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
    Hilliard, OH
  • Interests
    Early modern drama and poetry; book history; Shakespeare; historicism; other stuff...
  • Application Season
    Already Attending
  • Program
    Ph.D. in English at Ohio State

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  1. This is mostly correct, but I would add that it also depends on what field you're in. Some programs don't care much about what language you use to fulfill the requirement, so long as you can go ahead and fulfill it. But there are many subfields wherein certain languages are seen to have far more value. I'll be taking an intensive Latin course to fulfill my req, even though I'm an early modernist, and Latin will probably only have a moderate impact on what I study. I could brush up on my undergraduate Spanish to fulfill the req if I really wanted to, but my advisor is strongly suggesting I take Latin. In other words, sometimes it's not so simple as just fulfilling a req, but rather doing it in a certain way. Unfortunately, it's very much a case-by-case basis, depending on what you already know, what your probable field is, and what the program things you should do.
  2. You're going to have to be more specific. Way, way, WAY more specific.
  3. Sounds like you should get a second set of eyes on it. Once you read a document too many times, you lose all perspective and can't see the forest through the trees. Having others look over it, or just taking a few days away from it yourself, will ideally help you to regain perspective. Also, completely for what it's worth, pretty much everyone thinks their WS and/or SOP looks like a disaster at some point. Sometimes that's legitimate, but usually it's just our INTJ/INFJ/INwhatever selves making life difficult for us. P.S. Given the subject title, I'm highly disappointed that you didn't work in a reference to bunnies.
  4. Actually, this sounds exactly like a SOP description to me...just in different words. When you really parse what they're asking for, it's the same as what pretty much every program is asking for: why are you interested in what you're interested in, what you plan to do in the future etc. I don't want to be too cavalier about it, since it's your top choice program, but my gut tells me that you'll be fine using your standard SOP format with a few minor tweaks as necessary. I suspect they make a distinction between what they're calling it and a "personal statement," because the latter can sometimes tend toward biographical life story etc. (such as in some programs that ask for both a "personal statement" and a "statement of purpose."). So they want an SOP, not a personal statement (ignoring for the moment the many programs that consider the two documents one and the same... )
  5. 2018 Applicants

    ^ What a fantastic post.
  6. I started a topic about this situation back in my first application cycle (when I was still married). You might find some useful tidbits there. In general, it's a difficult subject, but not uncommon. It usually requires significant compromise on either your part or the SO's...and often both. In a very indirect way, my continuation down the academic path was a factor in my (very amicable) divorce. I don't say that to scare you -- just to emphasize that it's good that you're thinking of this now, because it is indeed a major consideration.
  7. 2018 Applicants

    It should be... The verbal is the only one that really matters (perhaps the AW to a lesser extent), and 163 is over 90th percentile, which some see as the benchmark. That being said, some of the schools you mentioned he'll be applying to might expect higher (whether they state it or not). A solid-but-not-exemplary GRE is likely not going to be a deal-breaker if everything else is strong, but higher is always better. I personally wouldn't retake the GRE with a 163, but if your hubby has the time and money, and thinks he has a solid shot at bumping it up, it can't hurt.
  8. Fellow OSUer and long-time GCer @Ramus and I had this exact same conversation over coffee yesterday: we're both extremely grateful to have gone through an M.A. program first. In his case, it was a choice between an M.A. at a strong program and a Ph.D. at a lesser (but still decent) program, and in my case it was my best and only option (heh), which initially felt like a consolation prize since I had only applied to Ph.D. programs, but proved to be an enormous boon. Simply put, the M.A. is a bridge: you get the grad school experience (rigorous courses, high workload, deeper scholarship etc.), without the long-term expectations. Most of what you do in an M.A. is coursework, sometimes with a lengthy thesis, and sometimes with a shorter Capstone project. In other words, the program is more contained and compact. For me, having the M.A. experience taught me how to do good research -- real, honest-to-goodness academic research that delved into contemporary scholarship. This just didn't happen at the undergraduate level, and had I jumped straight from B.A. to Ph.D. (as I had intended), I'm sure I would have eventually found my footing and made out alright...but the learning curve, combined with the weight of expectations would have made the transition far more challenging. And I say this as a "non-traditional" student with a lot of work and life experience under his belt (read: I'm good at adapting to new situations). All of this is to say that while a large number of wonderful people (I'm thinking here of the "ghosts of GC past") have excelled when making the jump from B.A. to Ph.D., my own experience, combined with the experience of several others I have talked about it with, suggests that getting the M.A. first will generally strengthen you and make you a better scholar.
  9. 2018 Applicants

    I'm loath to counter what a professor has said...especially when different perspectives in this process can be equally valid! But that being said, I've been told by professors that you apply for the people...and that advice has seemed to bear fruit for a lot of folks. But it's certainly a question worth pondering at length. I will just say that when it comes to writing the SOP, it's generally expected that you highlight two or three faculty members you'd like to work with. To do so, you really have to figure out why those people would want to work with you and vice versa. It's usually pretty obvious when one is just name-dropping in a SOP, and when there are obvious and natural connections. Well, I recognize the cost factors etc., seeing as how the average application is $100, when you factor in the cost of sending GRE scores etc. But by that same token, when you're dealing with 5% acceptance rates, there's really a "more is better" element to the process, provided you're a competitive applicant (which it sounds like your husband is). Some great applicants get into six or seven programs out of twelve applications. But some also get into just one...and some (alas) don't get into any. We had one person here in the last cycle who applied to eight programs and got into seven of them. But we also had a few who applied to more than ten, and were shutout. Basically, there are no guarantees, no matter how strong of a candidate you are, so if you can afford to play the odds a bit by applying to more programs, it likely increases your chances (again, provided the application is otherwise competitive).
  10. 2018 Applicants

    So, your husband's "stats" are great, of course, especially when you present them the way you do. Based on how it looks, he should be a strong candidate. The problem, however, is that, believe it or not, most applicants are going to have lists that look quite similar. It's very important to not think of this as a quantitative process -- in some respects it is (more on that later), but after going through two cycles myself, and being an active GCer for three, it has become abundantly clear that "fit" trumps all...and "fit" is both difficult to define, and works both ways. If your husband's specific research interests (i.e. more specific than postmodern/contemporary American lit) don't mesh well with the faculty members he has highlighted at his chosen programs, the best academic "stats" in the world will likely not garner him admission. This is why the statement of purpose (SOP) and the writing sample (WS) are so important: the "stats" will get him through any unofficial cutoffs (e.g. GPA, GRE etc.), but when the field committee of contemporary Americanists are distributed the dozens of otherwise worthy applications in their area, they're going to be looking for compelling research and an interesting approach in the WS, and demonstration of significant potential in an intriguing direction in the SOP. All admissions committees (adcoms) work differently, but this methodology seems to be a common denominator. I had a bit of success in this last cycle, getting into (and accepting the offer) at one of my top choice programs, based on how a few faculty members (and the program as a whole) meshed with my interests. My SOP and WS worked together -- the former talked about how I can continue the research evidenced in the latter, and how the same approach can be applied to other works (in my case it was theories of editions in early modern books of poetry). A month or so ago I had a lengthy conversation with my advisor at my new program, discussing a paper I was considering submitting for publication, based on what two professors at my prior institution had recommended. My new advisor thought the paper was good in many ways, albeit not necessarily publishable, since it was doing two or three different things (he suggested that publishable articles usually have one core idea that is sustained); a key comment he made at the outset of our conversation, however, spoke volumes to me about the admissions process...even though the process wasn't mentioned specifically. He asked how the paper came to be written, and why I chose the methodologies I did. Once I told him that it was for a book history class, but that I was encouraged by the professor to take the paper in a different direction than a purely book history approach, he brought up my research intentions as were stated in my SOP, and mentioned that he hoped to see work that was more like what I had proposed. It's not hard to read something significant between the lines: he was clearly on the adcom, and he was clearly compelled by my stated interests when he first read my SOP and WS. There is little doubt in my mind that he had a hand in choosing me because he was compelled by the work I had done and the work I said I wanted to do (as opposed to the kind of work on display in the paper I sought to publish). This is but one lengthy, personal example, but I truly think it shows how most "stats" are secondary to clear and compelling interests stated in the two main written documents. That's a rather narrow and exclusive list. My biggest question would be whether or not there are three or more faculty members at each institution doing the kind of work your husband really wants to do. Does he fit with them? Will they fit with him? Which leads me to... Geographical considerations are important, of course...especially when you have a significant other or family obligations. And if you have to be tethered to one geographical area, the Northeast is probably the best when considering grad schools. That being said...just remember that most graduate programs in English receive upwards of 200 applications (some potentially triple that number). And despite all of what I mentioned above about the primacy of SOP / WS and fit, and that admissions generally isn't a qualitative process, from another perspective it most assuredly is. If a program accepts, say, fifteen applicants, with an expected cohort of eight or nine, the percentage of admitted students is well below 10%...and potentially below 5%. Countless factors could make an otherwise "perfect fit" applicant miss the cut -- perhaps a program accepted three contemporary Americanists last year, and they don't want to oversaturate that area group. Perhaps two of the faculty members listed in the SOP as POIs (professors of interest) are on sabbatical, or their research interests have changed. Any number of intangible factors can knock an excellent candidate out of the running. As a result, spreading your net wider (both in terms of geography and number of programs) increases your chances on a very basic quantitative level. Anyhow, these are my admittedly long-winded thoughts on you and your husband's situation. Hopefully this makes sense and is at least somewhat helpful!
  11. Choice of Specialization

    Off-topic to this thread, but I loved Paternal Tyranny! I took a fantastic undergraduate course at William and Mary titled The Lives of Women in Renaissance Italy, and it featured Tarabotti, Franco, Strozzi etc. The professor was an adjunct, and she moved on after that semester, but let me know if you are still at all interested in further developing that topic, and I'll see if I can track down her information!
  12. I agree completely with @rising_star. Your experience sounds quite typical. One thing you have to keep in mind is that as an undergraduate, many of your classmates will be stopping at the B.A., many of them will just be taking literature / theory courses to fulfill requirements, many will be taking courses because they work with their schedule, and many will only be in college because they feel they have to be. In other words, there's always going to be a blend of interested and disinterested folks (and subcategories of both). Grad school is typically a bit better in this regard...though you'll still have people in your classes for different reasons (i.e. there's still req-fulfilling in the mix). As for the tenor of classes, some professors like to hold court and spend most of a session imparting their own considerable knowledge...but most prefer to foster a lot of class discussion. There was one professor I took twice who would have us read five or six texts for a class, then when the class session started, would just begin by saying "So what did you think about [text]?" He'd interject from time to time, but the emphasis was clearly on class discussion. This worked very well in the first course I took with him, but not so well in the second. But getting back to your original post, I felt prepared for grad school after my undergraduate education, but there was also a learning curve...which was to be expected. Learning how to consistently write graduate-level papers and do graduate-level research takes a bit of getting used to...and it's hard to get that experience outside of grad school itself.
  13. Ten is ridiculously low, and I'm guessing they expect to receive sections of longer papers...unless they're one of those programs that tacitly prefers applicants with B.A.s, in which case more applicants will have recent work of that shorter length. But if the program is otherwise a good fit for you, then sending a selection of a longer paper probably makes the most sense. "About 15 pages" probably means 14-16, but I would hesitate to go much longer. 12-16 is more practical, I think. This is why 17-18 pages (technically 18.5, though I use a slightly larger font than Times New Roman) seemed like a good number to me; first of all, it felt like the right length for my WS in general (I'd expanded it from a 12-page paper), and second of all, I could justify that length for programs that wanted 20 pages, and could cut it down a bit (but not too much) for those that wanted 15 or fewer (of which there was just one that I applied to). As usual, there are many variables involved, so this might not work for everyone. I think the key is that it's your "best" writing, in light of the interests you propose in your SOP. For what it's worth, I always find it easier to add material than cut, though I got a lot better at the latter over the course of my M.A. -- one of those subtle skills you pick up along the way in graduate work. I just used one, though I did give a lot of thought to using two...mainly because my initial plan was to use a different sample which would have positioned me in a slightly different subfield (still early modern poetry and drama, but a different perspective/methodology). Of the three professors I vetted (all of my letter-writers, incidentally), only one thought that I should use the paper I had initially planned on using...and fortunately, my advisor encouraged me to revise a paper I had written for her a year prior -- a paper I loved, on a topic I loved, but one that only received an A-, which made me think both the paper itself and the topic it explored weren't quite up to snuff. I'm immensely grateful that my advisor brought up that paper (with an amusingly cavalier "oh, I give most student papers A-minuses" when I mentioned it), because the revision process proved rewarding in its own right, and obviously bore fruit in terms of Ph.D. acceptances. Personal digression aside, what I'm trying to get at in a roundabout way is that your sample should generally match the overall focus as expressed in your SOP. If you have a couple of different potential interests, and have found program matches for both, then by all means -- draft different SOPs and WSs that best fit each program. It's more work, and you will need to make sure your LOR writers know what you are doing (lest they write to program X about your impressive work on topic Y), but I've heard second-hand that it has worked for some.