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Old Bill

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Old Bill last won the day on May 18

Old Bill had the most liked content!


About Old Bill

  • Rank
    Cup o' Joe
  • Birthday 08/19/1979

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
    Burtonsville, MD
  • Interests
    Early modern / Renaissance literature; book history; Shakespeare; historicism; other stuff...
  • Application Season
    Already Attending
  • Program
    Ph.D. in English at Ohio State

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  1. · A few weeks ago, I was asked to talk to first-year M.A. students about the Ph.D. application process. I prepared a list of what I figure to be key elements, and I figure it might be useful to many on GC who are preparing to go down this path as well. I'm quite certain that some of these points are purely subjective and open to discussion / debate, but having gone through the process a couple of times now, these items ring true based on my experiences and observations. ---------------- Others have surely told you about the state of the industry, so I’m just going to assume that you already know the “there are no jobs” spiel. · Others have also surely told you about how relatively difficult it is to get into a Ph.D. program—I have yet to hear of a program that admits over 10% of applicants. o Because of this, if you are committed to applying to Ph.D. programs, I strongly recommend considering applying to at least ten. Even though merit is a critical part of determining who gets in, there is a very real element of “luck of the draw” which pure numbers will help to mitigate. · With that in mind, NOW is a good time to get started on your program research · Your first consideration when entering the process should be to determine what era you would like to study, and ideally a general sense of methodologies you want to employ. These elements will be reflected in the two most important components of your application: the Statement of Purpose (or SoP), and your Writing Sample (WS). · Some basics: o The SoP and WS should ideally work together o When thinking about potential areas of study, avoid proposing transatlantic or transhistorical concepts: admissions committees are still very much set up by period, and your application should be easily sorted into a field group (i.e. you’re clearly a Romanticist, or you’re clearly a 20th century Americanist). o GRE scores, GPA, and other elements are important, but remember that the things you can control the most at this stage are the WS and SoP. o Given the importance of these two documents, you will want to get as many eyes on them as possible as soon as possible. § My SoP and WS were read and commented on by at least five professors and several fellow students, and ultimately went through at least six rounds of revision each—several of them top-to-bottom revisions. · There are multiple factors to consider when looking at programs. Some of the most important include: o Are there multiple professors actively working in your chosen field § I personally used a “rule of three”—if a program had three professors with significant research overlap with my interests, I would consider it. § By “active” I mean that you should be able to find publication credits from within the past five years—they need to be in touch with current scholarship. o What level of financial support do they offer—not just the annual funding, but whether they fund in summer, and how many years of funding are guaranteed o What courses have they offered in the past? What courses are they offering in the fall? o What is the teaching load like, and how do they prepare you for that load? o So-called rankings matter to a certain extent, but remember that those rankings are almost completely arbitrary. USNews rankings are helpful as a list of all programs offering Ph.D.s in English…and a very, very general sense of the strong programs vs. the less strong. But FIT with your interests trumps all. § (E.g. the Strode program at U of A is highly regarded, even though U of A itself is somewhat less so) o Location and cost of living. A 20k stipend will get you a lot further in Lincoln, Nebraska than in New York. And elements like small town vs. large city, cold vs. warm climate etc. are all perfectly valid factors when looking at programs. You’ll have to live in this place for 4-6 years, after all! · A few quick and random tips: o It can be helpful to contact professors ahead of time to determine research fit etc., but it can also be quite valuable to contact current grad students to get a sense of the program and the environment. o Remember that an important part of professionalization in a Ph.D. program is publication. More than anything, this means that before you go down the road toward application, give some serious thought to whether or not your writing and research inclinations have that kind of potential. And whether or not that’s something you really want to deal with at all. o Also remember that teaching is a huge part of your job, and always will be. If you don’t enjoy teaching (or the prospect of teaching), you’d better really love the other components of your position, because there’s not going to be any getting away from it for many, many years. o It might go without saying, but be very courteous in all of your communications with professors and other graduate students. And that courtesy should be sincere! o Consider the total cost of applications: application fees average about $75, sending GRE scores is $27 (more if you need the subject test), and if you have multiple transcripts, that can tack on another $10. In other words, each application will likely be upward of $100. Given that I recommend applying to at least ten programs, you’re looking at a commitment of over $1000. There ARE fee waivers you can find, however. o Forums like GradCafe are a good way to socialize with fellow applicants, and commiserate with people in the same situation. Just remember to take all advice you see on those forums with a grain of salt. o Finally, there are NO SAFETY SCHOOLS. Just to reiterate, rankings are arbitrary, and almost every program gets ten times as many applicants as they can admit (let alone fund). As a result, you want to look at the best overall fit for you.
  2. I think a username change is in order!
  3. Yes, I'm sure there have been! I was truly thinking of the English forum alone, though I should have said as much in my post. Either way, anyone who makes it through the entire process -- with or without GC! -- is worthy of acclaim. But the GC element warrants a wee bit more.
  4. Hey folks! I have it on good authority that long-time member @lyonessrampant will be defending her Ph.D. dissertation tomorrow. I might be wrong, but I believe that she is the only GCer who has gone through the entire process of grad school from start to finish, and remained active here on GC the whole time. Seriously, she started here in February of 2009. Some of you were likely in elementary school then! In that time, she has been one of the most helpful members here, being supportive of all, and being remarkably generous with her time (as evidenced by her oft-reposted campus visits post). If there were a "legacy" award for this forum, she would be its prime recipient! Because of the combination of her accomplishments and her illustrious tenure here on GC, I simply ask that you send good vibes her way for tomorrow's defense. She most certainly deserves it!
  5. I disagree with this. We all make sacrifices in relationships -- some big, some small. An understanding partner will "take the hit" sometimes to help the other out. I mentioned my former situation above, wherein I commuted 100 miles and my wife 50 miles to make things work. One of my friends, a second year Ph.D. student at UMD, commutes from Delaware three times per week -- his wife got into U of D last year, and it made the most sense for her to be close to campus (her field requires labs etc.), and have him drive 100 or so miles. He crashes at my place sometimes, and whenever we talk about it, he certainly doesn't love the commute, but there's not one iota of resentment toward his spouse because of their situation. This is just to say that it all depends on the kind of relationship you have. In some cases a long commute could be a relationship killer, but in others it's just one of the compromises you make for a better long-term situation.
  6. 1/1 means that you teach one section of a course in the fall, and one in the spring. 2/2 means that you teach two sections (or two courses) in the fall, and two in the spring. You can probably infer 2/1, 1/2, 3/3 etc. from there.
  7. This is pretty common. At OSU, you teach in your first semester if you come in with an M.A., unless you get a fellowship. I truly love teaching, and it's at least as important to me as research / writing, but I'm admittedly very grateful to not have to deal with teaching right away in a new program...
  8. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It falls under the umbrella of "it can't hurt to ask." I know of a few scenarios in which this has definitively worked out, and I know of at least one current situation where this is at least in the cards. Incidentally, when I did my undergrad, I was 100 miles from campus and my then-wife was 50 miles (in the other direction) from where she worked. We lived in a crappy apartment in a crappy little city, but we both commuted for two years, and it was definitely doable. I'm not sure if there is a suitably equidistant town between Davis and Frisco (sorry @hj2012, I had to), but I'm living proof that such a thing is a viable option!
  9. Congratulations!! Based on the two threads you created, I think this was the best option for you and Summer!
  10. I'm no Victorianist, so take this with several grains of salt...but I suspect that you'll be able to justify using Polish for your language exam. While it does not have any direct relevance to your studies, as you say, very few languages actually will to your period, so far as I'm aware. Latin would be the logical choice as a catch-all, but if all of your intended studies are in English, and you're not dealing with anything that vaguely touches on other source languages, taking a language exam in Polish would seem to make the most sense.
  11. Just adding my voice to say that I'm an early modernist, and my only language other than English is Spanish...which was taken in my first four semesters of undergrad. I have no Latin, no Italian...yet I got into a very good M.A. program two years ago, and a great Ph.D. program this cycle. Perhaps I would have had more success if I had more language training, but it obviously wasn't a big issue overall. That being said, I'm admittedly a bit anxious about learning Latin (or perhaps Italian) in a fairly short span of time, and if I'd had the time earlier, I would have liked to have taken a language course at some point. My point, however, is that it's likely not essential for application purposes, though it may help a little.
  12. So damn happy for you!!!
  13. It's the final countdown, folks -- good luck to those of you still waiting on waitlist movements today!!
  14. Exactly! If anything proves that rejections are truly "nothing personal," it's this.
  15. It's educational!