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Dares

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  1. I want to quote these things specifically because they touch on what I said at the end of my original post, that the humanities is a qualitative field and how, in my view, this makes the notions of 'identical' and 'perfect' applications fairly arbitrary. When I say that the admissions process is political that is something else, but it plays a part in the qualitative thing--i.e. a big selling point for a good candidate is that they've learned how to think, talk, and write in the appropriate manner, the way politicians or businesspeople do. Much in the same way that we talk about presidential candidates 'being presidential', I believe one of the most important factors for admitting a graduate student is his/her demonstrated ability to play to the audience that is the academy. Now obviously that is more likely to happen if a student attends an elite institution, because the stakes are higher and there is a great deal more investment in maintaining a certain status quo within whatever field, whether that status quo is ideological, or whatever. You asked about my MPhil; I did my master's in English at Cambridge. This is a world-renowned institution, but the Oxbridge way of doing things is something that is in my opinion highly suspect. You could see it with the strikes related to pension cuts and the scandals surrounding Priya Gopal--these incredibly prestigious institutions just know that they are so insulated from the outside world because of their name that they can get away with basically anything, and there is a lot of strategic interest on the part of faculty to engender that same understanding of cultural invincibility in students. To pick up on this in applications (i.e. in the linguistic nooks and crannies of essays, SOPs, and letters of rec) is not easy, but we are talking about highly trained people overseeing adcomms, and I'm certain they know how to spot when someone is properly conditioned. The point I'm trying to make is that I don't think this halo-effect of 'prestige' on an application is automatically endowed just by having attended a school--it must be consciously recognized and cultivated, and ultimately expressed through language and behavior. If you are not able to do that, you are less likely to make valuable contributions to an elite institution's record. I agree completely with your remark about 'hard work pays off' being basically bogus, but only because hard work is circumscribed by the privilege that precedes it; if you possess that privilege, or you've figured out a way to imitate it holistically, then your hard work becomes effective. Look at what's happening with the Harvard lawsuits for example. The results from the court proceedings show that Harvard's admissions overseers literally think Asian people are 'too boring' to contribute to 'campus culture'. But how does one adjust their personality for a university, and how does this eventually play into this idea of a perfect application beyond what has been deemed necessary, those things that make two applications appear 'identical'? My evidence is indeed anecdotal, but when I was hanging around English phds at Berkeley (where I did my undergrad) their manners and topics of research were unmistakably influenced by some external force, some larger corporate-like culture. They saw what Harvard sees in these 'boring' applicants: they don't know how to play ball. (As for my acceptances, I'm not an English PhD applicant. I'm an interloper from Communication, where in my experience safety schools are more commonly acknowledged.)
  2. Nay, I can attest that this is decisively not true. I did my undergrad and master's degrees at two of the top 10 schools in the world, and was rejected from 10 out of 12 of the programs I applied to, with my acceptances being my two safety schools. A woman in my English MPhil cohort also applied to 10 schools and was rejected from all of them, and she was an excellent writer working on a pretty bracing topic. I am fairly sure the most important aspects are how good your writing sample is, how original your research is, how stellar your letters of rec are, and then maybe toward the middle of the list the prestige of your schools. But the humanities is an extremely qualitative and subjective field, and grad schools admissions are already extremely political to begin with. School prestige will only get you so far. I think if you really want proof of this you can take a cursory scan of some of the top programs' current graduate students. Many if not most of them come from schools you've probably never heard of or middle-of-the-road places. It comes down to how good of a candidate you've made yourself, in combination with how well you've come to understand what the humanities academy is looking for (discursively, topically, etc.).
  3. Received Penn rejection as well. Fortunately though I got a pretty good offer from UCSD which I’ll likely take. It’s always a rollercoaster browsing this site, being envious of the all-star applicants getting into ivies one second, having my heart broken for the people rejected everywhere the next. Graduate school is pretty whack.
  4. So I'm assuming if we haven't heard from USC by now we can call that a rejection?
  5. Humanities programs take longer to send out admissions decisions because they have to review long writing samples, and the nature of the decision is more complicated in general I think. Hard sciences have the advantage of relatively straightforward research proposals, easier to quantify applicants. These are my speculations of course.
  6. So the interview post means that if we haven’t heard from that program at this point, we can write it off? Not sure how the admissions process works at Wisc-mad.
  7. Can anyone shed light on the preponderance of interviews in this field? I was under the impression that Humanities-tending disciplines didn’t do them, but after browsing some it seems like a lot of Communications PhD programs do indeed hold interviews with prospectives. Anyone care to confirm this with specific schools or share experiences?
  8. Hello all. I'm assuming most people have submitted the majority of their applications by this point. As far as I know the only schools with deadlines still out are Rutgers, NCSU and Wisconsin-Madison. I did my undergrad in Rhetoric, and my Master's in English, but I concentrated on critical media studies in both degrees and I've recognized pretty clearly that my research will fit best in a communication department with a cultural studies emphasis. My top choices are USC, UPenn, Duke (I applied to their Literature department, which has a New Media bent) and Brown's Modern Culture and Media program. I'm here like the rest of you, clenching my entire body with nervousness and so trying to release some of the anticipation with communal sharing. Best of luck to everyone who has applied. Maybe we'll meet each other face-to-face in the coming months.
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