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Showing content with the highest reputation since 06/28/2017 in all areas

  1. 8 points

    When and how to contact POIs

    It can be really hard to sort through those posts because there are SO many responses in a thread. I think it's nice to have a thread about this all together for future applicants. Anyways, when I reached out to POIs, I erred on the side of professionalism. That means says "dear" at the start, as awkward as that feels. Here's a sort of template to go by: "Dear So and So, I am a (enter here: graduate of, undergrad/graduate student at, etc.) studying (enter major/specialization) and I am considering applying to doctoral programs this fall. My interest(s) is(are) XYZ, and after much research, I am interested in working with you if you are able to accept new graduate students in the fall of 2018. My research... (talk about your research interests, past research, research style, etc.) I have read (enter name of book/article/publication by POI) and it sparked my interest in blah blah blah. I found your argument about X especially intriguing. I am interested in a similar topic, and believe my research could benefit from your guidance. *enter anything else you want to say or any questions you have. it is good to ask at least one question, like 'how many graduate students do you usually advise at time?' or 'how many dissertations have you overseen?' or anything specific about his or her advising style* Thank you for for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely yours (or all the best, or something similar), (your full name)" Hope that helps! I wrote like that to all POIs and got a response from every single one, from state schools to Harvard.
  2. 7 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    I just want to point out that people who are annoyed or bothered by questions they think have been answered elsewhere or questions they consider "stupid" are under no obligation to answer. It's easy enough to just do that than throw time and energy into some passive aggressive (or aggressive aggressive) paragraphs attacking someone for asking a question just because they didn't see it anywhere at first or didn't want to spend and hour sifting through old threads. I agree that thick skin is necessary and there will always be those who will talk down to you or act pompous, but there's really no need to spread that around and just consider such behaviors "par for the course" in academia. I personally know multiple PhDs, other academics, and historians who are plenty down to earth and humble, and I hope to emulate them as I maneuver my way through my PhD and beyond. Well anyways, my point here is just that if you don't like the question, don't respond to it. Simple as that. Because now this straightforward thread for someone nervous and excited about the application process has been hijacked by people debating the value of the question and fighting over the nature of academia.
  3. 6 points
    Dogfish Head

    2018 Applicants

    I took the GRE last week, and I think that I did pretty well. One step closer to being able to apply to programs this Fall .
  4. 6 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    Statements of this sort crop up too frequently on the forum. If a certain milieu has a bad rep -- here, it's the idea that academics are dismissive and prone to quick, unfair judgment -- there's no obligation to confirm the stereotype. Instead, we can emulate the kind of academic (one would hope) we all encountered at one point or another in our careers: the experienced big-shot who took the time to listen to our sloppy, naive questions and gently but firmly point us in the right direction. It's like saying: - Art gallery receptionists have the reputation for being snooty. - I have a job at as at receptionist at an at art gallery. - I shall habituate art newbies to the ways of the art world by being snooty. It is possible to strongly disagree, to critique -- even to criticize -- with indulgence (even if just in the manner of formulation). Finally, it seems to bear stating again that stellar GRE grades neither ensure you a job (which I don't think anyone on here has ever defended), nor do they have zero effect. As historians we know there's never one cause. GRE scores are less important than other factors, but they are not unimportant.
  5. 5 points

    Project Proposal portion of SOP

    You should delineate your broad questions and why answering them in a particular place/time is compelling to you. The SOP is not a dissertation prospectus. It is your monologue justifying how going to X school makes sense to answer those questions. You will need geography/chronology because you are applying to work under the supervision of specific faculty that you must name (and contact). They are standard not because they are required per se but because if you don't, then you are not writing a statement of purpose. I'm not sure I understand your questions. No, don't ramble about your topic of interest and definitely don't do name dropping. You will have an opportunity to do this in your writing sample. The SOP should be about your big questions, your experience as a researcher, the department you are applying to, and how you see yourself in that program. In other words, you should show evidence of a coherent transition between a past, a present, and a future. Again, this is not a project proposal, at least not for US institutions. I strongly suggest you look at SOPs samples, like this one. You can also search for horrible samples as examples of what not to do. They helped me a lot.
  6. 5 points

    2018 Applicants

    Happy news here today folks! Woke up to an acceptance e-mail from one of my schools! I'm shocked they got back to me so quickly, my second letter of recommendation just got sent yesterday, but I must have been "under review" until it came in. It's my #2 program so I'm really stoked!!! I'm not sure if I should e-mail the adviser and let her know I'm waiting on the others or not, she sent me an e-mail about scheduling everything and acceptance (but nothing about funding... so I also want to ask about that.)
  7. 5 points
    When I applied to MSc programs, my partner and I were not married and we had similar concerns as you. Later, when applying to PhD programs, my partner and I were married and we still had similar concerns. The second time, they were even bigger concerns because we were moving from Canada to the US, so work authorization for my spouse was also a tricky thing to get. In the end, it did all work out though. Here's what we did for both rounds of applications in terms of choosing a location that would work for both of us. My spouse has a generally flexible line of work (non-academic) and any small town (~100,000 people or so) would have options, but of course, the bigger the city, the larger the pool of applicants. The only job-related constraints would be language (some places in Canada require French) and immigration policies (for places outside of Canada). Instead of just job opportunities, we were also considering our personal preferences on where we would like to live too! We started by determining what our own goals are (career and otherwise), for ourselves and for each other. We discussed short term and long term wishes and how we wanted to balance them. And we talked about what our major concerns were about grad school and the academic career path. Ultimately, we came up with a plan that ensured that both of us were happy. Although I was the one going to grad school, we viewed this as something we were doing together for the good of our family. So, I only applied to schools in locations that were good for both of us. Logistically, the way we did it was for each of us to compile our own lists of places we would like to go to. Then, we looked at each other's lists and we each had veto power (e.g. I might veto places that didn't have research that fit me or I wouldn't enjoy the city and my spouse might veto places that didn't suit their interests). The places that were on both our lists went to the top. We kept an open mind at this stage---neither of us vetoed places that might not sound great initially, but we would at least visit and see what it's like. As for long term goals, both of our main desires were to set us both up so that we can both have careers in a specific geographical region (close to our families). We know that was where we would want our children to grow up. Our main concern was that the academic job market is brutal and most academics seem to have to move to wherever the jobs were. In addition, while some people we know got TT jobs right after graduation, and a few after 1 postdoc, the norm is 2 or 3 postdocs before a TT job. The nightmare scenario we wanted to avoid was that we would go on the TT job hunt, choose a less-than-ideal postdoc thinking that it would set us up for a good job later, but then go on another postdoc and another etc... In short, while we had long term big picture goals in mind, we also didn't want to spend our 20s and 30s only living for the future and not being able to enjoy the present. We came up with a strategy to avoid our worst fears. First, we both decided that while academia would be a great career path for me, we are not going to have the "TT job or bust" mindset. Next, we decided that every position I take from then on (at the PhD application stage) would have to be a top-tier type position, or something that really sets us up very well for moving back to our geographical area. So, this meant that when applying to PhD programs, I only applied to top schools with the plan that if I only got into second-tier schools, it would make the odds of a TT job in our geographical region of choice very slim and the two of us would be better off if we followed a different career path. When applying to postdocs, I followed the same idea. The second strategy was to choose a program that would allow me to develop useful non-academia job skills. Ultimately, we would both be happier in our geographical region and outside of academia than in academia but outside of our region of choice. In addition to programs that would allow me to develop useful skills, I generally favoured places that would have good brand name recognition for employers outside of academia. This second preference played a larger role in the "choosing which offer to accept" stage rather than the application stage, since nothing is sure when you're just applying. Finally, the last strategy to combat our fears/worries was to make a commitment to ourselves. We decided that 10 years from the start of my PhD program (we'd be in our mid-30s), we will be in our geographical region of choice, no matter what. This was to alleviate the worries of chasing postdocs/TT jobs indefinitely and that we would be not living in the present enough. Although it was always true, making this commitment was a reminder to ourselves that we can just quit academia any time. For most grad students, we are achievement-seeking personalities and "quitting" might be hard to do. This promise to ourselves was a reminder that we can leave if we want to. So with these ideas, we both agreed on 8 places to apply to. My spouse visited grad programs whenever possible. I made it clear to all the grad programs that this was a decision that both of us were making together. Many places directly reached out to my spouse to recruit her as well as me, which was very appreciated. After the applications decisions were made, my spouse and I ranked the offers. Our top three choices were the same, but most importantly, the top choice was the same for both of us. So that was how we decided. If you want an update on where we are on our plans, we are now 5 years past the start of my PhD (i.e. halfway through our 10 year plan). I just graduated from my PhD last month and I have just started a postdoc this week. I ended up with a fellowship postdoc position in our geographic region of choice! Our hopes are that we will never have to move away again. However, we're still open to it if there's a really good (but temporary) opportunity for a second postdoc, but only if the opportunity provides increased chances for a permanent academic job in our current area and that increase is worth the move away from our families. If not, and if there turns out to be no more academic opportunities in our area, we'll find non-academic jobs and stay where we are Good luck with your decision making process. If you want to discuss more personal issues, feel free to send me a PM. I can also provide more details via PM if that helps someone in a similar situation.
  8. 5 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    I don't think you get it. This isn't law school admissions (where you got "splitter" from). The connection in your head - high GRE leads to acceptance to top grad school leads to TT job - is so tenuous as to be essentially void. Nobody is poring over your GRE score trying to decide if your GPA and URM status make up for the damage you're going to do to their USNews ranking. They look that you've tested over a certain threshold and if you have, they forget about it. For the humanities, the math portion doesn't matter except in cases where funding is awarded by the graduate school conditional on GPA/GRE minima. Your acceptance to better schools is entirely contingent on your writing sample and references.
  9. 5 points

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    I'm at Rutgers, and I find my experience to be very similar to what @TMP describes. Our teaching loads are very low, as are our cohort sizes; everything on @telkanuru's (extremely accurate) list of "what makes a good program" is available to me here. It really is program by program. It's true that in academia you ignore prestige at your peril. But it is equally perilous to tunnel your vision such that you focus only on names, brands, and proximity to the Ivies. Day in and day out, what will make or break your graduate experience is not whether other people think your program is fancy and prestigious, or whether you think your program is fancy and prestigious. It's whether or not you're at a place where you feel you're doing your best work (and where doing your best work will result in an outcome you want post-PhD). That's what keeps you coming into the grad office each day and that's how you finish the program. It's possible to do your best work in the Ivies. It is also possible to do your best work outside of them. You truly cannot know the answer unless you apply widely and see where you get in. So much of the information that will ultimately influence your decision — teaching/fellowship ratio, placement, cohort size, summer funding, personality of your advisor — you won't get until you hear back from schools anyways. Since you haven't, the prestige discussion is a bit of a red herring, and it's too easy to get wrapped up in it when it's still pretty hypothetical. Apply to places where 1) you would be willing to go if you got in, 2) where there is five years of some kind of funding for all students, and 3) the work that the faculty does excites you and is a good fit for you. Consider things like ranking and prestige, but within reason; don't discount a public university just for the sake of it being public, or apply to a university that is obviously not a good fit just because it's an Ivy. Then, when you have applied and heard back and you have concrete numbers and figures to look at, you can go back and think about things like placement, summer funding, cohort size, teaching load, etc.
  10. 5 points


    My quantitative scores were terrible, I got into one ivy and four other good schools--at one school visit a younger assistant professor was like "hah your quantitative scores were pretty bad but not as bad as mine", so that's how much they mattered (Telkanuru is right about the funding thing for some state schools though)
  11. 5 points

    High Functioning Sociopath

    What even is this thread? OP are you looking for advice? A second opinion on your diagnosis (I don't believe that's allowed on the forums or ethical)? Trying to figure out the end game of the post.
  12. 4 points
    Looks like they're sick of receiving personal statements that mostly talk about how their grandmother inspired them to go to grad school and how hard it was to get Bs while partying every night, so they're trying to hand-hold you through what an SOP is supposed to be.
  13. 4 points
    I've never seen arbitration of busted friendships go well. Despite the best intentions of the person who is trying to engineer the reconciliation in other people - they usually get sucked into the conflict. I'd use the natural break to go out and find other friends. You don't need to form a new group of BFFs, just folk from your research group/department/campus who you get along well with and do some social stuff together (lunches, coffee etc). It'll make you feel less dependent on this group of individuals. When you all get back on campus start off with low-key social events (lunch on campus rather than a party in someone's apartment). In case something goes wrong it is easier for people to leave, and you won't be stuck for too long in an awkward situation.
  14. 4 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    @miami421 A quick recap of the importance of different parts of the graduate application in most of the humanities, and also anthropology. Numbers left blank are to provide a sense of scale. 1. SOP - key elements are: how it expresses your research interests, whether you are persuasive about your ability to carry out the research project you propose or one somewhat like it, and whether you demonstrate good fit with the school 2. Writing sample 3. 4. 5. LORs 6. 7. GPA 8. 9. GRE You could include "fit" as a separate item in the top three if you want, but the scale itself is an approximate thing I threw together in ten minutes. The level you set at "decent" is, unfortunately, optimistic. Fellow forum-members: do even Harvard and Princeton place 50% of their students in TT-positions within 5 years (in history)? I don't know this myself, but that part of your post, although well-meant, is probably a significant part of what made me and possibly some other people on here extra cranky. Why? Because it reminded us of how placement records, even at our own school (even if it's a really good one!), are d e p r e s s i n g. I only wish most of the top 50 universities had a 50% TT placement rate!
  15. 4 points

    2018 Applicants

    @punctilious Can I ask what parts of this program research your husband is planning to do? I get that literature students switch fields and topics a lot more often than anthropologists do, so it can make sense to go to a program with generally "good Americanists" for a master's degree (or possibly for a PhD if you want to focus on teaching? I'm not sure, I'm in a different field) but it doesn't sound like that's your husband's situation. It sounds like he really likes literary scholarship, it isn't something he's just okay about while he gets to his dream of teaching college students. And that he would be particularly interested in going to a prestigious PhD. (Although that might sound snobby—your instinct might be to go "oh no no, he's really interested in doing what he loves, not being at some fancy elite institution"—it's wise, actually. Getting a PhD is tough! It's a lot easier if they pay you reasonably and support you doing research. It will also likely make facing the job market, which is very bad, somewhat less horrible.) Is that right? If I understood that correctly, you may be running out the limits on what you can do for him. It sounds like your spreadsheets are very detailed, and I bet they will be great help for the two of you! I suspect that he is going to need to do the next step, however, on his own—and it's the most important step. Finding a research "fit" is something that nobody but the applicant can do for them, so he should start researching the professors he wants to work with pretty soon. The POIs you've picked out might be a great place for him to start reading, but he can't stop there. Prestigious PhDs, especially, require specifically-written applications, with more details rather than less. Harvard gets a lot of applications that say it's great because it's Harvard! Maybe they say the funding is good! They have a lot of faculty who focus on the Victorian era! (Or whatever.) That's not very convincing, if you read hundreds of similar applications: the Ivies know they're fancy. If you say instead that you're interested in this project this professor is working on, and that project that other professor did, the professors on the admissions committee will most likely find that much more persuasive. So if your husband is interested in a research-focused PhD, he needs to sit down and read all of the faculty profiles in all the departments he is interested in. He'll need to pick out the ones that catch his eye. A really strong graduate school application in either of our fields isn't just based on matching faculty by time and region, but on thematic connections. So this strong application wouldn't say something like, I want to work on the American post-war and you have a lot of faculty who do great work on that period. It would rather say something like: I am interested in working on ambivalent constructions of masculinity in post-war novels that focus on the American marriage, and although this part may change I'm currently focused on the works of John Updike. The SOP would then not be as simple as: I am interested in working with faculty X, Y, and Z, because they all work on American literature after WWII. Rather, this fictional applicant might say: I am interested in working with faculty X because they are an Updike scholar (although X herself studies space and the environment as they appear in the books, not gender or marriage); I also look forward to taking Y's class on marriage in literature (where Y herself studies Shakespeare); finally I look forward to working with Z who studies gender theory (even though Z himself applies that theory to the works of Samuel Delaney). After your husband finishes reading about all the English faculty at each college, he should also look at the professors who work in some of the other departments that might have scholars whose work he would like. Interdisciplinary work is big these days, and only getting bigger, so really he should look at way more departments at each college than just the English literature department. This can be a quick overview where he only reads the research statements of the faculty who catch his eye, but he should absolutely look at the website listing the faculty of, say, the department of American Studies at Yale before he applies there. Does he like film? Look at the film studies department at each college. Or feminist studies, or science and technology studies (which is a broader field than it might sound like). Of course he shouldn't push connections if they feel forced, but it's a good research exercise to do anyway. Although my fictional example in the previous paragraph includes only faculty who could be in English, maybe Z is actually in the department of American culture or in African American studies. Poking around other interesting departments would then reveal that new resource for your husband to draw upon, one that he might have missed by just looking in English. For example, when I applied, I read or skimmed the departmental webpages for all the anthropology faculty in all the departments I was considering, and then I looked at all the history faculty who studied the same region where I work, skimmed the entire relevant area studies department, and sometimes looked at the departments of sociology or film studies. Personally, I found doing all that reading kind of fun, since people study such interesting things. Good luck to you both.
  16. 4 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    You should probably get used to that if you want to go into academia.
  17. 4 points
    I'm sorry but I do have to disagree here. Not all PHD programs are fully-funded. Some programs only fund 30-50 percent of their students. Some programs may not fund the first year. Others might require you to pay more mandatory fees while others may not require you to pay any fees at all.
  18. 4 points
    You seem to be doing a lot of things out of a sense of obligation to some shadowy unnamed force. I don't think that working at a place for less than 2 years reflects badly on you (unless it's a pattern, and at a later point in your career), I don't think that having worked at 3 places means you need to get a master's, and I can't even fathom why you'd think that working at 4 places versus 3 will reflect badly on you. You should critically analyze the source from which you are getting this bs.
  19. 3 points
    I'm of the opinion that you must pursue other interests. I agree with you: that person was exaggerating. We all need a way to distract ourselves, to turn stress, worries, questions into something productive. I practice sports: I joined two clubs and an intramural team, I go to gym/swim/run, and I even picked up two new sports during my comps/prospectus because it was a way to also learn something new and accompanying the process of intellectual 'acquisition'. That said, I don't know how serious you can be about an instrument. I know of people how participated in some small performance events because, like you, had a semi-professional past. I also know of people who joined choirs/church bands as a means to channel this. Others collaborated with the performing arts department for fundraisers. I tried to resume piano lessons but they were too pricey for my stipend. I sense you will have to come to grips with the fact that you may not keep up with your professional pace. For example, in my program we don't have any responsibilities in first year other than doing well. That was a great time for me to feel at home doing sports I practiced at home, it was a way of adjusting. During my second year it was harder to keep up with team sports and in my third year it was impossible, hence I picked up individual sports. Lay out the five-six years ahead of you and think about your PhD requirements (teaching, coursework, comps, etc). If you know what's happening when, you'll be able to tune the amount of time you devote to your music. But by no means abandon it.
  20. 3 points
    To clarify, my recommendations are generally geared for specific situations outlined in OPs. Complicated relationships with complex people are one thing. Relationships with people who are prone to betraying others in the most fundamental of ways at the worst of possible times and individuals who may need qualified professional help fall into other categories.
  21. 3 points


    no. Move on and focus on the writing sample and statement of purpose. Those are more important than the GRE.
  22. 3 points

    Aspiring Phil. Student Help

    It doesn't matter. It's your trajectory and the quality of your current work that matter. Doesn't matter, unless it's a fake university like Liberty University. You'd be surprised how many schools academics recognize. We're usually pretty familiar with the academic world. Plus, in order to get our jobs, we (literally) applied to hundreds of universities. Hell, I'm Canadian and I'm pretty sure I can name around 200 or so schools in the US alone, most of which most people have never heard of. I can even name at least one school in most European countries. So don't worry on that front! Very few students get recommendations from big names; most don't. What matters is that the professor is familiar with your work and interests, and can speak to your ability (and perhaps, in your case, your upward trajectory). Also not a big deal. But, as hector549 said, you'll need to clearly articulate why you want to pursue philosophy at the graduate level. And that justification will have to go beyond "I want to teach philosophy"; it'll have to talk about why it's philosophy in particular that you're interested in. What areas of philosophy do you want to study? Why? Incidentally, wanting to teach philosophy generally isn't enough to get you through the PhD process. It's a grueling slog, and you need to know that there are no jobs for you at the end of it. You really need to be motivated by your research project, otherwise you'll burn out fast. You'll be competing with 600 other people for the same crappy job in a state or country far away. You'll apply to a hundred or more jobs every year, get zero to one interviews, and maybe if you're lucky after five or six years of that you'll earn 30-40k teaching five courses a semester in a tiny town somewhere you didn't especially want to live. Getting an MA is easier, but it's increasingly less sufficient for teaching at the HS or community college levels, because those markets are increasingly flooded by people with PhDs (note also that philosophy isn't usually a "teachable" for HS, so you need enough courses in other subjects to get certified). That's not meant to discourage you, just to give you an idea of what you're going into, and of the fact that the reasons you give for wanting to pursue the MA or PhD will have to look sufficient to counterbalance those factors.
  23. 3 points

    2018 Applicants

    Hey everyone! Just a reminder that I'll be starting the gmail group later today, so please send me a gmail address if you'd like to join
  24. 3 points

    2018 Applicants

    Okay. So, if you're interested in joining our group where we help each other stay on track with applications, please private message me a gmail address and I'll coordinate a chat. Let's aim for everyone to provide me with the address by Monday so we can get going. Sound good? I think this is the best option because we could also share our work on Google Docs if we want to coordinate readings and offer each other feedback. I'll try to mention everyone who has shown interest so far: @mk-8, @Keri, @Narrative Nancy, @punctilious, @a_sort_of_fractious_angel (don't know why it won't let me tag you?), @lit_nerd, @verjus. If I forgot anyone, please go ahead and let them know. If anyone else wants to join, please send me your info. You can make a new gmail account with your screen name if that makes you more comfortable. There's no pressure for you to provide your real identity if you don't wish to do so.
  25. 3 points
    I'm in anthropology, not sociology, but the five profiles (students between second and sixth years, but nobody on the market) I just checked in my department each have less than 20 words in them. For example, Berkeley is a little more terse than my department, but look here: http://anthropology.berkeley.edu/graduate/current-graduate-students. My department breaks those down into separate webpages, but nobody has full sentences about their research. They just list themes and areas of interest, at the "Cultural anthropology. China. Rural. Kinship." level of abstraction. My page doesn't even appear in the first page of google search results for my name, either; I can only find it efficiently by going to the actual department's webpage. What are the profiles of other students in your prospective department like, especially of the students in their coursework years? Is the norm to be way more detailed and emphatic than in anthropology? I ask because I don't understand the source of your resistance to having a webpage at all. I don't want to push you into doing something you don't want to—and I don't read your posts as suggesting there's a safety issue—but it sounds like your resistance is coming from a misunderstanding of something about academia. Specifically, you don't need to be committed to your dissertation project yet: people expect (and even value) evolution. As far as specifics go, I think it would be pretty normal to have the entire contents of your page be your name and the words "Sociology of gender," since it's sounded elsewhere like you're committed to that interest. If your department runs towards wordy profiles and you want to emulate their style while leaving room for change, you could just drop the word "currently" a lot: "I am currently working on sociology of gender. At the moment I am exploring issues of gender and race. My interests right now also include immigration and sexuality." It sounds like that might be too much for you right now, so maybe you can save that strategy for later. Personally, I would advise you to list between one and three interests or fields, like "sociology of gender," in your profile, but I don't feel strongly about it. If it feels right to you not to list any interests just yet, I think you should feel completely free to create a profile with your name and nothing else. If there's no safety issue, take confidence in yourself! List yourself publicly as a student in your department; you are smart and you deserve to own it. I think not having a profile at all might feed your impostor syndrome too much, but I think it should be normal to have a blank-except-for-your-name profile for the first couple years and fill it in later. (I am not "diagnosing" "impostor syndrome" from your posts, but rather working under the assumption that this is a condition shared by literally every graduate student.) These things aren't about your final identity as a scholar, after all. It's about what you're doing now. One way somebody might use a profile that says "Name. Sociology of gender," for example, is a visiting graduate student who's living in town this semester to be with their partner emails you and asks about whether the sociology department is having any talks on gender right now. That's a good person to know! Your interests as they mature three years from now don't help that person this semester: they'll be gone by then. Even if your interests have completely changed three years from now, you might have an interesting conversation this year, and interesting conversations are worth something. Perhaps something might help is to use the word "mature" or "progress" more often. You not being sure of your exact project just yet is a sign of your intellectual openness or your curiosity; it's a virtue. If you want to change your research after your first year, it's not true that "it won't look good at all." If your project or interests change, that's not a sign of your inability to stick with it, or something. It's not only normal, it's a sign that you're learning, that your work is maturing, that you're making intellectual progress. Of course this isn't a magic bullet, but it sounds like you have a lot of negative self-talk going on in your head about your work right now. It might help you to have a positive (and, let me emphasize, true) way of thinking about these things on hand, too.
  26. 3 points

    Life Reeked with Joy

    I can't stop laughing http://archive.wilsonquarterly.com/essays/history-past-life-reeked-joy totally worth a look, fellow historians!
  27. 3 points

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    In my experience, the advisors who push you intellectually are those whose students aren't cookie cutters of themselves. It follows that tailoring your application to fit the exact interests of the advisors you're considering might not be the best idea if your goal is to break new ground in the field. If you applied with any of the topics you listed above, a social/cultural historian of France who studies the period you're interested in (give or take a few decades) will be able to advise you. No one expects that the project you propose in your application will end up being your dissertation topic (though that does happen sometimes). One of the highest compliments I heard a graduate student give about my advisor is that she explicitly seeks out students whose interests "ven diagram" with her own. When I spoke with her, she echoed the sentiment: "I want my students to teach me something. It's boring otherwise." A very high bar to clear, indeed! But personally I'd rather try to get up to that bar than spend my graduate career as a disciple.
  28. 3 points

    Condensing WS vs Giving page numbers to read

    Condense it. I rewrote my 150-page thesis into 25. The point is not the effort, it's the evidence that shows you can do historical analysis and present it in a convincing, relatively professional manner (intro/analysis/conclusion clearly stated, well-articulated paragraphs, well presented source(s) and their analysis, etc). Here less is more. If they say 35 pages, do not submit 50. Just don't.
  29. 3 points

    Starting PhD...in 30s?

    I did exactly this, started my PhD in my mid-30s as a single childless woman in a cohort where most other students are about a decade younger. What helped me the most was going in knowing that my cohort or even my department wouldn't meet all of my social needs. I do sometimes socialize with my cohort because they are nice people and can actually be fun, but after spending so many hours with them each week I really don't desire to hang with them all the time outside of that. I figured being at a large public university I'd be able to connect with grad students in other departments that might be older, so I gave that a whirl. Unfortunately most of the people I came across were still either much younger or just living a completely different life being married with kids. I then chose to take my social life completely off campus and am happy I did. I signed up for every things to do in this city list I could find, picked up all the free local papers, volunteered, and joined meetup groups to force myself to attend a few things each week whether I felt like it or not. I did things I knew I like, tried things I'd never heard of, and gave things I previously felt hohum about another shot. I wouldn't say I have close friends yet and that's ok. But I do have people that when I see them out I can hang with them and it isn't weird or we can and do text each other to exchange invites. The best part is most of the people I've met are not in school so I'm not constantly sucked into school stuff. After having been in the working world I definitely appreciate the variety in my social life and don't want to feel like I can't ever get a break from school. I also head out of town during school breaks to visit family and friends I haven't seen awhile because there is nothing like being surrounded by people who know you well. As for dating, this too I've taken completely off campus because I just don't want that kind of drama in what I consider my workplace. Depending on the type of person (LGBT, other race/ethnicity, specific religion, etc) you wish to date there may be limited choices based on the region of the world your program is in. Also if you wish to date someone your age or older they may have assumptions about grad students that make dating harder such as you must have bad finances, you'll struggle to get a job when you graduate, your degree will take 10 years, you lack direction or something is wrong with you if you're this old and doing this, you don't have time to date, etc. I personally just mention the general industry I'm in until it seems like I may want to get to know a guy better, then he can have more specific details. Otherwise its just like dating when you work full time. Sometimes its fun and other times it really sucks lol.
  30. 3 points

    2018 Applicants

    That's a great way to put it, @klader If you need a peer-ear to bounce ideas off, feel free to holler my way! Congrats, @Keri - that's fantastic news!
  31. 3 points
    Actually, this sounds exactly like a SOP description to me...just in different words. When you really parse what they're asking for, it's the same as what pretty much every program is asking for: why are you interested in what you're interested in, what you plan to do in the future etc. I don't want to be too cavalier about it, since it's your top choice program, but my gut tells me that you'll be fine using your standard SOP format with a few minor tweaks as necessary. I suspect they make a distinction between what they're calling it and a "personal statement," because the latter can sometimes tend toward biographical life story etc. (such as in some programs that ask for both a "personal statement" and a "statement of purpose."). So they want an SOP, not a personal statement (ignoring for the moment the many programs that consider the two documents one and the same... )
  32. 3 points

    Dealing with Self-Doubt

    You're not struggling with self-doubt but with a toxic situation. Some people in your program has systematically worked to destroy your self worth and that isn't right. I too would advise you to seek a therapist to help you handle the emotional fall-out of this situation and help you strengthen your ability to deal with horrible people. Also, can you find any allies outside of your department? Maybe you don't need to tell them about what's going on, but you can build a circle of peers with no affiliation to your field to give you some breathing space.
  33. 3 points

    Programs strong in Marxist study?

    @Mason.Jennings Nancy Fraser is there, who alone makes it worth a while to study theory there in my opinion. They have historically been a critical theory program. Deva Woodly who does Theory + American is really strong up and coming young scholar, I heard her speak several times. Ross Poole teaches Marx there as well (as does Fraser, and a lot of other faculty members incorporate him into their syllabi and their work). Rafi Youatt does some interesting stuff on posthumanism. So people-wise, they are really good. But in the interest of full disclosure, New School is also known for having terrible funding packages. So honestly, unless you have really good savings and are willing to burn through them, I wouldn't recommend going there. CUNY Grad Center might be a better alternative, funding wise, as they have fellowships which are decent (for NY even Columbia's funding sucks, and funding for all PhD programs sucks in general, but that's another matter). CUNY Grad Center has some amazing people, also few top Marx & critical theory people. Corey Robin is arguably the best-known young Marxist in theory, currently writing a book on the political theory of capitalism. Susan Buck-Morss, one of the most famous Frankfurt School theory scholars (together with Benhabib) is also there, from Cornell where she raised an entire generation of critical theorists. Jack Jacobs teaches Marx regularly. Also some other folks, in theory and outside, who'd be very happy to accommodate your research interests. Some other big names that might not be as close to your research interest but are there: Uday Mehta, Carol Gould, and Alyson Cole. Btw, biggest New York city universities (plus Princeton and Rutgers in Jersey, and Stony Brook upstate) have this thing called Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, which is a great. It allows you to take classes at other schools. So going to CUNY Grad for example still doesn't preclude you from studying with Nancy Fraser. That being said, I do think it is important to put a big caveat in front of all this for prospective grads: tenure-track jobs are indeed disappearing and academia is a very precarious endeavor. I'm not one of those people who thinks TT jobs are the only reason you should pursue a PhD, but it is a reality that many people are. So be aware of that. However, when people tell you to "go study Marx elsewhere" and then mention disciplines like Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Comp Lit, or whatever - they aren't really solving anything because: 1) Tenure track jobs are perhaps even harder to come by in these disciplines. It is just the current state of academia, especially humanities (and humanities-like fields such as poli theory). 2) There are broadly two ways of studying & using Marxian theory in poli theory today: history of poli thought (exegesis) or contemporary theory (critical theory of some sort that builds on Marx, but others as well). If you choose the former, then getting a placement will be equally hard as if you were studying Hobbes, or Locke, or Mill, or whomever from the cannon. Also, you will have to connect it with recent literature, other thinkers, find an innovative reading/approach to it, and show its pertinence for current issues. This is no small task. If you choose the latter, there is a bunch of critical theorists (of all stripes and colors) in the US academia (top 10 and below) which you can study with. My overall point being - studying Marx in poli theory today is perfectly fine. The problem is not with Marx as a figure, the problem is in poli theory & similar fields, that are in precarious position with this neoliberalization of higher education. 3) This brings me to my last point here. The issue I have with people telling you not to study Marx "because you won't find a job" is that it most often serves as a tool to homogenize the discipline (or/and they simply don't know much about theory scholarship and scholars, as is the case in this thread, in my opinion). Not everyone wants to do liberal normative political theory that is 'the mainstream' (btw, there are people who approach Marxi and Marxist theory in a normative poli theory tradition as well, which only shows the wealth of approaches to Marx today). People have different aspirations and interests. And once you show people who say that that there are a lot of people working on these 'Other' topics as well, they quickly revert to: "well you won't find a job in theory anyway". So just be mindful that the entire discussion above about Marx (in this case) in political theory today is not really the problem of Marx per say, as you can study him with a lot of scholars in all sort of "top 10" or below programs, but with political theory itself (& academia overall today). If you're ok with that, and accept the risks, rock on buddy - join the struggle
  34. 3 points

    Teacher's College 2017 Entry

    I really want to add to this. This is a very important point. Many of you have already decided on/against TC, but this may be helpful for prospectives going forward. Examine your learning style. If lecture works best for you, TC (and most education schools) may not be the place for you. If you have a STEM background, you'll probably be allergic to all the discussion and sharing. You're simply not used to it. Personally, I saw minimal value in all the opinions/talking. In some courses, getting people to talk was like pulling teeth. In other courses, you wished some people would just stay silent. HOWEVER, I think "sharing" is emblematic of most ed schools today. And, if you're in MST, there's going to be far less discussion than in other departments. I took as few discussion courses as possible. I made HEAVY use of independent studies; I worked one-on-one with the head of my department--a sage in science and sci ed (~3 semesters). I also worked with an instructor in the art department focusing on creative technologies (~2 semesters). Get creative and construct the curriculum that works best for you! One good thing about TC is that you're not confined to departments or traditional courses. My home department within MST is Tech & Media (with significant work in SciEd and ArtEd). Right now, I'm working on my thesis. I'm on my way out. I have to say: I had a great experience here. As both a prospective & as a first year, I spoke to 2nd year students who recommended specific professors. So, I always signed up for the best. I got my (high paying) part-time job last year from my department's network. I got another part-time job (on campus/in my department) the following term working with a professor. I'm launching my full-time/post-grad job search using contacts from campus job fairs and our department's network. So far, so good. This is why you pay for TC. Yeah, it's stingy...with a capital "S". No, all things are NOT roses here (there are some boring classes, some crummy students, some crummy teachers). If you choose to come here, you need to do so with your eyes open & talk to your "elders" to help you navigate this place and make the most of it. Beyond applying aggressively for fellowships and grants, you can't do anything about the money. But, with a head's up, you can avoid the crummy classes and take the good ones. With creativity, you can fulfill your elective requirement with classes outside of TC (I took more science across the street; some people take business classes) and independent studies in other departments (or your own). In my department, your part-time job or internship can count for credit, if you don't get paid. Look into all options. If you're in MST, for example, you can join a lab. If you're in any department, you can do research with a professor. TC is a huge school. It's easy to get lost in the sauce, especially if you're part-time. There are people here who are quite dissatisfied (understandably so). There are also folks who are quite happy (very possible with a little "elbow grease"). This place really is what you make of it. Note: This is my second grad degree; I'm not sure I would've been as adept at navigating TC if I had enrolled fresh out of my small, liberal arts college. Good luck to all!
  35. 3 points

    When and how to contact POIs

    Bump to @nhhistorynut's post, and a response to the quoted bit above: professors who take the time to write back – even a short, generic response – are the kind of people you want to work with. Don't buy the argument that professors get too much email and therefore hate getting emails from lowly prospective students. Everyone gets too much email. Professors who care about pedagogy write you back – maybe not right away, but they write you back. Those are the people you want to learn from.
  36. 3 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    Just fair warning, and I learned this the hard way this past year, but you should probably get used to that on here. Just my experience, FWIW. Don't take it personally. It will probably get much, much worse in the 2018 thread as time passes lol.
  37. 3 points
    Ah, so good to see a couple of replies to this one...I've been thinking about it as it lingered and languished here for a while, I suspect just because of how genuinely tricky this situation is. I was in a similar situation, and while I appreciate the other replies, I'd strongly suggest considering the prospect of taking turns with your degrees. Not a very sexy option, but it did work for me. My partner and I found the odds just too damn tough to deal with, even by focusing on similar schools and/or similar geographic areas; it was too hard not to envision the scenario in which one acceptance didn't align with the other acceptance - or the other non-acceptances - and in turn, that anxiety alone was too great to even begin us going down that route. By taking turns, you really turn the situation back into a one-step-at-a-time kind of approach. Granted, it is an early step, and it doesn't solve the later step of how to gain employment in the same geographic region. But that later step would be waiting for you in any case. If you're willing to take turns, one of you has to be willing to wait. That was me, the waiter, and I can tell you that it wasn't that bad. I waited 3 years, which gave me time to save up some money and really fine-tune my applications. Yes, there were times when I just really wanted to get moving on the process, but then again, I was moving on the process, if we spin things around to the positive light. In this way, one of the unfortunate aspects of higher degrees in this field, wherein one must be hyper-professionalized in order to gain entrance into a program that has traditionally been designed to impart the professional skills that one must already have, actually becomes an advantage: you get a crack at independent scholarship, and with a purpose and an end-game to boot. If you have a job, you also get money...the independent scholarship thus happens on nights and weekends, and so you don't really ever sleep, and viola! It's just like you're already in grad school with the silver lining that you're not totally broke! There are those who would see my optimism as forced or strained...the truth is, this is not an easy situation, and my proposed solution is not an easy fix. But it is a doable one. For those of a certain temperament, I actually think that it can galvanize two commitments at once, since you'd have to be truly in love with your partner as well as your scholarship to do something like this. And those commitments do get tested here - I view these as something like a long-distance relationship, which, for me, is like the last thing I'd ever want to attempt, or to wish on my enemies, yet sometimes there is simply a shortage of great options, in which case sucking it up and keeping the faith is about all you have to go on (in fact you can see through these comparisons that I'd rather wait on my dream than attempt long-distance from my partner, which in itself implies a hierarchy of my own personal priorities). But commitment is commitment, and if it's real on both counts, then you don't question it, you just do it. And hey, if it's not real on either count, then finding that out earlier rather than later is not such a bad thing, either. Whatever you choose, I wish you luck! Just know that it can work, and for my money one step at a time - literally - is what makes the difference. Both of you applying at the same time would literally be two steps at once, presuming you're a permanent unit who will go the full distance together, that is, degree, employment and beyond.
  38. 3 points

    How the heck do I write a personal statement?

    Is this a personal statement (which usually asks students to discuss their life experience, diversity, etc) or a statement of purpose? Assuming it is the latter, it may be helpful to think of the SOP as a cover letter for a job. No fluff about your childhood dreams, your burning desire to study literature, or a cutesy hook. Instead, be straightforward and professional because SOPs, like cover letters, are formulaic by nature. They start with a declaration of intent that succinctly describes your research and keywords, moves into your literary training and notable accomplishments, explains why your past experience undergirds your present research interests, and aligns your future goals with the strengths of the program under question. The ability to write a compelling narrative account of your research program and scholarly development is an important skill you'll use again and again in grant applications, self-evaluation portfolios, and of course, on the job market. It is the "highlight reel" that, like a good cover letter, convinces the reader they want to know more about the applicant and actually spend the time to peruse the writing sample. Hope this helps. (Note: there may be more flexibility in terms of MA program SOPs - this advice is geared toward PhD program admissions.)
  39. 3 points

    GRE "Splitters"

    I attend a public R1 institution, got 168 V but only 152 Q, and was accepted. At my school, I don't think there are any humanities-wide graduate fellowships for people with high overall GRE scores - everyone I know who got a special fellowship on top of the normal package got it thanks to special status (i.e. first generation college student, ethnic minority) or special history of community service/activism. I was told by the history dept. admissions officer that as long as you didn't totally bomb quant, they didn't really care how well you did on it, all that mattered was high verbal.
  40. 3 points

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    I know next to zilch about Chinese history, but I do know something about Chicago, having applied there last year. Chicago does not have a waitlist, so if you are unable to convince your POI that you will come if you are admitted, your chances of being admitted drop. When my POI asked me if Chicago was my top choice, I said, "one of my top choices." Later – after I'd been offered a funded masters instead of the PhD – she told me that the admissions committee didn't want to take the risk of admitting me, as they believed I had a good chance of accepting an offer from another program.
  41. 3 points

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    Actually, I am at Ohio State and I should correct some of your information, @telkanuru and give @VAZ an opportunity to consider. Our teaching load is actually lower than most of our peer programs. Teaching one's own course is optional but one gets paid the same as a TA in the same stage of the program. Students who claimed that they "had"/"were required" to teach their own courses are making victims of themselves. They tend to be those who just want to teach after finishing (not go to a research institution but to teach 4 courses/semester). They also prefer not to be working for a professor as a TA (i.e. they don't really want to be told how to teach but just try for themselves). In any event, the department chair recently instituted maximum of 2 semesters of Instructor of Record to help students focus on their dissertations and finish (students can get more if there's a real need for a particular course but that's not even guaranteed). That stipulation has worked to move people along in the past year. It is true that you do not need to teach so much in graduate school. Your job is to prove yourself as a scholar first and that means researching and publishing (and applying for monies). Also, undergrad demand has fallen (due to external economic pressures, it's not news) so a TA can be grading anywhere between 35 and 70 students. So if one gets luck with a small grading load, it's not all that bad. Most of our professors are very reasonable "bosses" and are mindful of students' need to complete coursework and dissertation. Finally, about the placement record. Our program does better with teaching institutions because of our strength in teaching. Also certain fields perform much better than others (European, African American, Asian, and Ottoman do the best) because of variable opportunities existing in those fields (top-notch professors, multiple funding opportunities). It is possible to get a job at a research institution if you can package your PhD program around research like peers at Michigan if you focus on being a TA and applying for tons of research grants/fellowships. Because of the department's longstanding connections to DC, we also place our graduates in the that area with comfortably salaries. Our placement rate is excellent because of the diverse paths that our graduates have taken. For academic jobs, it's honestly no better than most programs (roughly 50% overall). I should also point out that we have very generous summer funding which one applies for each year. Without a car, our living stipend is quite reasonable for Columbus. I'm happy to discuss details via PM.
  42. 3 points


    My unsolicited advice for people applying in comparative: Definitely apply to a couple boutique programs (top 20 programs preferably, but perhaps top 30ish as well, that are strong in your area/interests) but definitely target the top 10 departments. As long as you have good area training coming in and are competitive against top applicants, a top 10 department with potentially less of a fit is more ideal than a really good fit at a lower ranked department. You do not need a large number of people working closely on your area and/or interests to make it work. You never know what will happen, might as well try to bat for the fences. So for the OP, apply to some places like Indiana and Wisconsin, but you should really be shooting for places like Stanford, Michigan, Yale, and Columbia if you are competitive enough to have a shot there.
  43. 3 points

    Writing a new writing sample

    Everything written so far is fantastic advice - I just want drop a quick line in case my experiences can further help you, @lit_nerd. I'm assuming you're applying to both PhDs and MAs (if I'm wrong, I apologize) - as others here have noted, the PhDs are going to want to see a dialogue between the two, but (from my lived experience) MA programs are less concerned with seeing a nuanced and rich dialogue between a powerful SOP and WS than with seeing two (perhaps not totally connected) pieces of writing that are strong and interesting and demonstrative of your growth potential. Case in point, I submitted for my 1st round of apps a WS on Joyce and psychoanalysis (weird paper) and a SOP that was vague everywhere except in its dogged love for the unfashionable field of literary trauma studies (even weirder than the WS), and I was accepted to two MA programs. While my materials didn't speak to one another in any sort of direct way and weren't strong enough to get me into a PhD, they did get me a step closer. And there's nothing wrong with taking the MA as time to continue growing - I'm so, so, so glad I did, and I can recommend a fully-funded MA program to look at (if you're interested.) I believe, too, that someone here (I'm sorry I can't recall who said this) suggested that if you REALLY love this WS you're submitting, you shape you SOP around it. I think that is a idea well-worth considering. If you know you can write intelligently and easily on a certain topic, it's sort of pragmatic to "pick" that topic to spend 5-7 years working on. I am not suggesting, of course, that you pick a topic that's not actually what you love. I'm more trying to say that, as a PhD, you'll be able to work with all the professors in the department (probably), freely apply to whatever conferences catch your eye, and shape your studies in a way that works for you. Thus, provided you speak a little toward your multiple areas of interest, you can perhaps make the bridge between these two areas during your studies (as opposed to within your application materials) - however, I'm not a PhD, so others here will know more about exactly how much wiggle room you'll have upon arrival. Finally, I think somewhere on here the question of submitting multiple papers appeared - my only advice for that is, if you do it, alert your LWs and make sure they know what paper is going where. One of my previous LWs spoke about my WS in her recommendation and I'm guessing other profs do that, too. It'd be super awkward to have a LOR bragging about Paper A when you submitted Paper B (I'm sure you've already thought this out, but I had to say it.) Finally, finally - there is a safety to sticking with a paper that someone else has seen (perhaps multiple times) - you might have more room to get more nuance, simply because you've been able to step away and come back more than you would with a brand new sample.
  44. 3 points
    Okay, I'll voice the possibly less popular opinion. Your responsibility is to yourself. You don't have to stay with him and you are not responsible for getting him better or for educating him. You need to take care of yourself. If you do decide you want to try and stay, I think it's of utmost importance to get support from others. Can you involve his family? friends? do you have a support system around you to take care of you, if you need it? If he wasn't always like this, something must have triggered this, and maybe you can help him through it. Whatever it is, though, you shouldn't do it alone, and you shouldn't let him take it out on you. This sounds like a situation that requires professional help. I know that posting here was probably already hard enough, so maybe the next step is for you to find counseling on your own, maybe through your school, before you think about talking to him. Figure out your resources and support network, then come up with a plan to confront him. I hope that there is no fear of physical violence, but if there is, let me repeat again: your responsibility is to yourself first. Make sure that you are safe, and take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. If that means you need to leave him, I think that's totally understandable and no one from the outside can judge. And if you choose to stay and try and fix it, again I hope that no one will judge and that you can find the help you need.
  45. 3 points

    How to narrow field of interest?

    Serious question: if you don't know what kind of history you're interested in studying, why are you applying to grad school to study history? Sounds to me like it might be useful to take some time off, have some other experiences outside school, and apply to grad school when you have a clearer sense of what you want to do.
  46. 2 points
    Don't be silly. This isn't some regimented conversation that we have to conduct in logical notation to avoid ambiguity. That's clearly not what Duns Eith was saying. Besides which, the reality is that many of our social interactions--especially the early steps of a social interaction--are largely governed by convention, and as members of the same culture we're governed by roughly the same conventions. So there is a fairly uniform reason why grocery clerks greet you in the checkout line by asking how you're doing today, to say nothing of why the rest of us non-clerks start conversations that way. Asking a student what their post-degree plans are--and asking by saying "what are you gonna do with that?"--is just another way of initiating chit-chat. I personally think it's about as silly as asking a child what she wants to "be" when she grows up, but it doesn't take a towering intellect to see that it's a conventional move in a chit-chat context. No big deal.
  47. 2 points
    Setting aside whether or not you "should" have one for now, you should know that if you do not want your information listed, you could and should ask whomever manages this information to remove your info. There are plenty of reasons why a person might choose to eliminate this information. For example, maybe a student does not want someone to be able to figure out where they are living/working/studying now. If you are at a US school, FERPA generally considers things like your name as "Directory Information" which means that by default, they are able to publish this without asking consent each time as long as they have informed you what information counts as "Directory Information". However, you have the right to ask your school to not publish any of the Directory Information. If you are in another country, look for similar privacy laws. Now onto whether or not you "should" have one. My opinion is that unless you are worried for your own safety, there is no reason to hide your membership in this department. It's generally in our favour, as academics, to be more visible and noticeable. So, if someone does meet you at a conference, they can search for you and/or your contact information. As for your concern that you might change supervisors, topics, etc....well first, these things are very normal occurrences. Second, to be honest, when you're a new grad student, you're not very well known yet so it is very unlikely anyone will be tracking your profile page closely enough to even notice that you have changed those things. Still, if you don't want anything written down until your 3rd year, you can just not provide the information or keep it very very vague!
  48. 2 points

    What kind of history do you prefer to write?

    I'm a themes and theories person. I had a hard time picking just one lol. I specialize in race relations, so theme-based and theory-based research/scholarship are equally relevant and useful. I'd add, too, that I avoid "great man" histories because they don't really interest me very much.
  49. 2 points

    How the heck do I write a personal statement?

    Think of the SOP as being the thread that, in writing, ties all your materials together. As was stated by hj2012, they're not going to spend a ton of time reading everyone's 20-pg writing sample (probably)-- so convince them to. I started my SOP by giving a summary of my M.A. thesis (which was my writing sample), then had a paragraph talking about what my research interests are (how they related to my writing sample, and what I wanted to continue studying in the future), then had a few paragraphs explaining how my prior education and work experience made me qualified for a program, and how my research interests developed, then ended with a short paragraph about why I was applying to that specific program. Look into programs a bit, and mix in your "real" reasons with some other ones. Do the classes look interesting? Do they have a good reputation for getting MA students into PhD programs? It's like applying to a job-- even though you're applying because you need to pay your rent, you also have to sound like you know a bit about the place and there's SOMETHING about it that's interesting to you. Feel free to also say, "I plan on pursuing my PhD, and X program seems like it will provide me with the mentorship and skills needed to succeed further in academia." Don't worry about this being a place where you are writing something especially "new." Cover letters may catch an employer's interest with their content, but they're certainly not something that's ever "fun" to read-- and as hj2012 said... this basically is a cover letter.
  50. 2 points
    Well, if you need to fulfill prereqs that you don't have and you've already finished your degree, there's not much else you can do than make those prereqs up by attending extra classes. You can explain the extra classes in your SOP, even spin it to show commitment. I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about things you can't change.