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Bumblebea last won the day on June 11 2018

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  1. Yes, this. And also, more generally, it's comforting to tell ourselves narratives about why unsuccessful candidates are obviously so unsuccessful ("he's got a bad personality"; "she must have botched her teaching presentation"). Resist that impulse. In this job market, it's quite possible to do everything "right" and still be shut out not for multiple jobs but for multiple years on the job market. Regardless of what Karen Kelsky may try to tell you (i.e. sell you), there aren't tons of candidates out there who make it to the final round and then get up to give their job talk and do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAanrkLn6bI&t=0m24s Most of us are pretty practiced at interviewing and job-talking by the time we get to the final stage. I don't know anyone who makes the ridiculous mistakes that get passed around as cautionary tales on social media (and I've also seen people give less-impressive job talks that resulted in a job anyway). It's possible to do everything "right" and walk away from the table without a job.
  2. It's just difficult to know. From someone on the other side of this process, I'll say that I've "lost" on the job market multiple times to people who went to "less prestigious" programs. (In fact, I've lost multiple times to people from a program I turned down, lol.) I've also beat out people who went to better programs. At the same time, I've seen firsthand how obsessed academia is with prestige, and elite grads fare better, statistically speaking. A more prestigious PhD is also a big boost when getting fellowships and postdocs. A person from a prestigious program just gets the benefit of the doubt. Granting agencies are just far more willing to throw money at someone who went to Northwestern than they are to someone who went to a school with less "brand recognition." All things being equal, it's impossible to predict how you'll fare on the job market 6-7 years from now. But "fit" is very important on the market, much moreso than it is even in the admissions process.
  3. Without knowing exactly what your GPA was, it's hard to say. However, if your advisor thinks it won't hold you back, then you can probably relax. At the same time, I would push back on the assumption that graduate GPA is a less-important part of the application and that a stellar writing sample and SOP will offset a low graduate GPA. Obviously, a high GPA won't get you accepted. It probably doesn't even catch an adcom's eye. However, part of the reason it doesn't catch an adcom's eye is because most English MA students get very high grades. Grades are somewhat inflated in English grad programs, so if an application with an uncharacteristically low MA GPA crossed my desk, I would be a little concerned, wondering if the applicant is prepared for a PhD program, or if they're someone who doesn't work that hard--regardless of how fabulous their writing sample is. You have to remember that PhD programs aren't just looking for the most talented students--they're looking for students who they think will finish their degrees and be active members of their cohort. Graduate GPA can help them gauge that. It sounds that your advisor has confidence in you, though, which is what matters here. But if you feel your "low" GPA is going to be a problem, you might be ask them to address the matter in a letter of rec, saying something along the lines of "sweating is an excellent and energetic thinker, but they suffered a health setback last year. However, they made a full recovery and later went on to do X, Y, and Z. Their excellent writing sample on such-and-such is a reflection of their promise."
  4. Definitely not! In fact, I would say that taking time "off" between degrees (and I hesitate to call it time "off" since what you do between degrees is hard work, right?) is actually a very smart move these days. I took five years between degrees. And, full disclosure: I'm junior faculty now ... and even TT jobs are not secure. People I know with TT jobs (but not yet tenured) are getting laid off left and right to the point that I'm dusting off my resume with all my "non-academic" work experience. Getting let go before getting tenure is a reality that many of us are facing. So many universities are in such dire financial straits that they are eliminating people who are not yet tenured. I feel that the work I did between degrees may actually help me get a non-academic job, should it come to that. I don't want to be Debbie Downer in this forum, since people should be proud of themselves for getting into graduate school regardless of the outcome ... but yeah, it's really ugly out there right now, and we haven't hit rock bottom yet. That's just to serve as a reminder that you should always keep your options open and think about other things you can do with your skills!
  5. 100 is actually pretty very big for a class. 15 students per program is actually considered huge for most programs. Most programs also have to accept 1.5 - 3x as many students to obtain their target class size. I imagine that the number is significantly higher for unfunded programs. When I was an undergrad, everyone I knew that applied to Chicago was offered a spot in their MAPH program. As far as I'm aware today, the only people who aren't offered referred to the MAPH program are those who have a master's in the program they originally applied to. Because the program is not fully funded, I imagine the number of acceptances is somewhere between 500-1,500.  This. I assume the 15-students-per-discipline thing is the yield, not the number of people they accept. You'd have to accept A LOT of people to get a yield of 15 students to come to a program with no funding and dubious prospects.
  6. Okay. Several major problems with what you're saying here. No, adjuncting is not your "only option" to stay involved in academia, and not everybody has had to adjunct at some point or another. In fact, again, I would recommend that you do not do this unless you absolutely HAVE to (as in, "I need to stay alive and adjuncting is the only way I can buy food this month"). Yes, the system is exploitative. Yes, the universities are to blame. But no, you are not somehow obligated to be exploited simply because you need to stay in academia and you have an English degree and boy oh boy what are you supposed to do now. More importantly, a degree in English is not some kind of sentence to working at Office Max or Starbucks. To say that is just wrong, and it also hurts us in the long run. Part of the reason the academic job market is so bad--especially in the humanities--is because of the near historic decline of people majoring in the humanities. The school where I got my PhD is busy dismantling the English department as we speak, replacing required lit classes with business writing and creative writing. (And this, by the way, is a "top 30" program, though I doubt it will be much longer.) Part of this decline is due to the fact that people buy into the bullshit that getting a degree in English or history or French will doom you to a lifetime of pouring coffee, and therefore no one is allowing their kids to major in the humanities anymore. When we talk about having to work into Office Max, we perpetuate that myth and do a terrible job of selling our line of work to the next generation of students. A degree in English is actually super useful and can be lucrative. In fact, it may actually be more lucrative in the long run if one decides to go into private sector work. Here's the notoriously conservative "The Hill" on the subject: https://thehill.com/opinion/education/411925-a-humanities-degree-is-worth-much-more-than-you-realize I got my (fully funded) master's in a humanity at a time when the economy was tanking--in a much worse place than it is right now. I decided I didn't want to continue to a PhD at that point. I applied for jobs--both adjunct and professional jobs. I landed my first professional editing job making $40k a year with excellent benefits (they wanted an English major!) ... on the same day I got a call from the community college offering me a couple classes for $1100 each. Obviously I chose the editing job. I have never worked as an adjunct. I managed to get into a PhD program several years later; not being part of academia didn't keep me from getting back in. Sure, it was harder in terms of the fact that I didn't have access to JSTOR from home, but I had several public universities in my area where I could go and make copies of articles and use databases. And even if you don't land a professional job, no PhD program is going to care that you worked at Office Max or mopped floors at Wendy's. They just are not going to care! I would also add--and this is super important to keep in mind--that it's necessary for humanities PhDs to cultivate skills outside academia. Because, as others have pointed out, even if you get your PhD at Harvard, that's no guarantee of academic employment. The copy editing or technical writing you did for a couple years between degrees might come in handier than you realize.
  7. This. And while we're on the subject, I'm going to have to drop in to do a little PSA about adjuncting. Please don't adjunct unless it's a matter of survival. When you adjunct, you basically eliminate your future line of employment. Moreover, you deserve better than adjuncting--we all do. We all deserve a job with benefits that pays a living wage, even if it's outside academia. I know that there are people out there who HAVE to adjunct ... but again, that's why those of us who have some sort of choice in the matter (i.e. other, better prospects) should not do it. (I could never have afforded to adjunct for an actual living anyway--it just doesn't pay enough where I live to support a single person unless you're willing to live with five roommates in a bad part of town. As @frenchphdpoints out, those who need to be self-supporting usually can't do it.) Just say no to MAPH and just say no to adjuncting. On paying for master's degrees--so many people here have already made excellent points, so I won't belabor the matter. I will say, however, that I had a friend who did MAPSS, which is the "social science" equivalent of MAPH. She originally applied for PhD programs in anthropology and applied only to top-flight schools. She did not have a BA from a prestigious university, which I think is what set her back in the admissions process. For that reason, she was also very impressed with the Chicago name and really wanted a Chicago degree. She dropped a ton of money on MAPSS with the intent reapplying to PhD programs with a stronger and more elite background ... but when she was finished, she realized it wasn't feasible. She just had so much debt. She's been working a "soul-sucking" job (her words, not mine) ever since, struggling to pay off this ginormous Chicago debt. Her proposed anthropology projects were fascinating, and I feel that she should skipped MAPSS and reapplied, maybe to less-prestigious schools or maybe to the same schools but with an improved application. But in any case, she's not only not an anthropologist; she's not-an-anthropologist with debt and a job she really did not ever intend to take.
  8. I did not say that "giving easy A's" was "the only way" to get better evals, but I that I think it's certainly an efficient way to get better evals (probably the most efficient), and to get them in a hurry. I also framed this proposition as an "if ... then" statement. If high evaluations are important to the department, then OP needs to work on raising them as quickly as possible. I don't think it's smart practice to inflate grades for the hell of it. But if someone is working within an innately rigged system (or an incompetent one that doesn't care to provide decent training and oversight for TAs), then they have to think about self-preservation. At many universities, high evaluations are tied to TA privileges (summer teaching, self-designed classes), and if evaluations are being used in this way, then you need to find an efficient way to raise them. End of. Moreover, one can become a better instructor and give higher grades simultaneously. These are not mutually exclusive things. I am indeed unapologetically cynical about student evaluations, given the fact that they've been demonstrated time and time again to be a bigger indicator of students' biases and prejudices, with women and minorities receiving lower evaluations than their white male counterparts. I won't go into that at length, since the information is so ubiquitous, but I would recommend this very recent article that just ran in the Chronicle: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Colleges-Are-Getting-Smarter/245457?cid=trend_right_a There's evidence to suggest that professors who get lower scores on evaluations may actually be better instructors, as demonstrated by students' performance in subsequent classes. Having said that, yes, you can learn a lot from your evaluations when those evaluations contain comments in response to carefully phrased questions. However, while the OP said some feedback was useful, they also indicated that much of it was not, and they pointed out the polarized pattern that plagues a lot of student feedback: students either rate you as very clear or not clear at all; very prepared or not prepared at all. That is bog standard normal for early TA evaluations, and evaluations more generally. You have some students who, dissatisfied with things, give someone all 1's; while other students go down the list and give someone all 5's. When it comes to evaluations, numbers alone are virtually meaningless. Becoming a better teacher takes time, and the OP will certainly get there. It's difficult to do so quickly without training (deplorable IMO) or faculty observation (which should always be done in the first semester and I assume was not). It's also difficult to teach recitations, where you have little control over the assignments and the course content. So again, if someone needs higher evaluations, then easing up on grades may be a way to get there more quickly. It's not dangerous to suggest this. What's dangerous is a program throwing someone in a classroom with zero guidance, no materials, and no weekly schedule (!!!). (Of course the material seemed unclear to the students--the TA didn't even have access to the most basic information of what was going to happen next!)
  9. I'm glad the meeting went well for you but ... I'm sort of dismayed that your low evaluations were such a point of concern for your department, as it's your first semester teaching, and student evaluations are problematic in ways that I can't even begin to go into. First of all, evaluations are oftentimes lower-than-average when you're TAing a recitation (you're the one who gives the grades on student work, I assume, so of course you're bad cop), and they're definitely going to be dicey if it's your first semester teaching. And of course you're almost always going to have a few students who hate you regardless of how long you've been teaching--probably because they just don't want to be in the class. Having said that, the best way to "improve your outcome" is to just give higher grades, as cynical as that sounds. If having high evaluations is such a big deal to your supervisors, I'd advise you to just inflate grades. If they're looking for the bottom line (higher numbers on your evals), then just give it to them. Like, as a point of comparison, no one ever cared very much about our student evaluations where I went to grad school, because they recognized that of course students are always going to complain and of course they are going to complain about a TA or instructor who teaches a required class that most students don't want to take, and who has standards and doesn't give everyone an A.
  10. Two pages over the limit is not a big deal. Don't mess with the font size, spacing, or margins (which will only hurt the readability).
  11. It's been my (admittedly limited) experience that adcoms don't really pay that much attention to the length limits they set. Moreover, most graduate-level seminars assign 20-page papers due at the end of the semester, so "20 pages" is kind of a standard length for academic work in grad school, representing about the number of pages a grad student needs to do a well-researched paper with an intro, a historical context/lit review, close reading, and conclusion. Having said that, it's always good if you can cut your writing sample wherever you can for the sake of clarity and cohesion and readability. If you can say what you need to say in 15 pages rather than 20, then you should give them 15. ETA: All that is to say, though, that I highly doubt a member of the committee would toss out a very compelling writing sample because it exceeds the limits. These programs are looking for the most talented applicants--not the ones who follow the rules.
  12. Submit your very very best paper. Write a very clear abstract for it for those who do not want to read the whole thing. (And, hidden truth time, no one on an adcom reads your entire paper anyway--especially not in the first round. They look at the intro and the first pages closely and then skim the rest.) "Suggested length" is just suggested.
  13. It seems as though you are arguing that you, by studying American literary modernism and deconstruction, will change the world, and I'm just not quite sure a dissertation (or PhD student) can do that. It also seems really anachronistic to use literature of the 20th century to talk about things like the internet, twitter, VPNs, etc.
  14. I honestly don't think you have anything to address here. Lots of PhD students don't begin until their thirties. You don't have to justify having had a life and a job and outside interests. I did not get accepted to a PhD program until I was 30, having spent time outside academia in TFA and working other jobs. As far as I know, this did not hurt or help me as an applicant. (I had hoped it would make me "more interesting" to adcoms--apparently it didn't even do that.) I also don't think your undergrad GPA is of any concern. Lots of people don't even get near a 3.6. But if your gaps are a matter of concern, you might have your recommenders address it and sell it as a strength.

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