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23 hours ago, northwestnative said:

I was a shutout last year—didn't make it off of either waitlist. I had finished my MA, so I've spent the year adjuncting. I stayed in close contact with my MA advisor and letter-writers, and I attended another conference and added a couple more reviews to my publications. As others have said, spending a year revising SoPs and writing samples is so helpful: my first-cycle SoP was cringeworthy, but this year's was, I think, far better. I also expanded my apps a little, from four to six, and did more background work: emailing PoIs, reading their work. As @kendalldinniene astutely said, find a community. Share letters and writing and anxieties. And keep your head up! It gets easier the second time around!

I'm seeing myself in this spot this year, the plan was to go straight for the phd(as someone who plans everything in life ) but I don't see it happening the way that things are going. if I get into the MA that I applied would you recommend me to accept it? I would have to get loans to be able to afford it and I don't know if that is a wise decision, or if I should just wait for the next cycle and work on my applications and GRE. I know this isn't my post but if anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it.

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@ana21 I think the general advice is to not take out loans if at all possible, but that getting an MA can be a great choice. You can always ask about possible funding for the MA (there are sometimes campus jobs that come with tuition remission). I'd also ask the MA program about their placement rates into PhD programs if that's your eventual goal. 

If you can't get funding, I'd think long and hard about the financial place you'd be in (especially if you already have loans from undergrad!). Some people can make it work one way or another, but many people don't want to take on that burden.

FYI (also for anyone else facing a shutout and thinking about options) Villanova has a funded MA program with a March 1 deadline!

If you don't think you can swing it financially, do work on your app, and maybe consider putting some funded MA programs on your radar in the next cycle, too.

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1 hour ago, ana21 said:

I'm seeing myself in this spot this year, the plan was to go straight for the phd(as someone who plans everything in life ) but I don't see it happening the way that things are going. if I get into the MA that I applied would you recommend me to accept it? I would have to get loans to be able to afford it and I don't know if that is a wise decision, or if I should just wait for the next cycle and work on my applications and GRE. I know this isn't my post but if anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it.

I did a fully funded MA at Oregon State—if you can swing a similar program, I recommend it. I grew considerably as a scholar at OSU; I wasn't ready for PhD work then, but I feel much better now.

I'd avoid loans if at all possible. Having escaped undergrad at a private, lib-arts college with below-average debt, I can't imagine taking on much more. Just my opinion, though.

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1 hour ago, ana21 said:

I'm seeing myself in this spot this year, the plan was to go straight for the phd(as someone who plans everything in life ) but I don't see it happening the way that things are going. if I get into the MA that I applied would you recommend me to accept it? I would have to get loans to be able to afford it and I don't know if that is a wise decision, or if I should just wait for the next cycle and work on my applications and GRE. I know this isn't my post but if anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it.

I asked for thoughts on MA programs, and I was told in no uncertain terms to not do anything (including a PhD program!) unless I was guaranteed funding. This opinion was very strongly shared by two of my mentors (across two different institutions), one of whom did a funded MA. It was also noted that an unfunded MA may be looked down upon as being "bought," and may count against me in PhD admissions ultimately. I know that opinion isn't universally held because I do know some people at top 10 programs who went through Chicago's MA program, but this is the advice I received. I would also really recommend talking to your advisors, too! 

Edited by sugilite
Typos

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2 minutes ago, sugilite said:

I asked for thoughts on MA programs, and I was told in no uncertain terms to not do anything (including a PhD program!) unless I was guaranteed funding. This opinion was very strongly shared by two of my mentors (across two different institutions), one of whom did a funded MA. It was also noted that an unfunded MA may be looked down upon as being "bought," and may count against me in PhD admissions ultimately. I know that opinion isn't universally held because I do know some people at top 10 programs who went through Chicago's MA program, but this is the advice I received. I would also really recommend talking to your advisors, too! 

I was also told on no uncertain terms to not accrue further debt for grad school.  Not only because (I was told) going to school without getting professional experience was not cool, but also because the admissions sitch for PhDs AND the job market post PhD are such shit-you should not have more debt coming out of your program.

Last year I was shut out of phd programs but got into the MA at Denver with 50% tuition remission...it was VERY hard to say no to my dream of grad school right after undergrad...but it was the right choice.

Im really rooting for you. Also @Dogfish Head was generous enough to share with me some fully funded MA programs in the US,  perhaps they would be willing to share those with you as well. Good luck!

synopsis: Do not accrue any more debt! (Is my advice 😉)

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10 hours ago, MetaphysicalDrama said:

Yeah, I know I've suffered in the past from a lowsy quant score.  Most schools don't say it, but they don't really want to send any scores below 160 to the dean's office.  Hell, English departments probably want verbal scores well above 160.

I had absolutely abysmal GRE scores - skipped through Quant section (literally scored in 1st percentile) and 158V but still was accepted to a PhD program with full funding!  I think it definitely varies based on program, though. 

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5 minutes ago, The Wordsworthian said:

I had absolutely abysmal GRE scores - skipped through Quant section (literally scored in 1st percentile) and 158V but still was accepted to a PhD program with full funding!  I think it definitely varies based on program, though. 

like I had a 162 verbal and a better (but still super shitty) quant score and got rejected from the same program. I’m sorry but I don’t think GRE scores do (or SHOULD) mean that much.

also every program is different.

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that you guys for your advise!! I am finding myself really lost seeing that I might not go to grad school straight from undergrad, but still ill just work on my application and resume. 

ps. This is really funny as I didn't realize this was the English Lit PhD forum. 

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13 hours ago, kendalldinniene said:

...it was VERY hard to say no to my dream of grad school right after undergrad...but it was the right choice.

I completely feel you there! Wanted to do the MA at a top ten straight out of undergrad but $80k a year without interest from the loans would have buried me entirely. I'm so glad I made the difficult choice to turn it down.

 

Yay for hard (but right) choices! 

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12 hours ago, The Wordsworthian said:

I had absolutely abysmal GRE scores - skipped through Quant section (literally scored in 1st percentile) and 158V but still was accepted to a PhD program with full funding!  I think it definitely varies based on program, though. 

Are you referring to your Washington offer?  I saw that one came through for you.  Congratulations!  I applied to Washington's philosophy PhD program years ago, but I didn't receive an offer.  I wanted to give their lit program a shot this year, but my wife wasn't thrilled about the location. 

Yeah, not to be mean, but a 158 verbal score is quite low for humanities.  I'm not happy about my 162, and I'm sure most top 30 institutions don't like it either.  I agree.  GRE scores are not everything, but I think they play differently at different tiers of schools.  They especially have a role to play when it comes for university-wide fellowships.  The subtle point I'm trying to make is that if a committee is equally interested in two or more projects, then they have an incentive to take the higher scores for "image" purposes and funding purposes.  Of course, the exception to this rule is that the writing sample and research questions articulated in the SoP are uniquely brilliant, and they will fill the area need the admissions committee desires.  I think part of the magic of understanding why the SoP and WS are so important is realizing that insane levels of interests in them will overcome poor GRE scores, but that's essentially a way of saying that the prof on the committee believes the school must have a student working on that sort of project.  At this point, I would argue that most top 30 programs only care to accept "perfect" applications.  By that I mean: a relevant, thought-provoking, and well-written sample, a fit clearly established in the SoP, LoRs from known faculty in the proposed area of specialization, and GRE scores above 160 in verbal and 150 in quant.  There are exceptions to the rule, but if I had to give advice to a new applicant, then I would say don't apply if you don't have all of these elements in your application.  

Having said all that, I do believe the GRE is a load of crap and not at all indicative of one's ability to succeed in graduate school.  It's a money pot.  Furthermore, I don't think any of us realize just how many decisions in our field are based on money. 

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@MetaphysicalDrama Thank you, I'm absolutely thrilled about the offer!

Re:my horrid GRE scores, I completely agree with you.  My research advisor warned me that although I was a strong applicant across other fronts (GPA, recommendations, WS, SoP, courses taken), having a GRE score under 160 might result in my application being completely dismissed from some schools.  I am not a strong standardized test taker by any means, and did not do as well as I wanted but instead decided to invest a ton of time and effort into polishing my writing sample and SoP.

I agree that the GRE is absolute bull and am glad that having poor scores did not prevent me from getting in this cycle.  So for other applicants/prospective applicants who are worried about GRE scores, there is still hope yet considering my low scores!

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In response to GRE scores, I do think mine have impacted the outcome of my application cycle, but I was still accepted at one of my top choices with a 158 verbal and rejected from programs that no longer require GRE scores, so I really don't know what to think about them. I am pleased with the outcome because I knew if I was shut out I would probably have to take it (yet again) for my next round. 

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Checking my scores on the GRE just now, I had a 159 Verbal & 142 Quant, and I'm really glad it had absolutely no effect on me getting into two programs within the top 40. I hate standardized testing and didn't even read most of the questions on the math section.

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3 hours ago, ana21 said:

that you guys for your advise!! I am finding myself really lost seeing that I might not go to grad school straight from undergrad, but still ill just work on my application and resume. 

ps. This is really funny as I didn't realize this was the English Lit PhD forum. 

I, too, applied to direct admit programs straight out of undergrad and was rerouted to the MA program, and I think it was the best thing that's happened to me in my academic career. I was NOT ready for PhD level work straight out of my BA, even though I thought I was and even though I wanted to get through school quickly. Doing the MA (or really being forced to as I was technically a PhD shutout) really allowed me to both expand and focus my interests, improve myself as a scholar, and really learn how to grad school. My MA came with a TA-ship, no funding otherwise. I have accrued some debt, but not much. I did not have any debt from undergrad, and plan to attend a fully funded PhD program now, so my only debt comes (minimally) from my MA. For me, having the MA experience (though unintentional and not what I wanted at the time) was seriously the best choice for me. Would I have rather attended a fully funded MA program? Hell yeah. If I could have 0 debt, that would be amazing. But don't be afraid to attend an MA program after being a PhD shutout this cycle. Apply to MA programs that have later deadlines/are fully or partially funded is my advice. Taking the time to do my MA first changed my scholarly (and really my entire) life.

 

Edit: Haha, didn't realize you weren't English. I still stand by my advice, though I'm not sure of exactly how your field's grad school process works.

Edited by tacocat211

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On the topic of GRE scores, I had a 161 verbal, 148 quant (yep), and 5.5 for writing. I think GRE scores matter a lot less than we tend to ruminate on, in all honesty. 

Edited by trytostay

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The GREs are kind of a strawman argument. Half of us say they’re more important than people say, half of us that they’re less. Ultimately, all arguments dismissing them are anecdotal (“look, I had X and I got in, my friend had X+1 and didn’t”), but whenever people seemingly in the know come around they suggest that it’s dairly important (which admittedly is also anecdotal). Seems like professors know it’s bullshit but administrations value it. Administrations have the money so my takeaway is: get them as high as you can without sacrificing your meal ticket (SoP, WS) to give yourself the best odds.

Edited by WildeThing

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Just want to throw in some real numbers re: GRE. Ohio State has a faculty grad coordinator that posts over in the PoliSci board:

If there is a cutoff by grad school administrations (though, as it says, it's not a hard cutoff!), then at one institution it's the 75th percentile. The grad coordinator also says in another post later that it applies to the history program as well, so I would think it's for all grad programs. Presumably, the cutoff would be about the same at other places, if anyone is looking for a goal. 

That said, to add to the ancecdata, I was a little bit below the 75th percentile for the quantitative section and I don't believe it hurt me. 

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Another anecdata point here. I applied with 158V and 142Q and walk away from this cycle with 1 acceptance and 1 waitlist (unless miracles happen tomorrow or next week). However, I will also say that it was a very risky proposition to barely clear 300 total on the GRE general. I'm grateful that my GRE didn't shut me out, but an admissions committee that was taking a first glance purely at the data (definitely most of my East Coast schools, since I have little to no academic connections there) I will definitely admit I look like a very shaky proposition. I can't discern how GREs play into the decision mechanics for private schools, I know for public schools that utilize campus-wide fellowships for funding, it can definitely play a part. As far as I know, a department will almost always want to fund its students from the larger graduate school funds than utilize department resources (I know Buffalo had a 313/4.5AW minimum to be considered for fellowship consideration from their College of Arts and Sciences). Every department and every school will of course be different, and definitely don't be afraid to check out GRE policies if your schools list them.
___

After a bit of reflection after seeing the pieces fall together, I can't deny and feel the fear that a shutout this year was close to being real for me. I remember having a freakout in GC during January about the possibility. I'm insanely grateful for my results, but during that weird period of uncertainty, I developed something of a game-plan if I needed to apply for Fall 2020. I've taken a look at my application materials again (after months of refusing to look at them) and find spots where my writing could've used some massaging and tightening. It's only a rough sketch, and definitely not meant to be prescriptive or authoritative, but for those that want to see some sort of pointers into my process, I hope it helps someone :) This is what I would've done if it happened to me:

  • If things went to hell, tomorrow (or early next week) is when I likely would've had the definitive final nail in the coffin and be officially shutout in an alternate universe where I received nothing but rejections. If you get news early, don't be afraid to grieve and let the emotions out. Talk it out with your friends, SO, family, etc. For me, I have an insanely sturdy support system that has kept me sane throughout this whole process, and I could not have made it through alone. They talked me through the grad school stress, both application and the future of what grad school is going to mean. Eat ice cream (ok maybe not too much), focus on a project not academic-related, etc. Find your happy place for a while and remain in that happy place if you can for as long as you need to, while not trying to repress the emotions either. If you need to cry, let it out. Catharsis, catharsis, catharsis. You will know when you feel ready.
  • After you feel comfortable and let the emotions out, take stock of what you've learned throughout the application process. I've learned a lot about my research trajectory and how to articulate that for grad school applications much, much more than I did a couple of months ago. You now have a foundation to which you can revise, rebuild, and make your SoP and WS the kickass documents you know they can be and will be. In my case... I'd be starting the process of revising my documents around March or April (likely April). I'd take some time away from GC and use the March-April period to contact my professors, debrief, regroup, and see if they have time to schedule in-person meetings in the summer. (However, I understand this is not possible for everyone. I live very close to my alma mater so in-person meetings are possible). I'd see if I can immerse myself in scholarship and figure out, more specifically, the conversation I want to enter in. Again, this is variable on how you felt about your SoP/WS (for me... they needed a lot more work, so I got insanely lucky this cycle).
  • If your GRE scores are banging with twin 160+ and a 6.0AW (and not reaching that 5 year mark), a retake is def not necessary. If you got scores like mine, and are willing to shell out the cash, would've started to hit those GRE books again and do some test prep. I'm not fond of the test at all, but AU me would've definitely been trying to cover all bases and leave no parts of the application up to any doubt (and pray and hope I get my verbal score up to 160+, and my quant to the 150s). My revised school list would still have schools that require the subject, so also gonna have to fill my days studying Hapax legomemnon and taking GC deep dives in GRE literature threads.
  • On school revision, my new list would definitely be different. My hypothetical second round would've been a mix between MAs and PhDs. PhDs: Emory, WUSTL, SUNY-Buffalo UW, UCI, Yale, MA: Georgetown, Wake Forest, CSULB. I'll retain three schools from my original seven, but focus more on a mixed application cycle to ensure that if I get a PhD shutout, I have funded Masters to look towards. (the Master's programs on this is a very rough and possibly insanely inaccurate sketch. I'd def need to do more departmental digging to make up a veritable list instead of throwing around schools like we would darts).

This was as far as I had planned out however. I didn't want to start thinking of what to do when the new school year rolls around just yet. Around this time, I'd also start job hunting and seeking, using that time to get away from being so deeply entrenched in application materials (that was my mistake during this cycle, these applications dominated my life). I would try not to make that mistake again and try to have something substantial to focus on that wasn't just 'is my SoP okay is my SoP okay oh my god my WS these GREs somebody help me.' In the myriad of plans I have that are floating in my brain, I would've definitely tried to sub for my local school district for the upcoming school year to help ease the costs of re-applying. (I would've also tried to do the IRT scholarship)

I hope this helps someone though :) If anyone wants to chat more, don't be afraid to PM.

Edited by Ranmaag

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9 hours ago, Ranmaag said:

Another anecdata point here. I applied with 158V and 142Q and walk away from this cycle with 1 acceptance and 1 waitlist (unless miracles happen tomorrow or next week). However, I will also say that it was a very risky proposition to barely clear 300 total on the GRE general. I'm grateful that my GRE didn't shut me out, but an admissions committee that was taking a first glance purely at the data (definitely most of my East Coast schools, since I have little to no academic connections there) I will definitely admit I look like a very shaky proposition. I can't discern how GREs play into the decision mechanics for private schools, I know for public schools that utilize campus-wide fellowships for funding, it can definitely play a part. As far as I know, a department will almost always want to fund its students from the larger graduate school funds than utilize department resources (I know Buffalo had a 313/4.5AW minimum to be considered for fellowship consideration from their College of Arts and Sciences). Every department and every school will of course be different, and definitely don't be afraid to check out GRE policies if your schools list them.

I'm in a similar boat although my Q was significantly lower given that I skipped through the Quant section (and I'm also waiting to hear back from 4 schools).  As of current, however, I have one acceptance and one waitlist.  I agree that I'm lucky my GRE scores didn't earn me a complete shut out; this was my very first cycle and a few weeks after officially submitting my applications I actually had a horrible anxiety attack over the scores and for the past month I've been a nervous wreck, terrified that I completely screwed myself over.  I think that a solid WS/SoP/other credentials can help override a poor GRE score, but given how competitive these application cycles are, you don't want to give admissions committees any reason to reject you.  In any case, here's to hoping that more schools start waiving the arbitrary GRE requirement over the next few years. 

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Another frequent lurker here, looking at a shut-out. 

Thanks, OP, for making this thread, and thank you to everyone else for all of the advice on dealing with the disappointment. I think I'm going to have to significantly rethink how I looked at what school I applied to this year. (Like @jrockford27 in their first app cycle, I spent a lot of time thinking that I should go to a top 10 school, mainly because I'm terrified of the job market.) This thread is absolutely invaluable!

I wonder if it would be a good idea to go volunteer for an organization that has shaped my interests? I'm interested in feminist literature, among other things, and I'm a Vagina Monologues alum. I recently contacted one of the partner orgs the Monologues works with here in SD, since I've finally got the time to do it after months of writing and submitting- and worrying! @bfat, does volunteer work like this usually fit into the adcomm's idea of "real-world praxis"?

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On 2/21/2019 at 2:10 PM, tacocat211 said:

I, too, applied to direct admit programs straight out of undergrad and was rerouted to the MA program, and I think it was the best thing that's happened to me in my academic career. I was NOT ready for PhD level work straight out of my BA, even though I thought I was and even though I wanted to get through school quickly. Doing the MA (or really being forced to as I was technically a PhD shutout) really allowed me to both expand and focus my interests, improve myself as a scholar, and really learn how to grad school. My MA came with a TA-ship, no funding otherwise. I have accrued some debt, but not much. I did not have any debt from undergrad, and plan to attend a fully funded PhD program now, so my only debt comes (minimally) from my MA. For me, having the MA experience (though unintentional and not what I wanted at the time) was seriously the best choice for me. Would I have rather attended a fully funded MA program? Hell yeah. If I could have 0 debt, that would be amazing. But don't be afraid to attend an MA program after being a PhD shutout this cycle. Apply to MA programs that have later deadlines/are fully or partially funded is my advice. Taking the time to do my MA first changed my scholarly (and really my entire) life.

 

Edit: Haha, didn't realize you weren't English. I still stand by my advice, though I'm not sure of exactly how your field's grad school process works.

thank you too much for your advise! I applied to two Masters programs( one of them in the same school I did my undergrad) and im expecting to get any decisions after March 15 so im just waiting now. I will talk it out with my advisor and see what she says, it also puts me in a weird position having to ask the same recommenders to go through the process again next year.

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56 minutes ago, ana21 said:

thank you too much for your advise! I applied to two Masters programs( one of them in the same school I did my undergrad) and im expecting to get any decisions after March 15 so im just waiting now. I will talk it out with my advisor and see what she says, it also puts me in a weird position having to ask the same recommenders to go through the process again next year.

they're used to it :) it's actually easier for them because they'll reuse their letter and just update it. don't worry about that part!

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Last year I applied to one MA program abroad via Fulbright, and did not advance past the Semi-Finalist round (but was admitted to the graduate program without any real funding, and therefore could not attend). I was definitely bummed, but ended up applying to/being admitted to a one-year AmeriCorps Tutor program in lieu of grad school. Highly recommend this experience if you are looking to: gain more "hard" workplace experience/skills; potentially move to a new city for a year; meet/make new friends and expand your networking circle; and learn a lot about yourself and your goals in the process. I think this addition to my resume/CV definitely helped my applications. My specific program includes housing/utilities, stipend, and a $5-6k education award upon fulfillment of the one year commitment which can be applied to loans and/or future schooling. Happy to chat with anyone looking for opportunities like this! 

Also look into this potential opportunity, for those in the Los Angeles area: https://www.thebroad.org/dap

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