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NewVolunteer

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  1. Like the last poster, I took the test on Saturday, and my experience was very much the same. The vast majority of the test questions were of the reading comprehension/advanced grammar variety. And yes, there were a number of theory questions that were more obscure than I'd anticipated. Also, there were more linguistic questions than I would've thought; I had a full four or five "clusters" of questions dealing with Middle (and to a lesser degree, Old) English passages. As a medievalist these were welcome to me, but maybe not so much for the average literature student. Noticeably absent were the long stretches of "identification" questions that were so prevalent in the prep materials I'd studied. I would have to agree that the test seemed to be determinedly different from the older prep materials. It felt to me like the exam might be moving away from the "canon," testing general reading comprehension, grammar, poetic forms and devices, and theory rather than the ability to recognize major authors and works. That said, I would still advise studying your test prep materials; I picked up any number of points precisely because of such materials (given my deplorably deficient knowledge of Restoration literature, it was a coup for me to recognize and ace the section from Congreve's The Way of the World!). But definitely spend plenty of time taking practice tests and working through comprehension questions. Try to get used to reading those difficult passages quickly and well. Such questions constituted the bulk of the exam.
  2. Well, I have to believe that getting into a reputable PhD program is going to be highly competitive no matter your specialization, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. The key is finding a school that fits your *specific* interests, and, perhaps more importantly, demonstrating that those interests fit within the department. While setting out as a medievalist is a good start, you would probably be better-served by narrowing your interests down to the early or late part of the period. Are you planning to focus on Anglo-Saxon literature or Middle English literature? Of course these are only artificial distinctions, but you'll probably find most departments to recognize them. Very few schools (and fewer scholars) are strong in and committed to both. Further, are you knowledgeable in medieval languages? One of the difficult (but highly rewarding) parts of studying medieval literature is immersing yourself in ancient languages (and their wonderful manuscripts). You'll definitely need Latin, and, depending upon your concentration, Old English, French, or German. You don't need to be fluent in any of the above to enter into a PhD program, but you should be at least acquainted with the languages you'll be studying. Some schools like Notre Dame and Toronto expect you to be moderately proficient in Latin before they'll even consider your application (or so I've been told). All that said, don't be discouraged! If you have a good writing sample (ideally, about medieval literature), strong recommendations, and a focused statement of purpose, you'll have a chance no matter what. And be sure to address the topic of languages in your statement of purpose (highlight it if you're strong in the languages or point out how you're working on them or plan to work on them in the coming months).
  3. I would agree with the previous poster that the GRE Lit test is not going to be the most important part of your application package. Many schools have done away with it as a requirement altogether, and from what I've heard, more will be following suit. As is, I think it's often only used as a sort of "tiebreaker" between otherwise evenly-matched candidates. That said, if you've already registered to take the test again, you might as well try your luck. They'll only refund half the money if you cancel. Besides, you're almost certain to do better this go-round even if you don't study any further, simply because you'll know what to expect. And while I certainly wouldn't cut deeply into your planned study-time for the GRE general (VASTLY more important, particularly when considering funding packages), you might put a little time into practicing comprehension questions and brushing up on critical theory. Like you, I just took the GRE Lit test, and it was nothing like the older practice exams. It seems they're moving away from the "canon" and asking more about theory and grammar and focusing on testing general reading comprehension. Whereas on the practice exams there were several sections involving the identification of major authors or works based on excerpts, the exam I took on Saturday had no such section whatsoever. I realize every test is different, but this test was so divergent from what I'd studied for as to signal a content shift in the test construction. Further, there were loads of theory questions that were much more nuanced and obscure than the practice materials I'd read had suggested they would be. Derrida, Foucault, and Bakhtin were only the tip of the iceberg. But again, don't get carried away; your effort will be better directed towards the general test. Most importantly, I wouldn't stress out about it too much. Your writing sample, statement of purpose, and recommendations are going to be the make-or-break parts of your application. I knew a student who entered into a fine graduate program with a 2.3 undergrad GPA. His exceptional writing sample and recommendations carried the day. And the GRE Lit scores are much less important even than the undergrad GPA.
  4. Firstly, I would try to find more instructional materials that include advice on the writing sample. I went to my university library and dug up everything I could on applying to grad school and found loads of books with chapters dedicated to both the writing sample and the statement of purpose. I assembled notes and went from there. It's generally agreed that the writing sample is the *most* important part of your application as a potential grad student in literature, so make sure you get it right. Different universities have different expectations though, so you should look carefully at their websites to find exactly what they're looking for. Most of them will include explicit instructions on what sort of work they want from you (Duke's English Dept. website has model instructions http://english.duke.edu/grads/faqs.php Question 18). Some will want longer samples, some shorter. Some will require samples that include secondary sources, others will not. Some will want papers that your undergraduate professors have edited, others will want your original work. As a general rule though, you're going to want to offer up a sample that not only exhibits your best prose, insight, and usage of sources, but also agrees with your proposed specialty and possibly illuminates your unique approach to the field. Ideally you'll be able to incorporate your writing sample into your statement of purpose. When stating your goals as a grad student, you'll be able to point to the topic of your writing sample for emphasis. For example: A student hoping to specialize in 19th Century American Fiction at the graduate level might use his senior paper on Melville's 'Clarel' to point up his ability to evaluate and contribute to the discussion of that particular work AND explicitly state in his SOP how and why that thesis will be indicative of his approach to the field as a graduate student. What you do NOT want to do is send off a writing sample that has nothing to do with your proposed specialty, an error a lot of people seem to make. Being a gifted writer with well-honed analytical skills won't get you far if you aren't writing to your audience. Try to tailor your writing sample to the department you're applying to by emphasizing the right aspect of it in your SOP. The admissions committee is going to be looking for candidates that they know have academic potential and that they believe to have a definite sense of direction and purpose at the graduate level. If your *entire* application package speaks to that kind of direction by conveying a real, well-planned purpose in undertaking graduate studies, you'll immediately set yourself apart from the field. In the end, the more you can appear to be focused, the better, and the more your writing sample agrees with your stated goals, the more you'll come across as someone who has a real reason for going to graduate school.
  5. To the poster who is considering UTD... I did not go to UTD but I used to live a couple blocks from the campus on the border of Dallas/Richardson. Firstly, there are a number of apartment complexes in the area that are pretty affordable. I used to live in a sizeable townhouse for about $600 a month right down the road, and I'm certain you could find smaller places that are even cheaper. Just make sure you stay away from ANY apartments on McCallum Blvd. There is one small pocket of VERY crummy, crime-infested apartments in that area, and it's located squarely on McCallum. However, the vast majority of the area around the UTD campus is really nice. It's mostly upper-middle class suburbs, so it's pretty quiet and pleasant. And given that the university is there, it's been made to be affordable to students and young people, so I have no doubt that you could easily live on your stipend. As for your second question, as much as I hate to say it, you would probably be better off with a car in the Dallas area. There is a grocery store and several shopping centers within walking distance of UTD, so you could easily survive without a car. But Dallas as a city is a massive urban sprawl, so most people end up doing LOTS of driving. In order to enjoy what the metroplex has to offer, you'd most likely need a vehicle. The DART system is adequate but far from ideal. The DART Rail system that runs north and south is very useful, but the bus routes that connect east and west are troublesome, time consuming, and not aesthetically impressive. So you wouldn't necessarily *need* a car, but it's tough to really get acquainted with the city without one. Hope this helps!
  6. Thanks for the added info! I'm planning a trip to Knoxville this weekend, so I'll keep what you've said in mind. Personally I've found that I do vastly better academically when I live within walking/biking distance to school, so more than likely I'll be living as close to campus as possible. However, if I can find something significantly more affordable a little further out but still on the bus route, I might have to consider it. Money is really my biggest concern right now, as the funding package is a little bit on the lean side. From what I've heard though the cost of living in Knoxville is very low, so hopefully it'll work out. I'll definitely look into Alcoa and the other places a bit further south though. And thanks again!
  7. I was pretty much universally advised by my professors NOT to accept any offers that came without funding, but it was less about how I would be viewed as a non-funded student and more about the financial bang-to-buck ratio. If you fund your PhD yourself, you're likely to spend lots of money doing it, and you're by no means guaranteed a satisfactory job once you've got your doctorate in hand. Post-secondary jobs in the Humanities are extremely competitive these days, and as one of my professors told me, it's imprudent to wrack up thousands of dollars in debt getting an advanced degree that doesn't at least modestly guarantee a job that pays well upon completion. However, if you've got the means to comfortably fund your PhD without taking extravagant loans or working yourself to death, I would definitely consider taking the offer that's on the table. It's unusual for a school to accept non-funded PhD candidates, but I think if you got in there and did good, original work for them and made yourself known as a commodity in the department, not only would you NOT be viewed as some sort of sub-grad student, but you could probably find your way into funding situations. As I've been told, it's all about showing the department that you're a committed professional with a passion for and focus within your field. Finally, if you're reluctant to make a move geographically and you've already got an offer of admission and an academic job locally, it sounds to me like the offer is a pretty good one, given your situation. Ultimately I would consider the positives of what's on the table first and foremost, while examining how much intellectual momentum and growth you would lose by taking a year off and how much you could strengthen your application package between now and the fall.
  8. I appreciate all the info! It's seeming to me more and more that Tennessee is going to be very similar to Texas. UT-Austin was extremely difficult to manage on the administrative end, too. As I said before, my biggest concern is finding someplace to live close to campus. If Knoxville is anything like Austin, parking on campus will be a tall order, so the closer the better. By the way, if you end up deciding on UT-Austin, feel free to post any questions on here. I don't know a whole lot about the graduate school, but I know Austin as a city very well. I lived there for eight years and pretty well covered all corners. It's a great town! Anyway, thanks again. I'll make sure to wear a Peyton Manning jersey on campus my first day in town. Hah!
  9. Anyone hear anything new from Purdue? I emailed the grad secretary weeks ago and never received any sort of response. Given that they've already pressured some of the early admits to make commitments, it's puzzling to me that they're still not letting the unofficial wait-listers know where we stand. Or maybe my application was rejected in the first round of reviews and they never got round to telling me! I've never heard of a school sitting on a stack of sure rejections until the deadline, but maybe that's what we've got here.
  10. Thanks for the info fire! I'm thinking that the combo of low cost of living and proximity to beautiful countryside will do me well. I didn't know that traffic was a big issue, but hopefully having a bike will alleviate that sort of stress. Culturally it sounds like I'll be right at home coming from Texas. As for tidefan's remarks, I did my undergrad work at the University of Texas at Austin so I'm well-versed in the football barbs from the Okies and the Aggies. Thanks for making me feel right at home! Hah! Thanks folks...
  11. I'll be moving to Knoxville in the Fall to work on my MA in English at UT. I'm from Texas, so I don't know a thing about Tennessee. Any information regarding Knoxville as a city (things to do, public transportation, parks, climate) and UT as an institution for grad students would be much appreciated! I'm also looking for someplace to live that's close enough to campus to ride my bike. I'm not big on cars. Is living downtown/close to campus doable on grad student money?
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