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fopdandyhomo

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fopdandyhomo last won the day on January 6 2015

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About fopdandyhomo

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    Decaf

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    The darkest corner of the library
  • Application Season
    2015 Fall
  • Program
    I study dead people

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  1. Though my POI have mentioned some of the things they liked in my application, I find it difficult to conduct a post-mortem on my season. For privacy's sake, I'm hesitant to specify the programs I applied to, but I was accepted at three of the five schools I applied to (and every program I applied to was in the top 15, regardless of what ranking you use). I'm inclined to think that this fortune is the result of sheer dumb luck or the inane superstitious things I did to get me through February (I started seeing signs in the crossword puzzles I did to relax). But here are the things I think helped my case: 1) I started the process by skimming every essay I wrote for my history classes in college. I took some time off after college, so this helped remind me of who I am as a historian and my academic trajectory. I know that being able to articulate the evolution of my academic interests (both within history and without) was key to one of my acceptances. For those of us with manifold and divergent interests, knowing who you are and being able to tie this interests together to construct an image of yourself as a complex and dynamic scholar is very important. I suspect one of my rejections was in part a result of waffling about where I fell temporally. (I also used this as a chance to reflect on my potential as a scholar. With one eye on my grades, undergrad institution, and GRE score, I asked myself honestly how competitive I would be. I guessed that I'd pass the first raw numbers cut, and took my chance applying to only top programs.) Furthermore, returning to your own essays allows you to systematically create a list of scholars you want to work with. 2) To create my initial list of programs, I went back through all of the important readings I did in college, compiling names from footnotes. I thought about whose work was important in my field, who was everyone talking about/citing. I looked at journals in my field. All of this legwork was helpful when contextualizing my own work in the field as it stand right now. Especially for people with only a BA, like me, you have less of an opportunity to think about trends in history and historiography so you have to do that legwork on your own. With those 25-30 names I found out what schools they worked at. I also looked at various rankings and added those schools for good measure. Most importantly, I talked to my advisors, one of whom was a relatively recent graduate in my exact area of interest. Their suggestions ultimately proved the most useful. After eliminating schools without graduate programs and schools in Europe, my list was about 20-25 school long. 3) I don't think I really understood fit until I started anticipating rejections and acceptances. The schools I was most nervous/excited about were not necessarily the schools with the highest ranked program or biggest name, but schools were there were a plethora of people working on projects I found very interesting. I made the mistake of not underestimating how narrow fit can be, especially in a well-established subfield. The way I see it is that there are four types of fit: temporal (do you study the same time period?), geographic (are you focused on the same country/region?), type of history (social, cultural, political, military, religious, intellectual, etc), and their individual interests/perspective (the topics they find interesting and they way they think about those topics). You need to find a POI who fits at least three of these forms of fit. There also have to be two or more POI at that school who satisfy at least two other categories of fit each (including the missing category from the primary POI). Determining fit is the hardest part of this process and the area where we're most in the dark. I poured over professors' webpages, I skimmed multiple articles and introductions to their books (if not the entire book), and I looked at the classes they teach. Sometimes a professor's interests develop or are not explored in their published work. I ended up only applying to places where I thought professors there in my field were asking similar questions to those I want to ask and where there were 2+ professors I was eager to work with. My two rejections were schools that were a good fit on paper (with two of the biggest names in my field), but my POIs there only satisfied 2-2.5 forms of fit. The programs I got accepted to were the schools I was most excited about. 4) I'm a procrastinator so I didn't get nearly as much feedback on my essays as I would have liked to. I've come up with probably about 10 different ways to write my SOP over the past four years, all of which perfectly encapsulated my intellectual interests and trajectory at that time and which I forgot when it came time to write my essay. Thus, I was quite blocked with trying to write my SOP. All of the perfectly crafted sentences I wrote in my head while walking to class had vanished. Consequently, I wrote and wrote. Most of it was crap. I wrote whole essays that never made it into anything I submitted. (Plan ahead for this!) But all of that intellectual work was key to getting my brain in the place where it needed to be to write my SOP. Every iteration of my SOP started with an image of me engaging in historical inquiry. It felt forced and hokey, but I guess it worked. I jumped straight into the action and maintained a sustained focus on the types of questions I ask, how I read sources, and the research I've done in the past. When I mentioned my post-collegiate work, I folded it into an intellectual narrative. I let me CV and GPA speak for themselves and used the SOP as an opportunity to let them peak inside my head and see what ideas and questions get me excited. FWIW, one of my POI commented that my application stood out for it's excitement, curiosity, and energy. I struggled to be specific and concrete in earlier iterations of my SOP. Actually, I thought I was plenty specific, but my professors told me to suggest possible avenues for exploring the ideas and questions that interested me. I hinted at possible projects and ways I would research those projects. (I had one interview and in that interview I was asked what sources I might use. I didn't talk about my future project at length in my SOP, but I had given it a lot of thought. I knew what kind of debates it would speak to and what my basic game plan would be for approaching it. Of course, all of this will shift and mature as I learn more, but I did the best I could based on where I was.) 5) I got really obsessive and strategic when tailoring my SOP to fit each school. I googled the f*ck out of this website, the chronicle's forums, and the rest of the internet to glean any insight into how programs make their decisions. I don't know if any of it helped, but it calmed my nerves. I did my best to figure out who was on the admissions committees at each school, and when I couldn't really figure that out, I wrote my SOP in a way that would appeal to as many professors as possible while still maintaining my focus in my field. In the end, my SOP had to convince me that I should definitely go to that school. If you can't convince yourself it's a perfect fit, how will you be able to convince the professors who read it? 6) In terms of writing POIs and other forms of contact, I didn't do it for every school but I did it for every school I was accepted to (but not all my POIs). I stressed over these emails and sent them later than I should have (October, November, and in some cases December), but they didn't really help me either way, I think. Everyone I spoke to was super encouraging, but they hadn't seen my credentials at that point and their encouragement shouldn't be taken as a sign that you're a viable candidate or that you should even apply. I got some useful info about fellowship funding from one school, but otherwise, I don't think these emails made a difference either way. That said, one the professors writing me a recommendation knows two of the professors at one of the schools where I was accepted and another professor at a second school were I was accepted well. He's not a big name (yet), but he's a wonderful guy and I think those connections did benefit my application. Applicants can't do anything about this, but academia is a small community and I'm convinced that these networks make an impact in this process. Nevertheless, I also got into a school where I had no connections. 7) If you have an interview, reread your application and the work you've done that influences your thinking. Otherwise, DO NOT REREAD YOUR SOP. I forgot a period at the end of a paragraph amongst the various errors I made (including mistaking the location of one of my programs). Somehow, I still got in but rereading my SOP added greatly to my stress level. YMMV. Here's some of the insight I've gotten from professors at specific programs during this process: 1) USE PRIMARY SOURCES IN YOUR WRITING SAMPLE. This really should just be a baseline, but apparently, not all applicants do it. 2) Taking time off from school is a good thing, especially if you can use it to reflect thoughtfully on why you want to go back to school. 3) Princeton's PhD is very quick and they are looking for applicants who can "hit the ground running." Ultimately, you do all you can do but a lot of the results come down to chance. This process requires you to both be obsessive in your research and learn to let go. Remember that neither acceptances nor rejections are referendum on your value as a human being. And most importantly, get some lucky shampoo. Just my two cents.
  2. Official acceptances from Cornell went out today, I think, snow or no snow. Sorry to be the bearer of potential grim news!
  3. Sigaba, thank you so much for your comments. I'm trying not to focus on the job market at this point, but I have to admit it's the biggest nagging concern at the back of my mind when I look at my slate of schools. When I was researching programs to apply to, I noticed that roughly 70% of the professors got their PhDs at Harvard, Princeton, or UC Berkeley. Perhaps these programs all had strengths in my field for the past few decades, but more recently, their programs aren't as dynamic as programs roughly ranked 10-20. I focused my applications on programs where I thought I'd receive the best training in my field and where I would be able to become the historian I am capable of becoming. Now, as I try to decide between three excellent programs with placement rates that make me nervous, I wonder if I made a mistake. I keep reminding myself that the placement rate for professors I would have worked with at Princeton is just as dismal as the schools where I've been accepted. How much are your job prospects (assuming that all candidates are equal, which they're definitely not) dictated by the "prestige" of your dissertation committee vs. the department as a whole?
  4. I'm not sure why they don't send out the rejections earlier, but I'm 99% sure all the acceptances have been sent out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news! In the past, rejections tend to go out towards the end of the first week in March. The information on their website seems to be way out of date. I was terrified because they mentioned an interview but there was no interview involved at all in the process (for me at least).
  5. You can ship them media mail, which drastically reduces the costs but it's still going to be $150 or so if your library is anything like mine.
  6. Thanks to everyone who has engaged with my questions so far! My answer echoes some of what others have said before. If you had asked me back when I was a freshman in college, my answer would be quite different (but I take it as a good sign that my thinking has matured since then). This won't be as cohesive or eloquent as I would like it, but here's a preliminary sketch of my thoughts: There are six main thrusts to why I study history. They overlap and probably contradict each other, but I suppose that's to be expected. 1) I'm a bit of a misanthrope and introvert but I'm deeply curious about the lives of others. I'd love to go peeping into other people's brains if I could. But the relationships necessary for that level of access are two way streets. Studying those who are long dead allows me that level of access without the reciprocal expectations. Dead people don't look back at you and expect things from you or judge you. You can't disappoint them. You can't have awkward conversations with dead people if all the conversations are in your head. It's just easier. 2) Someone earlier beautifully wrote about their curiosity about the forces that wore away at stone steps. It's a powerful image for me. I often think about the accretion of experiences in urban spaces and the way these experiences build on one another in complicated ways to produce the world we live in today. As I enter into the world, I want to do my best to be in conversation with the forces and layers that produce the world as I receive it. (Has anyone read Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity? It's been a long time since I've read it, but this is compelling me to return to it.) Fundamentally, I'm just curious but understanding this kinesthesia (as one of my POIs described it) is also helpful as I work to shape the world for the better. 3) Being in an archive is the closest I get to God (or what I, as an atheist, assume people find in their deity of choice). In such a chaotic and destructive world, the fact that fragile and precious materials survive the ravages of time provides a bulwark against the inevitability of change and decay. Cherishing what survives also allows me to mourn what we have lost and that we will perpetually continue to lose the world around us as time marches on. I don't mean to sound dark or melodramatic nor do I dwell on this, but our impermanence haunts my time in the archives. I both grieve and reconcile myself to the fact that I will never be a part of or know those individuals and communities who shape my world. Archives make me feel small and insignificant (kind of like thinking about the vastness of space). As a person (like most of us) inclined towards egoism, being reminded how insignificant my life is is probably a good reminder. 4) Just as archives provoke my existential fears, they also allay them. Especially for social and microhistorians, we spend a lot of time studying the lives of "mundane" people. I, likely, will never be famous, but this sort of history is a helpful reminder that though my place in this universe is infinitesimally small, my life still matters. I am imbricated in forces vastly greater than me, both as a passive recipient of cultures/norms/discourses/etc and as an active force shaping the world around me with my choices (I'm thinking of Camus, Foucault, and Arendt here). 5) Though I'm loathe to admit it, point four results in a nagging desire at the back of my mind to someday appear on the pages of historians years from now. I study history out of a sense of obligation, too, a way of paying it forward, if you will. I'm not saying that historians make the lives of the dead matter; I mean that historians get to give our subjects an afterlife. (Now who that afterlife serves is a question I struggle with deeply...) 6) Many others here have proffered the idea that the "past is prologue." While I generally agree with this idea, I have one big caveat. Part of the reason I study the past--especially the not-so-recent past--is because it isn't prologue, at least not necessarily. I'm drawn to moments of opacity that are wildly alien from the world and worldview I partake of now. As a massive homo (surprise!), I, like many others, am not satisfied with the ways my desire for certain types of bodies has been amalgamated into a sexual orientation I must proclaim to the world (lest I be accused of suffering from undue shame). But if I look beyond the late 19th century, I find a whole set of alien paradigms for thinking about sex, desire, and gender. Though some were wildly oppressive, thinking beyond our received identities and paradigms enables me to undo them. It's hard to think beyond the gender binary or the hetero/homo/queer spectrum. I have agender friends who struggle to imagine what it means for them to not be female or male. Here the past can provide useful examples that we can steal from when they provide useful prologue. Understanding the roots and changing nature of the discourses I find oppressive makes them seem less ineluctable (sorry for the wordiness). So, for me, history fundamentally enables me to be a more ethical citizen. It's part of my social justice efforts just as much as it is a personal salve. Whoops, I've outted myself as a complete weirdo. This isn't all of my thoughts or a great approximation of them, but it will do for now.
  7. I prohibited myself from buying books this year considering I'll probably have to ship them all cross-country at the end of the year, but for each acceptance, I allowed myself to buy one book. One of them is my POI's new book that just came out and it's (15 pages in...) amazing. I keep pinching myself thinking that someone this brilliant and empathetic and awesome wants to work with me. What type of clothes are you guys buying? While I recognize that I probably can't dress like a slovenly undergrad next year, I also don't have any plans to procure a new wardrobe for myself. Should I reconsider?
  8. So the "diluted" thread is making me irrationally frustrated, but it's raised an interesting question for me that I didn't want to derail the other conversation to address. As a generally thoughtful and successful bunch of nascent historians, I'm curious why you chose to study history, of all things. Fascination is probably at the core of it for most of us, but at a deeper level does history serve a personal or political purpose *for you* and, if so, what is it? What is your relationship to the past? (I anticipate this might devolve into a conversation about the purpose of teaching history writ large--which I am not questioning--but I'm really just curious about your own personal motivations. I think they will speak to our ideological and methodological investments.) I suspect we've all given this question a lot of thought as we've written SOP and invested so much of ourselves in the process of applying to grad school. I'm curious to see where our answers overlap and where they diverge. TL;DR: Why do you study history?
  9. Unfortunately, I think Rutgers doesn't do batches. From what I know, they have a waitlist/shortlist but that's it. I'm assuming everyone who was accepted or waitlisted was emailed by the DGS today. Sorry, guys! It truly is Rutgers' loss.
  10. Officially in hiding until all my results are in. Good luck everyone!

  11. Is this inside info? Here's my chart for the Cal data: My guess is that Cal decides as a department either this week or next. I would bet the department's picks have to go through the bureaucracy to be finalized. Some POI can't wait and email their admits prior to the final stamp of approval from the University. The rest hear from the university when everything is official. Perhaps that's why we have the appearance of two waves? Everyone gets rejected at once, though. There are a few outliers for most of the schools I've looked at. I'm assuming this is driven by factors like applicants emailing/calling the department to ask about their status, applicants not checking their status online, and professors' eagerness to reach out to their admits.
  12. Heimat, here are some of your schools. I'll do more tomorrow. I decided not to stress myself trying to find a way to make complicated bar graphs mainly because I think having each year line up coveys the trends well enough. Please let me know if you have a suggestion for a better way to display this data. UColorado-Boulder. There's not much data to go off of. Indiana University-Bloomington University of Kansas: (So little data!!) University of Minnesota:
  13. Friend of mine spoke with the DGS at Northwestern. He said they'd hear from him in early February. Thus, I'd expect you to hear back the first week of February.
  14. Great! I'll take a stab at these tonight.
  15. Also, most schools won't start contacting people until next week at the earliest. In the past, most of the supper early acceptances (i.e. this week) are Oxford or sporadic POI contacting applicants early. If memory serves, TOSU and maybe UCR (there is another one I'm forgetting—maybe Michigan or Wisconsin?) will send out results next week. WUSTL will also mail out rejections by the end of the month and email acceptances. Of course, everything could be different this year. Frustratingly, some schools will vary year to year by as much as two weeks.
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