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Shutout ... ideas for next round?

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Hey all - 

I have been a ceaseless lurker on this site. I thought it would end soon, but alas! I just found out that I was SO CLOSE to acceptance at UPenn... but, unfortunately, it didn't work out this year. I am a non traditional applicant.. graduated with a BA in my late twenties and I'm in my early thirties now... feeling really far away from academia and having a hard time getting perspective on my competitiveness/ where to go from here.  I do critical theory-- mostly feminist/queer theory, critical race studies and psychoanalysis but I also like poetics and have a creative writing practice outside of my academic interests (poetry and playwriting). 

 I am reaching out to see if: 

1. anyone who got into their top choices might feel up for private messaging me / maybe sharing some of your app materials / where you think you went right! 

2. any ideas for increasing competitiveness in a year? I am currently freelancing for work as I didn't want to commit to anything long-term. So, I am pretty flexible in what I do next but am very broke from this whole endeavor so need to do something! 

3. I applied to ivys and ivy -adjacents this year due to funding and job prospects (plus livability as my partner and our many pets are coming with me when I relocate!)-- I think I have program research overwhelm and it would be great to hear what programs were/are on your radar if you have similar interests and need similar funding! I'm open to funded MFAs and MAs at this point, but am ultimately hoping for acceptance into a PhD program... currently on my list: (English:) UPenn, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, Princeton, maybe NYU, Penn State, & WGS: University of Arizona. 

4. ALSO! Any folks write a new writing sample when you were out of school? How did you access academic texts? Did professors you know help you? I think writing a new one would behove me (especially in the second time around applications) but feel like without the structure of an academic environment, I am afraid I am going to write something weird and not academic. Thoughts?

Thanks so much for reading and congrats to all those going to your dream programs this fall! 

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Hey there! Happy to share some of the helpful tidbits of advice I received throughout this process 😊

  1. Competitiveness - I personally don't have any publications/conferences under my belt but I'm sure another GC'er will be able to speak to this topic. I have been told, however, that applying at least 2-3 weeks before the deadline helps greatly. Not sure how true this is, but at the very least, it ensures all of your paperwork (GRE scores) gets in on time. 
  2. Apply to at least two funded MAs (I hear Villanova's is great, I personally applied to Purdue's). 
  3. What drew you in to the schools you applied to? Is there a critical mass of professors there for you to work with? I'd suggest sending out emails (I did this the summer before I applied) to profs in your field. I spoke to them about my writing sample and asked to pick their brains about the field and possible programs that would be a good fit. Take a look at the work grad students have recently done at the schools. There's a chance if someone in your respective field is graduating, the ad comm might be interested in accepting another! Finances permitting, I've heard applying to 8 schools is the sweet spot. Also make sure to check for application waivers!
  4. I would also suggest starting an Excel spreadsheet for the schools you're applying to with professors you're interested in working with, if they require GRE scores, cost of applications, etc. It's definitely a lifesaver. 
  5. I would definitely suggest writing a new WS! I did this the summer after I graduated from college and it was tough. What was helpful was speaking to professors in my field over Skype/Facetime to get their thoughts on sources/theory and having a friend of mine enforce deadlines. The summer was getting away from me and having deadlines (I would actually email my friend formally saying 'Dear Professor X, I have attached the most recent draft of...etc.) really, really helped.
  6. Most important point: make sure your WS reflects the interests outlined in your PS! The ad comm wants to see your intellectual evolution and you should show them where you're at! 
  7. I freelanced while applying too and I know how tough time management can be. Make time for rest. Read for pleasure. Have family and friends help out with the more tedious parts of an application (opening up accounts on all the portals and filling out info). This is a tough process and having those moments will tide you over. 

I've got my fingers and toes crossed for you!!

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7 hours ago, Anonymouse124 said:

What was helpful was speaking to professors in my field over Skype/Facetime to get their thoughts on sources/theory and having a friend of mine enforce deadlines. The summer was getting away from me and having deadlines (I would actually email my friend formally saying 'Dear Professor X, I have attached the most recent draft of...etc.) really, really helped.

Can I ask what sort of questions you fielded them? And- you actually spoke to them over Skype/Facetime?? That's awesome. It would be so great to just have a conversation with an active scholar about what's going on!

To the OP: hello! It's good to see another older applicant in the mix. I finished my MFA this year after a seven-year absence from school, so best case scenario I'll get my Ph.D at 39. I keep asking people if this is an issue and they keep telling me no one cares. 

I think the advice above is very sound, and I would add that I can access my university's library database with my alumni association card. I also frankly just hole up in the library of universities that I have no affiliation with sometimes, lol. It's a good place to get work done and to get access to other texts. I'm in the midst of doing my WS so I can't speak to successful strategies, but for what it's worth, I am taking my time to develop a thorough overview of the field and a general idea of my critical stance before I dive in. (Though, it helps that I am very firmly committed to Romanticism as my period.) 

If you are looking for conferences or publications, UPenn's Call for Papers (CFP) site is wonderful and lists the call as well as deadlines. 

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I would consider myself a nontraditional candidate due to my career background and because I was out of school and away from anything remotely related to academia for five years. I also did not have any conferences or anything published, just a single departmental award from a very small undergrad department.

 For the writing sample, I would probably warn against writing a brand new one if at all possible. It all depends on your confidence level with whatever you are currently using, but if you know for sure that you were close to that acceptance then it would seem to me that maybe you just need to improve the one you have. If you have not already received feedback from multiple readers (preferably your LOR writers), I would definitely do that and get some recommendations for improvement and fine tuning. Overall, I think that would be a better investment of time as opposed to starting completely from scratch. Personally, just thinking of taking on that endeavor after be out of the game for a while gives me heart palpitations.  

Also, my SOP research interests and the subject matter in my WS were not all that closely aligned apart from the fact that they were both in the American lit. field. I think that as long as you don't have some vast difference between the two- like your WS is about early modern drama and your SOP says you want to study contemporary American lit- you should be ok.

I'll echo @Anonymouse124 on the funded MA programs and spread sheet. I had a lot of success with the MAs I applied to. The spreadsheet I used helped a lot. I started with somewhere in the realm of 40 schools and used it to narrow down from there. I ended up applying to 13 PhD and 4 funded MAs, which was overzealous and exhausting. I definitely had some schools that were a stretch for research fit and I kind of regret wasting time and money on them.

I'm happy to share any materials if you'd like, just DM me. Good luck!

 

Edited by fortschritt22

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wow, thanks so much for the helpful suggestions! I am really appreciative.

I think I am going to try for a new WS... a professor who wrote a LOR last cycle suggested sitting in on some grad classes in a nearby school so I might try that to get some feedback on writing, although same as you @fortschritt22 it definitely gives me heart palpitations! 

I did reach out to some profs last year but this is good advice, especially because I was too nervous to ask any questions. It's also nice to hear there are others in a similar boat!

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4 hours ago, merry night wanderer said:

Can I ask what sort of questions you fielded them? And- you actually spoke to them over Skype/Facetime?? That's awesome. It would be so great to just have a conversation with an active scholar about what's going on!

I tried to find my notebook with all the questions I had, but I couldn't find it! I started off cold emailing professors in my field, mentioning my interest in their work, told them that I was working on a WS about xxx and that I would love to get their input on sources, and asked which programs and professors would be good to keep on my radar as I continue fielding schools to apply to. Yes, we Skyped and Facetimed which made it way easier to chat! I definitely recommend reaching out to profs in your field!

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I would definitely apply to some funded MA programs.

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On 4/15/2019 at 12:00 PM, merry night wanderer said:

Can I ask what sort of questions you fielded them? And- you actually spoke to them over Skype/Facetime?? That's awesome. It would be so great to just have a conversation with an active scholar about what's going on!

To the OP: hello! It's good to see another older applicant in the mix. I finished my MFA this year after a seven-year absence from school, so best case scenario I'll get my Ph.D at 39. I keep asking people if this is an issue and they keep telling me no one cares. 

I think the advice above is very sound, and I would add that I can access my university's library database with my alumni association card. I also frankly just hole up in the library of universities that I have no affiliation with sometimes, lol. It's a good place to get work done and to get access to other texts. I'm in the midst of doing my WS so I can't speak to successful strategies, but for what it's worth, I am taking my time to develop a thorough overview of the field and a general idea of my critical stance before I dive in. (Though, it helps that I am very firmly committed to Romanticism as my period.) 

If you are looking for conferences or publications, UPenn's Call for Papers (CFP) site is wonderful and lists the call as well as deadlines. 

If you don't mind me asking, how are you going about creating an overview of the field? I'm thinking I should do this as well but the process seems so daunting 😅 

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7 hours ago, bethisbetter said:

If you don't mind me asking, how are you going about creating an overview of the field? I'm thinking I should do this as well but the process seems so daunting 😅 

I think one effective strategy is to identify a few journals that interest you, read the abstracts for all or most of the essays those journals published over the last few years, and then--if you have access--read several of the essays that sound most interesting to you. If you don't have access, lots of scholars are very amenable to sending you pdfs if you email them. This website has descriptions of most of the major journals in the humanities, so it's a really good tool for figuring out which journals might interest you.  This is also a good way to find programs; if you like an essay and it's by a junior scholar, find out where they got their PhD. 

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Hey all! A Q for those that applied again: did you write that it was your second time applying in your SOP?  And for programs you applied to a second time, how did you broach it? 

 

Thanks ! 

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2 hours ago, 012345 said:

Hey all! A Q for those that applied again: did you write that it was your second time applying in your SOP?  And for programs you applied to a second time, how did you broach it? 

 

Thanks ! 

Did not mention it at all (can't say whether it was a mistake or not). Stanford has a question on their app asking if you have applied in the past and to comment on it, though.

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3 hours ago, 012345 said:

Hey all! A Q for those that applied again: did you write that it was your second time applying in your SOP?  And for programs you applied to a second time, how did you broach it? 

 

Thanks ! 

I can think of no reason to mention it. If nothing else, it's a waste of valuable SOP space that could be better spent on something else.

 Programs understand people apply multiple times. Also: adcoms often rotate membership each year, they also reject hundreds of applications, so if you're worried that they'll remember they rejected you I wouldn't.

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On 4/30/2019 at 11:41 AM, bethisbetter said:

If you don't mind me asking, how are you going about creating an overview of the field? I'm thinking I should do this as well but the process seems so daunting 😅 

Right now, I'm entering a 3-month stint in which I'll try to read an article or a chapter of a book every day, along with GRE study. I'll be taking a three-pronged approach.

1- The first is taking the major journals - in Romanticism, European Romantic Review, The Wordsworth Circle, Keats-Shelley, Studies in Romanticism, etc - and just making my way through the past 3-5 years. This is to get me situated, and help me understand what the field is looking at as a whole. I will go broad here, even though I have slightly more specialized interests in the field right now (Later Romantics' use of allegory is my primary interest right now). I know the major journals because I've taken a couple of Romanticism seminars at this point. I would ask a prof contact for your own field. 

2- I have an ongoing list of scholars, starting with the scholars at schools I want to apply to, and which I will add onto if I find anyone interesting in the above survey, to investigate. I'll take a look at their books or articles.

3- If it becomes clear to me in all of this that there is some seminal text I need to read, I will do that, and possibly look a bit further back. My issue here is that given the age of my teachers, I'm updated in the field through, say, 1980s, but I need to fill in the 1980-2010s gap. 

4- I'm going to try emailing scholars, as was suggested! This will be so helpful if they bite.

I hope that helps! Also, if someone has actually done this and has suggestions, I'd be grateful--

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On 4/30/2019 at 10:41 AM, bethisbetter said:

If you don't mind me asking, how are you going about creating an overview of the field? I'm thinking I should do this as well but the process seems so daunting 😅

I second @merry night wanderer's approach! I also think that another thing that can be helpful is to try to get access to the programs of major conferences for your particular field. I find that this gives a wide sense of what different people are writing about right now, and a bit more of a sense of where the field might be going. Obviously, attending such conferences would be helpful as well!

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47 minutes ago, Bopie5 said:

I second @merry night wanderer's approach! I also think that another thing that can be helpful is to try to get access to the programs of major conferences for your particular field. I find that this gives a wide sense of what different people are writing about right now, and a bit more of a sense of where the field might be going. Obviously, attending such conferences would be helpful as well!

Agreed - I went to the major conference in my field and it was very helpful. I didn't quite understand all of the conversations that people were engaged in, but as a broad overview it was certainly a good place to start.

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On 4/30/2019 at 12:41 PM, bethisbetter said:

If you don't mind me asking, how are you going about creating an overview of the field? I'm thinking I should do this as well but the process seems so daunting 😅 

@merry night wanderer has listed some good strategies. One other strategy that I might recommend is to read the acknowledgments section of important (recent) books in your field. A good place to start would be with those books that have had an impact on your scholarship. You will quickly see that academia runs in networks (or cliques if you prefer). You may also realize that your field can be divided into multiple networks that approach things in different ways. Having a good idea of where these fault lines run and where you want to situate yourself along them is instrumental to professionalization later in grad school, and showing some awareness of it as an applicant certainly can't hurt.

Bibliographies can also be enlightening in this respect (I love bibliography hopping) but is somewhat less instructive in terms of networks, since it's not uncommon to cite people you strongly disagree with.

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@sad_diamond @merry night wanderer @Bopie5 @Glasperlenspieler ahhh thank you so much!!! I hadn't even considered doing half of this so I really appreciate it! i've been freaking out about how much time is left (or lack thereof) but breaking everything down to three months doesn't seem too overwhelming so I'm gunna give that a go. Seriously, thanks so much y'all.

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