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Old Bill

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Everything posted by Old Bill

  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. Twiddle your thumbs Binge-watch a show on Netflix / AmazonPrime / Hulu Check GradCafe once an hour Do distance searches on GoogleMaps between your current residence and each of your desired programs Find out when your desired programs' Admitted Students days are and check flight or drive options Get super invested in a video game (online or otherwise) Re-read the Harry Potter series (because of course we've all read it at least once) Take up knitting Take up jogging Take up mud wrestling Get a massage Buy a crossword or sudoku book and immerse yourself in words or numbers Make mix CDs or playlists, and really think about how songs can go together Buy a cheap musical instrument and teach yourself to play Spend quality time with a dog, whether it's a friend's, a neighbor's, a family member's, or your own Do the above with a cat and pretend it's reciprocal Make lists of favorites - favorite books, movies, TV shows, songs, albums, potato chips - and share them with friends Create spreadsheet inventories of your books and other media Do a serious top-to-bottom cleaning of your room / apartment / home Go to a local coffee shop for an hour a day and imagine yourself as someone from a different walk of life each time ... By no means an exhaustive list, and mostly tongue-in-cheek...but feel free to add to it!
  3. 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!
  4. I think a username change is in order!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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...
  9. 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!
  10. Congratulations!! Based on the two threads you created, I think this was the best option for you and Summer!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. So damn happy for you!!!
  14. It's the final countdown, folks -- good luck to those of you still waiting on waitlist movements today!!
  15. Exactly! If anything proves that rejections are truly "nothing personal," it's this.
  16. It's educational!
  17. It's a tough call. Were you assured of funding at Georgetown (as opposed to just a tuition waiver, which is still a major boon), I would say Georgetown hands down. There are no rankings for MA programs, of course, but if there were, I wouldn't be surprised if Georgetown was ranked quite high. Being in the greater D.C. area, I hear nothing but great things about their program, and I also hear occasional whispers that they might be getting a Ph.D. program in the not-too-distant future. D.C. is a very expensive city, however. It's not New York or San Francisco...but it's not far behind. You'll almost certainly need to have a roommate (or multiple) regardless of whether you get funding over and above your tuition remission. Of course, in D.C. you also have the Folger, the Library of Congress, the various Smithsonians, and pretty much any highfalutin resource imaginable. And you can likely take courses out of GWU, Catholic University, UMD, and others if you're so inclined. I'm not trying to steer you toward Georgetown, but since I know the city and know the program's reputation, I can definitely say that it could be a great option!
  18. UMD did the same thing this year -- they wanted to reduce the cohort size and raise the stipend a bit, as I understand it. As far as I know, they only took (and waitlisted) Medievalist Ph.D. candidates, and no Renaissance folks. (I think they took a Renaissance M.A. student, however). Realistically, even though it meant that I didn't get in to the doctoral program at UMD, it probably makes sense, given the shrinking job market and how low the stipends are. That being said, there are quite a few Renaissance profs at UMD, so they could likely have borne the numbers if it weren't for the desired size of the cohort.
  19. Huzzah to a fellow long-time early modernist GCer getting great news!
  20. Aaaah! I'm anxious (!) for you! Fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes crossed for you! Such a nerve-wracking time, even as an observer -- I hope this thread explodes with happy posts in the next three days!
  21. Minor, half-hearted vent here, but I dislike it when you either take yourself off of a waiting list, or turn down your offer of admission, only to receive an email several days or weeks later telling you that you have been rejected! I want to respond like Coriolanus to Rome, shouting "I banish you!" I know it's just an administrative blurp, but it's a point of pride, dammit!
  22. Happy to be of help, Khaleesi.
  23. My additional two cents is to hone your "skim" skills. This test does not favor slow readers, and downright discourages the kind of critical reading that we're expected to do in our day-to-day coursework and research. You need to be able to skim long passages and glean the pertinent information as quickly as possible. If you're already a fast reader, you have an advantage. Otherwise, you could know literally every single passage and still do poorly if you can't extract the necessary information swiftly. Remember: you have 160 minutes to answer 230 questions, and you don't need to be a math major to know that that means roughly 40 seconds per question. Completely filling in a bubble on the scoresheet takes 4-5 seconds alone. In other words, it's best if you approach the test not as you would a standard literature exam, or even as you would a standard multiple choice quiz; approach it like speed trivia, but with a broad literary bent. For what it's worth, I've taken the test twice. I actually enjoyed the content of the test itself, because I like literary trivia...but timing is the real beast, and when you remember that the test costs a couple hundred dollars to take, and is highly valued by a few key programs, it's not nearly as "fun." ETA: Also for what it's worth, the Princeton book is almost worthless at this point. The test has changed enough so that the advice provided in that book is only slightly relevant, and some of the strategies they discuss will actually hurt you with how the test is administered these days.
  24. Way to go! Cornell is fantastic in every way (save, perhaps, for navigating the roads in winter...). Try to seek out Gary Slack, who is a former UMD grad who is finishing his first year of a Ph.D. there -- he's not in your era, but he's a wonderful guy. Salt of the earth.
  25. You're not an idiot for considering turning down UA (hard decisions have to be made!), but as with your other post from a week or two ago, it still seems like UA is your best option. Also in that thread, @Ramus mentioned how he was accepted to OSU, UMD (and elsewhere, I believe) with an MA from UA, and that one of his peers got into Yale. Honestly, at the Master's level, your program is important, but doesn't seem to be as important as what you do within that program. UA isn't the University of Winesburg, Ohio, after all -- it's known, recognizable, and reasonably reputable. Again (again!!), rankings don't apply to M.A. programs, and when you're applying to Ph.D. programs in a couple of years, the program itself is going to be noticed, but isn't going to matter much when adcoms start reading your SOP, WS, LORs etc. Prove it. Seriously. Have you delved into UA's M.A.-to-Ph.D. placement numbers, or are you just wowed by what you've uncovered at Purdue? Yes. At this point, I think you are denigrating UA far too much, making it sound like it's a dead-end institution with no future career prospects. That's really not the case! Purdue is great (though its recent reputation is based on its strength in rhet-comp), but if UA has great professors and great courses that fit your interests, that matters a heck of a lot. I can't speak to the career vs. relationship dynamic, because the ratio is different for everyone...but as was mentioned by myself and others in your earlier thread, don't underestimate the importance of a support system. Since your girlfriend is also in a similar boat in terms of academic pursuits, that kind of mutual empathy might be key. These things differ for everyone, of course, but don't discount the importance of a ready-made support system...