Ph.D in a UC- Funding, GRE and Application - Literature, and Rhetoric and Composition - The GradCafe Forums
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Ph.D in a UC- Funding, GRE and Application


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Hi all my Literary mates, 

I plan to apply for a Ph.D in Literature in various Universities of California (Berkeley, LA, Davis, USC). Could anyone please enlighten me how much competitive the UCs are? What are their fundings like?  What do Depts mean when they say they fund their students, is it a total fee waiver or stipend?  Is there anything specific or extraordinary I must focus on, in my application (Except the GRE, at which I suck :|) - that reminds me is there anyone who took the recent GRE subject? What was it like?

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you can find out various funding packages and compare them with other english/literature PhD programs here to get a feel for whether they're competitive:

as for how each program funds their students, it depends on a few factors, but it seems you're either funded with a fellowship or through a teaching assistantship. these usually include full tuition remission and a living stipend; fees are typically reduced, but they may or may not be covered completely depending on the UC i think. 

as for your application, i'd check the individual programs to see if there is any language emphasizing whether they take any specific element of the application into more consideration than other elements. however, there's been general consensus that you need to focus on every element of the application and make sure each one is as good as you can make it. for example, if you take the GREs and your score isn't as high as you wanted, you can either choose to retake it if you think you can do better (thus making it as good as you can) or choose to spend that time elsewhere (because the score is as good as you think you can get). we've heard that in general people tend to regret spending the time and money it takes to get a better score. if you have to focus on just one or two elements of your application, my advice would be to focus on your statement of purpose and your writing sample. if you can only focus on one, it should be your writing sample.

good luck!

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Glad to see a person taking an interest in the UC system :) As a Californian, this makes me very happy lol.

UC English departments are usually strong and renowned, so it's supremely important to determine the kind of intellectual fit you're looking for in each UC. Definitely check each UC to see what kinds of their work their professors are doing and what their strengths are. The competitiveness varies from campus-to-campus, but it is safe to assume that PhD in English admissions across the UC system are going to very competitive. Some of the UC graduate divisions have average statistics posted on their website, but they don't exactly break them down by the specific year for some metrics. And remember, these are statistics, and are never going to be indicative of your real chances in a UC PhD program in a given year. From scouring the graduate division websites, I've found three of them that have some data on how the admission numbers look like.

UCLA English: https://grad.ucla.edu/programs/humanities/english/#program-statistics

UCI English: https://grad.uci.edu/assets/images/Academic Data/phd data/EnglishPhD_Academic.html

UCSB English: http://www.graddiv.ucsb.edu/documents/stats/ENGL_Grad_Profile_Final.pdf

These statistics do not replace looking into departmental websites (and the statistics are averaged across multiple years as a disclaimer). It's definitely sage to keep in mind the advice that has already been posted here. Check each UC English site to see what each department might particularly look at (some UCs may want more language experience, some are fine with 1. Not every UC has a traditional English department, UCSC and UCSD come to mind), but it's a safe bet to work under the operative that all aspects of the application must be strong. Some of the UCs carry informal goalposts (such as having a 3.5+ uGPA in your Junior and Senior years to be competitive, but this may only be strongly salient if you are a BA-only applicant) but ultimately, demonstrating an intellectual fit with each UC school is what will help your application the most. With that, I definitely agree that the Writing Sample and Statement of Purpose are the most integral aspects of the application. They are that documents that will demonstrate that you can do doctoral work and also show a research trajectory that can be supported by your chosen department.

Funding... Definitely carefully read the funding section of each department website to know what you're getting into. I can only speak specifically for UC Irvine but fees are partially covered. On Fellowship, I have to pay about $770 in fees. On TAship, I have a partial fee remission and I'll pay $473. This varies from UC to UC so if you do end up getting offers in a future cycle, check and double check your funding offers carefully to see if fees are covered. In general, a UC school will offer a living stipend (UC data is posted on the thread that mandelbulb linked) as well as tuition remission and health insurance.

Good luck with your application!

Edited by Ranmaag
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@Ranmaag When we say the dept funds the Program, or the fellowship and TA you mentioned, does it include a complete fee waiver? Or funding is usually of a certain amount? I looked through various UC English depts and their funding divisions and fellowships are mind-boggling. Now that you're into UC Irvine, which one you suggest is more recommendable - the fellowship or a TA? I believe maximum depts give TA to their admits for a respective no. of years. 

My another concern is: I am an international student and my Masters is outside United States, would you think such a factor decreases the chances of being accepted. Are the UCs concerned with the previous university, besides the accomplishments. 

The statistic link of various UCs are really informative. 

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12 minutes ago, Bathsheba Everdene said:

@Ranmaag When we say the dept funds the Program, or the fellowship and TA you mentioned, does it include a complete fee waiver? Or funding is usually of a certain amount? I looked through various UC English depts and their funding divisions and fellowships are mind-boggling. Now that you're into UC Irvine, which one you suggest is more recommendable - the fellowship or a TA? I believe maximum depts give TA to their admits for a respective no. of years. 

My another concern is: I am an international student and my Masters is outside United States, would you think such a factor decreases the chances of being accepted. Are the UCs concerned with the previous university, besides the accomplishments. 

The statistic link of various UCs are really informative. 

Fee coverage varies by the UC iirc. Looking at some of the funding pages (assuming the website is accurate, I believe UCLA has full fee coverage, link: https://english.ucla.edu/graduate-faq/. The UCLA acceptees this year should still be floating around tho). My funding package for UCI offers both. My first year is funded via fellowship and I will be a TA next year. The UC system tends to style their funding packages that way. Your first year is almost always a year funded by fellowship, while your second year and on will be funded via TAship. The policy (I know Riverside and Irvine enforce this limit) is that you get to TA up to 18 quarters (6 years) maximum. 

I can't say for sure whether or not international student status decreases your chances of being accepted (ethically, it should never affect your chances of admission). International status may affect how your funding package works though (UCI does state that they've had difficulty supporting international students on F-1/J-1 visas. Follow up with a department regarding this though. I don't think I've seen other UC English sites touch on international status with that kind of specificity). Are you currently living in the US/establishing California residency rn?

I don't think the UCs seem to be very stringent on what your previous institutions are (this varies from UC to UC and even who is serving on their admission committees on the particular year. It may matter, but it should never deter you from applying). If anything, it's your accomplishments, your fit with the department, and having a strong application package is what will seal the deal. Speaking with profs in years past about applying, it's what you do as a student that matters the most, not where you come from. If your Master's degree helped you shape your research interests and/or is the driving force behind you wanting to go for doctoral study, it's definitely a positive factor in your favor and could well help you stand-out in a hyper-competitive field.

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1 hour ago, Bathsheba Everdene said:

My another concern is: I am an international student and my Masters is outside United States, would you think such a factor decreases the chances of being accepted. Are the UCs concerned with the previous university, besides the accomplishments. 

One of the reasons I didn't apply to UC programs is because, from what I know, they take on very few internationals due to the funding crisis. International students obviously can never qualify for in-state tuition, which makes them much more expensive for the departments to fund. Of course, this issue is relevant to state-schools at large, which is why I was very hesitant to apply to such programs. I think this was not justified as a general rule, and regret not applying to Rutgers and UVA (BTW, I ended up accepted to UT Austin, which I thought impossible). However, the UC system is under pretty significant stress with funding, which may impact their admissions practices in ways unique to them. You should look at the graduate schools' statistics on international students to get a sense of the situation, and of course of departmental statistics on the same if they're available. Schools like UCLA and Berkeley would be especially telling, because I can't imagine they have a shortage of international applicants considering their prestige and name-brand (compared to UCR, for instance, which may just have fewer int'l applicants to begin with as it's less known globally). 

Of course, you should take this with a grain of salt and do your due diligence. I gathered this information from professors who attended or are familiar with the UC system, but I'd be hard pressed to say to what degree this information is accurate. Good luck! Applying as an international comes with a unique set of issues, but these can be overcome. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

EDIT: oh, and this may be different in complit, where they generally take on international students more liberally since, obviously, international students will be on average fluent in more languages, and familiar with more cultural environments--all of which may be very relevant to their research.

Edited by beardedlady
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