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Reapplying PhD Literature Programs

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Hello! I applied to 9 programs this past winter and only got into 1... and it wasn’t my top choice school. I’ve decided to reapply this fall/winter. I have a few questions:  

I’m planning on reapplying to 5 of the same schools and adding a few more. Is this a good idea? Or should I reapply to all new schools? 

Should I contact faculty members that I’d like to work with, in advance (to establish a relationship), or is that not a good idea? 

Is there such a thing as an “admission coach”? It would be nice if I could hire someone to look over every aspect of my applications, and instruct me on what needs improvement. 

Thanks in advance!!! 

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I was discouraged from reapplying to too many of the same schools. While things change year to year, you were rejected once already. Also, apparently some schools make a note and compare your past application to your new one, which means you’re competing against yourself in a way. That said, when I applied I kept half the schools and changed the other half to what I thought were more realistic targets. I got 2 acceptances from the new batch and 1 from the old (which is where I’m going to, admittedly). Applying to the same school is tough because you don’t know how close you were, what they liked or didn’t like, etc. You were clearly good enough to be selected somewhere, so you’ll need to really think about how you can improve that application.

Contacting faculty has often been discussed here, I recommend searching the forum as we’ve had good insight on this issue from both sides. My understanding is that it is not necessary and might not even be helpful (and if you do it you should have a reason to contact them to avoid wasting their time), but on occasion it could be positive, even if only to shed light on your fit with the faculty.

Not sure admission coaches are a thing. The IRT does offer support to its members when applying in a way similar to what you’re looking for but their deadline has passed. Best I can suggest is asking for help here.

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Posted (edited)

If you want to apply to the same programs in the next cycle, I would recommend a *serious* revamp of your application. Not just a new SOP and writing sample, but reevaluate your other materials. Make sure your letter-writers are truly enthusiastic about your application. (What did your letter-writers say about your cycle? Were they surprised or ambivalent?) Review your transcript(s) and GRE scores. (Any room for improvement there?) With just a one-year gap, you have to document real growth in order to show the adcoms that you are a scholar who is on an upward trajectory even without the institutional support of a PhD program. Because, as WildeThing noted, they may very well compare your new application to your old one.

Anecdote (so, grain of salt!): I applied twice – some to the same programs – and I ultimately was accepted by/now attend a program that previously rejected me. I was told explicitly by professors that they compared/contrasted with my second application. Again, I have no idea if that's true across the board, but it was true for me!

I also second WildeThing's other points. Pros and cons to contacting faculty. No idea bout admission coaches. As a first step in reapplying, I would suggest asking your letter-writers to help do a post-mortem of your application. Ask what they thought were the weakest links in your application, e.g. what information was missing from your SOP, what arguments you either overstated or elided in your writing sample, etc.

Edited by bpilgrim89

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I would also check out this thread which has a lot of good tangible actions you can take if you decide to reapply:


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