literature background without going specific/in-depth with an MA. Many UK universities (including Cambridge) and Canadian universities offer a second bachelor’s degree, but I’ve heard most US universities don’t. But I would love to go to America.

I don’t feel a welcoming attitude toward a second bachelor’s even in the universities that do offer this. For example Rutgers:
“Second degree students have already completed a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university and now willing to invest a substantial amount of time, money and effort to complete another BA or BS degree in a major area entirely different from their previous major.
Before you apply, you should know that a second bachelor’s degree is not a highly regarded credential, and that undergraduate study beyond the first degree is sometimes interpreted as redundant or as a sign that the student is unable or unwilling to take on the challenge of graduate school. In other words, if you have the preparation to move on to graduate work, you should.”

others say your first and second degrees can’t overlap. maybe US undergrad programs are structured more flexibly, but the UK system is strictly linear. here linguistics and English definitely do not overlap at all.

What are some other universities that offer this? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Less selective universities may be more willing to admit second bachelor’s degree students.

If you want to pursue an MFA, you should go directly there. Getting an MA in English first is okay, but far behind the first option. Getting a second BA is completely wasteful in time and resources. The exception is if you are moving in something very different that requires specific training (e.g. Nursing). But yes, some mid tier or below US Universities will allow you to do what you want.

Edit to add: I would really look at programs like this I think you could tailor a Master of Arts in the Humanities program into what you want. The above was just one example. Many schools offer the program.


I will admit that I am not answering your question. However, here are some things to think about or questions that would help us answer more accurately.

First of all, do you have any financial limitations? Can you afford to complete your bachelor’s degree, pay for at least two more years to get a second bachelor’s degree, and then pay for a MFA without taking on any debt?

The US does not allow international students to stay in the US after getting a degree here. International students are expected to return to their home country. This is a contrast with some other countries such as Canada that do allow a path to get a multi-year work permit after getting a degree in the country (although if you tell them that you intend to stay when applying for your student visa your visa application is likely to be rejected).

Have you considered getting a second bachelor’s at Cambridge, and then coming to the US (or Canada) to get your master’s?

I am aware of several cases of students who completed their bachelor’s degree, but were one or two or a small number of courses short of the prerequisites for whatever graduate work they wanted. They took these additional courses on a “non-degree” basis, then applied to graduate programs (with some success in the cases that I am aware of). Have you considered taking the literature courses on a non-degree basis? Certainly where I live both community colleges and (to quote @ucbalumnus) a local “less selective university” do allow students to take classes on a non-degree basis. The local “less selective university” would also most likely allow second degree students.

One problem that I see is that there are probably more than 200 universities in the US that you could consider. It could be hard to narrow this down.

By the way, when I was an undergraduate student at one point I did inquire about the possibility of getting a second bachelor’s degree. I was told that there was no point. I should just get my first bachelor’s (which was in math), and take the classes that I wanted to take in one or more other areas. This is what I did, and it worked fine.

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US bachelors degrees are often quite basic because students don’t specialize anything like as much as in the UK. Entering students mostly have much less subject knowledge than you would get from UK A levels, and then they spend most of their first two years doing general education and preparatory courses that in some cases don’t go much beyond A level standard. I have no idea why you’d want to repeat any of that.

A UK BA degree is comparable to a US masters in terms of subject knowledge, and I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be admitted straight into a US masters course, especially with a good degree from a top UK school. You could always do some related extra-curriculars as prep, eg submit something to literary magazines, newspapers etc.

The main challenge will be funding, although as an international student you may already be used to paying a lot for your course at Cambridge.


Thank you very much. The reason I want to repeat is because I did not take English A level - English is not my native language and it was not offered at my high school. in fact I have zero experience in English literature classes. I’m looking to take a literature course on edX, but I’m not sure how far I’ll get with it under the current Cambridge workload.

I know that American undergrads don’t specialize until their junior year.
US undergraduate programs are flexible - even if your degree is not in literature you can still take a minor. in the UK and especially Cambridge there is ZERO flexibility - you’re not allowed to or capable of auditing classes outside your major. the main problem is that it’s impossible to ask my linguistics professors who aren’t aware of my engagement in literature/creative writing to write the three recommendation letters required by most MFA/MA programs I’ve looked at. I am looking into summer programs in the US, but I feel like I need more time.

So I guess I’m really just looking for some general education in literature before moving on to an MFA. Funding is not a problem since most second bachelor’s degrees are only two years anyways.

And you will be paying the full cost to attend.

Learn English and then apply to a MFA program. I personally think a second bachelors is a waste of your money.


A total waste of money. If you’re wealthy and just want that US English Lit experience, more power to you.


While I certainly agree that the workload at Cambridge makes it very difficult to take on extra work (I did my BA and PhD there), it’s not forbidden to attend other lectures, you just won’t get supervisions. But somehow people manage to write for Varsity, Footlights and all the other extracurricular activities that happen around Cambridge. I would make sure that you are doing at least something like that in your spare time.

And frankly I think you would be better staying to do a second bachelor’s degree at Cambridge if you want one. That’s what my closest friend did (philosophy after his maths degree) just for fun, our college even paid for it because he was utterly brilliant (he did original chemistry research in his spare time, redesigned Varsity, wrote a textbook on financial mathematics and a bunch of other things).

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Thank you. Any advice on how I could manage that? I’m barely managing the Cambridge workload as it is. Should I get a job first and use my spare time to learn English and then apply to an MFA? Well, that means years more studying and working in a field I don’t like and no guarantee of a work visa. I could go work in my home country but it’ll be harder to study English literature on online courses with no one to write me recommendation letters.

Thank you. I’m so glad you understand. Your friend is a genius. I can never do that. Also I don’t think I can write for those organizations - I’m an extreme introvert and don’t care much for social activities. I have been looking at the more literary stuff like BAIT or CUPPS - already rejected once but at least there’s the goal.

A second bachelor’s here does sound lucrative but I’ve had enough of the tripos system, the pressure and intensity, and the Cambridge atmosphere in general. Five years is a long time of my life to be stuck here. I might as well go to Canada but I’d feel like a loser.

Guess my best option is straight to MA but no clue how I’m gonna write the statement of purpose or submit an academic writing sample with no undergrad experience. I’d love to explore on my own if I had the time and space but I can’t see a way around this Cambridge workload. Also, the recommendation letters are a problem. Even if I could do a summer program in the US, that’s still two letters short. I can imagine my linguistics professors/lectures would be just as clueless as my supervisors who are phd students, if not shocked that I have little commitment to linguistics.

It’s probably just I’m not good enough but I feel trapped here. :frowning:

Thank you very much. That looks very intriguing. The program does require three recommendation letters and a critical writing sample though. Any advice on what are some of the things I can do to prepare for that?

Also the reason I’m looking for a literature degree is that I don’t think I’m ready to go for an MFA yet. People who do MFAs have published or at least did English literature in undergrad or worked in the industry for years. I’m only a second-year undergrad and English is not even my native language. I feel like I need more time and learning just to be able to producing a good writing portfolio.

It doesn’t seem as if you need another whole bachelor’s degree. Have you looked into the possibility of taking a leave of absence next year, and spending a year in the US as a non-degree visiting student? Maybe someplace like University of Iowa, which is renowned for its writing program: Nondegree Students | Admissions - The University of Iowa

While doing that you could make connections with faculty who could write recommendations for grad programs, and you could acquire some of the literature background you are looking for. Then go back to Cambridge for your senior year, finish your degree, and apply to grad programs. Your undergrad credits for this “gap year” wouldn’t count toward any sort of credential, but another credential isn’t what you need; the undergrad degree you are already earning is fine, as long as you gain the experiences and connections that are missing from you current program. Then you’d be done and ready for grad school in four years total, which is how long a US bachelor’s would have taken anyway. The only part I’m not familiar with is whether it would be difficult to get a visa, without being enrolled in a degree program.

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@happymomof1 do you know the answer to this? I thought you had to be in a degree seeking program for a student visa…but you probably know better than I do.

I’m a little confused…this student is at Cambridge, right? Isn’t that in an English speaking country? Or have I misunderstood something here. Why wouldn’t this student be learning better English at Cambridge??

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Thank you. That’s very insightful. But seeing as delaying my Cambridge degree fro a year would just prolong the pain I’d rather not. Seems enrolling as a non-degree student after I graduate might also work?

Thank you. Sorry did you mean getting a second bachelors at Cambridge? Very reasonable idea but I don’t like it. Read my previous comments if you don’t mind please:)

I’ve read your posts. You say you want to learn English. My question is…isn’t this happening where you are…in an English speaking country in College?

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Not sure what you mean…I said I wanna learn English literature. I’m highly proficient in English but even for English native speakers not everyone is a writer:)

My suggestion….do a LOT of reading of English literature. That’s part of what you will be doing if you get an English literature degree. So read, read, read.


I agree with @aquapt that taking a year in the US (where you can take whatever courses you like) before your final year at Cambridge might be the best option. There are a number of exchange programs with top US colleges that you should look into, which exist because many US students want to do their junior year abroad at Oxbridge.

If I remember correctly MML students studying languages generally do a year abroad before senior year, so your faculty should be able to advise on some possibilities (even if not the US specifically), but also ask your tutor about college specific exchanges. Now is the perfect time to do that. My wife did one even though she specialized in linguistics (at the time there wasn’t a separate undergraduate degree, she had to do an MPhil and then PhD).

That would be vastly easier than trying to enroll somewhere after your degree because none of the same exchange-based structures exist.