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As some of others, a recent lurker. Congrats to all those who made it! I'm shutout this year and trying to get some grips on what to do from here.

I was just wondering what you guys did or are planning to do after getting shutout from the app. cycle? When shooting for future cycles, what you do in the meantime matters much to the ad comm? I have a work-from-home job (not related to academia) that affords me to stay caffeinated and conflicted about what to do for the next year or so. Do you publish papers? Read more books (duh)? Just curious. And totally lost...

Edited by monsterheart

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From last year I really focused on fine tuning my SoP and WS (including readying an additional WS so I could better target schools’ particular interests). But I think the key for me (not that I’ve had the most wonderful cycle, but better than last year) was rethinking the way I selected the schools I applied to. I think reading new research on your interests and looking at where those folks graduated from (recent grads of course) is a good strategy. Also looking at publications from a potential school’s recent grads is really helpful, because if they have been supporting a grad the last five or six years with your interests, chances are they can support you and will have an interest in doing so. Also I applied to A LOT more schools. I got 80% of my app fees waived, so that helped (if you want more info about that feel free to pm me). I also requested SoP from really successful applicants this time in case I need to reapply and everyone I asked was super generous with providing them, so I sugges you do that too.

Keep your head up and good luck! 

Edited by kendalldinniene

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5 minutes ago, kendalldinniene said:

From last year I really focused on fine tuning my SoP and WS (including readying an additional WS so I could better target schools’ particular interests). But I think the key for me (not that I’ve had the most wonderful cycle, but better than last year) was rethinking the way I selected the schools I applied to. I think reading new research on your interests and looking at where those folks graduated from (recent grads of course) is a good strategy. Also looking at publications from a potential school’s recent grads is really helpful, because if they have been supporting a grad the last five or six years with your interests, chances are they can support you and will have an interest in doing so. Also I applied to A LOT more schools. I got 80% of my app fees waived, so that helped (if you want more info about that feel free to pm me). I also requested SoP from really successful applicants this time in case I need to reapply and everyone I asked was super generous with providing them, so I sugges you do that too.

Keep your head up and good luck! 

You are a love @kendalldinniene!!! This is some kinda info that I won't get from anywhere! Your point about looking into where peeps graduated from or looking at publications from recent grads is an awesome strategy. Since I graduated already, it's kinda frustrating not to have a place I can belong to. I'll definitely do more research on potential schools. Thanks a lot for sharing your view on this! ❤️ 

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20 minutes ago, monsterheart said:

As some of others, a recent lurker. Congrats to all those who made it! I'm shutout this year and trying to get some grips on what to do from here.

I was just wondering what you guys did or are planning to do after getting shutout from the app. cycle? When shooting for future cycles, what you do in the meantime matters much to the ad comm? I have a work-from-home job (not related to academia) that affords me to stay caffeinated and conflicted about what to do for the next year or so. Do you publish papers? Read more books (duh)? Just curious. And totally lost...

Not sure where/what programs you applied to this cycle, but definitely look into applying to MA programs along with PhDs your next time around. I was shut out from every PhD I applied to right out of undergrad but was accepted to a few MAs. Doing my MA first was definitely the best decision I could have made (even though I am leaving the program a bit disenchanted with it) -- I feel so much more prepared/excited/less nervous to begin my PhD in the fall. It also gives you a good opportunity to test the waters and take grad seminars, teach, write a thesis (which I did not do in undergrad), and present at conferences without the pressure of the PhD. 

Best of luck to you! I would be happy to chat about my MA experience if you want more info!

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I'm lucky enough to have received acceptances, but I was looking at a shutout a week and a half ago. I had a couple plans in place: 

  • IRT for application help and fee waivers (mentioned by @WildeThinghttps://www.andover.edu/about/outreach/irt 
  • Revise writing sample--I submitted my senior thesis, and (sloppily and hastily) edited it to meet the page count. Submit to a conference (as a couple mentors have mentioned this would be a good conference paper.) 
  • Have mentors read Statements of Purpose and ask for feedback--I procrastinated on these and only wrote them after my letter writers had submitted their rec letters so I felt too behind to show it to them for feedback at that point.*
  • Read material from POIs to customize SoP more. There was a good post discussing how people identified "fit" recently that you might want to check out! (Note: If you don't otherwise have access to academic resources, you might look into your nearest public university's library.)
  • I considered studying for the GRE (quant section) and the subject test. There was a recent post about how the GRE quant section didn't matter at all, so I think I would recommend against that after all. Not sure to what extent the subject test matters, but I would also wait a bit to see if any schools will change whether or not it is required. 

*Edit: I would also try to supply my LOR writers with my application materials well ahead of time. I met with each of them to talk about what schools to apply to, but I think it would have been helpful for me to supply them with at least my CV and SoP. 

Edited by sugilite

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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!

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Why are people so generous and awesome??? Thank you for the encouragements and these incredibly helpful & refreshing tips, @natalielouise @sugilite @northwestnative😍 This is great. I hadn't given much thought to finding a community before but I already see why it is important just from getting responses here and sharing thoughts. Hopefully, I can become a better applicant next cycle and emerge as someone who can give advices/tips just like y'all did! 

Edited by monsterheart

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12 minutes 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 gotta work on those reviews... I have a few publications but no reviews. It seems like the reviews are the new currency in the academia, esp. in our field. 

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Thank you for OP for making this thread. But I am curious if it is possible/appropriate to ask for SoPs (and maybe WS) from people who made it into schools I was/am shooting for, since they are to an extent personal. I do not want to come off as impolite.

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 i was a shut out last year. here’s what i did between then and now:

- finished MA, which allowed me to see a gap in the literature that i could articulate better in my SoP as a research interest

- i went through a few more revisions of my SoP than the year before, and all my letter writers helped revise 

- also my writing sample had been from my thesis, so in getting to finish it for my MA, i was able to revise it a lot and get good feedback from my committee 

- i strengthened my relationship with some of my letter writers, thus strengthening their letters 

- i expanded the list of schools i applied to because i had more money lol 

 

i was looking at a shut out until like two weeks ago, and this was my plan for next cycle: 

- inevitably, a few schools felt less like a fit after being rejected, so i was going to research into more schools. some ppl with shared interests as me applied to some places i hadn’t looked into so i was going to start there

- take the gre subject test (i’m so glad i don’t have to now)

- scrap my writing sample and try something else, working with my letter writers to continue strengthening our relationship 

- reshape my SoP a little to gesture toward new sample, revise it, etc 

- apply to a few conferences so i could add at least one to my cv (i have two, plus several in a different field)

- email POIs, first reaching out to ask about any of their current projects to get a better idea of what their research interests are, then moving into asking about advise for applying 

- also, for schools i decided to apply to again, think about asking POIs what i could do to improve my application for the next year

 

it was rough being shutout last year, but honestly i’m glad that it happened now. for a lot reasons, this is a better time for me to go so it feels like it all worked out for the best :)

Edited by mandelbulb

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43 minutes ago, Hopeful and Not said:

Thank you for OP for making this thread. But I am curious if it is possible/appropriate to ask for SoPs (and maybe WS) from people who made it into schools I was/am shooting for, since they are to an extent personal. I do not want to come off as impolite.

No one seemed to mind but of course I wouldn’t phrase it as an obligation at all and people can omit whatever parts they want 🤷🏼‍♀️ I also asked wayyyyy after application due dates so it’s not like I was increasing my potential to be competition.

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Not technically a shut out but I applied only to MAs straight out of undergrad. Got into 2 out of 3 schools I applied to, but realized how unfeasible the costs of attending were for me.  

Between then and now (a few months later), I focused solely on PhD programs (excluding Purdue which has a funded MA) and redoing my personal statement after my research interests evolved. I also wrote an entirely new writing sample to greater reflect these interests. This cycle was okay for me, 5a/2w/1r out of the 11 I applied to this year (still waiting to hear back from 3). If I can stress anything it’s to make sure your personal statement presents the evolution and growth of your research interests! 

As far as searching for schools to apply to goes, I focused more on singular professors than I did school names. I also spent around a month or so reaching out to all the professors in my field and chatting with them over email / on Skype. That was extremely helpful and they were able to point me in the direction of departments and professors they believed I’d be able to excel in. 

You’ve got this! 

Edited by Anonymouse124

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I was shutout my first time. That seems a million years ago now, but I'm in a program that is pretty open about its processes and here are my best thoughts:

1. Really think carefully about the list of schools you applied to. I know for a fact that I was blinded by wanting to go to a place that was a household name, and that I was convinced that the only way to land a TT job was to go to a "Top 10" school. The school I'm at now was not even on my radar the first time I applied. My experience actually being in grad school now for six years is that both of these ideas are odious and wrong. I'm in a program well out of the top 10 but we are well regarded in my subfield and two people from my subfield just landed TT jobs. I truly think who your adviser is matters much more than the school you go to.

2. I really don't think that what you do in the meantime matters in the sense that there's no way you're going to get anything worthwhile into publication before the next cycle starts (unless you've got something going already). I continued working my job. I don't think having publications going in really matters that much for a grad school applicant. The only things that really matter are whether your SOP and writing sample get in front of an adcom who are interested in the kind of work you're doing. I think the best thing you can do is try to become more conversant in your field/subfield by reading important (especially recent) articles/books by scholars whose work interests you, which should result in a stronger SOP.

3. Get members of your committee to look at your SOP and--if they really like you--your writing sample.  [Edit: Sorry, not your committees, your recommenders. I'm too deep in 'job market mode' I guess].

4. Your SOP doesn't need to articulate a dissertation (literally zero people write their diss on what they put in their SOP), it needs to align you with a specific set of scholarly concerns that identify you as a serious scholar who is engaged with the field. What scholars influence your work? What are the specific theoretical questions and concerns that drive you?  Even if you don't "do theory" you should still be able to articulate that sort of intellectual scaffolding that holds up your critical lens. If you can't, then devote the next few months to building it.

5. Understand that the most important aspect of the admissions process is the one over which you have the least control: the composition of the adcom and of a program's current crop of graduate students. You can have a dynamite application with a publication, a 4.0 GPA cum laude, and a degree from Harvard, but if the adcoms at the schools you applied to aren't feeling your SOP, or they already have several students in your subfield, you're getting shutout.  You may have done everything right this year, and being shutout is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your application. As Captain Picard once said, "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life." 

Edited by jrockford27

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Hi folks! I am currently sitting on the Grad Studies Committee with profs who are reading applications and making decisions. This is what I have learned:

1. This is the worst truth and you're not going to want to hear it, but GRE scores matter a lot. Not to the department, necessarily (most profs are very frustrated that it's a factor they need to consider), but to the university, who wants to look good in terms of numbers. It fucking sucks. It's the truth. This means quant scores, too. 🤢

2. The committee wants to see that you have a well-articulated set of interests and that your work will find a home in the department. This means outlining research questions that are interesting and viable. What this means differs depending on field. If you're working in post-45 American, for example, do not propose a project on Pynchon, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, and irony. That project belongs in 1986. It's not viable. Race and embodiment in Octavia Butler? Now we're going somewhere. Make sure the department has at least 2 tenured faculty members whose interests--in terms of theory/method and literary archive--overlap with yours. Check out their CVs and skim the last 3 things they wrote. Note the last grad courses they taught, if possible--these often indicate where their research is going, much better than already-published things. Profs often use grad classes to test out their developing interests.

3. The committee also wants to see that you are flexible and open to developing new research questions. Your SoP should trace a trajectory of thought and project to your future research interests, and your writing sample should reflect that trajectory. If possible, work with a professor to revise your writing sample and tell them you'd like to work it up to publication level. But do not resubmit the same sample and materials the following year. There are a number of these re-submits that have come to the table, and they get tossed out right quick.

4. Visit, if you can. Meet with one or two people in the department. Get a sense of what the campus is like. If you can visit during a regular semester, attend an event that you can mention in your SoP. If at all possible, meet a professor you'd be interested in working with. These things are difficult and may not be possible, but they can make a huge difference in shaping your SoP and how it gets noticed. They stand out.

5. The committee really seems to appreciate when life experiences shape someone's research and work. What can you do, or what have you done, that might ground your work in actual life praxis?

Hope these are helpful. I'm a mere grad student sitting on the committee and not allowed to actually read the applications, but I've been taking note of what the faculty members like and comment on. 

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3 hours ago, bfat said:

Hi folks! I am currently sitting on the Grad Studies Committee with profs who are reading applications and making decisions. This is what I have learned:

1. This is the worst truth and you're not going to want to hear it, but GRE scores matter a lot. Not to the department, necessarily (most profs are very frustrated that it's a factor they need to consider), but to the university, who wants to look good in terms of numbers. It fucking sucks. It's the truth. This means quant scores, too. 🤢

2. The committee wants to see that you have a well-articulated set of interests and that your work will find a home in the department. This means outlining research questions that are interesting and viable. What this means differs depending on field. If you're working in post-45 American, for example, do not propose a project on Pynchon, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, and irony. That project belongs in 1986. It's not viable. Race and embodiment in Octavia Butler? Now we're going somewhere. Make sure the department has at least 2 tenured faculty members whose interests--in terms of theory/method and literary archive--overlap with yours. Check out their CVs and skim the last 3 things they wrote. Note the last grad courses they taught, if possible--these often indicate where their research is going, much better than already-published things. Profs often use grad classes to test out their developing interests.

3. The committee also wants to see that you are flexible and open to developing new research questions. Your SoP should trace a trajectory of thought and project to your future research interests, and your writing sample should reflect that trajectory. If possible, work with a professor to revise your writing sample and tell them you'd like to work it up to publication level. But do not resubmit the same sample and materials the following year. There are a number of these re-submits that have come to the table, and they get tossed out right quick.

4. Visit, if you can. Meet with one or two people in the department. Get a sense of what the campus is like. If you can visit during a regular semester, attend an event that you can mention in your SoP. If at all possible, meet a professor you'd be interested in working with. These things are difficult and may not be possible, but they can make a huge difference in shaping your SoP and how it gets noticed. They stand out.

5. The committee really seems to appreciate when life experiences shape someone's research and work. What can you do, or what have you done, that might ground your work in actual life praxis?

Hope these are helpful. I'm a mere grad student sitting on the committee and not allowed to actually read the applications, but I've been taking note of what the faculty members like and comment on. 

I scored 11th percentile on quant. I'm sure it might matter to some programs, but I don't know that it would be advisable to spend time studying for a better quant score when more important elements of the application could be improved. Of course, an amazing overall score can't hurt. For me, though, it would have been a waste of time. Also, my writing score was only middling. 

That's interesting about the reused sample. I was only accepted to programs I didn't apply to last year, and I was rejected by all of my resubmits (with one waitlist). I did tighten my sample up quite a lot, but now I'm wondering if reusing my updated sample played a role. 

Great advice overall, especially about developing a research interest for the current state of scholarship. 

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19 minutes ago, snorkles said:

I scored 11th percentile on quant. I'm sure it might matter to some programs, but I don't know that it would be advisable to spend time studying for a better quant score when more important elements of the application could be improved.

Of course this factor will vary between programs and universities, but many of the applications sent to my program didn't even make it to the table for debate because the university grad school has a baseline acceptable number for both the Q and the V. These scores also determine eligibility for university-wide fellowships. There's a lot of pressure from some departments to stop using the GRE as a determining factor, but until the whole institution changes its mind, the power of numbers affects all departments. I'm sure this is true at many other R1 schools, too.

It sucks, and I was kind of sitting there appalled while the chart with the numbers was going around, but until the world is a better place, it will be A Thing That Matters. It is possible that some other factor or connection to the department could get someone considered, even with very low GRE scores, but it would require just that: some other standout to push it past that first chopping block. 😬

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4 hours ago, bfat said:

 

1. This is the worst truth and you're not going to want to hear it, but GRE scores matter a lot. Not to the department, necessarily (most profs are very frustrated that it's a factor they need to consider), but to the university, who wants to look good in terms of numbers. It fucking sucks. It's the truth. This means quant scores, too. 🤢

 

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 know some schools won't offer a minimum GRE scores because they want those applications fees, and I know others won't offer a minimum because they will occasionally make an exception for a project they consider to be uniquely promising.  However, it still sucks.  GRE scores are not really want life in grad school is about. When will there be a Tenure-Track Record Exam?  One question I have is why something that means so little in the TT hiring market means so much for grad apps, but whatever.  Many schools emphasize that the SoP and WS are so important, but they aren't very open about just how much more likely they are to take a good project from someone with scores over 160 than they are from someone at our below that mark.  

As often as people say that fewer program will require the GRE, I'm sure it just means that not submitting scores will count against you. 

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6 minutes ago, bfat said:

Of course this factor will vary between programs and universities, but many of the applications sent to my program didn't even make it to the table for debate because the university grad school has a baseline acceptable number for both the Q and the V. These scores also determine eligibility for university-wide fellowships. There's a lot of pressure from some departments to stop using the GRE as a determining factor, but until the whole institution changes its mind, the power of numbers affects all departments. I'm sure this is true at many other R1 schools, too.

It sucks, and I was kind of sitting there appalled while the chart with the numbers was going around, but until the world is a better place, it will be A Thing That Matters. It is possible that some other factor or connection to the department could get someone considered, even with very low GRE scores, but it would require just that: some other standout to push it past that first chopping block. 😬

Huh, I suspected that V might determine a baseline cutoff for some places, but I didn't expect the Q to be such a factor! 

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2 minutes ago, snorkles said:

Huh, I suspected that V might determine a baseline cutoff for some places, but I didn't expect the Q to be such a factor! 

I think this only happens at universities where there's competitive funding. They can't guarantee full funding for 5 years, and so the department has to appeal to the wider university (to whom the GRE Q is supposedly a quick and easy indicator of the student's viability). My advisor was adamant that I not study. I scored in the 30th percentile, but I also promised myself I wouldn't consider schools without incredibly good/ guaranteed funding packages. I don't know if that helps. I certainly don't have experience in an admission committee like bfat, so I would definitely trust their advice over mine!

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7 hours ago, bfat said:

3. The committee also wants to see that you are flexible and open to developing new research questions. Your SoP should trace a trajectory of thought and project to your future research interests, and your writing sample should reflect that trajectory. If possible, work with a professor to revise your writing sample and tell them you'd like to work it up to publication level. But do not resubmit the same sample and materials the following year. There are a number of these re-submits that have come to the table, and they get tossed out right quick.

Interesting. Why do resubmitted writing samples get tossed? For instance, in my situation I was very happy with my sample but not so much with other parts so I improved everything else, tightened the sample a bit, and resubmitted. You're saying the very act of resubmitting a sample is an immediate rejection? Why is that?

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8 hours ago, bfat said:

1. This is the worst truth and you're not going to want to hear it, but GRE scores matter a lot. Not to the department, necessarily (most profs are very frustrated that it's a factor they need to consider), but to the university, who wants to look good in terms of numbers. It fucking sucks. It's the truth. This means quant scores, too. 🤢

So this might be one of the reasons why I was accepted to amazing PhD programs in the UK that didn't require the GRE, was granted one of the most prestigious fellowships in Europe for graduate studies, but received a flat-out rejection from U. Chicago (didn't even get the MAPH consolation prize). My GRE scores, Q and V, were a complete disaster!! 

 

   

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 12.06.19 AM.png

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54 minutes ago, WildeThing said:

Interesting. Why do resubmitted writing samples get tossed? For instance, in my situation I was very happy with my sample but not so much with other parts so I improved everything else, tightened the sample a bit, and resubmitted. You're saying the very act of resubmitting a sample is an immediate rejection? Why is that?

If you've heavily revised your SoP and have a clearer indication of your research goals, and you've revised the writing sample in a way that reflects new insights, that would be totally fine. I just know that there were a few that came up who hadn't changed much of anything, and they got tossed. Repeat applicants were noted, and compared to their previous year's application. If you do submit the same (or a similar) writing sample, I would just make sure to note what kinds of changes you've made to it in your SoP. The committee wants to see that you've continued to work and grow between application cycles.

(and again, this is my experience at one school, so other schools could very well not even note if an applicant is a repeat)

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12 minutes ago, cyborg213 said:

So this might be one of the reasons why I was accepted to amazing PhD programs in the UK that didn't require the GRE, was granted one of the most prestigious fellowships in Europe for graduate studies, but received a flat-out rejection from U. Chicago (didn't even get the MAPH consolation prize). My GRE scores, Q and V, were a complete disaster!! 

 

   

 

My Chicago acceptance was with a V score of 96th percentile, 11th percentile Q, and something like 82 percentile in W.  Hope that gives some context. 

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3 minutes ago, snorkles said:

My Chicago acceptance was with a V score of 96th percentile, 11th percentile Q, and something like 82 percentile in W.  Hope that gives some context. 

That's good to know. I actually decided to apply with my terrible scores after I saw in the results page someone who posted similar scores and was also admitted years ago :) 

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