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About lesabendio

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    English PhD

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  1. lesabendio

    Schools and Controversies

    If you're concerned about the culture of Stanford's English department and how that might impact you, I would reach out to multiple female graduate students. Of course, there's always the possibility that they might not want to talk about it for fear of retaliation or for other personal reasons, but I imagine most will give you at least a general impression. It's also worth mentioning that institutional silence about faculty sexual harassment and assault has as much to do with the power dynamics endemic to the academic workplace (e.g. the shield of tenure, the mentor-mentee structure of faculty-grad student relationships, the faculty exploitation of our affective attachments to our work, the gender disparity between faculty and grad student populations -- I could go on) as it has to do with local departmental culture. This is all to say what most of us already know: academia is still very much masculinist at best, misogynist at worst. Some places are better than others, but it's a problem common across most, if not all, English departments, and not just isolated to a few.
  2. While it's always a good idea to give yourself a head start and to get ahead of things, don't worry about it too much. I had taken 6 years off and hadn't been in school since graduating with a BA in 2010. You'll most likely take an Intro to Grad Studies seminar your first semester/quarter, in which you'll probably be introduced to contemporary approaches to methodology, critical theory, professionalization, and so on. In any case, you'll have the next 7+ years to fulfill your language requirements, research, bone up on theory, and read enough journal articles to make your head spin. So, please enjoy yourself this summer, decompress from the stresses of applying to graduate school. If you're able, take time off to do something fun--travel, backpack, visit family. Binge watch that netflix show you've sacrificed to application season. Whatever. But if you must satisfy the itch to do something grad school-related (beyond the administrative, residency stuff), I recommend reading The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities by Eric Hayot. My DGS taught certain chapters of it in our intro seminar. It's indispensable, and it's honest about the professional forms of writing we are expected to master as scholars. Among other things, it also covers techniques on how to develop productive work, writing, and reading habits.
  3. lesabendio

    2017 Acceptances

    Congratulations, @Wyatt's Terps! Well deserved. You've been a supportive presence here and have helped many people -- including myself -- get through the emotional and logistical hurtles involved in the application process. I'm positive that more acceptances will continue to roll in for you during the next few weeks!
  4. Most programs pay for most if not all expenses related to the visit, including the cost of transportation and hotel. My dept., for example, reimbursed me for the gas I used driving up to Northern California and put me up in a hotel near campus. From talking to the other admits, I know that my dept also comped across-country flights, too. Be aware, though, that public universities in particular may not have the funds to cover all expenses. I don't think you need to buy any books in advance. You're going to have enough to pay for in terms of moving expenses, campus fees (esp. if you're attending a program at a public university), and coursework texts. Besides, once you're paired up with your adviser, you'll get an idea of what texts are important to your field and in what timeframe your adviser expects you to read those texts. My advice would be to avoid trying to anticipate your program's expectations -- just wait till you're there; you'll save a lot of time and energy*. Just think: you're probably going to be there for 7+ years. You'll have plenty of time to do research. Enjoy the time between application submission and your first semester/quarter. I read a bunch of shitty sci-fi and short stories and spent a week backpacking up in the mountains before moving up north to start my program. *I will make one book suggestion, though. Get a copy of Eric Hayot's Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities published a couple years ago. My DGS used it in our Intro to Grad Studies course, and I found it extremely useful and honest about the professional forms of writing we are expected to master as scholars. Among other things, it also covers techniques on how to develop productive work, writing, and reading habits.
  5. lesabendio

    What writing sample to use

    Why not edit your SOP to align more closely with the topic of your longer paper? At this stage, I'd definitely go with the stronger paper and put your efforts into making your SOP fit the strengths of your writing sample. Even though the longer paper may not perfectly illustrate the research interests you set forth in your SOP, it'll still probably increase your chances of getting into a good PhD program better than the paper that needs significant revision. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to put together an application that best shows you've got the skills for doctoral work. That might mean deviating a little from the research interests that you really want to pursue for the sake of strengthening your application.
  6. You can email them again. They shouldn't hold last year's aborted attempt against you this time around. Actually I found myself in the same situation this past application cycle. In 2015 I asked for LORs but ended up not following through on my applications due to a sudden job switch and breakup. I didn't even let my professors know I wasn't applying anymore. Not a very professional move there, but that's the way I played it unfortunately. This past season I emailed them again, but this time as a gesture of good faith I gave them drafts of my writing sample and personal statement, transcripts, and any papers I wrote for their class, so that they had something concrete to base their letters on. I also asked if they could give me notes on my writing sample and personal statement, and whether they were available to meet during their office hours to discuss my application and research interests. I think your first email re-asking your professors for LORs should not just be some kind of announcement that you're going to try again this year and that you need their help; it needs to include specific details about what you want them to do for you, drafts for them to help you with, and anything to let them know that you're on top of things this time around. In my experience, professors are most willing to help me when my requests are clearly defined and connected to a larger plan of action.
  7. First of all, I think you're making good time as it is! You've already nearly finished (or at least have already done much of the heavy lifting for) the most challenging part of the application: the writing sample. And, as you have already mentioned, you can only study so much for the GRE to improve a previous score. You've got plenty of time between now and December to drive yourself crazy drafting and redrafting your SOP. I second @rising_star. I had the same experience. I would suggest that you start drafting your SOP as though it were a template for all of your applications. Then, after you've got a firm handle on the structure you want your SOP to take, make the content changes necessary to customize each SOP to a particular program. That way, if you find yourself running out of time, at least you've got that initial template to work with.
  8. lesabendio

    Application timeline/plan

    As many have said, I don't think reaching out to your POI is necessary for applying to English PhD programs. I didn't. It might be useful though if you have a specific vision of your graduate studies and know exactly who you want to work with. I would focus your efforts first and foremost on revising your writing sample. As soon as I knew I was going to apply this past fall (around August), I sent a first shit draft of my writing sample (a totally revamped old undergrad thesis) to 10 different readers: graduate student friends from my alma mater, writerly, non-academic friends, and a trusted coworker. By sending it to a variety of different readers from different backgrounds, I was hoping to gauge the readability as well as the academic rigor of my language and initial arguments. Sending out your writing sample early also forces you into the revision process right out of the gate and gives you plenty of time to reconsider the approach, scope, and structure of your sample. Perhaps more importantly it also gives you time to process the ego bruising you'll probably receive from your readers' feedback. I think "getting over yourself" is one of the most important steps in the application process. Once you do, you can focus more of your energy on the actual nit-and-grit labor of the writing itself. Shortly after sending out my writing sample, I drafted up a quick and dirty SOP. Before I started writing, I asked a few of my graduate student friends for the SOPs they used to get into their PhD programs in order to get an idea about what a successful SOP looks like. Although I didn't exactly use their examples as templates, I certainly broke down each SOP into their essential components and then rearranged and adapted them for my own purposes. If you can get your hands on a few examples of successful SOPs, I think they will definitely help you frame your own. That being said, the very first draft of my SOP was terrible, really cringeworthy, as one should be. At this point, drafts of my writing sample and SOP complete, I asked my former professors for letters of rec. I didn't, however, just let them know of my intention to apply. I also attached copies of my writing sample, SOP, the best paper I wrote for one of their classes, my transcripts (highlighting which class(es) I took and the grade I received), and the list of schools I intended to apply to. I feel that giving your professors as much material to work with as possible makes it easier for them to write a personalized and unique letter. It also lets them know you're serious and well-prepared. Of course, I also asked for their feedback and for notes on my writing sample and SOP, which they happily provided. If possible, I would also arrange a time to visit them during their office hours to discuss all of your application materials and the list of programs you're interested in. In my case, I also needed to reintroduce myself to one professor who had difficulty remembering who I was as a student (it has been 6 years since I graduated). We ended up chatting for over 2 hours about her research interests, my research interests, and our mutual interest in martial arts training. It was a great way to put a face and personality to a random letter of rec request. I finalized my shortlist of 6 PhD programs sometime in September when I emailed my former professors for letters of rec. I think it should be finished by the time you get around to asking for letters or shortly thereafter, so that your letter writers have a firm idea of how many letters they may have to submit and of what kind of programs you're interested in. I made sure to have my generic SOP draft finished on December 7 and then tailored each SOP version a couple days in advance of submitting my applications. No, it never felt finished, and I agonized over every single detail, but eventually you're going to be up against a deadline that will force your hand. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably have each program-specific SOP version completed by December 7 just to give myself a little more tweaking time. I finished up my writing sample days before I submitted my first round of applications. Not a good idea. I felt terrible about it, and I came away thinking that my sample was the weakest part of my application. I felt doomed, but looking back I realize that involving so many different readers from the get-go and starting my revisions as early as possible strengthened my sample incrementally. Only in hindsight could I see how much stronger and more interesting my writing sample had become since I sent out that first shit draft to those 10 readers. So, yes, begin revising and drafting your writing sample and SOP as early as possible, even if you do a little here and a little there. You'd be surprised how much less stressful this way of working is. I hope this account of my experiences can help you out. Best of luck in the coming application season! Feel free to PM if you have any other questions.
  9. lesabendio

    2016 Acceptance Thread

    I've also accepted my UC-Davis offer. Pretty excited about their program and about moving on up to NorCal.
  10. lesabendio

    Waitlist Movements

    Congratulations! That's wonderful!
  11. lesabendio

    Waitlist Movements

    Congratulations! I'm so glad you got a spot.
  12. I'm probably going to echo better advice here, but I just applied to 6 PhD programs after I graduated with a BA in 2010. During my time off, I worked various office jobs until I finally gave myself the now-or-never ultimatum to apply. I started the process sometime in late June, but I already had early drafts of a writing sample and SOP from previous application seasons (I prepared twice but never submitted). I sent these drafts to a bunch of graduate student friends and to my eventual LOR writers. Over the next few months, they gave me notes on how to improve my work, and I would make revisions and resubmit -- back and forth. I eventually drove down to my old alma mater and met with each LOR writer personally not only to work on my application materials but also to reintroduce myself and to give them a better sense of the kind of person and scholar I had become in the years since I graduated. I can't stress enough the importance of involving your LOR writers as early and as often as possible. This will give your application a sense of direction and some confidence that you're doing things correctly (and that you're not just groping in the dark). Feel free to PM me too if you have any more specific questions, and good luck out there!
  13. lesabendio

    2016 Acceptance Thread

    Last week I visited CUNY, and it went well! We met with current students and faculty in a informal lunch and coffee setting. The program then put on a panel of students to discuss the logistics of living in New York City on a relatively small stipend, what it's like working and teaching in an unconventional, decentralized campus system, and the relationships they have with other students of their cohort and with their faculty advisors. After the panel and formal presentations ended, the day segued into your classic grad school wine and cheese mixer where you could talk with even more students and faculty. The whole thing lasted about 6 hours, and by the end I was socially exhausted, but I feel like I came away from it pretty well informed. CUNY is a unique and wonderful program. I know not all visiting days are alike and differ from program to program, but for me they're an opportunity to explore the spaces and cultural environment of the department. Many practical questions can be answered either via email or via phone, but you can explore the "feel" of the program only by actually going there and projecting yourself into its spaces of research, teaching, etc. Anyway, I'm "choosing" between UC Davis and CUNY, but it might not be much of a choice if CUNY doesn't offer me a spot off the waitlist. I'll be visiting Davis later this month, and I hope I'll be able to make a commitment shortly thereafter.
  14. When I was writing the early drafts of my SOP, I hadn't decided on a title for my writing sample yet, so I just wrote in the placeholder title "TBD" as I went along describing how my sample related to my research interests. Despite reading over and revising my SOP dozens of times, I failed to notice that I hadn't changed the placeholder title to the actual title until after I submitted my first 4 applications. And those first 4 were my top choices, too... Fortunately I fixed it in time for my last 2 applications, which, coincidentally or not, ended up landing me an acceptance and a waitlist. I applied to my alma mater's PhD program despite warnings from my LOR writers that they rarely admit former undergrads. I received a rejection email 3 weeks later. $100 down the drain. Plus! Shortly after applying, the program coordinator emailed me that they hadn't received my transcripts. I was like, what how? I paid the registrar's outsourced transcript ordering service $25 to send it literally 100 yards to the English department. There's no way they could screw that up. The coordinator said that unless she receives my transcripts in 3 days, they won't consider my application. So I had to take a day off work, drive 2 hours down to my alma mater, buy transcripts from the registrar's office, and then walk them over myself to the English department. Only to be rejected a week later. What a complete waste of time and money. The registrar wouldn't even refund my $25 for the ordering service's mistake.

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