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About SleepyOldMan

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  • Location
    Northern California
  • Application Season
    2014 Fall
  • Program
    English Literature PhD
  1. hj2012: Many thanks for your reply. The adcom procedure you outline makes a lot of sense as to how a (presumably) small committee cuts through a large number of applications to reach a small number of acceptances. The initial weeding process is more refined than my guess, but the principles are similar. I'm surprised the number of below-grade applications is so high (I can be quite naive), but I'd also guess that the number of remaining admissible applications is also quite high. It may be, as you suggest, that it is rare for subject matter specialists to become involved, as I thought
  2. gwarner13: The point of this example was to suggest that people who are successful at something can often be mistaken or self-deceived as to the reasons for their own success. Due, perhaps, to their own self-image (or ego), the google founders had a certain idea of why they were so successful: They were really, really smart. (The unspoken assumption: Not only smart, but in fact smarter than everyone else.) And they therefore believed that they could apply this formula to hiring employees for their own company, and also that they could apply this formula and be as successful in other b
  3. To coin a phrase: That is not what I meant at all! That is not it at all! (Just kidding, of course, about the coinage.) The main point is this: Grad schools are not interested in determining, from among several hundred applicants, which ones are the very absolute "most talented" or which ones have submitted the very "best" writing samples or SOPs. They're not interested in determining whether an individual applicant would grade out at 98 or at 96 or at 94. That's not a significant difference to them, and they have no interest in spending their limited time that way. Rather, I
  4. ArthurianChaucerian: The whole argument behind whether or not to censor City Lights who published Ginsberg's Howl was about literary merit. Just saying. Not sure that's an effective way to look at literature. ---What other basis is there to distinguish art from something that might otherwise be thought or claimed merely to violate community standards of decency? The courts are forced to deal with this question regularly as a matter of law. Were it not for considerations of artistic merit, these sorts of things would in fact routinely be banned.
  5. To the contrary: It's not meant cynically at all. Let me explain. Let's look at what you've said: First, you said that you worked really hard on your WS, polishing and polishing, implying that you thought it was particuarly good, and at least suggesting that it was better than other applicants', and that it was on this basis, its goodness, its being superior, that you believe you were accepted. Second, you referenced the fact that professors you spoke with *mentioned* the SOP and WS when you spoke with them. Now, let me ask: Is this really the same as what you said first? Does it imp
  6. Well, it is interesting how many successful applicants are surprised when they learn why they were accepted, and how this differs from their own estimation of why they "should" have been. ---There's a tendency on the part of successful people in all walks of life to extrapolate from the way they view the causes of their own success and suggest that the same will work for others, but it rarely works out this way for others, and may not even be a very good explanation for why they themselves were successful. (Consider, for example, the case of google. The founders are, of course, very succ
  7. If this is right, it suggests that there's a certain "popularity" element that perhaps cuts against the more or less strictly meritocratic grain that I think most of us initially approach the process with. Ie, that grad school admissions may bear a certain unexpected similarity to fraternity and sorority "rush."
  8. One more guess: I imagine that the way the process works is something like this: A small group of faculty do a first read of the applications, (i) filtering out some whose academic qualifications (by some measure, which no doubt varies from school to school) don't seem quite as strong as those of the best group of applicants and (ii) dividing the remainder into piles by subject matter. After this "first cut," they send each pile to the faculty member(s) who specialize in that field, who, presumably on the basis of SOP and WS, then pick which ones they want to work with. If there are
  9. To be sure, if you don't have that kind of LOR, there's nothing you can do about it. But I think you will find that those applicants who have the very highest percentage of acceptances to the most selective schools do have it, and IMO it's the single most advantageous thing you can have. ---Again, it doesn't mean that you can't get into a very selective school without it, or that you should worry about it if you don't, since it's out of your control. Just that those applicants with the very highest "batting average" by and large will. It's a profession of networks and prestige. As rega
  10. Regarding perspective: Contrary to what one might think, grad schools are NOT making admissions decisions primarily in terms of "Who are the very most talented students in the applicant pool?" Rather, they ask themselves: "Which among these many highly-qualified applicants do we want to spend the next six years with?" Ie, they need a specific reason to pick you, and that reason will usually look something like: "Professor X needs another PhD student, and of all the applicants in her area this year, this one sounds most interesting to her." Or, to put it another way: The "objective st
  11. I would agree. In my experience, if the words don't flow, it almost always means that I haven't yet fully figured out or conceptualized what I want to say. But, at the same time, more time spent just thinking or outlining isn't likely to help. So I just begin to write, knowing that major revisions will be necessary. At some point in the process of writing I usually find that I have written myself into a problem that reveals the specific unclarity of my ideas, ie. something that I thought I had fully thought through, but in fact had not. Once I see what the problem is, it's a lot
  12. Well, I have to say that I agree with much of what you've said. She's a very effective storyteller. Rather than stepping back and providing background in more or less prosaic terms, she has the ability to start and keep every chapter in the action, providing details along the way in a manner that fully catches the reader up without ever interrupting the story's advance. The pages turn themselves. This is hard to do, and she seems to do it effortlessly. There is also no mistaking her commitment to the range of ideas expressed, and I wouldn't begin to disagree about their merits or im
  13. One can't help but notice that this list does not reference anything that might be thought of as a "literary" quality or merit. Is it possible for a work of literature to have value where the words themselves have none? ---Yes, I read a hundred pages.
  14. It's interesting how often that has seemed to be the case.
  15. mikers86---When you visited Duke, did you get a sense as to what it was in your application that made the difference for them? And was this the same as or different from the way you conceived your strengths and fit?
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