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striped

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Everything posted by striped

  1. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    Hey everyone, It has been fairly quiet on the forums since all decisions have come out, and I'm sure we're all taking a break (whether we got the admits we wanted or the rejections we didn't!) from grad-school-related conversations. But if there are any stragglers out there who want to offer some insights, please do... Firstly, have you invested yourself 100,000% in this application process that you're starting to wonder why you even want to go to graduate school? Like, all the reasons you had before are melting away, as The Professor is In words ebb away at any hope you had for yourself in academia? I'm really feeling that way right now. I feel like an empty shell, to be honest. I spent a good year (and at this point, it's almost 3 years) after undergrad experiencing life and really deciding what I wanted for myself, and I knew it had to be pursuing a PhD. I wasn't going for the "wrong" reasons. I knew what I wanted to do, it wasn't an escape or "pause" from "real life"; it was a calling. Which, apparently, is also a reason you shouldn't pursue a PhD. So the question is, who the heck should be pursuing a PhD? After I realized what I wanted in life, I applied to PhD programs. I had some help from a LOR writer who I had a solid relationship with, and without her help my SoP would have been laughed out of admissions committees. I didn't apply to any MA programs with the overwhelming advice that it was a waste of time and money, since I was confident that I knew I wanted the PhD. However, I didn't have any conferences that I presented at- I didn't have publications, or even a stellar GPA. I had nothing but my SoP, and an "A" paper from an ethnography course as my writing sample. The 7 rejections I received my first-time around had me re-asking all the questions I thought I had answered. I came back to the forums and asked for advice- and so many people advised applying for an MA, which made sense to me (and I don't understand where that advice was my first-time around) in terms of gaining more training, a refined thesis as a writing sample. The caveat to this advice was not to go if it was unfunded- but when I started researching MA programs that would be a good fit for me--or even just regional, close-by schools--none of them were funded. It was this vicious cycle that I didn't know how to navigate. In order to be competitive for a PhD, I would need an MA, but it would be imprudent to pay for that MA, but you should have an MA to be competitive for the PhD. I was offered a half-tuition scholarship to attend UChicago's MAPSS program. I petitioned for more funding, spoke with all the professors I wanted to work with (post-acceptance as well, hoping it would encourage someone to help plead my case), and the program director, and was turned down for additional funding. I researched every single MAPSS, MPSS, and MAPH-related post on Grad Cafe and Google. I read every blog, wordpress, news article, intagram, twitter, and grad-cafe post I could find. I literally read everything about people's opinions, experiences, and reached out to a dozen MAPSS students to get a fuller portrait of their experience. So many people rage against the MA program at UChicago, whether it be in social sciences or humanities. However, I don't hear the same rage against Columbia's terminal MA program, which they often funnel their PhD rejects into. Can someone provide a reason why people hate UChicago so much, and not other MA programs in general? There isn't any hate against any other MA the way there is hate for MAPSS. I really want to get to the bottom of this. So many people have trashed it, saying that it isn't even a real program, or just a way for people to buy an MA, being a "cash cow" for the university, and the list goes on. But I never have heard that about Columbia or NYU, which are equally prestigious and virtually offer the same thing. I guess I just want to reconcile all the advice given here, which sort of boils down to this (for individuals like me, with little academic-related CV points on their applications): ->You should get an MA for the training, experience in academia, refined thesis, overall being better prepared for PhD work ---> You should not pay for an MA ------> but there are very little funded MAs out there ---------> and any program/university making you pay for an MA is using you, and all you're doing is funding their preferred PhD admits --------------> You should't go into debt for a humanities/social science degree, even if it will help land you a fully-funded PhD from a top-tier university in the future So what I'm left thinking is this: if you want a PhD you need to be brilliant and be accepted right out the gate, or have a trust-fund so that you don't have to worry about the debt of earning an MA. It's so disheartening, and makes me feel so hopeless. Should I just accept that I wasn't brilliant in undergrad, or squandered my opportunity to gain relevant experience, and give up the notion of ever earning a PhD? I was rejected from the other three PhD programs I applied to, and the MA at UMASS Amherst, so I clearly can't get into grad school with my current CV/Application. That's two cycles I've been universally rejected across. Something is't right, and I think the best step would be to do an MA- but I don't know where these fully funded MAs exist!
  2. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    Well, the overarching gist of my initial post asked a couple of specific questions in the vein of "do funded MAs exist" (as I had not found any, and people I spoke to in person didn't provide a lot of info on MAs in general) and asking for opinions on who should be pursuing a PhD (after all, I feel pretty disheartened), as well as if anyone had thoughts about the cycle I discussed. The conversation sort of evolved into asking about specific programs, and I didn't make my interests clear. I am interested in aesthetics, media, technology, on-demand service culture, social media, and modernity. Thanks for all insights given, everyone! Personal experience is always the best teacher, and I appreciate you guys telling me about your PhD journeys.
  3. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    I get that- just looking for help, as I've researched many programs for two years now and haven't found much out about funded MA programs. I have definitely done my research, but I guess that's why I wrote this post- I've reached a dead-end and tons of conflicting advice both here and from professors and students. Anyway, I don't want to come across as wanting others to do the legwork for me, so I guess I'll just end the thread here
  4. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    @rising_star well, I am not 100% against deferring. I was hoping for people to share their experiences at specific schools and specific funded MA programs. No one I've spoken to has alluded to specific ones, and I wasn't sure where to start looking.
  5. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    @Concordia I'm not sure if I can defer. I don't really want to, I guess. I've already taken 2.5 years off, I feel like I'm ready to be back in school. I just wish the MAPSS program wasn't so widely distrusted/despised. I guess I came here to get some advice about where to find funded MAs, like specific schools/programs, just in case I have the option to rescind my acceptance...
  6. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    @rising_star I think what you're saying is correct- but I don't really know what to do. I've accepted the offer, I thought about it for a good month and half, spoke to tons of people, and I I didn't get a ton of advice about funded MAs. That's why I wrote this post, I guess. I'm trying to see if any one could point me in the direction of funded MAs they were in, or knew of. I couldn't afford my undergrad education either- and that's where I'm so frustrated by the system, because it seems like education is built for either the very accomplished/brilliant, or the rich. If I'm neither, should I not pursue it? As far as options that won't be there because of MAPSS-could you please expand on what I would be prohibited from because of the debt, that I wouldn't already be prohibited from doing due to my undergrad debt? @cowgirlsdontcry Thanks so much for sharing your experience with me. I didn't realize those options were available, and I'm not sure why they're not more publicized- maybe because everyone would flock to them and make them extremely competitive? That's also awesome that you owned your home and didn't have to worry about livings costs- that's the dream!
  7. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    @CrunchCrunch I think you make a good point about meeting as many professors as you can, and establishing relationships- but I live in California and certainly can't afford to travel across the country all the time, and take off time from work, for various events that one professor might be at, or attend office hours... especially since I'm looking at a number of schools. I will definitely do my best to meet as many as I can, though, when on campus! I'll also be nearer to other schools on the east coast, making visiting them much easier/affordable. @rising_star I didn't realize funding was offered if you held a job unrelated to the department- or even, held a job (at the university) at all. I thought funding meant that they give you money up front- with opportunity to TA, but since MAPSS doesn't allow their MA students to TA, it seemed like the only avenue for funding was what they offered upfront. Thanks for letting me know- I will investigate more opportunities for workstudy/jobs at the university. To my knowledge, the MAPSS program does not support you if you apply to PhD programs your entering semester, and I'm fine with this because I'll be living abroad immediately after graduation (I'll be doing everything in my power to graduate on time in the summer), hopefully gaining some informal experience, and also working on my PhD application for the next year. And I can't really afford MAPSS. I couldn't even afford my undergrad education. I'm the only person on both sides of my family to graduate even high school, so I had to take out loans for all my academic endeavors. That's why I was so torn about MAPSS- here I finally had an opportunity to make myself more competitive for a PhD, but at such a price! That's why I feel so conflicted- it seems to me that you either have to be brilliant or rich to pursue a PhD, and that's why I was asking if anyone knew of MAs that funded, as I wasn't aware that many did.
  8. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    @Comparativist @museum_geek I think the work (should) outweighs the name of the school, too- I just have never had much help in finding MAs that provide funding. Even when discussing options with my LOR writer, she mentioned that it wouldn't be in my best interest to apply to MA programs (and like I mentioned in my post, a lot of people on here said it wouldn't be in my best interest either). That's why I didn't even consider MAs my first time around. My second time around (2016 cycle) I narrowed down my schools to absolute best fits, to schools/programs whose faculty I spoken with, which were 3 PhD programs and I threw in one 1 MA (Amherst) as a sort of backup, which I didn't get into either. I also didn't know that funding opportunities were presented after admission- I guess that makes sense, but I just didn't know. I spoke with a lot of professors and students, and no one mentioned any aspect of attaining an MA- I wish I would have asked specifically... I already accepted the MAPSS offer but to be honest, I don't feel all that good about it, only because everyone's points about it make me feel pretty bad. I personally am excited about the courses being offered, the rigorous academic environment I'll be in, etc. But, it seems like everyone has their own idea about the right applicant to be, the right path to the PhD, the right life after the PhD...it's hard to tune everyone's negativity about MAPSS out. Now I am wondering if another path (like seeing if my regional state school would have given funding) would have been better...
  9. striped

    Reality Check: MAs

    @museum_geek Thanks for your thoughts! It certainly is demoralizing, especially when there are so many people (current students, professors, or The Professor is In) saying that there are very few people who should actually be going to grad school (pursuing a PhD, more specifically). It's unfortunate the program gets so much heat. It's been a serious deterrent for me to accepting the offer...I am afraid that everyone will look at it as being less than worthy, or being a "fake" program. While I don't think an MA in social sciences will be useful for a career in accounting, it certainly could be helpful for a myriad of other jobs, like in the non-profit or government sectors. I don't see it as being illegitimate, and I just wish others didn't either. That's awesome advice about looking out for funding down the line- I didn't know that was possible, and it's very reassuring to know!
  10. striped

    visual anthropology and how to choose the school?

    Hello I wanted to provide a brief, somewhat limited, response based on my experience attending SFSU as an anthro undergrad (focus in sociocultural). I know for a fact that SFSU boasts a really great film department in general, and the anthro department there is honestly SO solid as well. These two factors combined, from my outsider perspective, make the program a great contender for anyone considering visual anthropology. I had a few colleagues in undergrad who were attempting to focus on visual anthropology and some even ended up attending SFSU for an MA in it. The anthro dept at SFSU is particularly great for visual anthro because most of them are activists of some kind and are passionate about representing the underserved across all kinds of media. I have heard only good t hings about professors specializing in visual anthropology. This in mind, however, you will find that the faculty and campus is very political and many of the students/faculty are pursuing visual anth to make a difference in the world, or even the SF community. San Francisco is going through an absolute crisis right now with regards to gentrification and extreme racial division with so many neighborhoods being gutted all throughout the city. Many of the professors are passionate about stopping the city from being swallowed up by silicon valley. I think, from the experience I gathered from my colleagues, you sort of have to be political if you're studying anthropology of any kind, at the undergrad or grad level, at SFSU. I will say that the professors there are 100% top of the line. They are often people who come from the best schools in the country, both in training and teaching, who take time out of their schedules to be lecturers simply because, and I'm quoting an actual professor I had who was also a professor at UC Berkeley, "I teach here [at SFSU] because the students are passionate, and they are some of the best students I have come across." The professors care so, so much, and they will never stick up their noses at you. The people at SFSU want to change the world, and change it all together. Just my two cents! I really enjoyed my time as an undergrad there, and got to work with some amazing anthropology professors. Hope this was helpful!
  11. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    @hantoo Thanks for your insights! I just don't understand why they won't reject me already. It seems like a good number of people have received rejections and I don't see the logic in not rejecting me alongside those other people. & Thanks also for the positivity!
  12. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    Congrats to all who have been accepted (anywhere) and especially to those accepted to their top choices. I'm really happy for you and wish you nothing but the best on your journey! Does anyone know if the UChicago rejections are coming in waves? I see many rejections, but I haven't heard anything at all- no rejection, waitlist, etc. Same thing from MIT- just radio silent. Paranoia is settling in!
  13. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    Can anyone speak for activity happening with MIT HASTS? I am positive I am rejected (no interview request and I've been rejected from less prestigious schools, indicating my app isn't up to snuff), but I only saw one interview submitted on the survey page and haven't seen anything else.
  14. striped

    Ethnic Studies/American Ethnic Studies

    Hi! I'm not sure about the programs at these schools, but I wanted to give an FYI if you're not already aware about UCR in terms of the city itself. For reference, I was born and raised in San Diego with my family, and my brother ended up going to UCR and became so depressed because of the city that he dropped out. While some programs might be amazing for what we want to do, I think it's important we also consider the cities/environment they are situated in, because it is just as important in terms of being productive/having a quality of life. Life will be hard enough being in a rigorous PhD program, one doesn't need the added stressor of living in a depressing environment. Riverside is very removed from everything, despite being relatively close to both LA and SD. The inland empire is known for having high drug use rates, low incomes, scarcity of jobs, and 8 out of the top 10 worst cities to live in in California are all in Riverside or San Bernardino county (very close to UCR). That being said, I think your happiness/life is mostly what you make of it and I've known some people to do their graduate work at UCR and are quite content with the city, so take all of that into account when considering the info I provided above, but I wanted to let you know just in case & I definitely didn't mean any offense to anyone at UCR- they have some great, great programs there (esp. agricultural/bio programs) but having lived in San Diego and then Temecula (in Riverside county) for all my life, I wanted to be sure that people know what they're getting themselves into, environment-wise, as I feel that environment is crucial to one's happiness/productivity!
  15. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    @Mugi Mila Thanks for the perspective and encouragement! It's weird, I've consulted so many people regarding these inquiries and they all told me to throw my hat in the PhD ring- almost all advised against getting an MA first, and now it seems like people are strongly encouraging it (and even making it seem requisite!). I applied to seven PhD programs last year, and was rejected from all- I applied to 4 programs this year and think I will be rejected from all, again, just based on the prestige of these universities/programs. The deadlines have passed for all MA programs in my state for this cycle, and now I will have to wait another year, making it three years that I have been working toward this. It isn't so bad to wait for something so important- I'm learning so much and it's all been a valuable experience- but I really am tired of working jobs in customer service/industries that have little meaning or relevance to the future I'm trying to pursue. @EvelynD You can probably relate, working in a call center (I worked in a call center in 2015 and was right there with you!). So many people struggle their whole lives to figure out what they want to do- I am lucky enough to know with a passion what I want to do, and I can't seem to get there. I am so happy for people getting in, this cycle. I'm really excited that you get to embark on this amazing journey!
  16. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    @Spaghettyohz @ArchaeodanGoodness, SUCH good advice. I wish someone had told me that six months ago. I was oscillating between applying to PhD and/or MA programs and based on advice I had received from current students here, a few students I corresponded to in the programs I was applying to, and one of LOR writers, I applied to 3 PhD programs out of 4 programs total. What you said about the MA being mostly beneficial for knowing the ins and outs of academia is so true- it's such a foreign world to me at this point, and I think being trained in that before conducting research is really important. Well, I suppose I should start preparing my application materials again for the next application cycle...! Thanks so much for both of your much-needed perspectives on this.
  17. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    @youinreverse I'm trying to keep my chin up, but I applied to such top programs...and this is my second time applying. I've now invested around $1,700 in application fees, countless hours preparing everything...of course, it was all worth it, and really, it's the minimum one should do for something this serious they want to pursue, but it's disheartening to think that I've never been a serious consideration for admission- I'm probably an easy rejection. It's my responsibility to make myself more competitive, it just seems like I'm not getting anywhere with the efforts I'm making and I'm thinking it's because I have no idea where to start. CONGRATS ON YOUR INTERVIEW! That's seriously amazing, I hope it goes well! Sending all the best vibes your way. @terraaurea That's good to know there's hope! I didn't know about schools having an incentive like that to admit people out of undergrad like that. Wishing you the best of luck for all the programs you applied to! @busybee That's awesome that you got in straightaway like that. I wish I knew the different expectations of the programs. On their website they say one thing, but reading everyone's feedback/discussions in the forums makes me realize that these programs operate in a very different way than they convey on their website. I reached out to so many professors / current grad students to find out more about the admissions process, but didn't receive super helpful feedback about it. I get the sense that a lot of professors/current grad students think it's tacky or some kind of faux pas to discuss admissions processes.
  18. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    @GreenEyedTrombonist I totally agree with you about being able to research and hone your skills as an anthropologist in the interim (if you aren't accepted to a PhD program), but people seemed to advise against it anyway. Not really sure why... I am a bit shocked that a simple Cal Grant covers your entire tuition...I am a first-generation American who comes from a very low-income household, and I'm also an underrepresented minority, and I barely qualified for some grants in undergrad. I went to SFSU. I owe $25k still (partly because I had to take out loans to help pay for the exorbitant rent in SF, but a good deal of it also went to covering tuition costs as well). I find it very difficult to believe that the Cal Grant covers your entire tuition for an MA! I'll definitely look into that! I have researched many programs and reached out to current students and professors. I've tried to find out as much as I can about best fits, and I've applied accordingly. Last year I applied to 7 programs and this year I've applied to 4. Last year I was definitely a little gratuitous with programs which is why I only applied to programs this year that were absolutely the best possible fits. Still...I know I will be rejected from all of them again. I have nothing to show. Thanks for your insights, I really sincerely appreciate them!
  19. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    @GreenEyedTrombonist @Bschaefer Thanks so much for your replies! I don't really know how to begin that process, though. TAships are competitive- which grants cover your costs like that? People I have spoken to on this forum have almost all advised against going to get an MA when I know I want to pursue a PhD- I feel like I have received so much conflicting information. I'm just not sure what to be looking for, I suppose, so it makes posing the right questions difficult. Your replies are so appreciated!
  20. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    Hey all! Haven't been around in a while, but I've been keeping up with this board specifically as I wait for responses. I'm also pretty bummed that I haven't received an interview request from MIT HASTS program. It is the absolute fit-of-fits for my project and I spent a lot of time reading most of the published works of the professor who would be such a wonderful POI. I even had some contact back from her when I emailed her- while it was short, she did encourage me to apply and that my project sounded "fascinating". It was something, right? But after reading through the different discussions in the last few weeks on this thread, I feel so dumb for applying for a second round of PhD programs, especially to top programs. It seems like everyone here is currently enrolled in MA programs and many are getting rejections for PhD apps. I don't have an MA and I feel like I've had a lot of advice from people on this forum and one of my LORs that you don't need an MA or publications to be admitted to PhD programs. A lot of schools don't even have MA programs themselves- so I'm really confused about the expectation these schools have. If most of their more qualified applicants already have MAs, but they themselves don't even offer an MA program, do they expect students to achieve MAs from lesser-ranked or state schools? I feel like that is my only option at this point- to spend upwards of 60-80k getting an MA from my regional state school (SDSU) and then reapply to PhD programs after. But people have advised against that, too. I know that many of these programs offer admission to the PhD program and allow you to attain your MA along the way, which is what I was counting on, but now I just feel really ignorant about what they actually expect in terms of students who they are seriously considering admitting. I did apply to one MA program, but I am not keeping my hopes up. I feel so underqualified. How does one get published? How do you get invited to conferences? How does one get in the academic community when all they have is a bachelor's degree like myself, held one or more full time jobs while in school, and has no conferences/publications to show? I don't mean to bring anyone down. I'm just really lost and disappointed. I wish I had a better idea of the expectations.
  21. Hi All, I plan to apply this year for 2017 admittance cycle. I graduated from a state school with my BA in anthro. I already took the GRE and my results were not the best- 21st percentile for quant, 80th percentile for verbal, and 80th percentile for writing. I am planning to retake. I am interested in social and cultural anth (with a foci on modernity, affect theory, structural violence, class, all within the U.S.) but I do not have a good sense of what schools I should apply to. my major GPA was 3.9, but total GPA was 3.5. I am very average. I was hoping to get some advice or resources from those who are in the application process as well. How does one know if a school is worth going to (I intend to pursue a PhD at a top program) in the long run? I do not want to go to graduate school just to go. I want it to be meaningful and beneficial to my future PhD application. Any advice in how to go about even beginning to find worthy schools/MA programs but are not out of my league, would be greatly appreciated.
  22. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    Thanks for the tips/thoughts! The POI of my dreams responded but only told me to apply- that my project was interesting, but that POIs don't get assigned until students are admitted/arrived. Is it like this for most schools? I guess I'm asking if I should apply to universities with whom I have had no contact with due to unresponsive potential advisors. It seems odd to not apply just because someone was too busy to email me? Maybe I have the wrong perspective? I am not applying to any schools I am on the fence about at this point- is anyone else applying to schools where they don't have someone who has agreed to work with them?
  23. striped

    Fall 2017 Applicants

    Hello all, It's been a bit since I've been around but I am focusing my attention once again on my application as the deadlines draw nearer. My new SoP for this cycle is almost complete (after being edited by many and rewritten by me at least 10 times now), and all my LORs are secure again. The only thing that has me very nervous this cycle is that none of the potential POIs I have reached out have responded to me. This is something I know we can't really control, but should one apply to graduate school where they have not spoken to a faculty member? It seems insane both to apply and to not apply based on this factor. I feel it's crucial to have someone there who knows your work, has spoken to you about taking on new students, and can vouch a bit for your application- but at the same time, if no one responds to you, what do you do? Thanks for any advice!
  24. @anthrosoul sure, no problem
  25. @anthrosoul Man, I tooooootally get where you're coming from. That's what I was feeling last year, my first application cycle- and I still feel like that to this day, even though I feel I know a lot more about the process than I previously did. I came on these forums and everyone seemed to have everything lined up- their exact projects, their POI (a POI who wanted to work them, too, to boot!), what they wanted to do after grad school- and here I was twiddling my thumbs with a barely-formulated project. Like some people have mentioned already, I too didn't have any friends to turn to who were going through the application process. My then-boyfriend was applying to law schools and it was so easy, comparatively- all he had to do was study for the LSAT and get an amazing score, write a decent personal statement about why he wanted to be a lawyer, and bam, he got into all these schools (he did score a 173 which was 98th percentile for that year, so it wasn't easy, but it still wasn't as stressful as coming up with an entire project!). I was really alone and fumbling to seem like I had my stuff together. I would recommend seeking out a professor you were somewhat connected to in undergrad- it doesn't have to be someone who you're even getting a recc from (but that is ideal), just someone who obviously has succeeded in academia enough to become a lecturer/professor. They will know the process pretty well and can help you find a place to begin. I reached out to a professor who really pushed me and she is the reason my last application was even somewhat legitimate. She helped me go through countless drafts for my SoP, and even by the time I actually applied, I feel my SoP could have been much better. 1. Find a professor/lecturer in anthropology- ask them if they would be willing to answer a few questions about the application process. It's totally okay to admit "I'm completely lost and don't know where to start." 2. Sit down at a computer and ask yourself: "What do I want to study? How will I study it? Where will I study it? Why is it important to study?" At first it helped me to answer these basic questions in very basic terms- I had one or two sentences for each question. Once you have a basic understanding of what your project, it makes it easier to begin your SoP without starting out convoluted. 3. Once you have a working draft with some substance, I would begin going to different school's websites and looking first at their faculty- usually there are blurbs about their area of interest, and sometimes they have a whole bio page about the work they've carried out. If you don't know what schools to even look at, just look some up based on name/prestige- it's at least somewhere to start. After you've looked at faculty, look at the "current grad students" page- it helps you get an understanding of what kind of projects are being admitted. Some schools have a theme- there might be a big concentration of students doing medical anth, for example, and if that's not in line with your interests, you might get a sense that you won't receive as much support there, from faculty or current students. 4. Don't be discouraged if you find that professors/current students who don't align exactly with your research interests- regions are going to vary a lot, but the focus might be the same. 5. Reach out to professors and grad students over email. Their contact information is available on the program's website. I take one school at a time- if you're considering a program to be a good fit, you should have at least 2-3 professors who could support your work. Reach out to them and ask basic questions- what kind of research is the department at (insert school here) focusing on? (sometimes programs actually list current research projects/focuses). If they are someone you would want to potentially be your POI, ask them if they plan taking on new students for the next year. Some professors go on sabbatical, and it would be pretty useless to say you would want them to work with you in your SoP of they won't even be there. Most of the professors/students won't email back. But some will, and they will offer a lot of great information. Ask questions that are specific to that school/program. Remember that it's about getting into a specific program because it's a good fit, and not just because you want to be in any grad school. I applied to some schools last application cycle that I really shouldn't have- my biggest mistake was wanting to go to a particular school and wasn't looking so much at the work being done there. I've been really despondent about the application cycle lately, and confessed my insecurities to the professor who helped me last year. She tells me over and over again that it wasn't that I wasn't "good enough" in terms of GPA (very average), undergrad institution (state school), or lack of research/publishing (virtually none); she said it was about my project. It could be an amazing project but the school you applied to just isn't the right home for it- that's why it's crucial to do as much research as you can about the research going on at different programs. Once you have found the perfect fit, you can tailor your SoP to that specific school. It's still not a guarantee, but it certainly helps. Sorry for the long post! I just remember how I felt last year, and still feel to some extent this year. let me know if you have any other questions!
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