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About jrockford27

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  1. Have a strong scholarly writing sample, a high GPA, acceptable GRE scores, and a personal statement that articulates why you will be a good fit and why you have the potential to produce good research someday and why you'll be a valuable member of the department. If you haven't produced a substantive research paper to use as a writing sample, I would recommend getting together with a Lit/Comp Rhet professor you're thinking of asking for a letter of rec and talking through a paper, and seeing if they'll give you notes on your drafts. Auditing couldn't hurt, since they'll want to see you've completed some substantive coursework (if you haven't already). I was accepted to my top choices without any publications, and without any conference presentations other than undergraduate conferences. I've seen little to indicate that these are all that important to adcoms - if they expected you to be a finished scholar you wouldn't need a PhD. Though every program is definitely different, and your mileage may vary. My program is (as I understand it) very well regarded in rhet-comp and has admitted a number of rhet-comp students with MFAs in CW but no scholarly publications. However, I'll second the comment that "I want PhD in English" and "I want to improve my job prospects" are not especially consonant aspirations!
  2. Relax. Don't buy in to the culture of not only claiming a 70 hour work week, but masochistically wearing it as a badge of honor. Settle into habits of work and mind that allow you to accomplish what you want to get done. Measure your work by its quality, not the amount of time you can claim you spent on it. Set realistic goals. Take on manageable levels of department of service while learning when to say "no". Stay connected to people around you. Attend talks that have nothing to do with your dissertation. Cultivate hobbies that have nothing to do with your dissertation. Read books that have nothing to do with your dissertation. Remember that a PhD is just one part of the life that you're living and that other things are also part of your life. Don't let your PhD become your entire life. Recognize that the system is designed in such a way as to make you feel perpetually behind and that the people who don't feel behind or under pressure are probably posturing. Remember that you're not an impostor, you were accepted to your program because they believe in your potential. Exercise. Drink plenty of water. Eat nutritious food. Sleep when it's time. Most of all, if your program offers you good health insurance or a counseling center - avail yourself of therapy when you need it - or perhaps before you need it.
  3. I think this speaks to one of the problems I indicated about these types of ratings up thread. It's difficult to know how much knowledge anyone taking these surveys has of what the English department at a particular university encompasses. However, I wouldn't let it dissuade you. People in the know, people who will make hiring decisions, will likely know these types of things.
  4. I once had a member of the faculty at my school tell me that they're suspicious of freshly minted PhDs with too many publications. It's hard to believe, they argue, that a PhD student with voluminous record of peer reviewed and edited publications could possibly producing quality content across the board. Also, ditto what Bumblebea said. It's also worthwhile to consider that one reason people at brand-name PhD programs are able to publish a lot more because they typically teach a lot less. Right now, I project I'll finish my diss in about 25 months - but if I get a non-teaching fellowship, I'd bet I can crank it out in more like 18. Teaching load really matters that much. While some schools fall over themselves for the brand, other potential employers may value someone who has designed and taught a number of classes and can hit the ground running as an instructor.
  5. On the one hand, a subjective peer survey has some merit, in the sense that people aren't hired based on hard math, they're hired based on perception. On the other hand, English departments are often sprawling huge entities, often among the largest programs in a university. Often times English departments bundle together comp-rhet/literature/film/etc. under a single umbrella. A school may be very highly regarded in one and less so in the other, and people in the concentration area who make hiring decisions will recognize that, but it may not necessarily appear in the rankings. And on still a third hand, as someone above astutely pointed out, high ranking and name recognition often correlate with strong placement, but not always. Placements may also often have less to do with how well known your department is than how well known your adviser is. So while I'm sure it probably feels good to be rated highly, those of us attending programs in the dirty thirties don't need to get too down on ourselves.
  6. I got shut out my first time around (7 or 8 apps). It doesn't mean your work isn't good or valuable, it just means it wasn't what a few particular adcoms were looking for this year. Take a break, cultivate your other interests for awhile, and get a new set of eyes on your materials in a couple of months. it worked for me!
  7. I was shut out completely the first year I applied. I took a couple of months to brush myself off, poured myself into other interesting things, took a night job as a karaoke host at a neighborhood bar. It really hurts, it was absolutely devastating, but it's important to remember that a rejection is not reflective of your worth as a scholar or as a person. Oftentimes it's as capricious as who happens to be on the adcom that year. If the committee assignments in the department had been meted out differently, you might be in at your dream school. Instead a person who dislikes your subfield was on the adcom and you find yourself out. It really can be that simple. When it got back around to June, I started looking at the app process from different angles. Consulted with my letter writers. Looked at other schools I hadn't even previously thought of because I wasn't perhaps looking at my work in the right way. I found two programs that I hadn't even really considered before because I wasn't looking at programs for the right reasons that turned out to be dream schools. I got into one, where I'm at now, and was waitlisted at the other, and had a couple of other admittances to boot. The point is, it's difficult, but don't let a year of rejections discourage you from your ultimate goal. Take another year to cultivate yourself and your interests, and also take a couple of months not thinking about application B.S., which will give you a fresh set of eyes when you start the process again come May or June.
  8. I was waitlisted at Vanderbilt a few years ago, and as I recall, I was going through that particular stress pretty late in February, after I'd heard from most of the other programs I'd applied to.
  9. Ha, it seems like a century ago now that I wrote it, but the topic was on the interplay between films in stabilizing or destabilizing the cultural memory of the Vietnam war in the United States. Relied heavily on Althusser and an intransigently modernist conception of both national identity and opposition. Six and a half years later I'd be a bit embarrassed if I had to read it again. It involved Apocalypse Now, Rambo, and No Country For Old Men as principal texts. As I think frequently happens when folks go straight to PhD from undergrad, I'm worlds away from the subject matter now, and the argument was exceptionally vulgar. But I think something that a lot of folks forget when applying to grad school is that if you already knew everything you were supposed to know, if you were already a brilliant fully developed scholar, you wouldn't need to be in a PhD program. What seemed to matter most to the program was not whether I was already a real smart well-read guy (I was certainly not), but whether I seemed like I could find an interesting trajectory given time, mentorship, and resources. My program director said to me the other day that he was really surprised, in a good way, about the direction I ended up going. Every program differs, but I don't think a writing sample needs to be a ready-to-publish, immaculately conceived and executed document that provides a segue directly to your dissertation. It should show them something about you and what kind of scholar you would like to be.
  10. For programs that allowed longer samples, I used the first and third chapters of my undergrad honors thesis. The first to give an idea of my theoretical chops, and the third because I felt it best represented my critical capacity, research interests (at the time), analytic skills, and my scholarly voice. For programs that limited the size of the writing sample I simply used the third chapter, because I felt the latter issues were more important in terms of establishing my fit in a program. I included a very brief explanatory note that summarized the gaps associated with using excerpts from a larger piece.
  11. One of my recommenders told me that "as long as you're over 3.8 it doesn't make a difference."
  12. I went straight from BA, but I am in a PhD program where we have students from a wide variety of masters programs - from household name type programs to schools you may never have heard of. My fiancé is doing a humanities PhD as well, and took an unfunded masters. And without commenting in too much detail, I'll echo what others have said and say only this: go where there's funding. While you can no doubt do really good work and receive brilliant training with great people at an unfunded MA program with a household name, you'll really want to think about what your life will be like when you can no longer take deferments on your loans.
  13. The DGS may not necessarily be on the adcom, but the DGS is definitely going to be more engaged and informed regarding current grad students, who their advisers/committees are, what they're working on, as well as important deadlines. They may be helpful in directing you to graduate students who share your interests or who work with your POIs. While the chair isn't going to be totally uninformed on these things, I think we can often forget that day to day they supervise the undergrad program, staff, tenure faculty, non-tenure faculty, and other administrative stuff. As a grad student, you may go through your program and have little interaction with the chair.
  14. I currently attend one of the programs on your list and nothing you've said here would keep you out. My GRE quantitative was very pedestrian (64th pct'l) and my degree was in English lit, I had only a BA with undergraduate conferences on my CV. Don't get too psyched out, if you've made a strong case for fit that's what truly matters if you've got the prerequisites in place (and it seems you do).
  15. I'm an MN native, did my undergrad at UMN, and lived in the neighborhood a couple of years thereafter. Como sounds like a fine neighborhood for you. You might also look at the Marcy Holmes neighborhood on the other side of I-94 from campus, I lived there, and it has many single family homes, parks, playgrounds and even an open enrollment elementary school. Como and Marcy are both fairly affordable.