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About Rootbound

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    Early Modern/Renaissance poetry, Women Writers
  • Application Season
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    English PhD

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  1. I'm an early modernist at a phd program on the east coast of the US (also very into allegory), feel free to message me if you have questions!
  2. As a current grad student at a university with a very strong and active union, I can heartily endorse their importance. The current pandemic is obviously unprecedented and a relatively unique event, but the union here has gone to great lengths to successfully protect not only its members, but also graduate students on fellowship and other staff--actions that simply would not have happened without their work. Without a union, rather obviously, your labor can be more easily exploited by the institution, and grad students are near first on the exploitable list. Recently, the union here has negotiated with the administration over the implementation of a ridiculously short sighted class scheduling system that would have seriously impacted the commuting cost for instructors who don't live in the immediate area (many don't), and they've also made sure grad instructors are compensated fairly for the extra work of suddenly shifting a class online. There were some concerns about changing healthcare benefits for TAs earlier in the year, and the union was able to prevent any serious problems. I don't know how these issues would have been solved, at least as quickly as they were, without a union. More generally, a department in which both faculty and students are actively involved in the union creates an atmosphere of openness and engagement around labor or funding issues, as opposed to regarding these topics as impolite or even crass. I would be more concerned about the attitude of faculty toward their students' funding and well-being at an institution that "brutally crushed" unionization. This is not to say that without a union you will definitely be exploited and your advisor will wave you away when you come to ask for advice about funding, and more to emphasize that a union can have a very positive impact on your experience. Frankly (and ignorantly, without knowing more about the situation), I would be wary of an institution that so strongly opposed to unionization--not even trying to look like you act in the best interests of your employees is not promising.
  3. Say this more formally and maybe add something about how great that DGS specifically was and you're good to go. They expect some applicants to turn down their offers, it's not a big insult to them if you change your mind.
  4. I know from experience last year that UVA maintains an invisible waitlist, and while they did eventually formally tell me I was on it, it was well into March, and after I had informally been told in answer to my email. However, there were also people who were simply rejected later--whether or not that spoke to their place in the invisible line, I'm not sure. I would recommend waiting until March if you can stand it, as it's likely your application is still under some kind of consideration.
  5. Nope. Four is plenty. The English departments really will not care, and four is enough to clear any larger institutional bars for funding.
  6. Couple things: 1) While higher ranked schools are indeed more competitive, the whole admissions process is, on some level, a bit of a crapshoot. Your application may not succeed based on things you could not possibly know--the professor you named in your personal statement might be taking a job elsewhere, or they might not want to take on more students. They may have just admitted a bunch of people with the same interests as you, and are looking to diversify. Or, and this is how so many people end up on waitlists, they just have to draw the line somewhere. That said, I would encourage you to apply to some programs outside the top 20. There are a lot of amazing programs that aren't highly ranked, and thus are hard to find. Spending a little time digging through recent articles in your field, and looking up their author's department, can be a useful way to broaden your scope. The rankings are somewhat useless as a measure of the department's quality, they really only indicate its "prestige." I can guarantee that there are excellent programs outside the top 20 that share your research interests. 2) I was shut out the first time I applied. I had applied exclusively to top 20 programs. The next year, I broadened my search and applied to a much greater variety--however, the only programs that accepted me were in the top 20. Make of that what you will, it's the mystery of the admissions process. However, you should in some small way prepare to be shut out. It's unfortunately a real possibility. Not only is it a huge pain logistically, but it can be very difficult emotionally as well, or at least it was for me. I wish I had made some small contingency plan, so that I wouldn't have immediately felt lost and directionless on top of the very unpleasant feeling of being shut out. If you really really really cannot be shut out (and there are certainly legitimate reasons why that could be the case!), I would encourage you to apply to some funded MA programs as well as broadening your scope for PhD programs. Unfortunately, the admissions process is not solely based on merit, and there are just things about it you won't be able to control. I really don't mean this to be overly pessimistic, and getting shut out is totally something you can learn from as well, as cheesy as that sounds. But especially if you only apply to very highly ranked programs, its something you should be a little prepared for.
  7. I would just add that it's also important to look at how many years of guaranteed funding students receive. Although programs can often fund their students beyond the guaranteed time, it should give you a bit more of an idea as to how the program views its time to degree.
  8. I always assumed there was no wiggle room (excluding works cited pages). If they ask for 15 pages, try to get as close to that without going over as possible. Why give them anything to complain about? For the “less then 10/15” requirements, obviously you wouldn’t want to send in a 5 page paper. While I would recommend getting close to the limit (this is one of your few chances to show the admission committee your academic strengths, so show as much as you can!), if you have a complete, polished 12 page paper, I don’t think those extra three pages would be anything to stress about. As a side note, I don’t understand why they don’t just use a word limit! That seems so much clearer and easier to me
  9. If the grad programs "highly recommend" that you submit the English Lit GRE, then you should. Most of the crowd that you want to stand apart from will also have submitted an English Lit GRE score as well, and not submitting one may make you stand out for the wrong reasons. More importantly, however, the English GRE subject test will never be the high point on anyone's application. Your score, as long as it is at least near average, will probably only be looked at once. Of course, a high score will never hurt your application, but an average score will still help. I believe the GRE Subject scores expire after five years, so you would have to take the test again anyways if you wanted to submit your scores. The only reason I wouldn't recommend you take the subject test again is if it is going to be a significant strain on your resources--financial and otherwise. Applying to grad school is EXPENSIVE, and if you do not have time to study for the test due to your job, or simply can't afford the test fees on top of application fees (although fee waivers do exist!), then it's not worth it to take it again. If you do not submit an English GRE test score, maybe try to squeeze in a very very brief explanation of your decision somewhere else in your application. Short answer here is: don't let your fear of getting a low score be the reason you don't submit an English lit GRE result, your actual score will probably matter less than you just taking the test. Hope that's helpful!
  10. An outstanding score on the english lit subject will very rarely be an application’s tipping point. A poor score, however, is much more likely to be noticed and have an effect. While taking the test might communicate to departments that you are competitive with applicants who have an English undergraduate degree, it’s never going to speak as strongly as your SoP, writing sample, and recs. I think the most a good score on the test will say is that you’ve “done your homework.” Unfortunately, your score will probably have a very minimal effect, but in order to be competitive with applicants with english degrees, you will likely need all of the “little helps” you can access.
  11. I actually worked as a GRE test prep teacher for a while, so I have maybe a teeeeeny bit more* inside knowledge of the GRE and its function in grad admissions. Disclaimer though: all programs use it differently. Usually, GRE scores, particularly verbal and AW are more impactful as red flags than they are as benefits—that is to say that while a higher score won’t necessarily help you that much, a lower score can have a bigger negative impact. Unless the Graduate School as a whole, not the department, has a minimum you need to clear to be eligible for funding, I think you will be totally fine—in fact probably even pretty well above average—with your current scores. Adcomms use these scores often as the first step towards winnowing a large group of applicants before reading the materials more closely, and a 4 on the AW should certainly get you through that. Retaking the test and getting an increase of .5 or more is not going to be the difference between you being admitted or rejected. The only reason you might consider taking it again is if you know exactly why you got a lower than expected score—if you misread the prompt, or didnt have time to finish, etc. But really, I’d say don’t worry about it and celebrate your excellent scores! *i dont mean this as sarcasm!!! There are a million different way gre scores are weighed or ignored, and I really have very little idea of how each program does it.
  12. Heading to Rutgers! Pretty stoked about the program, and excited to join.
  13. Best of luck! Glad to hear you are approaching clarity about the whole mysterious decision process, or at least as much clarity as any waitlist allows. Rooting for your Michigan result!
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