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bfat last won the day on June 15 2013

bfat had the most liked content!

About bfat

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    contemporary American fiction & film, gender/sexuality studies, critical theory, horror
  • Application Season
    Already Attending
  • Program
    English/Literature PhD

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  1. If you've heavily revised your SoP and have a clearer indication of your research goals, and you've revised the writing sample in a way that reflects new insights, that would be totally fine. I just know that there were a few that came up who hadn't changed much of anything, and they got tossed. Repeat applicants were noted, and compared to their previous year's application. If you do submit the same (or a similar) writing sample, I would just make sure to note what kinds of changes you've made to it in your SoP. The committee wants to see that you've continued to work and grow between application cycles. (and again, this is my experience at one school, so other schools could very well not even note if an applicant is a repeat)
  2. Of course this factor will vary between programs and universities, but many of the applications sent to my program didn't even make it to the table for debate because the university grad school has a baseline acceptable number for both the Q and the V. These scores also determine eligibility for university-wide fellowships. There's a lot of pressure from some departments to stop using the GRE as a determining factor, but until the whole institution changes its mind, the power of numbers affects all departments. I'm sure this is true at many other R1 schools, too. It sucks, and I was kind of sitting there appalled while the chart with the numbers was going around, but until the world is a better place, it will be A Thing That Matters. It is possible that some other factor or connection to the department could get someone considered, even with very low GRE scores, but it would require just that: some other standout to push it past that first chopping block. 😬
  3. Hi folks! I am currently sitting on the Grad Studies Committee with profs who are reading applications and making decisions. This is what I have learned: 1. This is the worst truth and you're not going to want to hear it, but GRE scores matter a lot. Not to the department, necessarily (most profs are very frustrated that it's a factor they need to consider), but to the university, who wants to look good in terms of numbers. It fucking sucks. It's the truth. This means quant scores, too. 🤢 2. The committee wants to see that you have a well-articulated set of interests and that your work will find a home in the department. This means outlining research questions that are interesting and viable. What this means differs depending on field. If you're working in post-45 American, for example, do not propose a project on Pynchon, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, and irony. That project belongs in 1986. It's not viable. Race and embodiment in Octavia Butler? Now we're going somewhere. Make sure the department has at least 2 tenured faculty members whose interests--in terms of theory/method and literary archive--overlap with yours. Check out their CVs and skim the last 3 things they wrote. Note the last grad courses they taught, if possible--these often indicate where their research is going, much better than already-published things. Profs often use grad classes to test out their developing interests. 3. The committee also wants to see that you are flexible and open to developing new research questions. Your SoP should trace a trajectory of thought and project to your future research interests, and your writing sample should reflect that trajectory. If possible, work with a professor to revise your writing sample and tell them you'd like to work it up to publication level. But do not resubmit the same sample and materials the following year. There are a number of these re-submits that have come to the table, and they get tossed out right quick. 4. Visit, if you can. Meet with one or two people in the department. Get a sense of what the campus is like. If you can visit during a regular semester, attend an event that you can mention in your SoP. If at all possible, meet a professor you'd be interested in working with. These things are difficult and may not be possible, but they can make a huge difference in shaping your SoP and how it gets noticed. They stand out. 5. The committee really seems to appreciate when life experiences shape someone's research and work. What can you do, or what have you done, that might ground your work in actual life praxis? Hope these are helpful. I'm a mere grad student sitting on the committee and not allowed to actually read the applications, but I've been taking note of what the faculty members like and comment on.
  4. Oh boy. I do. I will say: the struggle is real, and there have been many days that I have daydreamed about being the young, single, just-post-undergrad person who could sleep until 10 and then leisurely walk to the library to work all day. There is none of that when your kid comes into your room at 6 a.m. and tells you she just barfed (as happened to me this morning). However, you will have an enormous advantage, which is that emotionally and priorities-wise, you will have your shit together like 100x more than most of your cohort. You know how to be a person and manage responsibilities. You'll know better where your limitations are and when to step back. In many ways, it is much harder to do the PhD with kids (and I only have 1), but as far as long-term goals and success, you may be ahead of the game and more focused. But it's possible. You can do it!
  5. Hey there! These are great questions, and ones whose answers would probably differ depending on who you ask. I would say that you definitely want to present at at least one conference by the end of your second year, and aim to work up a seminar paper for publication after that second year as well. Many of the regional MLA conferences (and ACLA) have abstract deadlines at the end of September. By that point, you should have a sense of what your seminar papers will look like--let your work do double duty, and propose one of your seminar paper topics for a conference. Get that first conference out of the way, because it's probably going to suck, and regional conferences are great for grad students figuring things out. If you can present once in each year early on, that's great. By years 3 and 4, you should probably have worked up an article and sent it around, hopefully to have it published. You can also do one or two (no more!) book reviews or notes. These don't count for much, but they're good to see on a CV, as long as there are other things on there. In your last 2 years, you should have found your "niche" conferences. For me, that's SLSA (Society for Literature, Science and the Arts), and a few other genre-specific conferences. You should also try to chair/organize at least one panel at one of these conferences. Ideally, you should have at least one in-print publication (not under review or forthcoming) by the time you're done, although some wacky overachievers will have 3-4. We hate those people. I went to MLA for the first time this year, and I'd say save that for the year you're on the job market. It's huge, expensive, and kind of depressing. You'll make much better connections at the small conferences where you can actually meet and chat with your academic heroes 😍 Just don't do what I did and squeeze 6 research presentations/conferences into 4 months while also trying to finish your dissertation and go on the job market. It's not smart, kids. Don't do it.
  6. Hey there. Good questions. 1. If you are at a campus visit, the school is trying to woo you. They are probably not going to answer the "hard" (but important) questions that will actually be helpful, like "Is this department toxic?" or "Will I receive the full support I need here?" Grad students may be more open about this kind of thing than professors, so I would just try to talk to as many grad students as you can during your visit who work in similar areas to you, and try to get a sense of both the opportunities and challenges that those students have faced. Ask where they are now in the program, what's been the hardest thing for them so far, and what kind of supports they've had to manage those difficulties. 2. In preparing for your first year, I would suggest, more than anything: read stuff that you like! It will be a while before you have a chance to do this again, and reading widely in the genre or period that you really love will actually help you later down the line. Start a book journal. Write 1 or 2 pages of quick notes on each thing you read. Think about questions like, "How could I write about this?" and "How could I teach this?" When it comes time to actually develop a project, or even develop a syllabus, you're going to want to go back to those things you love and find exciting. Also, get an ipod. A little one (the nano? not the tiniest one, but the small one with the screen). Download audiobooks of works you want to read but don't think you have time for, and put them on there. Listen as you walk the dog, do laundry, drive, etc. They will save your life and keep you sane. Audible, LibraVox, and AudioBookBay. They're your friends. (Ask me how I survived a course on the Victorian novel while teaching, doing an RA-ship, and raising a 3 year old, lol.) 3. There's really not much I would have done differently. My general advice to new admits is: trust hesitatingly until you get a sense of the department dynamic; know your limits as a human and respect them; stay curious; stick with the people who make you feel good about what you do, but listen to criticism and try to understand where it's coming from. Academia is weird. It's full of personal politics that manifest institutionally, and institutional politics that manifest personally. It takes a while to figure out the lay of the land. I hope this was helpful, and not too jaded. 😂
  7. Hi all, I am a jaded 6th year PhD student, currently sitting on the Grad Studies Committee at a decent university, here to answer all your questions and crush your dreams, lol. But seriously, I will try to watch this thread and answer questions if you've got 'em. (Haven't been on this forum since 2013 and can't believe my computer remembered my login.)
  8. This CFP is the winner of today. Do you think they'll accept my abstract, "Shelley and Keats: Those Fuckwads Can Go Eat Dogshit"?
  9. Alive, but exhausted. Are any of the rest of you in non-seminar "research" courses that are required by the department? My whole cohort is enrolled in one, and it's beneficial in a lot of ways but also exasperating. So. Many. Assignments! Seminars are going very well, though I have so many books out from the library, I'm afraid I'll have to haul a wheelbarrow to school at the end of the semester.
  10. What is your area of interest? I've met many of the professors in the department, but I'm only in 3 courses right now, so I haven't "worked" with many.
  11. I'm a first-year at PSU this year, and while I'm not in Rhetoric, the people I've met from that dept. are really fantastic. The teaching that you do your first year (and potentially other years as well) is a low-level rhetoric course, which is really fun to teach. No one that I've met is pretentious, even when they're "famous." So far everyone from the English dept. that I've met or worked with has been very open and supportive (though I hear there are a few "scary" professors as well). I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and things to get nasty or competitive or something, but seriously, everyone I've met here is incredibly friendly, encouraging, and supportive. I'm not sure how many rhetoric students they admit in a typical year, but my cohort has 4, which seems to be a lot (that's 1/4 of the incoming class). I hope this helps!
  12. This is true, but also kind of misleading. I hate to be Debbie Downer, because obviously people get accepted to schools with lower than "stellar" GRE scores, but I recently talked with a prof who sat on the AdCom last year who gave some different info. She said that PSU received about 800 apps last year and that there was a certain "quantitative" element to making decisions that the grad school itself (not just the English dept.) "needs to see" when the number of apps is that high. She said she wouldn't give numbers because it was "too depressing," but I got the impression that it was a pretty high cutoff. I know this has been mentioned before many times, but I'll say it again: for schools that receive a huge number of apps, the GRE is never a top factor in getting accepted, but it can definitely knock you out of the running. I don't have any idea what the specific percentiles are that might be cutoffs (these are mysterious, ethereal figures that I don't think anyone outside the committee knows), but to a certain extent, all competitive programs have GRE cutoffs. Again, though, it depends entirely on the school. Some might be the 75th percentile, some might be the 98th. Alas, I don't think we will ever know which school does what.
  13. What seemed to work for me last year while writing my SOP, as repentwalpurgis mentioned, was to combine freewriting with outline. I made a list of everything I thought the SoP should have, and then didn't worry at all about length--I just blathered on with no filter at all, bullshitting and sappy-story-telling to my heart's delight. I then went back with a skeleton of an outline, and just started chopping and refining. I saved the various versions (each subsequent massacre edit) so I could look back and pull things when schools asked for more personal statements (or a personal statement and an SoP). Things I included in "what the SoP should have" were (in roughly chronological order): 1. academic background 2. academic "hook"--i.e. what hooked me into my current field of interest, made it interesting for me, etc. 3. previous projects 4. current projects 5. future interests (usually an extension of current projects, but framed more broadly, like "I'd like to look at the way gender interacts within this context as well, an area I haven't yet explored" or somesuch) 6. why X University is such a great fit (including profs) 7. conclusion, with maybe some more personal (but relevant) details I hope this is helpful. I got quite a few rejections, but still managed to end up in a really great program, so I guess I must have done something right.
  14. Someone who actually attends one of these programs may be better at answering this question, but one of my advisors from my previous program got her PhD at Duke and told me a little about the difference. The Lit program is more theory based, so if your primary area of focus is theory and cultural studies, that would be the place to go. However, if you have a more traditional time period, but are just kind of "thematizing" your approach through race, religion, and culture (or something along those lines), the English department is better. Also, the English department has steadier (and perhaps more?) funding. Hope this helps!
  15. Speaking of next steps... I just registered for spring courses! Madness!
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