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Here's the story:

I've got a BA and MA in English Literature, both from the same rather unremarkable school with a student body of approx 12000 students in mid-Illinois. My BA GPA is 3.5; MA is 4.0. I've gotten a few awards, been a graduate assistant, taught 2 years of Freshman Comp as part of that assistantship, taught ESL in Turkey for 2 years, and have lots of conference experience. My general GRE cum. is 640; my GRE Lit Subject is 710. I'm 26 years old and I am currently living in Seoul, South Korea (but I'm American, not even Asian-American) and working as a curriculum writer/editor.

This is my first year applying to PhD programs. I sent apps to UT-Austin (waitlisted but not hopeful), UT-Knoxville (waitlisted and still hopeful), Berkeley (rejected), Indiana U (rejected); I'm still waiting to hear from Arizona State and Cornell. I'm trying to think long term here, of course, and wondering about my options if I don't get accepted into any program this year. I know I'm young but, in my SUPREME arrogance, I just didn't imagine getting rejected across the board. There's the economy and blah blah blah. That means very little in the face of complete and utter and depressing failure.

So, how common is it to get rejected and have to reapply the next year? Should I be working on my GRE general score? Should I be freaking out, grabbing a bottle of wine, and disappearing into the wilds of ESL teaching for the rest of my days? What about applying to a UK school for an MLitt or MPhil program and trying to weasel my way in that route? Anything... from anybody?

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You most definitely need to work on your GRE score. 640 total is not good (sorry to be blunt). Maybe you missed typed and that was just one of the scores out of the two? You should have a math and verbal score, anything under 1000 is a definite retake. You should be getting at least 500 in both sections. Good luck! :)

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I'm hoping you mean GRE verbal - 640 B).

Yes, it is VERY common to be rejected and apply again next year (I'm doing the same). You can do the GRE's again (a 700V and above can definitely help for top-tier programs), sure, but focus most of your attention on writing a KILLER SOP, and making sure your writing sample is publishable (or published). Getting in to a PhD program in literature is mostly about fit - meaning your SOP has to be perfect for the school, engaging, compelling, and reflect your research interests and why you want to pursue your PhD at that particular school, as well as why you wish to pursue a PhD in general.

This has been a VERY tough year for English Lit applicants. Many extremely qualified individuals got rejected from schools just because they were bombarded with 500+ applications, and had the pick of the litter. There is NO problem in applying again next year - quite a few of us on the Literature board are doing so :)

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Yeah, the GRE score definitely needs a boost - think double that score (minimum), idk...I'm in the sciences/math, so its really important in my field. - But you might wanna do more research into your field and the schools you are applying to: find out what the scores of past/recent applicants who got accepted (its usually in the school's/program's website, or you can ask them), what they look for in candidates, and how much emphasis is placed on different areas of the application (statements/essays, GRE/GPA, research, teaching experience...idk

as to the applying next year thing...I think 'Branwen daughter of Llyr' has posted EVERYWHERE on this website, that she is applying next year (I wonder if she knows what she will actually do if she is accepted this year lol :) ). I applied to two programs last year; waitlisted on one, rejected by the other. Got dropped off the waiting list because I did not take the subject GRE (remember what I said...in my field, GREs play a significant role - I think). It was tough, and I cried (ok, since I'm a guy, I confess: I didn't cry, but I was close to tears...I was numb, sad, crazy depressed...u name it, I was down for months). But I applied again this year (11/12 schools this time)...people do it, and I would like to think that grad schools will appreciate seeing your application again (not just for the $). If you apply 2/3 years in a row (not that any of us has the patience/time), they will take note of you and that I think, may be the factor that gets you in the door. I would say, do whatever it is you do...be hopeful = prepare for the worst, but pray for the best.

One step at a time; if you do get in...thnk god...if you dont...step it up (double your GRE score/research the programs you are applying to, etc) and apply again, to more schools next year.

I wish you the best. Tell you the truth, I really don't know what I would do if I don't get into a grad program this year. I'm an international student...I need to be in school in the fall, or its back home....Africa (no internet everyday...no random visits to gradcafe @ 4:30am lol).

Good luck

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as to the applying next year thing...I think 'Branwen daughter of Llyr' has posted EVERYWHERE on this website, that she is applying next year (I wonder if she knows what she will actually do if she is accepted this year lol :) ).

:P

If UVA or Cornell actually accept me this year, first, I'd faint. Then, I'd cry out of frustration (since I've already lined up 3 great jobs, and have all my ducks lined up in a row for the 2011 app process LOL). Then, I'd faint again. Chances are VERY VERY slim - I don't think my apps were focused enough this round. So I'm all emotionally prepared to do it properly next time!

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:P

If UVA or Cornell actually accept me this year, first, I'd faint. Then, I'd cry out of frustration (since I've already lined up 3 great jobs, and have all my ducks lined up in a row for the 2011 app process LOL). Then, I'd faint again. Chances are VERY VERY slim - I don't think my apps were focused enough this round. So I'm all emotionally prepared to do it properly next time!

I didn't mean any offense or anything, I was just saying...lol. Well that's nice, it seems like you have everything all figured out...just waiting. Good Luck though. I Wish you the best.

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I'd suggest improving your GRE, whatever your score is, simply because it's a more tangible part of your application that you can improve. But, as others have said, definitely work on your SOP. My personal plan of action for the next round of PhD apps is to formulate a less specific idea of what I'd like to study, then look for programs with that more general idea in my head (say, Civil War history instead of Alabama Civil War history... not my actual subject but just an example). Once I've found a large number of potential advisers at schools of varying rank, I'll check out their books and articles so I can get a better idea of who these people are and where their interests and opinions lie. Then I'll formulate research proposals specific to each one. This year, I think I was a bit too sure of myself, in that I applied to places with my own independent research ideas, assuming someone would appreciate their intersections with their own work. I was looking for people who could fit my specific interests. Next time, I'll alter my presentation of my interests to fit THEIR specialties. Maybe it's not the most honest way to go, but it sure should beat giving up altogether, or stubbornly clutching to my own ideas no one seems to be interested in supervising. Anyways, I hope this helps you. I still don't know if it's the best advice because I haven't put it to use yet, but it's what I'd do if I were in your position (and I kind of am). Good luck! Stay positive.

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PS the fact that you got waitlisted at two places shows your potential for future success. With a resume that's even only slightly improved, and perhaps with better economic luck in the future, I'm sure you'll be capable of nudging yourself up that little extra bit to full acceptance.

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Oh, sorry, I got 620 on Quantitative, 640 on Verbal, and 6 on Analytical Writing. Certainly my general scores don't represent my best work, and I'm already starting to prepare for taking the test again. I knew that was one of the weaker spots on my applications. As for the Subject... 710 is about as good as I'm going to get--placed in the 96th percentile for this year.

SOPs... yeah... well, I'm the kind of writer who needs to draft and draft... and draft... and draft. And I handle criticism, tips, etc very well. Unfortunately my graduate mentor/thesis chair was having difficult family matters to deal with and was unable to provide me with the help both of us expected. Of course, I'm in no way blaming him or anybody else. I found schools with scholars who specifically worked in my field and really aimed my letters at them. However, these scholars are all BIG names in the Anglo-Saxon world, and I'm competing with every other Tom, Dick, and Harry who is into medieval anything. I'll have to widen my net and try to apply to 10-12 schools, perhaps even some UK schools. (Again, does anybody know much about MLitt/MPhil programs?)

Another aspect of my applications which certainly needs to be improved is publications: I have none. That is a whole other can of worms unfortunately, with its own set of rules and frustrations. As it stands now, however, with only 2 schools left and the prospects not looking so good, I have to seriously start to work on whatever I can. Thanks for the help everyone.

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Oh, sorry, I got 620 on Quantitative, 640 on Verbal, and 6 on Analytical Writing. Certainly my general scores don't represent my best work, and I'm already starting to prepare for taking the test again. I knew that was one of the weaker spots on my applications. As for the Subject... 710 is about as good as I'm going to get--placed in the 96th percentile for this year.

Dude, I swear I am HAPPY you are not in my field. 6 on analytical writing! 710/96th percentile!!! I scored 520/20% or so on my subject test (math) - supposed to be my major; my speciality :) I ENVY YOU lol

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SOPs... yeah... well, I'm the kind of writer who needs to draft and draft... and draft... and draft. And I handle criticism, tips, etc very well. Unfortunately my graduate mentor/thesis chair was having difficult family matters to deal with and was unable to provide me with the help both of us expected. Of course, I'm in no way blaming him or anybody else. I found schools with scholars who specifically worked in my field and really aimed my letters at them. However, these scholars are all BIG names in the Anglo-Saxon world, and I'm competing with every other Tom, Dick, and Harry who is into medieval anything. I'll have to widen my net and try to apply to 10-12 schools, perhaps even some UK schools. (Again, does anybody know much about MLitt/MPhil programs?)

Another aspect of my applications which certainly needs to be improved is publications: I have none. That is a whole other can of worms unfortunately, with its own set of rules and frustrations. As it stands now, however, with only 2 schools left and the prospects not looking so good, I have to seriously start to work on whatever I can. Thanks for the help everyone.

SOP - (I'm a medievalist as well, but Late medieval and Arthurian/Celtic, not Anglo-Saxon) - Just try again, more schools, obviously, VERY focused research interests in the SOP - exactly what turns you on in the field (in academic language, of course) What was your process in writing your most successful papers, why you want to go to grad school in general, and all that. You've been waitlisted this year, so with a little tweaking, you have a great chance of getting in next year.

Published - you don't have to be published. But the writing sample should be "publishing-worthy" - i.e. it could GET accepted at a journal in the field.

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I actually was extremely specific about my past/current/future research interests in all my SOPs. While I am an Anglo-Saxonist, I'm most interested in the application of translation methodologies to Old English literatures. Though Translation Theory is a small field, it is one of the "up and coming" topics and I was really hoping that my unique niche would make me more attractive. However, obviously I was wrong.

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I actually was extremely specific about my past/current/future research interests in all my SOPs. While I am an Anglo-Saxonist, I'm most interested in the application of translation methodologies to Old English literatures. Though Translation Theory is a small field, it is one of the "up and coming" topics and I was really hoping that my unique niche would make me more attractive. However, obviously I was wrong.

You were attractive enough to be waitlisted (a big feat this year).

Listen, don't be discouraged. A LOT of extremely qualified, published, 4.0 graduate GPA people didn't get in this year. It was a very very tough application year due to the surge in numbers of people seeking graduate study + schools getting funding cut and halving their entering cohorts.

All I'm saying is - apply again next year (2nd round applications seem to be overall successful), sharpen SOP to a diamond-point, make sure your writing sample COULD be published as far as quality goes, and pray to whatever higher power (or the ghost of existential nihilism, LOL) :D. Sure, upping your verbal score to above 700 can't hurt - but I doubt that it will be the thing that makes the most difference. From everything I've read on the boards this year, the most successful applicants didn't necessarily have amazing GRE scores. they had spot on writing samples and SOPs.

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This year, I think I was a bit too sure of myself, in that I applied to places with my own independent research ideas, assuming someone would appreciate their intersections with their own work. I was looking for people who could fit my specific interests. Next time, I'll alter my presentation of my interests to fit THEIR specialties. Maybe it's not the most honest way to go, but it sure should beat giving up altogether, or stubbornly clutching to my own ideas no one seems to be interested in supervising.

I couldn't agree more. I did exactly the same thing-- down to specific examples and projected research plans. Did not fare well. Especially since my research interest is sort of caught in the grey area between two subfields.

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I couldn't agree more. I did exactly the same thing-- down to specific examples and projected research plans. Did not fare well. Especially since my research interest is sort of caught in the grey area between two subfields.

at least YOU have an area! My research is everywhere and nowhere. I am into Operations Research (OR), but all my past research has been in physics (playing with lasers), bio/chem (playing with lasers n microscopes), physics (cosmology - space n weird stuff aka dark matter). the only thing that comes close is math (computational number theory) and computer science (programming - with no point other than to program lol)

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at least YOU have an area! My research is everywhere and nowhere. I am into Operations Research (OR), but all my past research has been in physics (playing with lasers), bio/chem (playing with lasers n microscopes), physics (cosmology - space n weird stuff aka dark matter). the only thing that comes close is math (computational number theory) and computer science (programming - with no point other than to program lol)

Hahah Martizzle that actually sound a lot like my situation. I'm applying for ethnomusicology, and I'm interested in using ethnographic methods (supposedly an ethnomusicology thing) to study classical musicians (a historical musicology thing, I've heard). So it's weird to begin with. My past work is all over places: my undergrad degree was a BA in music and psychology, and my focus in the music major was music education and composition. My master's is in performance. In short, everything I've done in the past are remotely related to ethnomusicology... related enough that you can't deny the relations, but remote enough it doesn't really help. I don't know, maybe that's why it's unconvincing when I say I know exactly what I want to research? The ad com probably thought "what, are you sure you are applying to the right subfield?"

to the OP- I'm in similar shoes. I've also heard that this is the toughest year in the past 75. I, too, and quite lost as to what to do next, except for reapplying and improving my GRE. Maybe we should start a business, selling chocolate cake to rejected applicants.

But while we are on this thread-- does anyone besides me feel embarrassed asking professors for LOR again next year? I was fortunate enough to be working with faculty at a school that has no ethnomusicology program, and was the only one applying for phD this year. But I also feel like I disappointed them getting rejected across the board.

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Hahah Martizzle that actually sound a lot like my situation. I'm applying for ethnomusicology, and I'm interested in using ethnographic methods (supposedly an ethnomusicology thing) to study classical musicians (a historical musicology thing, I've heard). So it's weird to begin with. My past work is all over places: my undergrad degree was a BA in music and psychology, and my focus in the music major was music education and composition. My master's is in performance. In short, everything I've done in the past are remotely related to ethnomusicology... related enough that you can't deny the relations, but remote enough it doesn't really help. I don't know, maybe that's why it's unconvincing when I say I know exactly what I want to research? The ad com probably thought "what, are you sure you are applying to the right subfield?"

to the OP- I'm in similar shoes. I've also heard that this is the toughest year in the past 75. I, too, and quite lost as to what to do next, except for reapplying and improving my GRE. Maybe we should start a business, selling chocolate cake to rejected applicants.

But while we are on this thread-- does anyone besides me feel embarrassed asking professors for LOR again next year? I was fortunate enough to be working with faculty at a school that has no ethnomusicology program, and was the only one applying for phD this year. But I also feel like I disappointed them getting rejected across the board.

dude, you had me laughing at: ethnomusicology. for some weird reason, when i tried to pronounce it, it just sounded weird and odd...i guess its my accent (sigh)...looking back, perhaps i should not have written in my SOP that i wanted to work in the industry after graduating, then after 10 years, become a professor. i'm sure the ad comms where like: this poor kid is confused...he has no idea what he wants to study, or what he wants to do with whatever he does end up studying lol

the business with the chocolates...idk....for the business to succeed, the customers have to get the product - which wont happen because i would probably eat all the chocolates up lol

i also feel like i'm getting dumped by the 12 schools i applied to. the only 'remotely' positive thing is that one of the schools i applied to for a phd, (after rejecting me) offered to consider my app for a masters of Engineering. now i'm still not accepted/offered anything yet...but its something to hope for. [no idea how i would pay for it though, but i just want to be accepted somewhere]

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Well, I'm going to allow one month of a break while I wait to year from my waiting list schools. Again, I've been given little reason to hope for anything from UT-Austin, but UT-Knoxville still presents a glimmer of an opportunity. However, it's best if I simply assume I've been rejected all around so I can start (almost) from scratch, with a clearer head. I am a bit embarrassed to have to request more LOR from profs, but... this is the type of game we are all playing. If current academics can't be understanding of our situations, well... we're in even bigger trouble.

Anyway, it looks like I'm on the hunt for even more Anglo-Saxon/Translation Theory programs, as well as searching for good journals (even online ones) that are willing to publish graduated MA students. Any ideas from the all-knowing community?

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FSU! David Johnson is an Anglo-Saxonist who does translation theory, and you'd also have Elaine Treharne (!!!). And Notre Dame, of course. Also, what is your Latin like? Applying as a medievalist, it would be helpful to have at least one semester of grad-level Latin. So that's something you could do. Many schools offer a reading course over the summer that might be open to non-degree seeking students (Notre Dame's is, for example).

Edited by Sparky

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Unfortunately my Latin is... non-existent. However, I am starting to study on my own now. My Anglo-Saxon/Old Norse is pretty good. I'll reapply to UT-Austin and UT-Knoxville for sure, though I haven't decided about ASU or Indiana U yet. Ugh... just writing these names again brings around a small bout of depression.

I was a presenter at the VAGANTES Graduate Student Conference at FSU in 2009, so I got to meet Drs. Treharne and Johnson. I can't think why I didn't apply there in the first place, to be honest.

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Unfortunately my Latin is... non-existent. However, I am starting to study on my own now. My Anglo-Saxon/Old Norse is pretty good. I'll reapply to UT-Austin and UT-Knoxville for sure, though I haven't decided about ASU or Indiana U yet. Ugh... just writing these names again brings around a small bout of depression.

I was a presenter at the VAGANTES Graduate Student Conference at FSU in 2009, so I got to meet Drs. Treharne and Johnson. I can't think why I didn't apply there in the first place, to be honest.

If you're interested, UMass offers an online course (undergrad) in Latin. You can get your latin to intermediate level in a year, easily, just with their online intensive course, and then take a grad latin class while doing your PhD next year or test out of the requirement. I'm doing this, since my Latin is non-existent as well (although my middle English rocks). I'm actually looking forward to it - it should be fun, and the online tuition isn't too bad :D

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My two (four?) cents, in mostly random order--

First, I think Branwen and Sparky's advice about Latin is excellent. Regardless of whether a program expects you to know it going in, it's going to help you with your work once you're there.

Second, the most time-effective GRE-study tool I used was Kaplan's GRE vocab application for iPhones. (They have a Blackberry version, too.) It's got hundreds of words, is infinitely more convenient than carrying around a stack of flash cards (I know, because I tried), and at least three or four words that I wouldn't have known otherwise were on my test. As you probably know, three or four high-difficulty items on the computerized test can make a big difference in your score.

Third, have you considered calling the schools you're wait-listed at to find out what they think you could do to be a stronger applicant? They clearly liked your application and have an interest in you and your work, and I'll bet that the DGS at at least one of the schools will be happy to talk with you. It might take some of the speculation out of the "what next?" dilemma, and I also think it'll reflect well on you if you decide to reapply in a year, since it'll show your commitment to your goal and illustrate that you welcome constructive feedback.

Lastly (and most importantly) ... take heart! You're on two wait lists, and there is a good chance that everything is going to work out just fine this year. So, by all means, start thinking toward the possible future, but keep your hope alive, too. And best of luck!

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I've started my home Latin-study program, with books, workbooks, and language software. I'm not killing myself over it--doing it a bit every day, stretched out over time, will provide me with the solid foundation that I will need by the time I enter a program.

I did send emails out to programs about how to best improve my application and I'm awaiting their replies.

Another idea about applying next year came to mind over the weekend. What if I applied to another MA program at a more prestigious school and then attempt to get into their PhD program that route? I have an MA but my university is by no means a renowned institute of higher education (but it's not bottom-of-the-barrel). Has anyone had any experience with this, or know of anecdotal stories involving such an attempt?

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I couldn't agree more. I did exactly the same thing-- down to specific examples and projected research plans. Did not fare well. Especially since my research interest is sort of caught in the grey area between two subfields.

This is a common first time mistake--I made it too. No, it's not dishonest at all, it's smart.

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