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UVA Religious Studies



Hi! I want to get into the UVA Religious Studies program, with the Tibetan/Chinese emphasis. I am a History major/Philosophy and Religion minor Junior and have a 3.9. I am also president of the Debate club at my undergrad. I'll have 4 semesters of Mandarin when I graduate and have done a Guided Independent Study course in Tibetan language. I have done study abroad trips to India and Nepal to study Buddhism. I have the opportunity to attend a summer language program in Tibetan in India this year. 


Here are my questions:

1. What GRE score do you think I'll need? 

2. How much do you think my academic background helps?

3. Should I participate in the language program? Do you think its necessary?

4. If I can't get in, do you know of any other programs focused on Tibetan which are less selective?

4. Any other tips, at all? I'm super nervous.


Sorry for the wall of text. 


Anyway, thanks!


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I applied to this program last year (TEC Track), and I made it to the waitlist, which, frankly, is no small feat given the caliber and size of this program. Anyway, bearing in mind that I was not, finally admitted, I'd say:

1.) Your GRE scores need to be as high as you can get them, especially in the verbal and writing areas; quantitative scores won't be as important, but, again, when we're talking about a program like this, you need to look as good on paper as you possibly can.

2.) Your background will probably help, but it could be a FATAL mistake to bank on it. What I mean is (and you probably already know this) you can't give other elements of your application short shrift just because you have a solid academic background. You'll be up against a whole slew of people with solid academic backgrounds; essentially, it will put you on reasonably equal footing with your competitors, but only in terms of that one single element of the application. A solid background is par for the course in this app pool, I'd say.

3.)-4.) I can't speak to these ones. Hopefully someone who knows more than I do can chime in on it. 

5.) Focus on your SOP and writing sample. Show them to professors you respect and trust and don't take "this looks great" as answer on your first draft. (I mean, don't be rude about it obviously, but professors are busy and they may not give your material the attention it needs unless you show them that you're serious about submitting the best damn SOP and writing sample you can possibly put together. 

Also, if you know anyone who knows someone, don't be afraid to ask if they'd be willing to introduce you. One of my professors knew one of the professors in the department there, and my prof put me into contact with him. I emailed him, we talked over Skype, and, in the end, he connected me with another professor in the department, whom I had a nice chat with, etc. Although I didn't finally get in (and although this talking-to-strangers-you-admire is stressful beyond belief), I think that this sort of putting-yourself-out-there-and-showing-them-that-you-care behavior goes a long way. If nothing else, it encourages them to really look at your application. 

And don't be nervous! From my experience, the professors in the department there are lovely, considerate, and eager to get to know you. And, at the end of the day, if you don't get into UVA -- here's to you hoping you do!-- you'll get in to some other really good program. 

Best of luck to you!


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