Hey guys, I am currently a grad student in Germanics at a top 20 state Uni, so maybe I can give some advice. What I've seen from this post is that everyone is applying to Ivy league (or Ivy league-esque) unis. This is incredibly important. Indeed, the only real possibility you have of getting a decent position post-graduation is if you have attended one of these universities. This is quite unfortunate since there are very good scholars being produced from state schools; but na ja.
I am not going to advise anyone not to pursue it because it has been an excellent experience for me. However, I would like to take this moment to share my two cents as far as academia is concerned. I had a professor who had done everything right: he went to JHU, then Yale, put his time in working at some smaller colleges, and eventually got a tenure track position at a top state research university in the country (the university happens to also be in one of the best cities on the west coast). On paper everything looks great. Yet, in reality, at least to me, it didn't seem to be worth it. On a hot summer day, our seminar, which consisted of only 5 students (make sure to ask how much cross-listing there is!!), we met to discuss a Lessing text. Unfortunately, I had not had time to finish the reading. But I wasn't the only one. Indeed, 2 other students hadn't read the material. So, out of 5 students, 3 hadn't read (we were all TAing and had exams coming up). The professor struggled to fill the time, and had to let us go early. It was at this moment where I thought to myself, "is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life; discuss a book with a bunch of 18-25 year olds that haven't read it, and that seem more bothered by real world issues."
I am not saying this experience is representative of academia as a whole. Nonetheless, it is definitely pervasive enough to warrant introspection. Furthermore, be careful of budgetary cuts (even Yale is facing some serious money issues). Hope this helps.
Also, I have been starting a blog that details my experiences trying to figure out if I should continue grad school or not. Check it out if you're interested please
Übrigens, wenn jemand in NRW ist, sag mal Bescheid. Wir können uns bestimmt beim Kaffee oder so treffen. Ich bin derzeit in Ddorf.