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jrockford27

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About jrockford27

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    Double Shot

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  • Program
    English/Film

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  1. Teaching something like freshman comp right off the bat on your own isn't terribly unusual in PhD programs (especially at very large, public universities). The dept. will probably give you a week long workshop of some kind to get you ready, but frankly, you learn to teach by teaching and the best way to do it is to give you a bit of prep then turn you loose. No amount of training workshops can simulate the contingencies of a real classroom anyway. While it may seem odd to learn this sort of thing on the job, I can't imagine a training program that would really make you "ready" to step into your own classroom. After all, every classroom is different and poses unique challenges. In my program we're fortunate enough to get fellowships our first year, and then begin teaching the second year. Our TAships are a 1/1 with summer teaching offered third and fourth and occasionally fifth year as demand/enrollments dictate. I honestly can't imagine doing more than a 1/1 as a grad student, but I'm sure folks find a way to make it work. Here you start off doing freshman comp, then you TA for a large lecture in your specialty, before then being turned loose to make your own Intro-to type courses in your later years. Summer classes offer opportunities to teach self-designed required and elective major courses.
  2. A 2/2 as a grad student sounds crazy. I have a hard time getting around to my own work on a 1/1. Proceed with caution. Ultimately, placement should be the tiebreaker though.
  3. If I understand your meaning, I don't think should be a problem. Many landlords in college towns are probably already renting their August 1 move-in spaces and so if you simply put the deposit down now you should be good to go.
  4. This was probably the most stressful aspect of "the summer before" for me, trying to rent a place I thought I could afford, sight unseen. It is not easy, and will always entail some anxiety and uncertainty. I'll try to wrack my brain for advice.. 1. Don't always believe the hype on Yelp etc. about landlords/rental management companies. My unscientific opinion is that usually the only people who are inclined to review their landlord are terribly aggrieved and disgruntled outliers. You're unlikely to find a rental company you can afford on a stipend that has better than 2 stars, and tales of roaches and other vermin and collapsing ceilings, mold, and trespassing employees will abound! This will only serve to stress you out. Frankly, I rent from one of those 2 star companies with a litany of horror stories on their yelp page, and while it hasn't been perfect, it's been fine. Ditto other grads I know who rent from allegedly "shady" rental companies (if Yelp is to be believed). On the money we make, nothing is going to be perfect, so don't get lured in by the horror stories, it will stifle your search. 2. If you're so-inclined you could ask a current grad student if they'd be willing to check out a place for you, or at least vouch for it. See who is on your department's Grad Student Organization (or equivalent group) board - these people are usually inclined to be helpful. Bear in mind these are also people who have probably been in this situation and understand how stressful it is. Always ask a current graduate student or two about the neighborhoods - how convenient they are to campus, how affordable and practical they are on a stipend, and anything else that matters to you. Oftentimes GSOs have Facebook groups where available rooms, or people switching apartments let others in the program know. Which brings me to my next advice... 3. Consider renting a room/attic or a sublet your first year. At the very least, if you end up in a bad situation it shouldn't cost you as much as renting a place on your own. My guess is that other programs, like mine, have a few "houses" that are generally rented by multiple students in the program. I personally lucked into renting a very nice attic apartment from an older couple my first year. 4. You may need to live further from campus than you originally dreamed. Housing near campuses is usually high demand and expensive (catering to faculty, administration, full time employees) or low quality undergrad oriented housing. Look for things that are close to public transit or bike lanes. That said, do not be lured out to the sticks by cheap rents, you'll hate yourself for it later. That's what I can think of now.
  5. I'd highly recommend getting living space pinned down early - very soon. Especially if you're departing for a "college town", the good, affordable places become quite scarce if you wait until summer to rent and it becomes a complete landlord's market. Figure out your moving expenses as well and set up a plan for getting out of town. Independent study syllabi should go to whomever the DGS is I imagine. In the department I'm in they're usually evaluated and approved by a committee chaired by the DGS. Recommendation, get in touch with your cohort early, or make contact with current students in the program. Especially if you're arriving a few weeks before classes start. I arrived in town around August 1 and felt pretty isolated for a few weeks before things started happening.
  6. Tread carefully if you are considering dog ownership in grad school. While my partner and I wouldn't trade our little mutt for anything now, he definitely complicates our work schedules.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.