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Daisy123

Rejected from Everywhere- and applying again next year

51 posts in this topic

I'm also in the "Third Time's the Charm" club. Fit is the single most important element of your application, I have FINALLY realized that. But fit doesn't just mean fit within a program, it also means fit within current research paradigms. When I first began applying to PhD programs I was trying to get in to do Maya bioarchaeology. But the problem there is that, with a few exceptions, nobody wants to DO Maya bioarchaeology. Too Maya for the bioarchaeologists, too bioarchy for the Mayanists. So I had to realize that my interests simply did not have an audience in PhD programs. So I gained experience in bioarchaeology outside of the Maya context and stayed regionally non-specific in my SOPs, focusing instead on broader theoretical approaches. 

 

Everybody's right about letters, you should have no problem. And if you do secure a research assistant position, consider finding a letter writer there. My strongest letter was from my supervisor at work.

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I agree that fit is important, but after completing a second round of applications with only one offer, I feel like I also have learned a hard lesson about the application process and about the community of scholarship I am about to enter: anthropology is still holding onto certain ideas about disciplinarity, and what is and what is not anthropological. 

 

I've been in touch with a few POIs at places that rejected me (after interviews or in-person meetings) and I have gotten a lot of weird feedback that I feel isn't reflected very much on these boards. Fit IS important, and your SOP is largely the most important part of your application profile; however, multiple POIs have told me that committees have trouble warming to students without prior degrees in anthropology, and they are wary of (cultural) students with US-based projects. This obviously isn't a blanket statement, and I know for a fact some programs (like the one I will likely be attending) want students that work in the U.S. Similarly, plenty of places are willing to overlook a non-anthropology background for a fabulous project. 

 

But these are just two things to keep in mind. Do you want to work in the U.S.? I have been told I should have at least had an international comparative site in mind, if only to "make it more anthropological." Do you not hold a prior degree in anthropology? You better have some way to prove you're ready to do that work. And don't think a handful of courses and LORs from anthropologists (even big name ones) are enough to overcome an interdisciplinary background. You are still competing against a large pool of capable applicants who have those qualifications and more. It will take a Fulbright, considerable professional experience in your proposed project area, or a publication (or two, or three) in a major professional journal to make up for what is seen as a significant and glaring problem with your lack of training thus far. It is also why, if you look at many 'elite' cohorts, many students are right out of top-tier undergraduate programs. A BA or MA in anthropology from a brand name school is worth more than we like to admit here at TGC. 

 

Fit is important, but at the end of the day, most programs make their decisions collaboratively. Some departments can be described as being one way or the other, but that is not true of most departments. It is generally difficult to articulate one orientation or subject area that typifies an entire department. If you have a project that sits squarely in the area of interest of a few faculty, but pushes the envelope of what, say, a lot of the other faculty might see as 'anthropological,' you are taking a huge risk. If you are a student with a colorful background, but you don't have the proper institutional credentials of a 'real anthropologist,' plenty of professors can easily write you off as a dabbler or somehow less prepared than other applicants. 

 

Cultural anthropology is still tied to the figure of a white man in a pith helmet scribbling notes on a people he has already made his mind up about. That tradition and the training it inspired is still celebrated by many top programs. This historical archetype established the discipline, and haunts it still. I think this is something important to consider when pursuing this career.

 

I considered not even posting this, because I know it isn't what people want to hear, and I know a lot of awesome people right here on this forum have had very different experiences; however, I also think that multiple perspectives on the application process can only help future applicants. 

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 I'm about to finish undergrad, so I'm going to lose my rec letter options (or at least 1-2 of them) and the potential for building lab experience in my current setting. I don't know where to go from here.

 

Definitely don't be worried about losing recs. I've been out of college for 3 years and still have profs willing to write recs. Just keep in touch with them every now-and-then, update them on what you're doing, and you'll be fine. They are more than willing to write recs later if they are now. :)

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I agree that fit is important, but after completing a second round of applications with only one offer, I feel like I also have learned a hard lesson about the application process and about the community of scholarship I am about to enter: anthropology is still holding onto certain ideas about disciplinarity, and what is and what is not anthropological. 

 

I've been in touch with a few POIs at places that rejected me (after interviews or in-person meetings) and I have gotten a lot of weird feedback that I feel isn't reflected very much on these boards. Fit IS important, and your SOP is largely the most important part of your application profile; however, multiple POIs have told me that committees have trouble warming to students without prior degrees in anthropology, and they are wary of (cultural) students with US-based projects. This obviously isn't a blanket statement, and I know for a fact some programs (like the one I will likely be attending) want students that work in the U.S. Similarly, plenty of places are willing to overlook a non-anthropology background for a fabulous project. 

 

But these are just two things to keep in mind. Do you want to work in the U.S.? I have been told I should have at least had an international comparative site in mind, if only to "make it more anthropological." Do you not hold a prior degree in anthropology? You better have some way to prove you're ready to do that work. And don't think a handful of courses and LORs from anthropologists (even big name ones) are enough to overcome an interdisciplinary background. You are still competing against a large pool of capable applicants who have those qualifications and more. It will take a Fulbright, considerable professional experience in your proposed project area, or a publication (or two, or three) in a major professional journal to make up for what is seen as a significant and glaring problem with your lack of training thus far. It is also why, if you look at many 'elite' cohorts, many students are right out of top-tier undergraduate programs. A BA or MA in anthropology from a brand name school is worth more than we like to admit here at TGC. 

 

Fit is important, but at the end of the day, most programs make their decisions collaboratively. Some departments can be described as being one way or the other, but that is not true of most departments. It is generally difficult to articulate one orientation or subject area that typifies an entire department. If you have a project that sits squarely in the area of interest of a few faculty, but pushes the envelope of what, say, a lot of the other faculty might see as 'anthropological,' you are taking a huge risk. If you are a student with a colorful background, but you don't have the proper institutional credentials of a 'real anthropologist,' plenty of professors can easily write you off as a dabbler or somehow less prepared than other applicants. 

 

Cultural anthropology is still tied to the figure of a white man in a pith helmet scribbling notes on a people he has already made his mind up about. That tradition and the training it inspired is still celebrated by many top programs. This historical archetype established the discipline, and haunts it still. I think this is something important to consider when pursuing this career.

 

I considered not even posting this, because I know it isn't what people want to hear, and I know a lot of awesome people right here on this forum have had very different experiences; however, I also think that multiple perspectives on the application process can only help future applicants. 

 

NOWAYNOHOW I don't agree 100% with everything you said here but I'm 100% behind your decision to post your perspective.  Plus the comment on the white man in a pith helmet is pretty right on.  I know there is a handful of us who are proposing projects based in US. I am and a large part of that is due to Anthropology's sordid past.  I'm curious who else is proposing to do fieldwork in the US as a cultural anthropologist? 

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My research interests are still rather nebulous at this point but I plan on studying the anthropology of sport during my master's, with particular regard to athletics as a cultural narrative (especially in regards to race relations), the role of baseball in the Cuban diaspora, and class divides amongst amateur and professional athletes.  I'm also interested in early 20th century ephemera and popular culture, and my research will most likely be focused on the southern United States and the Caribbean. 

 

Not sure how well that will fit in with cultural anthro programs in terms of PhD programs, so I've been looking at American Studies and Cultural Studies PhD programs as well.  I'd like to do fieldwork in the US as a cultural anthropologist but I don't know if my research interests will line up with anything other than an interdisciplinary PhD (something along the lines of the ASPECT program at VA Tech).  Especially since I'll be doing an interdisciplinary MA at Va. Tech.

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NOWAYNOHOW I don't agree 100% with everything you said here but I'm 100% behind your decision to post your perspective.  Plus the comment on the white man in a pith helmet is pretty right on.  I know there is a handful of us who are proposing projects based in US. I am and a large part of that is due to Anthropology's sordid past.  I'm curious who else is proposing to do fieldwork in the US as a cultural anthropologist? 

 

you two both know my deal, and I mostly agree with you, nwnh. particularly at the programs regarded as 'top' in the discipline. one of the big questions I asked every program I reached out to before applying was "how does the *department* feel about US based projects?" because I knew that was a big problem for me. I was also very skeptical about my odds applying to straight antho programs (hence, only 2). but, I didn't even get to ask that to each place.  

 

I have also been incredibly surprised by both the number of prospectives still in or just out of undergrad at the interviews I've been too, and, honestly, impressed by how much a year or two of growth can do to nuance your project and perspective. So, that's a choice which often has me raising my eye brows at adcoms, and thinking that you shouldn't totally throw the pooch if you're not from the right background. 

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For whom committed in America-based anthropology, the Sloan Centers on Everyday Ethnography are definitely important to check: http://www.sloan.org/major-program-areas/recently-completed-programs/workplace-workforce-and-working-families/the-sloan-centers-on-working-families/. I know that they affiliate with distinguished programs like UMichigan and UCLA and offer certain quota for students studying America-based anthropology to pursue PhD in these institutions.

 

One of my favorite and most creative professor earned his PhD in Michigan by virtue of the Sloan Foundation. America is a highly-productive site for anthropologists

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I agree that fit is important, but after completing a second round of applications with only one offer, I feel like I also have learned a hard lesson about the application process and about the community of scholarship I am about to enter: anthropology is still holding onto certain ideas about disciplinarity, and what is and what is not anthropological. 

 

I've been in touch with a few POIs at places that rejected me (after interviews or in-person meetings) and I have gotten a lot of weird feedback that I feel isn't reflected very much on these boards. Fit IS important, and your SOP is largely the most important part of your application profile; however, multiple POIs have told me that committees have trouble warming to students without prior degrees in anthropology, and they are wary of (cultural) students with US-based projects. This obviously isn't a blanket statement, and I know for a fact some programs (like the one I will likely be attending) want students that work in the U.S. Similarly, plenty of places are willing to overlook a non-anthropology background for a fabulous project. 

 

But these are just two things to keep in mind. Do you want to work in the U.S.? I have been told I should have at least had an international comparative site in mind, if only to "make it more anthropological." Do you not hold a prior degree in anthropology? You better have some way to prove you're ready to do that work. And don't think a handful of courses and LORs from anthropologists (even big name ones) are enough to overcome an interdisciplinary background. You are still competing against a large pool of capable applicants who have those qualifications and more. It will take a Fulbright, considerable professional experience in your proposed project area, or a publication (or two, or three) in a major professional journal to make up for what is seen as a significant and glaring problem with your lack of training thus far. It is also why, if you look at many 'elite' cohorts, many students are right out of top-tier undergraduate programs. A BA or MA in anthropology from a brand name school is worth more than we like to admit here at TGC. 

 

Fit is important, but at the end of the day, most programs make their decisions collaboratively. Some departments can be described as being one way or the other, but that is not true of most departments. It is generally difficult to articulate one orientation or subject area that typifies an entire department. If you have a project that sits squarely in the area of interest of a few faculty, but pushes the envelope of what, say, a lot of the other faculty might see as 'anthropological,' you are taking a huge risk. If you are a student with a colorful background, but you don't have the proper institutional credentials of a 'real anthropologist,' plenty of professors can easily write you off as a dabbler or somehow less prepared than other applicants. 

 

Cultural anthropology is still tied to the figure of a white man in a pith helmet scribbling notes on a people he has already made his mind up about. That tradition and the training it inspired is still celebrated by many top programs. This historical archetype established the discipline, and haunts it still. I think this is something important to consider when pursuing this career.

 

I considered not even posting this, because I know it isn't what people want to hear, and I know a lot of awesome people right here on this forum have had very different experiences; however, I also think that multiple perspectives on the application process can only help future applicants. 

 

This post is spot on.  I know that I have a good project and am fortunate to have been picked up by a good program this time around.  However, I have received similar feedback to what you describe here.  The bias in anthropology against "Americanists" is a thing.  I was turned down by one program that had expressed a great deal of interest in my project and told me they believed it was very "important" while cautioning me that it is difficult to find funding for projects in the United States (this conversation occurred before I applied).  My POI at that school works as an Americanist now but went through graduate school and did original fieldwork in Asia.  The faculty at the program that accepted me told me how good they think my project is while also acknowledging the difficulties of attaining "legitimacy" as an Americanist anthropologist in the United States.  I'm fortunate to have been given a chance but I was told that I will really need to distinguish myself because the bias will raise its head against me again when I'm looking for a job and for grant money in years to come.   

Edited by mountainroad

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My research interests are still rather nebulous at this point but I plan on studying the anthropology of sport during my master's, with particular regard to athletics as a cultural narrative (especially in regards to race relations), the role of baseball in the Cuban diaspora, and class divides amongst amateur and professional athletes.  I'm also interested in early 20th century ephemera and popular culture, and my research will most likely be focused on the southern United States and the Caribbean. 

 

Not sure how well that will fit in with cultural anthro programs in terms of PhD programs, so I've been looking at American Studies and Cultural Studies PhD programs as well.  I'd like to do fieldwork in the US as a cultural anthropologist but I don't know if my research interests will line up with anything other than an interdisciplinary PhD (something along the lines of the ASPECT program at VA Tech).  Especially since I'll be doing an interdisciplinary MA at Va. Tech.

 

 

Having hit the "can't do cultural anthropology in U.S. wall" myself, I would encourage you museum_geek to keep your options open in regards to PhD programs.  I struck out 100% last year because my project was US based (I want to look at the effects of healthcare policy on parenting practices in various populations).  I received lot of enthusiastic responses from POI's but ultimately, there was this feeling that I wasn't doing anthropology.  This year, I decided to apply to a variety of programs outside of anthro because I felt that what I wanted to do can be done using anthropological theory and methods, but under a program that will support my research.  My most enthusiastic supporters this round have been public health programs.  I am not super thrilled about leaving anthropology, but I am STOKED about having acceptances at top programs with awesome funding.  I would say just put the idea in your head to look at programs outside of anthro and if you see a great fit, go for it!

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I am not a cultural anthro person, but may i ask, exactly why is it that America- based anthro projects are not considered "anthro" enough? WHat does it matter what region you are looking at? 

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I'm not sure but I've always gotten the impression that US based projects, for whatever reason, get categorized under the umbrella of sociology or american studies.

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Since there are some fundamental methodological differences between sociology and anthropology, it should not be the case that a project should not be deemed "sociology" just because of where it is located.  However, this does happen and sociology does not have the bias against projects in the United States that anthropology does.  Fundamentally, I believe that it is just a matter of tradition because as has been noted in this thread, there are many great anthropological projects located in the United States.  However, the process of learning a language and "going abroad" to conduct fieldwork is something of a rite of passage for anthropologists.  For a group that is so concerned with rituals, conducting fieldwork abroad is dearly held in the anthropological cultural cache and important for earning legitimacy and status within the group.   

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I am not a cultural anthro person, but may i ask, exactly why is it that America- based anthro projects are not considered "anthro" enough? WHat does it matter what region you are looking at? 

 

It's pretty egregious that this is still the case, but there you have it. It's a holdover from anthropology's colonial roots, the idea that the discipline was about studying "the other," "the primitive," located in distant lands with funny names. The only exception to the distant lands rule was the study of native americans, and that was because they still fit into the savage slot. Civilized lands have societies, not cultures, hence the disciplinary division between sociology and anthropology.

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hahah i understand but  correct me if I  am wrong, other "lands" have many civilized groups of people living there, perhaps even more "civilized" than  in the US ;):D 

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hahah i understand but  correct me if I  am wrong, other "lands" have many civilized groups of people living there, perhaps even more "civilized" than  in the US ;):D

 

Exactly. I'm so glad you asked after why this seems to be such an issue (and I think other responses to my initial post have expanded on how cultural anthropology currently relates to U.S. work) because it isn't talked about much, especially across subfields. 

 

The good news is that we are each other's peers, and our attitudes will hopefully help shape the discipline moving forward. It is my hope that cultural anthropology in the U.S. will be more open to looking inward and exploring domestic topics, as there are certainly many spaces where anthropology has the potential to do important and significant work in America. That is not to say that international topics should be pushed aside for U.S. work. On the contrary, there is justification and room enough for both! 

 

But what applicants for 2016 can take away from this discussion is to think hard about what kind of work they want to do and where, and whether or not anthropology at this point in time will welcome their research and insight. If you don't need the specific anthropology PhD credential, there are many other avenues for legitimate (and even better-funded) doctoral study: American and area studies, cultural studies, media studies, information studies, public health and more. 

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Well yes, obviously :) I guess i should have put that in quotation marks to make it clear..

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Well yes, obviously :) I guess i should have put that in quotation marks to make it clear..

no no , you are clear, i was just thinking out loud- like i know what you mean, but its crazy that this divide is actually real, and you guys have all experienced it. Its almost like....US populations (modern) are not worth the academic effort. I know its not THAT, but thats what it comes across as. 

 

Thank you guys for bringing up this interesting issue! I am sure next year some applicants will benefit from this immensely.

 

I have another q- couldn't an applicant avoid this trap by formulating their research qs more globally, while still being able to engage in US based research ? 

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I have another q- couldn't an applicant avoid this trap by formulating their research qs more globally, while still being able to engage in US based research ? 

 

Oh, totally! And many students do just that with great success. Some of those very same people dropped the secondary site once they were offered admission and now exclusively work on the U.S. Like I said, professors from places I did not get in told me it would have been helpful to have a comparative site because it makes you look more attractive to faculty overall; however, that maneuver can seem superfluous depending on the context. In addition, a student might not be trained in the language and literature of that secondary global site if they've been too busy working on the U.S. one. At the doctoral level, it is essentially unacceptable to not know a ton about where you want to study, so adding a global comparative site is a big deal in terms of what you have to learn, especially if you're only adding it so you seem anthropological enough for committees to like you. I hope that makes sense.

 

I wish I could walk through this process using my topic (a good example of why adding a comparative site is unnecessary/weird) but it is too easy to identify me IRL using that info. Sorry!

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no no , you are clear, i was just thinking out loud- like i know what you mean, but its crazy that this divide is actually real, and you guys have all experienced it. Its almost like....US populations (modern) are not worth the academic effort. I know its not THAT, but thats what it comes across as. 

 

Thank you guys for bringing up this interesting issue! I am sure next year some applicants will benefit from this immensely.

 

I have another q- couldn't an applicant avoid this trap by formulating their research qs more globally, while still being able to engage in US based research ? 

 

Having a hot topic for US based research helps too.  I happen to have stumbled onto one which seems to help.  There are trends in the discipline it's worth paying attention them when your trying to sell your project to prospective schools. 

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Having a hot topic for US based research helps too.  I happen to have stumbled onto one which seems to help.  There are trends in the discipline it's worth paying attention them when your trying to sell your project to prospective schools. 

 

This is true and contribites to my actually having managed to get into a good program.  However you frame it, having your project in the United States automatically makes this already absurdly difficult and stressful process even more challenging though.

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I've been rejected from  5/7 Ph.D programs, I am currently an undergrad, and I have to say that this post has made me feel a lot better. I plan on really diving in researching, presenting and networking so I can apply again next year.

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Realistic question: I'm graduating with both a BA in Anthro and a Bachelor of Journalism in May. I'm looking for RAships so that I'm not sitting on my hands/doing something entirely unrelated to Anthro/still learning (namely this last one). In a perfect world, I would LOVE to be paid, but I've recently been told that getting paid with just a BA might be a bit of a pipe dream.

 

Thoughts on this? I really enjoy being self-sufficient - my parents have already helped me out extensively with paying for undergrad, so I really would like to not have to further rely on (read: be a tremendous financial burden for) them.

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Realistic question: I'm graduating with both a BA in Anthro and a Bachelor of Journalism in May. I'm looking for RAships so that I'm not sitting on my hands/doing something entirely unrelated to Anthro/still learning (namely this last one). In a perfect world, I would LOVE to be paid, but I've recently been told that getting paid with just a BA might be a bit of a pipe dream.

 

Thoughts on this? I really enjoy being self-sufficient - my parents have already helped me out extensively with paying for undergrad, so I really would like to not have to further rely on (read: be a tremendous financial burden for) them.

 

From my experience, being extremely meticulous in your search and looking in places you normally wouldn't consider might yield results. I wouldn't count on it though - best to look for a backup job just in case. It all usually boils down to talking to the right person at the right time. 

 

Also, a lot of people tend to prefer Workstudy eligible students to take onto their research due to funding issues. If you're fantastic and have much to contribute to research they might go out of their way to have you on board but in my experience it generally detracts greatly from the possibility of finding employment. 

 

Good luck!

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The good news is that we are each other's peers, and our attitudes will hopefully help shape the discipline moving forward. It is my hope that cultural anthropology in the U.S. will be more open to looking inward and exploring domestic topics, as there are certainly many spaces where anthropology has the potential to do important and significant work in America. That is not to say that international topics should be pushed aside for U.S. work. On the contrary, there is justification and room enough for both! 

 

 

 

The irony is that in the subfield of archaeology I want to venture into, we are pushing to go beyond the United States and go even farther because we've been stuck in the U.S. for what many consider as "long enough" ... it's amazing how there are so many different ways that anthropology is changing, transforming and thinking of itself.

Edited by AKCarlton

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Realistic question: I'm graduating with both a BA in Anthro and a Bachelor of Journalism in May. I'm looking for RAships so that I'm not sitting on my hands/doing something entirely unrelated to Anthro/still learning (namely this last one). In a perfect world, I would LOVE to be paid, but I've recently been told that getting paid with just a BA might be a bit of a pipe dream.

 

Thoughts on this? I really enjoy being self-sufficient - my parents have already helped me out extensively with paying for undergrad, so I really would like to not have to further rely on (read: be a tremendous financial burden for) them.

 

Woo! Someone who has an identical background as I do! I can't help you very much as far as your RAship, but I would highly, highly suggest applying to scholarships and attending a field school...although I didn't have one coming into my current Masters program, not going to lie, there are moments where I feel like a fish-out-of-water because I know nothing of field work. I've had to work a bit harder and study a bit harder in regards to my assistantship, but I've also been told by professors that I'm learning and taking away a lot more than the others who seem a bit "comfortable" with where they're at ...

 

Are you applying to grad school and you're just looking for experience in between now and then? Sorry, a bit confused.

Edited by AKCarlton

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