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Sigaba

Applications 2019

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Hi everyone! I got back from Chicago this afternoon, having visited one of my school options yesterday. I had lunch with two graduate students who were very honest about what the school was like, the funding packages, the RA and TA positions, and the culture of the program, and also got to talk with 4 professors and the director of the graduate program. It was a fantastic and very informative visit, and I'm glad that I went! 

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9 hours ago, AnUglyBoringNerd said:

I'm only a first year PhD student but I feel that one's supervisor can also be tremendously helpful. Generally speaking, my supervisor and I discuss my status + performance for around an hour every week, and my supervisor has been offering advice regarding when to take which courses (especially those offered by other departments), which workshops I might want to attend, and which email lists I might want to be added to, etc, this whole time, and now I gradually come to see how my supervisor's advice is really tailored to my needs and making my first half semester such a wonderful experience. While I also benefited a lot from and really appreciate advanced graduate students' advice, the impression I get from my interaction with my supervisor is rather something like "Ok, someone's got my back". I do enjoy independence but it feels really good to have this level of support and to have someone tell me something as specific as “you are doing good at this stage of your PhD". So, in short,  while I agree with ashiepoo72, I somewhat feel my supervisor knows more about the potential pitfalls and opportunities than some of the advanced graduate students in my department simply because my supervisor knows more about my specific situation than any of my fellow students. 

And..to make this post more relevant to the 2019 application - I didn't get in anywhere during my first cycle of PhD application, and if I did, I wouldn't have got my current supervisor (I didn't apply to my current program the first time). So...to all the applicants, especially the not-my-first-time applicants out there, good luck to you all!!! 

Counterpoint: if you put all your eggs in one basket, it will be extremely painful if your working relationship goes south. This can happen even if your advisor gives you a great first impression when you visit programs. I would advise incoming students to find multiple mentors and advisors where possible, and to ask experienced graduate students how they forged these relationships.  My department is (or claims to be) trying to encourage a multiple mentor system now after seeing a number of promising students leave in part due to advisor malfeasance.

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So I wrote a writing sample over the summer, but lately I've started to doubt it. I almost feel like it sounds like a freshman wrote it or something! I was just wondering if any current grad student would be able to read through it and confirm/deny that it's good enough? I'm trying to write another one, just to be safe, but I don't want to put time into it if I don't need to. I had my faculty mentor look over it, and he only made a few comments, but I'm still worried.

Edited by historygeek

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3 hours ago, historygeek said:

So I wrote a writing sample over the summer, but lately I've started to doubt it. I almost feel like it sounds like a freshman wrote it or something! I was just wondering if any current grad student would be able to read through it and confirm/deny that it's good enough? I'm trying to write another one, just to be safe, but I don't want to put time into it if I don't need to. I had my faculty mentor look over it, and he only made a few comments, but I'm still worried.

Take a break from the writing sample.  Don't do another one; your job is to polish what you've got already.  I finished my own writing sample for a dissertation completion fellowship 3 weeks ago and never looked at it until 2 days ago (deadline was yesterday).  I printed out the whole damn thing and then found all the small mistakes.  Now I have no doubt that it's perfectly fine and acceptable.  If your professor has spent plenty of time with you and thinks well of the sample, breathe.  Move on.

Edited by TMP

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@historygeek, I'm having such a similar experience right now. Reading through my own writing sample is so uncomfortable. I focused on addressing the comments from my faculty mentor, and then setting it aside and trying not to worry about it. If you've done that, you're well on your way. 

The "not worrying" is of course easier said than done! 

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This year will be be my second round at applications. I feel like the programs I am applying to this year are a better fit than where I applied to last year. Plus, considering my academic background (3.3 gpa and 3.7 major GPA), I think I have a better chance in getting into these programs. I'm applying to these MA programs:

University of Oregon (David Luebke)

Georgia State University (Jared Poley)

University of Maryland (Philip Soergel)

Binghamton University (Sean Dunwoody)

University of Cincinnati (Sigrun Haude)

Northern Illinois University (Vera Lind)

I'm also reworking my statement of purpose and revising my writing sample as much as possible. The two things I'm worried about now are my letters of recommendation and my analytical GRE score. I graduated in 2014 so my LOR are from professors who I had 4-5 years ago. I'm not sure how much this time difference will matter. Also, last year when I took the GRE I got 157/153/4. I took it again a week ago and just got my scores back, 160/152/3.5. I raised my verbal score which was my goal in retaking the GRE. However, I ended up with a 3.5 on the analytical part. Although I know the GRE isn't the most important part of my application, I can't help but worry that the 3.5 is going to really hurt my application. I feel like I need all the help I can get to be competitive and any little extra weakness in my application will ruin any shot I have at getting accepted.

Well, I wanted to get that off my chest. I thought I'd join everyone else and share my anxiety and worries!  It's going to a long couple months for me. Best of luck to everyone!

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10 hours ago, andnothing said:

This year will be be my second round at applications. I feel like the programs I am applying to this year are a better fit than where I applied to last year. Plus, considering my academic background (3.3 gpa and 3.7 major GPA), I think I have a better chance in getting into these programs. I'm applying to these MA programs:

University of Oregon (David Luebke)

Georgia State University (Jared Poley)

University of Maryland (Philip Soergel)

Binghamton University (Sean Dunwoody)

University of Cincinnati (Sigrun Haude)

Northern Illinois University (Vera Lind)

I'm also reworking my statement of purpose and revising my writing sample as much as possible. The two things I'm worried about now are my letters of recommendation and my analytical GRE score. I graduated in 2014 so my LOR are from professors who I had 4-5 years ago. I'm not sure how much this time difference will matter. Also, last year when I took the GRE I got 157/153/4. I took it again a week ago and just got my scores back, 160/152/3.5. I raised my verbal score which was my goal in retaking the GRE. However, I ended up with a 3.5 on the analytical part. Although I know the GRE isn't the most important part of my application, I can't help but worry that the 3.5 is going to really hurt my application. I feel like I need all the help I can get to be competitive and any little extra weakness in my application will ruin any shot I have at getting accepted.

Well, I wanted to get that off my chest. I thought I'd join everyone else and share my anxiety and worries!  It's going to a long couple months for me. Best of luck to everyone!

I have two questions:

1. Are any of these programs funded, either fully or in part?

2. How good is your writing sample? A good writing sample will make up for a "meh" GRE score.

For Everyone: If you want to know anything about Wisconsin, feel free to PM me. I'm glad to discuss it with you.

Edited by psstein

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13 hours ago, psstein said:

I have two questions:

1. Are any of these programs funded, either fully or in part?

2. How good is your writing sample? A good writing sample will make up for a "meh" GRE score.

For Everyone: If you want to know anything about Wisconsin, feel free to PM me. I'm glad to discuss it with you.

University of Cincinnati and NIU both indicate that the majority of incoming masters students receive funding. The other programs award and offer funding through graduate assistantships. If I were to be accepted to any of the programs, I would be hesitant on accepting the offer if I don't receive some form of financial support.

I feel I have a good writing sample, but I know it can use some improvement. I have improved as a writer since I wrote the paper so I am revising it in hopes to reflect that. I'm hoping my SOP and writing sample can make up for the analytical score. 

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11 hours ago, andnothing said:

University of Cincinnati 

If you have any questions about the Cincinnati area, PM me! 

You might also want to look at SLU. We have a strong early modern history faculty (Dr. Mark Ruff taught a fantastic class on the Reformation last year and is a Germanist). The department itself has a great culture, and (best of all) the MA is funded.

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On 10/29/2018 at 10:36 PM, historygeek said:

If you have any questions about the Cincinnati area, PM me! 

You might also want to look at SLU. We have a strong early modern history faculty (Dr. Mark Ruff taught a fantastic class on the Reformation last year and is a Germanist). The department itself has a great culture, and (best of all) the MA is funded.

Thank you for the recommendation! I'll give SLU a look. 

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3 hours ago, andnothing said:

Thank you for the recommendation! I'll give SLU a look. 

No problem! It's a great school and city-- let me know if you want to talk about student life!

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On 10/27/2018 at 3:49 PM, Balleu said:

@historygeek, I'm having such a similar experience right now. Reading through my own writing sample is so uncomfortable. I focused on addressing the comments from my faculty mentor, and then setting it aside and trying not to worry about it. If you've done that, you're well on your way. 

The "not worrying" is of course easier said than done! 

Of course, I almost tossed out my own advice this morning in a fit of pique. Note to self: scrapping the work you've done on one writing sample in favor of trying to wrangle your entire thesis into a manageable sample is not a good idea. Especially not on November 3rd. ?

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The fear that I keep coming back to is that my writing sample isn't connected at all to my proposed graduate research area. I chose this sample because it uses sources in one of my research languages, and I'm sure it's a common enough experience for one's research interests to evolve over the course of several years post-undergrad. But the worry still nags at me.

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2 hours ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

What weight does the WS have in comparison to the SOP? 

It's impossible to say for certain. A professor who was on the admissions committee didn't read mine until the following year. 

MOO, one's generally better off investing more time in the SOP than the WS because it's less difficult to write your best 500 - 2000 words than your best 18,000. 

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16 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

It's impossible to say for certain. A professor who was on the admissions committee didn't read mine until the following year. 

MOO, one's generally better off investing more time in the SOP than the WS because it's less difficult to write your best 500 - 2000 words than your best 18,000. 

I agree with Sigaba.  My POIs ALL read my SOP and commented on it.  In terms of my writing sample.... my adviser most definitely read it-- the whole damn thing.  My other accepted program...I don't think my POI really read the whole thing as he commented that he liked the questions I raised in my SOP.  I'd still put in fair amount of work into the writing sample as it gives your POIs a chance to see how much "work" you need to do to be better trained in the PhD.  If you show that you know how to do research, they'll probably be a bit more hesitant.  The SOP is what they want the most because you're arguing for why and how you belong in their program and they want to be convinced that they can work with you and help you grow as a scholar in productive ways.

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4 hours ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

What weight does the WS have in comparison to the SOP? 

As has been mentioned, it varies a lot, although a good one (i.e. interesting and showing a strong understanding of the conventions of academic history writing) can matter a great deal in some circles. A couple years ago, my advisor didn’t want to take an otherwise well-qualified student with a great SoP because his writing sample was “boring.” Conversely, I was accepted to a program where nobody read my writing sample.

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13 hours ago, Sigaba said:

it's less difficult to write your best 500 - 2000 words than your best 18,000.

IMO the exact opposite is true, which is why the SoP is so telling.

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Funny, it was the total opposite for me. No one mentioned my SOP, and everyone mentioned my writing sample. 

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I have submitted my writing sample to a (serious) journal and just received it back with a revise & resubmit, with not-too-mean reviews! I don't know if I am excited or scared about using it as a writing sample.

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18 hours ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

What weight does the WS have in comparison to the SOP? 

This is just from what I've seen, but my POIs have put a lot of emphasis on the writing sample. Columbia (I think) designated it as the "often decisive" document.

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2 hours ago, telkanuru said:

IMO the exact opposite is true, which is why the SoP is so telling.

Less difficult ≠ easy. ?

Pain, pain, and more pain. But the word limit establishes a boundary.

16 hours ago, TMP said:

I'd still put in fair amount of work into the writing sample as it gives your POIs a chance to see how much "work" you need to do to be better trained in the PhD. 

IRT the WS, a potentially efficient approach is to focus on its critical portions: the citations, the introduction,  the summary/discussion of historiography, a couple of key sections, key transitional paragraphs, the conclusion. Then, if time permits, focus on polishing the first sentence or two of every paragraph, and a dedicated effort to identity and to eliminate awkward phrases and sentences.

A recommendation. If you know for a fact that you're applying to a program in which the WS is given extra attention, do what you can to know your audience so that you can make a handful of adjustments. This is not to suggest that you should pander to potential readers. I am suggesting that if you can easily find out that Professor Xavier has a pet peeve and that peeve is run-on sentences that go on and on for a considerable amount of time that you go through your WS and make the appropriate edits.

Edited by Sigaba

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8 hours ago, TsarandProphet said:

I have submitted my writing sample to a (serious) journal and just received it back with a revise & resubmit, with not-too-mean reviews! I don't know if I am excited or scared about using it as a writing sample.

In the last round of PhD applications, I used my journal article as my writing sample.  At the time, it was "revised & resubmit" and I think I put a note on it to give context (that it's just a chapter from my MA thesis that had been revised into a journal article.)

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It is quite late in the year, but I would just like to encourage everyone to contact the advisor you are interested in studying with before you submit your application. So far I have received replies from every person I have e-mailed and they have all been enormously helpful in different ways. One POI who I thought was a good fit sent me a polite but fairly discouraging reply (basically hinting that she didn't see herself as being a beneficial supervisor for my project), and now I can save $100 on that application and the grief of rejection that would likely follow in February. Other POIs were very encouraging, confirmed I would be a good fit for their program, and have given me advice on what they think would make a good application.

One thing this process has done (and I am not sure this is a good thing) is cut out many programs that are great but just don't feel like a perfect "fit." My thinking is that if I am having trouble writing an enthusiastic justification for e-mailing them, I probably should not waste their time with an application. So now I have cut down a list that was previously 6 schools into a list of 3. I have been advised to apply to a few "safety schools," but the process of e-mailing POIs has made me feel that I would rather take my chances and apply to 3 schools where I feel would be the best fit for myself and my project. But I can't help but feel this is risky.

Edited by potsupotsu

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20 minutes ago, potsupotsu said:

One thing this process has done (and I am not sure this is a good thing) is cut out many programs that are great but just don't feel like a perfect "fit." My thinking is that if I am having trouble writing an enthusiastic justification for e-mailing them, I probably should not waste their time with an application. So now I have cut down a list that was previously 6 schools into a list of 3. I have been advised to apply to a few "safety schools," but the process of e-mailing POIs has made me feel that I would rather take my chances and apply to 3 schools where I feel would be the best fit for myself and my project. But I can't help but feel this is risky.

Don't bother applying to safety schools. Undergraduate and graduate admissions are two very different ballgames. There's no such thing as  a "safety," "reach," and "match" program. There are programs with good placement and programs with not good placement. Placement and fit are the major issues to concern yourself with.

If you're concerned about "not getting in," seriously consider MA programs beforehand.

Edited by psstein

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