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36 minutes ago, Tigla said:

And this is why this forum is amazing! I hate this political mess we call academia with a passion.

Politics are part and parcel of the Ivory Tower, if not the whole human experience. The key is knowing for one's self when it's time to go along to get along because you can't fight city hall, or to take a stand and fight the good fight.

 

Edited by Sigaba

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26 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

What ever you do, do not write a review on a work of "traditional," narrative, top down history. Or so I've heard. (#NOTBITTER)

All things being equal, there's an opportunity for it to come across as being obsequious, and/or of getting it "wrong," and/or of antagonizing other members of the department who have their own objectives and preferences. Instead, please consider writing a review on the same topic (or same trajectory of historiography) so you can indicate that you know your stuff. 

$0.02 from someone who didn't get into Happyland University for "political" reasons. (I was told it was politics, my own thought is that my application and book review just weren't good enough.)

 

Thank you! I of course don't want to come across as obsequious, while still wanting to balance that against the reputation that department has for being particularly... insular. 

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9 minutes ago, Balleu said:

Thank you! I of course don't want to come across as obsequious, while still wanting to balance that against the reputation that department has for being particularly... insular. 

If you were thinking about Magaziner, please consider the benefit of getting a copy of his dissertation, cross referencing it with both of his books, and identifying which scholar or scholars influencing him. Then give thought to reading those works and some thought to writing your review essay on one of those books especially if you have a significant interpretive difference from Magaziner OR if you see your dissertation looking for similar trees but in different parts of the forest.

That is, you want to do for Z what Magaziner did for South Africa. Or you want to revisit the same topics but look for different sources, and so forth.

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17 minutes ago, Tigla said:

I have a couple older reviews I wrote, so I need to look through them. I'll probably review a book that deals with "Germany in the World" in relation to modernization and humanitarianism. I'll be able to address the global/international/transnational vs national debates, as well as the current debate on "what is global intellectual history?"

What's your favorite sport? If it's baseball, keep in mind that the task at hand is to show basic command of your pitches. Make sure you can throw strikes before you walk to the mound in Fenway to face Aaron Judge in the deciding game of the ALCS.

Edited by Sigaba

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1 hour ago, Sigaba said:

What ever you do, do not write a review on a work of "traditional," narrative, top down history. Or so I've heard. (#NOTBITTER)

I would strongly urge you to reconsider this choice. All things being equal, there's an opportunity for it to come across as being obsequious, and/or of getting it "wrong," and/or of antagonizing other members of the department who have their own objectives and preferences. Instead, please consider writing a review on the same topic (or same trajectory of historiography) so you can indicate that you know your stuff. 

$0.02 from someone who didn't get into Happyland University for "political" reasons. (I was told it was politics, my own thought is that my application and book review just weren't good enough.)

 

I agree with @Sigaba Most professors aren't comfortable with reading reviews of their own books unless they're glowing.  However, a book review written by a student/prospective applicant who doesn't have a strong grasp of the historiography and history, it's unwelcoming to them and can come across as brown-nose-ing if full of praise. My own adviser was quite reluctant to discuss her book with me until I was actually preparing for my exams when I began writing books that influenced her own work, even though I read the book in my first year (on my own).  I had another professor who was nervous about assigning her own book in our seminar because she didn't know what to expect but her book fit so well with the theme.  One of my examiners assigned two of her books on my list without question because she was comfortable and aware of her contributions to the field (and that they're likely on plenty of others' reading lists in and out of my program). It's just an ego thing, nothing against you, really. Everyone is different and you don't know who these people are  you are applying with, as in human beings.

Choose another book that equally excites you.

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50 minutes ago, TMP said:

Most professors aren't comfortable with reading reviews of their own books unless they're glowing.

I mean, for the task at hand I wouldn't write one if it weren't.

A caution: you can not like departmental politics all you want, but this is no excuse for not engaging in them. There is not, in point of fact, any means by which you can avoid engaging in them; either you participate actively or you participate badly.

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2 hours ago, telkanuru said:

I mean, for the task at hand I wouldn't write one if it weren't.

A caution: you can not like departmental politics all you want, but this is no excuse for not engaging in them. There is not, in point of fact, any means by which you can avoid engaging in them; either you participate actively or you participate badly.

Know which battles to fight and don't piss off the superstars in your department. As cold as it sounds, you may have to choose between a junior faculty member's advice and a very senior faculty member's advice.

On the other hand, have enough sense to argue for things you believe, even if they're unpopular (e.g. atheoretical approaches to history).

Edited by psstein

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48 minutes ago, psstein said:

Know which battles to fight

Even more basic: recognize when a battle is being fought, and make a proactive decision as to if you are going to be a participant. 

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On 8/19/2018 at 7:36 PM, OHSP said:

I can only speak for nyu but it’s definitely the case that the admissions committee (and esp. the current dgs) is more concerned w quality of ideas and questions than with details about the archives you might go to etc etc. I wouldn’t waste a single moment explaining why it’ll be great for your research to be in nyc, that’s really a pretty minor detail about the department. If you’re interdisciplinary, stress it. Same goes for working across regions or diasporas. I know all adcoms deal with a bunch of applications some of which are immediately recognizable as a poor fit for the school, but just know and keep in mind that schools like CUNY, Columbia, and NYU receive quite a few applications from people who “would just find it interesting to live in nyc” [this is a complaint I have heard from a professor]. Show that you know the school and it’s strengths. **note that this is obviously not directed at TMP but following on from their suggestion

This is great to know. Thank you!

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20 hours ago, Tigla said:

Meh...ignore me. I cannot delete my posts.

If you click the drop down triangle/arrow next to options, you can select to hide a post.

In any case, I edited mine because I misread a post to which I was replying. Now, a day later, I'm realizing that I did read yours correctly. Not enough coffee? Too much coffee? One sure way to find out--drink more coffee.

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18 hours ago, telkanuru said:

I mean, for the task at hand I wouldn't write one if it weren't.

A caution: you can not like departmental politics all you want, but this is no excuse for not engaging in them. There is not, in point of fact, any means by which you can avoid engaging in them; either you participate actively or you participate badly.

A reminder: active participation does not require you to pick a position and fight for it to the bitter end. Active participation can include a posture that combines thoughtful silence, intellectual engagement, and empathy. The craft of academic history is hard, the creation of new knowledge is a painful process. If you can "read back" to a historian a POV she hold or values, if you can connect another historian's work to existing historiography in slightly different ways, and maintain the comportment of a professional, you're probably going to be all right.

In the event you find yourself in the middle of a major brush up, don't feel compelled to take sides. You can do the look at your notes and write something down thing, or the FDR-nod thing.

On the occasion where you step on your crank, take the beat down that follows, shake the professor's hand at the end of class, check in with what ever professors you need to check in with, and go on with your day. 

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On 8/20/2018 at 3:44 PM, telkanuru said:

A caution: you can not like departmental politics all you want, but this is no excuse for not engaging in them. There is not, in point of fact, any means by which you can avoid engaging in them; either you participate actively or you participate badly.

 

Great advice. For the sake of complete disclosure, I imagine every single department will have its share of politics and drama. And it's likely that you'll be pulled, or at least circumstances will attempt to pull you, into them.

Academia is a bitter, bitter world. :) I love it, but nurturing environments are rarer than they should be, in my experience.

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50 minutes ago, Neist said:

Academia is a bitter, bitter world. :) I love it, but nurturing environments are rarer than they should be, in my experience.

I mean, yes, but politics aren't inherently toxic. It can be, of course, but at the core it's simply the art of getting what you want. And I would say that those who create toxic political environments are generally bad at politics.

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On 8/20/2018 at 3:39 PM, Sigaba said:

What's your favorite sport? If it's baseball, keep in mind that the task at hand is to show basic command of your pitches. Make sure you can throw strikes before you walk to the mound in Fenway to face Aaron Judge in the deciding game of the ALCS.

As a minor league player, I hope to merely be called up to the majors. Pitching to Judge during the ALCS is merely a dream at the moment.

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Hey everybody, I need a little advice.

I am applying to ________, and I recently emailed my main POI there. I asked her the usual; are you taking new advisees? What is your current research on? What is being at Harvard like? Etc. I also described to her my proposed project for graduate school, my honors thesis, and a little bit about me and who I work with at my university.

After a week, I received an incredibly friendly and warming email that was much longer than my original. She described my project as "INCREDIBLE," and would "love to work with you!". She also said that she normally doesn't look at prospective students application materials, but she wants to look at my materials mid-fall. After that surprising sentence, she then invited me to grab coffee with her next month when she's in my area. 

My current adviser is very close friends with her, and I mentioned that he advised my honors thesis, to which she replied that he is one of her favorite people and scholars.

At this point, I am pretty sure my current adviser told her about me and possibly even shared some of my work with her. I've read on here that I should sometimes take POI emails with a grain of salt, but this POI would most likely have a large amount of influence on an adcom.

Other than being very excited and happy that a scholar that I have looked up to since the beginning of my undergrad is interested in me, is this a significant determinant of getting into a program? More broadly, just how much does one professor have over who gets in?

Has anyone had a similar experience? I'm of course not letting my hopes up, but this definitely makes me feel like that despair and impostor syndrome of the last two years is in my head.

EDIT:

I'd also like to add that I have received cordial responses and even a phone call from other POI's, but none to this extent.

EDIT2:

Thinking about it, I'm sure @Sigaba will dig up past posts regarding this topic. Always appreciative of that, and I should try to do some searching myself sometimes ?

Edited by urbanhistorynerd

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14 minutes ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

Other than being very excited and happy that a scholar that I have looked up to since the beginning of my undergrad is interested in me, is this a significant determinant of getting into a program? More broadly, just how much does one professor have over who gets in?

I would definitely say this is good news. It's in no way a sure thing, but it's good news!

Generally speaking (and definitely at Harvard), the professors in the particular subfield (broadly construed, e.g. American, Medieval) pull through the applications relevant to them and pick out anywhere between 0-5. This reduced list is then sent on to a committee for final winnowing, which is often called the "black box". This committee makes the final selection, and is under no obligation to take any of the students handed to it.

Given the unusual enthusiasm your POI has displayed, it's likely you'll make their short list, which will in turn mean you have a good chance of being forwarded on to the committee. What happens at the committee is anyone's guess, and the process is political. 

In short, cautious optimism, and good luck!

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4 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

I would definitely say this is good news. It's in no way a sure thing, but it's good news!

Generally speaking (and definitely at Harvard), the professors in the particular subfield (broadly construed, e.g. American, Medieval) pull through the applications relevant to them and pick out anywhere between 0-5. This reduced list is then sent on to a committee for final winnowing, which is often called the "black box". This committee makes the final selection, and is under no obligation to take any of the students handed to it.

Given the unusual enthusiasm your POI has displayed, it's likely you'll make their short list, which will in turn mean you have a good chance of being forwarded on to the committee. What happens at the committee is anyone's guess, and the process is political. 

In short, cautious optimism, and good luck!

Thanks for the response! Haha, yes, it seems like almost every bit of good news in academia is tinted with cautious optimism! Nevertheless, after almost two months of working on SOP's, I feel energized! 

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33 minutes ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

Hey everybody, I need a little advice.

I recommend using either the edit function or the hide post function to get rid of the identifiable information. Members of departments do come to TGC and some might misread your post in ways that are contrary to who you are and the spirit in which you wrote it.

Then, I would consider the possibility that you have access to a much better resource than TGC--the professor at your department who appears to be mentoring you and is absolutely in your corner. There is very little information here that is anywhere as valuable as the guidance this professor can offer.

In the event you still want advice from strangers who wish you the best but are, ultimately, still complete strangers on the internet, I recommend that you do a deep dive into the background of the aforementioned POI. You want to do all you can to make sure that your work is going to be on par with that person's expectations. Yes, you're a work in progress, yes, this person will understand that when looking at your work, but this person is also the real deal and may have exceptionally high expectations. If you take this deep dive, I would recommend getting a copy of this person's dissertation AND master's thesis. (If you're within distance of this person's UGI, you might also consider seeing if you can find a copy of that person's UG thesis and honor's thesis.) At the very least, reading both will provide you an opportunity to see how a practitioner of one of the profession's most challenging and important fields grew as historian. 

More generally, you should feel great! You have a professor in your corner. You have got the attention of a POI who may be willing to take you under a wing, advocate on your behalf in front of an admissions committee, and provide you support as a graduate student. (And this support could come even if you end up at a different program.)

You should take these experiences as a sign that the tremendous potential others, including me, a complete stranger, is real. A challenge now is to look those impostor syndrome ghosts in the eye and say "GTFO" and continue on the path of developing the skills as an academic historian.

My $0.02.

Edited by Sigaba

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32 minutes ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

Hey everybody, I need a little advice.

I am applying to Harvard University, and I recently emailed my main POI there. I asked her the usual; are you taking new advisees? What is your current research on? What is being at Harvard like? Etc. I also described to her my proposed project for graduate school, my honors thesis, and a little bit about me and who I work with at my university.

After a week, I received an incredibly friendly and warming email that was much longer than my original. She described my project as "INCREDIBLE," and would "love to work with you!". She also said that she normally doesn't look at prospective students application materials, but she wants to look at my materials mid-fall. After that surprising sentence, she then invited me to grab coffee with her next month when she's in my area. 

My current adviser is very close friends with her, and I mentioned that he advised my honors thesis, to which she replied that he is one of her favorite people and scholars.

She is an tenured associate professor at Harvard and is one of the foremost scholars in my field. At this point, I am pretty sure my current adviser told her about me and possibly even shared some of my work with her. I've read on here that I should sometimes take POI emails with a grain of salt, but this POI would most likely have a large amount of influence on an adcom.

Other than being very excited and happy that a scholar that I have looked up to since the beginning of my undergrad is interested in me, is this a significant determinant of getting into a program? More broadly, just how much does one professor have over who gets in?

Has anyone had a similar experience? I'm of course not letting my hopes up, but this definitely makes me feel like that despair and impostor syndrome of the last two years is in my head.

EDIT:

I'd also like to add that I have received cordial responses and even a phone call from other POI's, but none to this extent.

EDIT2:

Thinking about it, I'm sure @Sigaba will dig up past posts regarding this topic. Always appreciative of that, and I should try to do some searching myself sometimes ?

You don't need anyone to tell you that this is a positive response--the kind that's likely to freak out any lurkers on this forum [dear lurkers, my current advisors didn't respond to my pre-application emails at all--I applied anyway and they are both really supportive and great]. I had basically this same response from two professors at ivy leagues--I got into one of the schools and was not admitted at the other but am still in touch with the POI. The POI at the latter sent me a long email after the decision explaining that it was a numbers thing, which I appreciated--but know that this can happen to you too. 

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1 hour ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

More broadly, just how much does one professor have over who gets in?

Has anyone had a similar experience? I'm of course not letting my hopes up, but this definitely makes me feel like that despair and impostor syndrome of the last two years is in my head.

So I had two similar experiences at two different schools. At one school, my advisor was good friends with my poi there. He wanted to read my masters thesis before I applied and expressed great interest in my project. I felt confident and applied there, but I never got in. The poi who I had exchanged a lot of pleasant emails with didn’t even send me an explanation email. I will say however that before I applied he had mentioned that his school lacked a second professor with my particular interests who could help guide my project (he’s a French historian and I needed a Chinese historian who wasn’t there), but he encouraged me to apply anyway. So I think I didn’t get in probably because of fit.

At the other school, one of my mentors was really good friends with my poi there. In fact, at the first mention of my mentor my poi was instantly interested in me. Our interests were also extremely similar, so he thought I was a perfect fit for the school. Two months after I applied there, I got an interview request with him. We interviewed over Skype, and he was throughly impressed with our interview. At that point, I felt that this school was pretty much gonna be my top choice. Fast forward another month, and the school informed that I was waitlisted. I was pretty hurt and still am since it wasn’t that long ago. The poi personally emailed me and told me that I was their top candidate for my field and I still got beaten out. He said there was a possibility I could still get in and i tried to maintain my optimism. Ultimately I never made it out of the waitlist and they didn’t take one person in my sub field. I was really disappointed because the stars seemed to align for me so well and I still didn’t get in. I inquired to my poi why I wasnt admitted and he said it was just competition. I felt like politics or the numbers game may have factored in too, but I truly have no idea. 

@urbanhistorynerd my point is that even if a poi has great interest in you, you still need to deal with forces you can’t foresee. However, it’s still a terrific first step and it’s better to have someone fight for your application than to not have one. Do the very best you can on your applications and impress both that poi of yours and the committee. You have a tremendous shot here. 

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It's easier said than done. Do what you can to separate outcomes from positive (and less than ideal) interactions with historians.

An observation (sometimes a complaint) of older professionals is that more and more people are treating relationships as a means to an end. In my experience, if you treat professional relationships from a the journey is the destination frame of mind, you will earn a lot of respect. And from there you may have unforeseen opportunities to learn and grow. 

Also, separating interactions from outcomes will allow you to build your self confidence, something you will need when preparing for quals and you want to curl into a ball on the floor of wherever you are and wonder if you're even smart enough to flip burgers.

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@urbanhistorynerd Been there done that. If nothing else, you have this professor to keep in touch with after (hopefully) you get into a PhD program elsewhere.  That person could potentially write a letter on your behalf or look at fellowship application materials or even serve on your dissertation committee as an external reviewer.  Just focus on this as an opportunity to network, not only to get into Harvard.

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9 hours ago, urbanhistorynerd said:

Has anyone had a similar experience? I'm of course not letting my hopes up, but this definitely makes me feel like that despair and impostor syndrome of the last two years is in my head.

Congratulations! I'm going to end up being a wet blanket, I'm afraid. My subfield often has independent departments, some of whom interview (Penn being the best known, of course). I went to X city and interviewed with this department. My interests were early modern at the time. I met with my potential advisor and he and I really hit it off. We're of similar backgrounds and bemoaned how people in this particular part of the country were different from what we were used to. He also expressed a great amount of interest in my project.

This sort of thing happened with the other early modernist and the department chair. Two other faculty members were less interested, but they worked on more contemporary history. A very senior faculty member asked me some technical questions about the project, including my mathematical abilities. He seemed interested enough, as well.

Over dinner, the department chair discussed funding details with me, then asked me to talk about my other offers. I willingly did so, though it was a bit strange. It was Spring Break, so I went home thinking that I'd have to choose between two excellent options with good placements. 

A few days later, I received a rejection letter from the department head. The reason, "I wasn't experienced enough in history of science," which is, plain and simple, nonsense. Most undergraduate students have no history of science experience. I suspect the real reason was political: two or three other early modernists came to this program that year. Since this is a very small program, it would've slanted the program significantly towards early modern science.

In short, I think you've had a promising experience, but I wouldn't read too much into it. You may set yourself up for a very significant disappointment.

 

Edited by psstein

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6 minutes ago, psstein said:

some of whom interview (Penn being the best known, of course)

I just saw that Tresch left Penn HSS for The Warburg Institute, gutting as he was on my shortlist for people to reach out to in a year when it comes time to think about PhD programs.

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