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About this blog

I'm just a girl, sitting in front of an admissions committee, asking them to love her.

Entries in this blog

NOWAYNOHOW

It Happened

This morning I woke up to the coldest winter day so far this year. I could barely bring myself to get out of bed. Making coffee was a chore. My apartment was freezing. Our shitty prewar radiators are no match for this kind of weather. I just wanted to get back under my comforter, preferably wearing at least six pairs of sweatpants and my parka, and sleep until May.

By 9AM, I'd already checked my email and this board approximately 200 times. The last couple of months haven't been easy for me. After implied rejections from what I felt were some of my strongest fits, I was feeling discouraged. What if I hadn't improved my profile all that much over the last year? Should I have retaken the GRE? Was it a mistake to take on multiple editing projects for faculty instead of working on publishing my thesis? Was trying to switch disciplines an impossible task? Why didn't I apply to more schools? Should I have tried for an NDSEG even though I wasn't firmly in the behavioral sciences?

What if I just wasn't ever going to be good enough, no matter what I did?

It doesn't help that I had a bad interview with a school I really love. I had two interviews there, but the bad one just really sticks in my mind. I replay all the awful moments in my head in the shower. I hear the dumb words come out of my dumb mouth when I'm trying to get work done for my actual job that pays actual money.

To make a long story short, I have not been feeling hopeful. I have heard nothing from a lot of schools I applied to. I've been looking into all sorts of non-academic jobs, convinced that trying to get into a program for the third time would just be too much. YA novelist? Book publishing? Bartending? Teaching secular subjects at Yeshiva high schools? I've really thought through pretty much any possible career route, but nothing can stand up to just wanting that PhD. For my interests, you need the PhD even for non-academic jobs, so if I do anything else, I'm selling myself short.

Around 9:15 this morning, I got the email. I've been waiting for this email for almost two years. I've dreamed about this email. I get mad at other emails because they are not this email. I have probably broken world records for refreshing my inbox because I have been waiting so impatiently for this email.

I got in.

I got into a program I genuinely love with faculty I respect and admire. I got into a program that believes in my work and can support my scholarship. I got in with funding! I got into a department where I fit, where I have more POIs than I know what to do with, and where I can, just maybe, soon call home. I got in! I want to scream it from the rooftops.

There is still plenty of waiting to do. I have other schools to hear from, other disappointments, and maybe even other triumphs.

But what matters now is that I have the chance to prove myself. Getting into the program isn't the hard part. Getting the PhD isn't even the hard part. Doing something with it -- something truly and fundamentally meaningful with that degree is the hard part. And I am a long way off from that part of my life, but what matters now is that I am on my way.

I know a lot of you have been following this blog, whether from the beginning or just stumbling upon it now. I hope you can find the strength to drag yourself out of bed on the coldest day of the year just so you can get some of the best news of your life. I hope you soon have an excuse to drink cheap champagne and look at weird Craigslist ads for apartments in cities you barely know. I hope you finally get that email you've been waiting for.

I hope you get in.

I know you will.

NOWAYNOHOW

Freak Outs

I think we all have that moment after submitting our applications where we notice something that feels catastrophic about our materials. After pressing that submit button, it's too late to go back and change things...but that doesn't make the freak out any less stressful.

For example, I just realized that one of the KEY TERMS (if I was writing a title for my SOP, this word would be in there) could have been grammatically incorrect. I was using it as a noun, but it's only supposed to be an adjective! I started frantically Googling the words and their usage. Had I sunk my chances with one dumb and HUGE mistake? How had my readers (of which there were many) not pointed this problem out?! How did I not know?!??!

After a good 15 minutes, I turned to my works cited, and there it was -- these authors were using the word in the same way I was. A bit more Googling and it seems that despite an 'official' (ie. dictionary) distinction between the noun/adjective forms, that the words are used interchangeably. In the U.S., my usage is especially common.

CRISIS AVERTED! Or...crisis imagined?

How about you? Any freak outs so far? I want to hear about your freak outs, real or imagined. Did you find a typo? Did you spell a POI's name wrong? Did you submit an SOP with the name of a different program?

NOWAYNOHOW

Adrenaline

There is less than a month until my first applications are due and I am suddenly feeling the anxiety and exhilaration that comes with taking such a giant risk. Sometimes I feel fantastic, like I'm going to get into every single program on my list (of 10, if you are wondering how things are going) and sometimes I feel defeated, like I'm wasting my time yet again.

I have completed what I hope is my final draft of my statement of purpose, and cut down my thesis to a sample of about 25 pages. My letter writers are locked in, my transcripts and GRE scores have been sent, and I'm updating my CV.

I have had 2 in-person meetings with POIs, and one phone call. To be honest, the in-person meetings didn't go all that well -- and not because they didn't like me, or I didn't like them. The value in meeting a POI seems to be that they can tell me things that they couldn't otherwise. In both cases, I was told about either funding or personnel problems, and the news shifted my plans for each program significantly. Another POI told me over email about a crucial problem on the department side of things, so I know that school is now unlikely to admit me because my POI is on indefinite leave, etc, etc. I'm just saying this to underline how valuable getting in touch with POIs has been -- I've reached out to almost 30 professors, and it has been so crucial in keeping my confidence levels up and getting a feel for what faculty committees are looking for.

Feeling better about this cycle doesn't keep my from occasionally getting hit with a burst of adrenaline. It's a shock to the system. It's standing on the edge of a huge chasm and my dream is right on the other side. I can see it, but can I get there? Can I grasp it?

Only time will tell.

How are your applications going? Have you had any worthwhile or interesting talks with POIs? Are you ready to turn your applications in or are you ready to throw them out the window?

NOWAYNOHOW

Second Chances

After putting it off for months, I'm finally getting back into the process of applying for the PhD. Last year went so poorly that I almost feel sick when I think about going through it all again, but I know I can't enter a program without at the very least applying. I think many of us who are second (or even third) time applicants might know these feelings well: fear, shame, self-defeat.

On top of it all, I'm way overloaded with work: full-time university research position, teaching a class and editing on the side has left me with no time at all to work on things or even volunteer with the community I want to study. Not exactly how I had planned things to go, but I suppose it could be worse--research and teaching are both good signs of my engagement as a scholar.

Are you trying again this year? How is it going for you?

I feel as if I could end up in one of two positions: my fear and regret over a bad first cycle causes me to screw up this year (self-sabotage!) or I move past what was an admittedly very traumatic experience and just get my head in the game.

NOWAYNOHOW

Well, we're a bit into May and it seems like things have certainly settled down.

I'm finally sure of how I'll be spending the next year (I signed a contract!): I accepted a 1-year research fellowship, with benefits, at my current university. Despite a generous fellowship offer, I turned down an offer of admission to a 1-year bioethics MA. I'm very happy with my decision to work as a researcher in the social sciences and even happier to know this position will give me more free time to work on perfecting my 2nd round of PhD applications. I turned in my MA thesis and graduation is just around the corner.

In addition, I hope to volunteer either at a hospital or non-profit that serves the population I hope to study while pursuing my doctorate. When I apply again, this will show I've already started making crucial connections and relationships with potential informants.

I am over the sting of rejection. Since getting all my letters, I published my first peer-reviewed paper and have a peer-reviewed book review in-press. I am being proactive. My next step will be to cut my thesis down to journal article length and work on that as a potential publication.

I probably won't check in for a while, but I will when applications are my priority again.

Have a great summer!

NOWAYNOHOW

Spring Forward

As you can see, I changed the title of my blog to reflect the fact that I'm no longer gunning for only sociocultural anthropology programs. I got my last rejection this week, and though I am still technically floating well below the top of one wait list, I'm choosing to look forward and not dwell on what is likely a dead end.

Fall 2014 is done with -- Fall 2015, I'm coming for you.

The good news is that I feel better now than I did when I knew nothing about how this season would go. I'm a very driven and goal-oriented person, so waiting around and feeling sorry for myself just wasn't working. I had a really productive spring break: I finished a draft of my MA thesis, I finished revisions on a book review for a student journal, I graded a ton of midterms, and I have a job interview (in admissions at my undergraduate alma mater, believe it or not) this week that I have a feeling will go very well. I'm applying for a 1-year MA in Bioethics in case I don't have a full time job by mid-summer, because that means I can hold on to my part-time research gig while getting more exposure to applied coursework. I'm also applying for all sorts of jobs -- research, health communications, teaching. I'm looking into volunteering somewhere related to my research. I have a year to become a better me, and I'm going to do everything in my power to get there.

I've also connected with some scholars doing work in my areas of interest. I want to be on their radars, their panels, their research groups and I want to learn from them. Twitter has been really helpful in this particular way, so I'd recommend it for people looking for a casual way to interact with more established scholars without feeling like a creep.

For those of you who will also be applying for Fall 2015, are you already on the offensive? What have you been doing to stay busy? Are you over the sting of this round yet? I want to hear how you're doing! I'm going to keep blogging through the process of applying again, so I hope you'll be here to keep me company.

NOWAYNOHOW

Well, it's essentially mid-March and besides a spot on a wait list (not one of the top 5, sadly) I've got nothing else to show for this application cycle. Despite my utter failure, I've been feeling optimistic (when I'm not feeling anxious and upset, so maybe like 1/4 optimistic, 3/4 freaked out?) about next year. With a better topic, possible publications and maybe even an NDSEG fellowship (very slim dream chance!), I could be a real contender at some top programs. It is up to me to get there, but it's technically possible.

If anything is making me feel better, though it pains me to admit this, it is that NOBODY else I know has been admitted anywhere during this cycle. Sure, you fine people of Gradcafe have gotten in, but of, say, the 6 friends I know also applying, across many disciplines (media studies, sociology, philosophy, English, ethnomusicology) all coming from an R1 with MA degrees, NOBODY has gotten in. We've all had similar seasons, with high expectations going in and nothing to show for it. Like me, my friends have hustled and gotten everything they can out of their programs, but the competition is just too fierce. Without fellowships and publications, we never stood a chance.

Now, I take comfort in my friends' failure (because I'm mean, I guess), but I also think this has to do with both a lack of accurate guidance when it comes to applying and what I'm going to refer to as the Prestige Problem. Because we were all coming from a top university, nobody felt like they had to apply outside the top 50. Why even bother? With high stats and all our R1 bells and whistles, of course we'd be inundated with multiple offers from ivies and other tippy top departments. Except we weren't. Not even close. I was wait listed at the lowest-ranked department I applied to. That's how badly I overestimated my shot.

I think that the guidance I got, save for one very young professor who is very cautious and cynical in general, was tailored to an academe of long ago. Admission to PhD programs have become a lot more cutthroat because of the positive move toward only taking as many as you can fund. Statements are more sophisticated and developed than ever. Successful students go in with a year or more of prep. We never stood a chance.

What I'm really saying is, man, full professors don't know how hard it is out there! And that I'm mean, because my friends' rejections are making me feel better, which makes me kind of a bad person.

Anyway, unrelated, but does anyone know anything about the following two things:

1) The NYU bioethics MA? I am considering applying (deadline is May 1) and it only takes a year. It has a small faculty of experts and I think I could use more health-specific coursework before applying again. I can shoulder the tuition since my MA was pretty cheap, and I wouldn't have to relocate and I'd get to continue having my awesome NYU health insurance and keep my research job. They have great placement into philosophy PhD programs, but I wonder if it is worth meeting with the DGS in-person to chat about their placement into other kinds of PhD programs.

2) NDSEG funding to 'soft' social sciences? My proposal directly engages the armed forces, so it is topically relevant, but I see the behavioral sciences subfield has mostly funded psych and neuroscience in the past. I emailed them and they encouraged me to apply, but I'd love some more insight on whether other disciplines stand a chance.

NOWAYNOHOW

I know a handful of us are prepared to apply next year, and I'm wondering what people are thinking regarding their strategies. I'm changing my topic (extending my MA research) but that's not a very radical shift for me, given my proposed topic (very different from my current work) is what I believe to have harpooned my 2014 chances.

In terms of serious changes in plans, I'm not going to be applying to JUST anthropology programs next time around. My BA is interdisciplinary from a top SLAC, and my MA is from an interdisciplinary (but growing and time-honored) field in an R1 department. I took a risk this year and applied only to anthropology programs because I love the discipline and my preferred method is ethnography. I've also heard too many stories about the difference between traditional and interdisciplinary PhDs on the job market. Obviously any interdisciplinary department will hire an anthropologist, but you'd be hard pressed to find many anthropology departments hiring interdisciplinary scholars, though I don't doubt there are exceptions (MIT HASTS is one, etc). I would like to be trained as an anthropologist, but I am more concerned next year with getting a funded offer and just starting my life, so to speak. If I get a better (or only) offer from a media studies or STS program, I'll happily take the risk just to get the PhD. My ultimate goal is teaching at an SLAC.

I'm also honestly feeling a little disillusioned with the discipline of anthropology in general. I knew my background would work against me, but hearing from POIs that committees just couldn't move past my unconventional academic background kind of bums me out. I know it is safer for anthropology programs to admit students with anthropology degrees, but I thought having significant graduate-level coursework in anthro might save me. My advisers have used phrases like, "circling the wagons" when it comes to applicants from other disciplines, and I wish I had been more aware of these kinds of tensions before I spent the season focusing so much on anthropology.

Is anyone else getting around to making tough changes like this? Are you prepared to consider other disciplines or are you married to just the one?

ETA: Guess I'll have to change the title of this blog, eh? 2 year epic admissions saga right here ya'll

NOWAYNOHOW

I received my first official rejection today. I also didn't receive an interview at my top choice and I've been unofficially rejected by the anthropology department at my current university. The caliber of these programs and my fit with their faculty make me think that I have good reason to believe I will be shut out this year.

Before I was feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling helpless. I didn't know what to do. My backup plan (an MPH) was just deemed "useless" by an authority on public health and anthropology and I really do think it's going to take a lot of rebuilding from here.

Regardless, I think I realized what went wrong. I think I'm ready for the challenge of starting again.

Back in April, my adviser told me she thought my proposed research for the PhD had too narrow a focus and that I needed an international field site in order to be taken seriously by anthropology committees. Because she's a renowned scholar and we have a great relationship, I took her advice and together we crafted a strong research proposal with transnational implications. I hoped this would make me appeal to more faculty, as I was told it would. I felt that even though the topic was a clear departure from my research thus far, that my record of success in general would make up for the difference between what I do now and what I said I want to do.

I realize now how silly it was to think that a good topic (a great topic!) would convince a committee to admit me despite showing a major departure from what I have worked on until now. I am sure that is my problem. I told the committees what I thought they wanted to hear, instead of telling them what I really wanted to do.

The realization is pretty energizing. So what if I strike out across the board? I still will be graduating with an MA in May, and I should be proud of all the work I've done. My boss just told me I could extend my research position with her and that she'd take me on for the next year if need be, so I don't have to look for another job. I'm going to focus on publishing my thesis, which is on my original topic of interest, and I'm going to connect with the few scholars in the universe that also work on similar topics. I submitted a book review and a paper to two different graduate student journals. I'm going to apply for NSF funding. I'm not going to take these rejections lying down.

What I am going to do is be true to myself. If I want to study what I've been studying all along, then that's what I'm going to do. It might make me less interesting to faculty with international interests, but the only thing that matters to me is being interesting to the people who will enthusiastically support my research. If it means that I need to apply to programs not just in anthropology, and risk getting an interdisciplinary degree, then that is what I will do.

What I'm not going to do is give up.

NOWAYNOHOW

Group Sulking

In the wake of my last post (the first of many admissions-related emotional breakdowns, I'm afraid) I realized: why sulk alone when we can sulk together? We're all going through versions of the same process, so there's no need to be shy. And there's also nothing worse than having someone say "It's going to be OK!" when all you want to do is wallow in the misery, even if just for a little while. Admissions is life or death! Well, it feels like it.

With that, what is your favorite sulking routine? How do you wallow in your misery? I want to know all about the weird nachos you make when you're sad. I want to know if you adopt a uniform of sweatpants and free promotional tshirts when you are feeling especially sorry for yourself.

When I am sulking, I listen exclusively to Elliott Smith and am utterly unproductive. I tend to stay in bed trying to decide on something to watch, but I rarely choose; instead, there is a lot of waffling and indecision and in the end I always end up watching something I've seen 5,000 times (Secretary, Safety Not Guaranteed, Party Monster, But I'm a Cheerleader are in the rotation) in my pajamas. Living in the land of online food delivery means I can drown my sorrow in a bowl of steaming tonkotsu ramen with just a few clicks. I will generally follow that with bourbon, and lately I am feeling Widow Jane on the rocks.

NOWAYNOHOW

Dark Times

It's been a while since my last entry, though not for lack of interest on my part. On the contrary, it's just that there's been no news to report.

That is, until today.

I didn't actually get any news today in the traditional sense, though 2 acceptances to one of my programs were posted on the results board. That's one implied rejection.

The other is more complicated and a lot worse. To make a long story short, I saw the short list at one of my schools and I wasn't on it. I wasn't supposed to see it, sure, but I did accidentally. And my name was nowhere to be found. I'm quite close to this department, so the implied rejection there really stings. I'm really broken up about it.

Honestly, I am not sure I'll be able to get past these feelings. I feel like if I can't get on the short list at the institution that knows me best, and allegedly respects my work and my company, then there is no hope for any of my other applications. I feel like I'm free falling.

To make matters worse, my plan b (an accelerated MPH) is looking more and more impractical. Why would I get in there if I can't get into an anthropology program? My weak spots are all in quantitative research. And how would it even help? Would it really make a difference? I'm not old, but I'm also not young--should I be thinking realistically? If, after completing an MA at an R1 with a stellar transcript, CV and recommendations, I get shut out, is this even for me? Don't I owe it to my family to get over myself, my 'dreams' of the academe, and just get a regular job? I could go into sales. I could go back into communications. I could work. I could make money.

I regret telling people I was applying in the first place. I regret putting that I finished my applications on Facebook. People know I'm waiting. How will I be able to tell people who ask that I struck out? I don't know if I could live that down.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself. I know that no news is just that: no news. But somehow I feel like the walls are closing in faster than I'd anticipated, and I'm staring down a season of rejections. I see this long stretch of disappointments. I'm facing graduation in May, losing my 3 (!!) university jobs contingent on my matriculation status, and a seemingly endless year of second guessing myself and maybe, just maybe, reapplying.

I see in the forums that a lot of people are similarly floundering. It's hard not to interpret silence, even so early on in the process, as negative feedback. But what if you do have evidence, like I do? How do you make sense of a loss? I took a massive risk going back to school and I'm facing the possibility that it all might blow up in my face.

When all of the regular platitudes do nothing to make you feel better, what do you do? I asked my husband to stop telling me it was going to be fine -- because we don't know that. It probably isn't going to be fine. I've got Elliott Smith, I've got tea, I've got cats and Hulu, but I still feel pretty terrible.

NOWAYNOHOW

I have been going crazy trying to settle on a plan B these past few weeks. I know that applying to 7 schools (a number I now think is too low) puts me at a greater risk for not gaining admission anywhere, and I need to be prepared in the case of a shutout. I'm not a kid who can just take a gap year, but I'm also not willing to go back to my old field. I think I may have found a solution.

There are 2 MPH programs that are local to me that can be finished in 1 year that have late deadlines. One application is due April 15th and the other is due in June. I feel like that gives me plenty of time to see what will happen with the PhD and then act accordingly. They aren't funded (well, one has some funding) but I have no loans thus far and feel like I could take the financial risk if need be.

I think an MPH can only bolster my chances if I have to reapply. My BA and MA degrees have emphasized theory and critical work, so I think an MPH would allow me to expand crucial practical and, obviously, medical knowledge. By filling in these gaps in my areas of interest, I would hopefully come out of an MPH program a stronger and more prepared applicant for the PhD.

I feel super relieved. Nothing is a sure thing, but having a backup I can get behind will hopefully help me sleep easier at night.

Do you have a plan B yet?

NOWAYNOHOW

Silence

Now is the time where things are truly out of my hands. My materials are submitted and my applications are complete. There's no room to improve and there is nothing I can say or do that will influence the committee decisions.

But somehow I feel as if this point is less difficult than how things will feel a week or a month from now. None of my schools have sent out notifications of any kind, so I am comforted to know that I wait in silence with all of my fellow applicants. Other programs have sent out some notifications, but I do not envy them their news (or no news).

You see, a few years ago I applied for another discipline (a misguided attempt, I assure you) and I struck out across the board. It was humbling, sure, but when notifications went from a trickle to a tidal flow, there was no worse feeling than being left in silence. The complete absence of information was a reminder of my inferiority as an applicant, and more generally as a scholar. It seemed like everyone around me was getting happy calls and emails from encouraging POIs. I won't lie: it felt like being picked last for an elementary school sports team, except I wasn't picked at all.

So I know that it can get worse from here. I should be relishing this short period of respite, or at least working handily on my thesis! I still check my email 5,000 times a day in the hopes of an early notification, despite knowing it is unlikely given the timeline of my programs. But once interview invitations and decisions are passed around, I fear that once again I will end up empty-handed.

Do you prefer no news or bad news? How are you handling the silence?

NOWAYNOHOW

On Competition

As I sit in my cocktail dress waiting to leave for a night of New Year's festivities, I can't help but worry about what 2014 will bring. Obviously it's not going to be a boring year--it has the potential to be either truly great or profoundly terrible. I can't remember the last time my life felt so uncertain. I am a planner by nature, organized and anxious, which makes application season especially taxing. The strange pit in my stomach that arrived around October and hasn't left since is unwelcome and strange.

I am especially nervous about my competition. I don't mean everyone applying to the same programs, but the people who share my areas of interest and, with that in mind, probably the same POIs. I also don't mean all of the people who are in that group, but specifically the applicants who are better than me.

I know my loved ones and friends hem and haw over the idea that there could never be an applicant as wonderful, clever and tenacious as I am. We're probably all sick of hearing, "It's going to be fine!," "You'll get in everywhere" and, my favorite, "You have nothing to worry about."

But I know that there are absolutely scholars more qualified and better prepared to succeed in a PhD program. I think there is always somebody smarter. I mean, isn't that just how the world works? It's why we strive. It's why we want to be better.

Yet when I come upon someone (woe to those with wireless and a seemingly endless winter break) that is competition, I panic. How can I compete with a valedictorian of a giant university with multiple publications? How can I compete with someone fluent in three languages and time in the field? How can I compete with exquisite GRE scores and a 4.0?

I can't. I can hope, at least, that maybe I am better in regards to the components we don't always see or know. Maybe my LORs are better, maybe my SOP is better. But I won't know, not for a few months, I suppose. And the programs certainly can't take us all--I wouldn't feel so afraid if things were otherwise.

Do you get jealous of other applicants? Have you been sizing up the so-called competition?

NOWAYNOHOW

Stress Dreams

Last night I had my very first application-related stress dream.

Honestly, I'm surprised it took me this long. I had a nightmare that I didn't get into any of my schools but one, and then after being notified of my acceptance, they told me that it was a mistake and that I was actually rejected. Not especially creative, as far as dreams go, but effective, and frightening.

I realize this is probably just the first of what will be a long series of PhD stress dreams, so I should just get used to it. Maybe the powerlessness of having all of my applications submitted is wreaking havoc on my subconscious.

Are you having application stress dreams? Have any of them been especially bizarre? Share in the comments!

NOWAYNOHOW

I Screwed Up

I missed a deadline.

This is totally unlike me, but it's true: I missed the deadline for one of my schools.

In my defense, I'm a few weeks post-op on a minor surgical procedure and had a horrible stomach virus over the weekend. I wasn't thinking about much, except for not messing up my almost-healed incisions and staying hydrated. I submitted the application only 17 hours late...but the school's website is very clear about having a hard deadline. Still, my payment and online submission went through and I received an automated confirmation of its receipt.

I emailed the admissions coordinator to see if I still would be considered and explained I had been ill.

I will update this when I get a response, but for now I am mortified. I'm sick to my stomach! I am not applying to so many schools that I can just cross one off of my list...

YIKES

Has anything similar happened to you? How did things work out? Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: Just looked again and it seems because I was panicked and in a rush, I spelled a POI's first name (tricky in my defense) wrong in the SOP. Guess I can cross this one off my list regardless of the deadline snafu...

UPDATE: Admissions got back to me and said the department is still taking applications! Hurray! I figured I'd push my luck and send them an updated SOP with the error corrected, just because...well, what do we have to lose? Thanks for all your helpful comments guys!

To that end, a funny thing one of my letter writers told me is that they admit people who spell her name wrong every year, and as much as she hates it, sometimes a candidate is just too great in other respects. What a weird process.

NOWAYNOHOW

An Introduction

I figured that those of you interested in my admissions journey are due an introduction of sorts.

So here goes: I'm in the middle of applying for my PhD in sociocultural anthropology and sometimes I think I'm a great candidate and sometimes I think I'm the worst. I'm beginning to think that duality is part of what makes this process so trying, as I'm sure most of us have a lot of great qualities, but we aren't without our faults.

I'm currently finishing my MA in media studies from a name brand R1 and my BA (interdisciplinary) is from a prestigious SLAC. In the four years between undergrad and grad, I worked my way into a management position in a 'sexy' (and unstable) industry and was frustrated with the impossible hours and what amounted to an intellectual dead zone. I spent an ill-advised year applying to fiction MFA programs (struck out across the board), partially because my now-husband is a working writer and so are a lot of our friends and I think it made me think I was a writer too. It was clear after the fact that my talent lies in scholarship and not fiction, and I applied to interdisciplinary MA programs for fall 2012 and got in to all of them, some with decent funding. My MA, I admit, is almost expressly to bolster my chances for the PhD--at this point in my life I know I want to teach and do research. My subject?

Medical anthropology.

Now, the details:

I'm applying to 7 programs: Yale, NYU, Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers, CUNY, UPenn. I've submitted 2/7 so far. I have a few more pages to add to my writing sample and I should be set to complete the remaining 5 applications. In fact, I currently attend one of those universities, just in a different department.

I have a 3.9 (MA) and 3.4 (BA). I have taken several classes in anthropology (including their required first year PhD seminar) at my current university, and my thesis adviser is co-chair of that department. She asked me to be her TA next semester, so I feel that bodes well for my chances, though I know the appointment is far from a promise of admission.

GRE is a sore spot: 147Q/164V/4.5AW.

I have 2 solo paper presentations (one at a graduate school conference, the other at the annual meeting of a national professional association) and a couple web publications for a relevant academic blog, which I don't consider to have the weight of a peer-reviewed publication.

I also hold 2 of the 4 research assistantships available to MA students in my current department. One of those is as an editorial assistant at an international peer-reviewed academic journal.

I have 4 LORs: both of my supervisors (neither of them are anthropologists, but do have ethnographic work on their CVs), a former medical anthropology professor and my thesis adviser, who is also a medical anthropologist. I have a lot of faith in the quality of the letters written on my behalf, as I have a close working relationship with each writer.

My weaknesses are undoubtedly my quantitative GRE score, my undergraduate GPA and the fact that I am switching disciplines. I have been told the Q GRE is not valued highly in anthropology, so I am trying not to tear my hair out over something I can't change. I have prepared to switch disciplines by taking courses in anthropology and my thesis, which is also my writing sample, hopefully displays a synthesis of media and cultural studies with anthropological theory and methodology.

I admit, my final concern is that my SOP, being a strong research proposal with clear aims and questions, is potentially impersonal and might come off as cold. My readers (my LOR writers) have told me they think it's a great statement and I shouldn't worry, but there's always the chance that a perceived lack of warmth on my part could knock me out of the running.

However, my strengths are undoubtedly my commitment to scholarship, my work ethic, ability to research independently and high MA GPA. Hopefully that will be enough to get me to a program with great funding, but I won't find out for a few more months. Until then, stick around, read my blog, and together I think we can get through this with our sanity intact.