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Lex

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  1. I visited five of the eight places I applied. For the two schools I was most interested in, I spent three days there - I went to classes, talked to professors, called up grad students who were friends of friends, and generally made an extremely polite nuisance of myself. I got accepted to those two schools (which were actually two of the three most selective places I applied), plus one of the other schools I visited; I know that I was pretty close to being accepted to another school I visited. I got rejected by all the schools I didn't visit. Correlation/causation and all that, but I sincerely doubt I would have gotten in *anywhere* without my visits. I got to talk over my interests (i.e. my personal statement) with professors I might be working with, and I got suggestions for other professors to talk to and people at other schools, and I got some really good advice for the application process. YMMV. I interview well. The biggest thing is that if you go visit, you're putting your cards on the table. If you can put in a good performance, stick in people's minds, and get something useful out of it for your apps - it's great. If you're wrong about how you appear, or are having a bad day, or are late for a meeting (even if it's not your fault) - not so great. It's networking, just like in any other job.
  2. My advice, for whatever it's worth, and all assuming ReJoyce is a traditional-age undergrad with no family to support: Don't go directly to grad school. Get out of academia for a couple of years and figure out what it's like. Maybe you actually really like supervising people and are good at it. Go do the random pipe-dream stuff that you absolutely won't get to do once you're 30 and have a Ph.D. and need to stay on the academic track. Don't reapply next year - reapply in 2-3 years. I really think most people are glad they took a couple years to play around. Don't go to a grad school with a crap placement record, unless you have no other options. ReJoyce, you have other options, especially if you're a traditional-age undergrad. You know something you can change about your application. Network during the year before you apply. Visit the schools, talk to the professors about what they're working on and whether you're a good fit for the program, and ask who else you should talk to. Three days/school at the places you're really interested in makes sense, especially if you interview well. Then when they see your application, they remember how great it was to talk to you, and you're more likely to get in. If you're unenthusiastic about the program to start with *and* they work their TAs really hard, you're probably not going to be happier when you get there.
  3. My partner and I are planning to move together: I moved back to my current city largely because we hated the 6 months of long distance dating we did (which was intensely long distance - I was 2000 miles away, and unreachable by phone or email one week out of two). I personally would take the right relationship over a Ph.D. any day - there are lots of jobs out there that I could find reasonably satisfying, and the same is not true about girlfriends. This might be different depending on your relative pickiness vis a vis jobs and relationships. I also think a relationship where you see each other every weekend/every other weekend is really different from a relationship where you live together; but I would certainly consider doing it for a limited time (1 year? 2 years? not a full Ph.D.). And some people I know have made it work for much longer. Another part of why it's working out this way for us is that we've both made compromises: I moved back to our current town and we've stayed here an extra year because she got a job she wanted to keep; and I only applied to schools in places she was open to living (specifically, not UCLA). Both my offers turn out to be in liberal towns/states, one of which has same-sex marriage, but I had some real reservations about the schools I applied to in liberal towns within conservative states. Those schools didn't offer partner benefits because the state legislature wouldn't authorize them. Not so much a concern for me, since grad students typically get very limited spousal benefits even when they're in hetero relationships, but it *does* mean you'd have fewer queer professors. And I'd like to have at least a few queer profs, someday, even though my discipline is obnoxiously straight. We're trying to decide which offer to accept together: she has a definite preference for one location (family near there, it's gorgeous, friends in the area), but we're waiting to fully decide til we go up to the other school, I can get a sense of what the professional differences will be, and she gets a sense of what the other town is really like. I'm really hoping I don't fall in love with the second school, partly because I know that if I have an academic career this won't be the last time I ask her to move somewhere. I don't want to lose my 'moving somewhere imperfect' card just yet.
  4. My advice: no debt for Ph.D.s, especially if they're not highly marketable (which at a bare minimum covers humanities and social sciences). That includes debt for MA programs so you can apply to Ph.D. programs later. This has all been flogged to death on the Chronicle forums, etc, but the academic job market sucks. Don't stick yourself with debt for it.
  5. He knew this was mean and said it anyway - the only excuse for being mean that way is in order to be helpful, and what he said is definitely not helpful. Ergo, douchebag. Good reasons not to go to Cornell this year: the department really doesn't match your interests, you decide you really don't want to go to grad school, you'd like (for your own reasons) to try for better offers, or you feel like you need time away from academia. Bad reasons: because your professor's a jerk. I originally read this as being a prof at Cornell, in which case I was going to advise you to NOT go to Cornell, because working with someone who's a jerk for the next 6 years would really undermine the value of the program. But seeing as you're leaving him behind, I'd advise you not to worry about it.
  6. Lex

    negotiating?

    The key to negotiating is definitely to have better offers. This is true every time I've ever negotiated anything, including raises at work, the option of designing a class, etc. Presumably the departments are doing at least some recruiting, so when you get emails from professors (or when you email a professor and then he or she writes back and you thus have a correspondence), you can ask questions about the program (what are you working on, what opportunities are there for studying [Z random interest], what kind of institutional support is there, where do you see the department going), and finish up with, "I really love everything I know about YU's program, but the funding package at XU is very appealing." This might not work, and definitely won't work if XU hasn't actually offered you a better deal, but I think it's got the best shot. It's honest, it's not manipulative, and it gives the department a chance to match someone else's offer.
  7. Lex

    negotiating?

    So you're talking to a professor at visiting weekend, and he/she says, "What other places are you considering?" And you say, "Well, I really love Your University's program, but X University has offered me very attractive funding." And the professor says,"Hmmm," and "What have they offered you?" And goes back to the department to say, "I think we're going to lose rlayla to XU if we don't up our funding offer." The same exchange can happen by phone or email, too. I'm not negotiating, because I don't have any leverage. The two places I got in offered me nearly identical funding (except the one sociology program, which wasn't really the best place for me anyway).
  8. Third. And considering the experiences of folks I know who are on the job market or will be soon, I wouldn't take the combination of massive debt and scarce, moderately paid work lightly.
  9. Lex

    Priorities

    I haven't really figured out how to weigh those priorities, but I'm thinking about all of them! It breaks down a little like this: I need to have a certain baseline level of professional support (decent stipend, some professors I want to work with who are also nice people, reasonable job placement records, etc). I don't expect the classes at grad school to be half as good as my undergrad classes, so I'm not too worried about it, though I'd like to have other grad students around who seem intellectually and socially compatible with me. I didn't get in anywhere I would've hated living, so that's cool. I figure I'll do most of my learning on my own, with other students, and with my advisor or advisors. But how to weigh slightly better professional qualities versus much better personal qualities? That I don't know.
  10. Can you work in the summers? Do you have marketable skills that allow you to be paid a lot for minimal time (e.g. tutoring for science/math/standardized tests)? $19k/year comes out to $1583/month; taxes will take at least 20%, so you're down to $1267/month post-tax; with at least $800/mo in rent expenses, you now have $467 for monthly living expenses. A person can definitely swing that, but it's not easy (just over $100/week for everything from food to cell service to new underwear). I don't know how much babies cost to take care of, but I'd personally be pretty nervous about it.
  11. This might be kind of a can of worms, but is there any reason to worry about Jacob Hacker going back to Yale?
  12. I'm trying to figure out where to go next year, and Berkeley is one of the options. I do social policy/inequality/private governance stuff, so while I applied in American I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up doing some comparative (I'm more interested in the substantive issues than in a specific country/region). I'm also kind of interested in the politics of immigrant/ethnic minority communities. Anyone have advice? The other option is Harvard, where I feel like understand the lay of the land a bit better.
  13. Yeah, this is totally true, give or take. I've had 2 friends (different years) get into 3 of 4 and 4 of 5 of the top 5 schools they applied to; I got into 2 and rejected by 1, and the people I know who've done admit weekends see the same people everywhere. There are some exceptions - this year Yale had very specific priorities with its American program, because their recruiting didn't go so well last year. So APD people probably had a harder time of it because they were looking for straight-up Congress/public opinion/parties-focused Americanists.
  14. I kind of think it's going to be worse next year. The other thing about the non-randomness is that schools like to compete with each other, and having an acceptance from one top program makes you more likely to get into another one. The professors at different institutions talk to each other (I found out from a professor at an institution I don't attend that a professor at a different institution I don't attend was unsuccessfully pushing for me to be admitted at his school). More generally, my impression is that GREs and GPAs are used as a first screen, and that any one problem (low GPA, low single GRE, one not-stellar LoR) can be made up for by a different good number, other good LoRs, and a really good personal statement. And by networking. Like eve2008 says, you want them to think you're a known quantity. They're about to invest $300,000, give or take, in your education. The GRE is a way for them to corroborate the GPA/other measures of talent with a faux-objective number.
  15. No shame in reapplying! Even if it is because of stuff you screwed up. Because screwing up is how you learn. I think it depends a lot on the kind of relationship you have with your advisors. I have a very informal relationship where they seem to be happy to give me advice as well as recommendations (I showed them extraordinarily crappy first drafts of my statement, for example). So what I'd do would be tell them right away that I got rejected, and ask if I could drive out to their office hours and ask about reapplying and what I could do better. But if I had a more formal relationship I'd probably wait a little longer and write a more considered email in which I talked more about what I thought I had learned, and saying that I was still interested. I also can't even tell you how useful it's been to me and other people I know to spend several weeks in the fall visiting departments, meeting with professors, and otherwise selling yourself and learning about departments.
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