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PhD Applications Fall 2019 Season


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I just found out that I was accepted to Georgetown's Theological and Religious Studies program! This is my third attempt at Georgetown and my seventh (yes, you read that correctly) application cycle.

To those who haven’t heard back, here’s a word of (hopefully) comforting advice. To start with an annoyingly cliché but true suggestion: try your best not to take rejection too personally or as an ins

I was notified of acceptance off the NT waitlist at Baylor today!

Hi all,

Hoping to solicit some advice/wisdom here on choosing a program! I've combed through previous threads on this topic—both in this forum and across gradcafe—but I'm still feeling at quite a loss. 

It seems that the most consistent advice is to find a good advisor and to choose the program that most closely fits your interests. But do those two criteria need to coexist in one person? By which I mean, does the advisor have to be a perfect fit? And where does "fit" need to be located within the school? To make this less abstract, a brief summary of my options:

Program A: One absolutely wonderful PoI who is a 100% match with my interests. Wonderful person, wonderful scholar. However, there is really no one else within this program or within this university who is even remotely close to my interests. (Edit: with the exception of one other person who does really interesting work in a particular methodology I want to learn to incorporate)

Program B: Two PoIs who, combined together, match my interests quite well; neither works on my topics exactly, but they've worked together in the past to advise projects similar to mine. A few other people throughout the department and university who work on similar subjects/geographies/time periods and would be good secondary resources.

Program C (no colon because automatic emoji): A LOT of people who are very close to my interests, but no one who's an exact match. Advisor would be in a pretty close field/topic.

Program D (again with the emoji): One exact match and one very good match, both of whom are in different departments than the one I was accepted to. The department itself would give me good breadth within RS and would let me take a lot of coursework with the professors in other departments, and my advisor would be in my general field/time period, but with fairly different topical interests.

Could all of these scenarios be fruitful, just in different ways? I'm especially confused and curious about Program D; for a lot of reasons, I'm very interested in this program/school/location, but would having an advisor who is a little further from my topic be a huge problem? Or an inconvenience? Or would it be an opportunity for broadening?

Many many thanks for any thoughts anyone might have! I appreciate you all. :) 

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4 minutes ago, hannibal254 said:

Hi all,

Hoping to solicit some advice/wisdom here on choosing a program! I've combed through previous threads on this topic—both in this forum and across gradcafe—but I'm still feeling at quite a loss. 

It seems that the most consistent advice is to find a good advisor and to choose the program that most closely fits your interests. But do those two criteria need to coexist in one person? By which I mean, does the advisor have to be a perfect fit? And where does "fit" need to be located within the school? To make this less abstract, a brief summary of my options:

Program A: One absolutely wonderful PoI who is a 100% match with my interests. Wonderful person, wonderful scholar. However, there is really no one else within this program or within this university who is even remotely close to my interests. (Edit: with the exception of one other person who does really interesting work in a particular methodology I want to learn to incorporate)

Program B: Two PoIs who, combined together, match my interests quite well; neither works on my topics exactly, but they've worked together in the past to advise projects similar to mine. A few other people throughout the department and university who work on similar subjects/geographies/time periods and would be good secondary resources.

Program C (no colon because automatic emoji): A LOT of people who are very close to my interests, but no one who's an exact match. Advisor would be in a pretty close field/topic.

Program D (again with the emoji): One exact match and one very good match, both of whom are in different departments than the one I was accepted to. The department itself would give me good breadth within RS and would let me take a lot of coursework with the professors in other departments, and my advisor would be in my general field/time period, but with fairly different topical interests.

Could all of these scenarios be fruitful, just in different ways? I'm especially confused and curious about Program D; for a lot of reasons, I'm very interested in this program/school/location, but would having an advisor who is a little further from my topic be a huge problem? Or an inconvenience? Or would it be an opportunity for broadening?

Many many thanks for any thoughts anyone might have! I appreciate you all. :) 

They could all work (others have made these scenarios work). I would strongly suggest considering job placement in your calculus, and I'd ask for hard numbers from PoIs. Don't forget things like cost of living, too. People are often overly idealistic in making these choices, but you should really be brutal in your assessment of the financial benefits both during and after the program. 

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1 hour ago, hannibal254 said:

Hi all,

Hoping to solicit some advice/wisdom here on choosing a program! I've combed through previous threads on this topic—both in this forum and across gradcafe—but I'm still feeling at quite a loss. 

It seems that the most consistent advice is to find a good advisor and to choose the program that most closely fits your interests. But do those two criteria need to coexist in one person? By which I mean, does the advisor have to be a perfect fit? And where does "fit" need to be located within the school? To make this less abstract, a brief summary of my options:

Program A: One absolutely wonderful PoI who is a 100% match with my interests. Wonderful person, wonderful scholar. However, there is really no one else within this program or within this university who is even remotely close to my interests. (Edit: with the exception of one other person who does really interesting work in a particular methodology I want to learn to incorporate)

Program B: Two PoIs who, combined together, match my interests quite well; neither works on my topics exactly, but they've worked together in the past to advise projects similar to mine. A few other people throughout the department and university who work on similar subjects/geographies/time periods and would be good secondary resources.

Program C (no colon because automatic emoji): A LOT of people who are very close to my interests, but no one who's an exact match. Advisor would be in a pretty close field/topic.

Program D (again with the emoji): One exact match and one very good match, both of whom are in different departments than the one I was accepted to. The department itself would give me good breadth within RS and would let me take a lot of coursework with the professors in other departments, and my advisor would be in my general field/time period, but with fairly different topical interests.

Could all of these scenarios be fruitful, just in different ways? I'm especially confused and curious about Program D; for a lot of reasons, I'm very interested in this program/school/location, but would having an advisor who is a little further from my topic be a huge problem? Or an inconvenience? Or would it be an opportunity for broadening?

Many many thanks for any thoughts anyone might have! I appreciate you all. :) 

In my opinion, your advisor shouldn't work exactly within your interests. They're going to be biased about how the work should be done and what kind of scholar you should be. I've seen this myself and had faculty tell me as well, professors who tend to take on a mentee within their exact subfield tend to produce shoddy scholars b/c that student is a mini-them, rather than fostering their own curiosity.

Program A is a bit of a unicorn. Usually the best fit for your interests is either 1) aloof and/or 2) an asshole. Also, there's a bit of a risk in placing your development in the hands of one person. If they leave, turn out to suck in some way, die, etc - you're up a proverbial creek. Increasingly universities don't hire someone with the same sub/field as the recently departed and hires are taking an increasingly longer time.

Program B and C are probably the best/ideal fit, IMO.

Program D could be awesome, depending on the university. Religious Studies is already a very diverse field and some schools are better about fostering this. The big negative is that if you dive too deep or too broad in your ancillary departments, your eventually employer may come to say that you can't really do any of the fields that well. This depends heavily on the school, the department(s) in question, and eventual employer. I've seen solid applicants, as a student on a Search Committee, rejected because the committee found them 1) too specialized, 2) not specialized enough, and/or 3) lacking a foundation that would allow them to teach introductory courses that senior faculty no longer want to do.

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1 hour ago, xypathos said:

 Program A is a bit of a unicorn. Usually the best fit for your interests is either 1) aloof and/or 2) an asshole. Also, there's a bit of a risk in placing your development in the hands of one person. If they leave, turn out to suck in some way, die, etc - you're up a proverbial creek. Increasingly universities don't hire someone with the same sub/field as the recently departed and hires are taking an increasingly longer time.

This is sage advice. You cannot become a clone of your advisor and expect to do well. Moreover, if your advisor likes your dissertation too much, the much needed criticism that you need to develop your argument may not be there. You can write a good dissertation that is readily publishable with an advisor who isn't familiar with your methodology. I would say that broad interest ability as well as a reputation for being a good advisor is more important that being very closely aligned with what you want to do. 

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I think xypathos is exactly right. A lot of folks have this vision of Ph.D work that they're going to have a really close working relationship with their advisor who is an expert in their field. Having a person who is field-adjacent is actually going to help you better develop as a scholar. The reason is that they can really push you to write more clearly and precisely than someone who is already mired in your field because they need that higher level of clarity to understand your argument. I've found this extremely helpful as I have a terrible habit of always implying my argument through examples rather than coming out and saying it clearly and succinctly.

I work on 19th/20th century German theology, philosophy of history, and social theory (and their intersection). My dissertation is on a relatively little known theologian (little known in the US). I have two co-advisors, one in religious studies and one in philosophy. The RS advisor is a Catholic social ethicist and the philosophy advisor is a Hegel scholar. Both have, at the very least, a passing familiarity with my figure, the philosophy advisor more so than the RS advisor. As I've had some friends and colleagues read over dissertation chapters, people who are intimately familiar with my figure have often missed the places in my dissertation where I'm doing what I describe above. My advisors have not.

Of course, I have had to recruit an expert on my figure to my committee to make sure that my argument makes sense and is contributing meaningfully to the literature (someone from outside my institution). It's also going to be important for her to write me letters for jobs next application season. So having an expert on your committee is definitely a necessity. But that person does not have to be your advisor, and I think it's better if they are not your advisor.

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15 minutes ago, Re-Donne said:

Anyone hear anything (more) about the UVA waitlist? It looks like at least one person was just accepted off of it...

I'm on the waitlist for the modern religious thought AOI. I sent an email to the graduate admissions person a week and a half ago and didn't get a response. Trying to interpret the silence as the possibility that I have a real chance of getting in but they can't say for sure rather than just ignoring my email.

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Hello,

I have yet to receive a decision from U of Notre Dame. Is that unusual? I know that there were those who posted interviews. I did not do an interview. However, I have not received notice of a rejection. Should those be sent out by now or should I contact someone? 

Thanks! 

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8 hours ago, NothingtoProve said:

Hello,

I have yet to receive a decision from U of Notre Dame. Is that unusual? I know that there were those who posted interviews. I did not do an interview. However, I have not received notice of a rejection. Should those be sent out by now or should I contact someone? 

Thanks! 

At this point, all interviews have occurred and acceptances have been extended. It might still take some time to hear back about rejections. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hey everyone,

I hope everybody has approached a decision with which they are happy. As some of you know, I applied to a few PhD programs directly out of undergrad and did not get into my top choices, which is fine and I can honestly say I am not bitter about. Since I applied relatively young and ultimately decided to pursue an M* degree, is it worth it to contact my POIs at those schools (whom I had already spoken with before applying) just to express my interest in re-applying in 2-3 years? If so, does anybody have tips about phrasing these e-mails?

Thanks!

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On 5/2/2019 at 11:22 AM, Pierre de Olivi said:

Hey everyone,

I hope everybody has approached a decision with which they are happy. As some of you know, I applied to a few PhD programs directly out of undergrad and did not get into my top choices, which is fine and I can honestly say I am not bitter about. Since I applied relatively young and ultimately decided to pursue an M* degree, is it worth it to contact my POIs at those schools (whom I had already spoken with before applying) just to express my interest in re-applying in 2-3 years? If so, does anybody have tips about phrasing these e-mails?

Thanks!

I would just wait until you're ready to apply again. Telling them 2-3 years out likely isn't going to do anything for you since it's doubtful they'll remember you when it's time to apply anyway. Even if they did remember, I don't think you'd have any advantage over waiting to contact them in your application cycle.

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