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To be clear, it's not that an abstract is necessary, but I could have done one myself (in my philosophy major, in the way I was asked to write, the introductory paragraphs of an essay were basically an abstract) and I think it would have helped my case. You can never underestimate how little people, even literary scholars, will read. And also, if it's part of what you show others for feedback, they can help you refine it as well. I find summarization like that can really clarify your argument as well as prep readers to understand where you're going. I haven't read a lot of WSes myself - unfortunately nobody MFA cohort applied to lit at all - but I definitely haven't encountered it as common either! I just thought it was a good idea.

(BTW, while I'm thinking about it: for whatever it's worth, if anyone wants to read some of my materials, I would be happy to share. The ones I was able to get my hands on were through this forum, and they helped a lot!) 

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That would be me. My first acceptance and I’m thrilled.

just got my Michigan offer. 6 years funding. Fuck. 

IN AT YALE!!!  IM GOING TO LOSE MY MIND I DON'T KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE 

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2 minutes ago, merry night wanderer said:

You can never underestimate how little people, even literary scholars, will read.

Just to be clear, schools you apply to will definitely read your writing sample in its entirety—and if you get to the second and third rounds where candidates are narrowed down to 60/~20-30 applicants respectively, many people will read it! I really don't think anyone should be approaching or strategizing for the WS on the assumption or hunch that it won't be read. I'm sorry, that just sounds like a bad faith argument to me.

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It's not bad faith at all to acknowledge that they have a huge reading load, in the least - god knows I'd find it excruciating to read dozens of apps on top of teaching! - and might not read more than introductory or closing paragraphs, at very worst, which is definitely something profs have told me happens at some schools if your work doesn't catch their eye. They have a great deal to do, and making your argument as transparent as possible from the beginning isn't selling out or catering, it's just being practical. It's also the way articles are written, right? It's definitely not going to sacrifice your work to practice writing abstracts, which you'll have to do all the time as a scholar anyway. 

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20 hours ago, Dogfish Head said:

Has anyone heard anything from UNC-Chapel Hill? I saw two acceptances and a waitlist on the board, but that seems to be a small amount of notifications for a relatively big program. Does anyone have any insights?

No specific insights to offer, as I'm also waiting to hear, but it looks like there are two UNC acceptances on the board today, so it appears things are going out slowly but surely (which seems a bit out-of-step with how folks were notified in previous years, but makes sense considering the size of the program). Good luck!

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24 minutes ago, merry night wanderer said:

They have a great deal to do, and making your argument as transparent as possible from the beginning isn't selling out or catering, it's just being practical.

I’ve been told the same, on the (not unjustified) presumption that the adcomm will likely skim your application materials in the early stages of evaluation (no one has the time to read and score — yes, applications are scored numerically — so many 20-page essays on top of all the work that they already have to do). So, I suppose an abstract would likely help to guide a reader through a WS that doesn’t speak to them from the start, or which might be particularly dense, or which might deal with implications that can only be explicated at the end of the essay. (I have to say, though, that my WS didn’t come with an abstract — I’d like to have included one, but couldn’t do so under strict page limit restrictions.) 

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^ Right, I have heard this from too many places, and from too many professors and adcom types, to discount.

And the operative word to both of those points is "this is what I'd suggest." I definitely am not pretending like I stand in a position of authority here! Just as an applicant with thoughts about how their cycle is going, and what they would have done differently. 

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So after I got my rejection from USC at 4 AM yesterday, I woke up today with a phone call from Rhode Island. I've been accepted to URI with a TAship, and I admire several of the faculty members there. I saw on the results page someone else was accepted this morning, too, so if anybody wants to compare notes or share thoughts about the program and other offers, please reach out to me! I have a feeling I'm going to be torn between my current options. 

I'm honestly just happy to have the win right now. Having eight rejections was starting to weigh on me. 

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I’d be very surprised if all adcom members at all programs read every single word of every single application. I am sure some do, but I believe it has been reported before that in the initial rounds samples and statements are skimmed or only the introduction/conclusion is read (when applying I was told to make the first two paragraphs the best ones (with all the crucial info when it came to the SoP) because those are the only that will definitely be read). In later rounds I assume they read things over carefully but when you have hundreds of files? 

Not saying an abstract is necessary, but it does sound like a good idea if you can make it fit (assuming you work it as much if not more than the rest of your materials).

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23 hours ago, Dogfish Head said:

This is nice to hear. I have also heard nothing from UVA, and I was not %100 sure how to interpret my lack of news. Has anyone heard anything from UNC-Chapel Hill? I saw two acceptances and a waitlist on the board, but that seems to be a small amount of notifications for a relatively big program. Does anyone have any insights?

Hello! I made this account just to respond to you. (Long time lurker) I've noticed several people asking questions about UNC Chapel Hill and I personally had written them off as a rejection when I saw acceptances and didn't hear anything, but I ended up getting an acceptance several days later. (I am now one of the acceptance posts on the results page.) The email I received said they won't be sending official acceptance letters out for a couple more weeks, so I think it is safe to hold onto some hope for now. 

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1 hour ago, tinymica said:

Woke up this morning thinking about Brown, UVA, and BU. The silence is deafening but at least my dogs and The Sims 4 are here for me. Hope everyone is having a nice day!

I hope we hear something from BU tomorrow. I'll be staring at my phone from dawn to dusk. My partner is from southern Louisiana and I'm temped to ask him how much he knows about voodoo. If I need to drive to Boston to get my hands on a stuffed BU mascot to pray/sacrifice to, I'll do it. Desperate times, ya'll. 

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2 hours ago, WildeThing said:

I’d be very surprised if all adcom members at all programs read every single word of every single application. I am sure some do, but I believe it has been reported before that in the initial rounds samples and statements are skimmed or only the introduction/conclusion is read (when applying I was told to make the first two paragraphs the best ones (with all the crucial info when it came to the SoP) because those are the only that will definitely be read). In later rounds I assume they read things over carefully but when you have hundreds of files? 

Not saying an abstract is necessary, but it does sound like a good idea if you can make it fit (assuming you work it as much if not more than the rest of your materials).

I never said all adcom members at all programs read every single word of every application! I was responding to the suggestion that an abstract might be good because you can never underestimate how little a professor reads—which suggests that people think they're at risk of rejection because professors are skimming.

Also, no one person on the adcom has hundreds of files—they are broken up into packets/sessions and divvied among readers, usually by subfield. Obviously I can't speak to how it works at every institution, but I know people who have been on adcomms at places like UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, NYU, Princeton, Brown, and Oxford (MSt and DPhil). There are one or more initial culls based on any variety of factors (and I'm sure in a lot of cases it doesn't take reading every last word of the sample to know the person isn't a good fit for the program), but, like I said in my previous reply, by the time you get to the first and second rounds, yes, please take it as a given that your application is being read carefully and in full by several people. 

I won't engage in further on this one because really that's my entire take, but I just do not see the point of an abstract for writing samples. If it's an essential component of compiling a polished file for you personally or a helpful structuring element of your style as a scholar and thinker, I'm sure it won't harm your application. But imo, if your introduction doesn't accomplish what an abstract would, something's wrong with your sample.

Edited by meghan_sparkle
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18 minutes ago, gooniesneversaydie said:

I hope we hear something from BU tomorrow. I'll be staring at my phone from dawn to dusk. My partner is from southern Louisiana and I'm temped to ask him how much he knows about voodoo. If I need to drive to Boston to get my hands on a stuffed BU mascot to pray/sacrifice to, I'll do it. Desperate times, ya'll. 

I hope so too but since their deadline was in early January (as opposed to mid-December), I feel like they might take a while longer to make their decisions. To be honest, I'm not even sure why I'm so worried. Getting accepted to more schools will only make my life harder, but the mystery....sucks

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1 hour ago, meghan_sparkle said:

There are one or more initial culls based on any variety of factors (and I'm sure in a lot of cases it doesn't take reading every last word of the sample to know the person isn't a good fit for the program), but, like I said in my previous reply, by the time you get to the first and second rounds, yes, please take it as a given that your application is being read carefully and in full by several people. 

Nobody is arguing that at later stages the papers aren't read in full, and your initial statement that writing samples are "definitely read in their entirety" doesn't capture what WildeThing and others of us have heard about the first/last introduction paragraphs being vitally important because of skimming. It also doesn't capture what you just said - that if they are initially cut, they are not read in their entirety. That may be for many reasons, but adcoms give the advice to work on the beginning/ending paragraphs this frequently, it is clearly a factor.

Even if a specific person's load is a couple dozen apps (as I said) rather than a hundred, that's still a great deal of work on top of personal research and teaching. I know some committees work by subfield, some have a set group doing it, and in a rare few (like JHU) everybody reads them. Of course no one piece of advice is going to apply to every school's process, but generalized advice is all we have to go on, and I'm sure the workload is intense for most readers. 

Again, I'm not arguing that writing an abstract is necessary, because obviously it isn't, but personally, having basically done an abstract in the introduction in philosophy many times, I find it can turn out overwritten and overconstrained, and have met numerous profs that agree. An abstract can be an elegant way of including the summary without sacrificing some of the grace and flow of an essay. You may adjust my suggestion to "make sure your opening paragraph is very clear about your full argument" if that's what you agree with more, but I feel like this is ultimately splitting hairs since we basically all admit that the initial page or so of a WS is very important.

Also, again, abstracts are going to be required of everyone as a scholar so I'm just not sure why there's such hostility voiced to the suggestion.

Edited by merry night wanderer
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6 hours ago, meghan_sparkle said:

Just to be clear, schools you apply to will definitely read your writing sample in its entirety—and if you get to the second and third rounds where candidates are narrowed down to 60/~20-30 applicants respectively, many people will read it! I really don't think anyone should be approaching or strategizing for the WS on the assumption or hunch that it won't be read. I'm sorry, that just sounds like a bad faith argument to me.

I think we should all be aware of our positionality when making these arguments. In addition to a great reading load, it is unfortunately true that some scholars will not read all parts of the application. For example, when conservative scholars in English (which there are A LOT! in both public and private school committees) read an application from a private US or British school, they spend more time considering the parts of their application. These biases are real.

Although I have published for respected publishing companies and journals, attended regional and national conferences, and have letters of recommendation from highly respected scholars, private schools will not spend as much time on my application because of my background as a community college and state school alum. That is my experience in academic circle at large. I have been caught in binaries of tokenism and "inferiority" because of my gender and race. So, I think that conflating experience with bad faith is dismissive of people with different backgrounds. I think as scholars and future teachers of english we should be very aware of how we respond to other people's experiences in academia. 

I am curious as to where you received the knowledge that they extend unbiased attention all WS. 

Edited by noneckmonsters
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On a separate note, I just got a job at a gourmet chocolate shop! I start tomorrow and this is my thought process:

Yay! I love chocolate and paychecks!

Wait, I'm still waiting to hear back from BU and Brandeis (even though the latter is an implied rejection)...

Wait, I might hear back from them as early as tomorrow...

Well, there go my thighs.

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2 hours ago, meghan_sparkle said:

I won't engage in further on this one because really that's my entire take, but I just do not see the point of an abstract for writing samples. If it's an essential component of compiling a polished file for you personally or a helpful structuring element of your style as a scholar and thinker, I'm sure it won't harm your application. But imo, if your introduction doesn't accomplish what an abstract would, something's wrong with your sample.

I'm not sure about that... I think it depends on the stage of your argument in the WS. I submitted a published chapter as my writing sample. The introduction is actually three pages of description, and the argument is not crystalized until page three. I've gotten accepted into ten programs. I am not sure that I would have been accepted to these places would I have submitted my MA thesis, which is a not nearly as finished as what I have already published. 

Nothing is wrong with my sample. It's been published by Palgrave MacMillan. It sounds like you have a very well organized system in place for elite schools like Brown, Harvard, and Yale, so it probably works for them. But I just want to offer my experience of what works for well respected public institutions. Best of luck to everyone!!!

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8 hours ago, BwO said:

This was precisely what I'd experienced, because my research interests, as well as the project that I sketched out in my SOP, are rather interdisciplinary and theory-heavy (i.e. if language requirements weren't a barrier, I would've applied to comp lit programs instead). In that sense, to my professors and the POIs who've kindly reached out to me (they were, unfortunately, not on the adcomms; they also, and not by any coincidence at all, tend to hold joint appointments in comp lit departments), my ideas might've made perfect sense within particular theoretical contexts. But in my broader period/subfield, I'm not really sure how well my research translated. If I had to do over this process, I suppose I might've applied to more interdisciplinary departments with my present project (I thought it wasn't sufficiently "out there" for places like Stanford's MTL, but clearly, the feedback I'd received about it has proven otherwise), and perhaps applied to some of the schools on my current list with a more "traditional" set of application materials. Mais on verra... 

And ha! Another Deleuzian on here? It seems like there are a couple of us on these forums now!!

Hi there, Can I ask what your WS/what the purview of your research is?

Just curious as another person who works mostly in the theory size of lit departments (though, I did go more down the complit route myself).

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Maybe this is too vulnerable to post here, but I’ve just spent the day teetering on the edge of nervous breakdown because I was so excited about moving on to my PhD, and then after doing some reading on this forum and looking at the state of the job market, I’ve completely lost all hope that I’m going to be able to find a decent job at the end of it all. I just want to do what is right for my partner and child, and now I feel like maybe that’s not this. I don’t know. I feel so lost right now. Sorry. Sorry for oversharing.

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2 hours ago, MundaneSoul said:

Maybe this is too vulnerable to post here, but I’ve just spent the day teetering on the edge of nervous breakdown because I was so excited about moving on to my PhD, and then after doing some reading on this forum and looking at the state of the job market, I’ve completely lost all hope that I’m going to be able to find a decent job at the end of it all. I just want to do what is right for my partner and child, and now I feel like maybe that’s not this. I don’t know. I feel so lost right now. Sorry. Sorry for oversharing.

Please don’t apologize! Many of us have used this forum to worry and vent about our concerns. This is a safe place to do that. I understand how you’re feeling. When I told a professor during undergrad that I wanted to go to grad school, she really pressed upon me how daunting the market was for her and how much colder it would likely be for me if I followed this path. We’re all aware of how sparse opportunities might be for us down the line. For me, it’s about either accepting that or exploring other options. TT positions aren’t the only uses out there for PhDs. Could you maybe discuss with a former professor/recommender what you might want to do? Or the career center at your undergrad university? Or maybe you can check out the stats at the programs to which you’ve applied to see where program alumni end up? It’s okay to doubt. And it’s okay if you ultimately decide the PhD route isn’t for you. I wish you peace as you figure it out. 

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6 hours ago, noneckmonsters said:

I'm not sure about that... I think it depends on the stage of your argument in the WS. I submitted a published chapter as my writing sample. The introduction is actually three pages of description, and the argument is not crystalized until page three. I've gotten accepted into ten programs. I am not sure that I would have been accepted to these places would I have submitted my MA thesis, which is a not nearly as finished as what I have already published. 

Nothing is wrong with my sample. It's been published by Palgrave MacMillan. It sounds like you have a very well organized system in place for elite schools like Brown, Harvard, and Yale, so it probably works for them. But I just want to offer my experience of what works for well respected public institutions. Best of luck to everyone!!!

Congrats on your success! Fwiw I don't think we're on different sides: my introduction is 4 pages and the big statement of the argument isn't til page 3 and I don't get to the roadmap of the rest of the paper til page 4, making it also sorta like a chapter. "Introduction" for some can be a paragraph or several paragraphs or the first section comprising several pages.

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3 hours ago, MundaneSoul said:

Maybe this is too vulnerable to post here, but I’ve just spent the day teetering on the edge of nervous breakdown because I was so excited about moving on to my PhD, and then after doing some reading on this forum and looking at the state of the job market, I’ve completely lost all hope that I’m going to be able to find a decent job at the end of it all. I just want to do what is right for my partner and child, and now I feel like maybe that’s not this. I don’t know. I feel so lost right now. Sorry. Sorry for oversharing.

Thank you for sharing this post. Academia is definitely a competitive field, but it is not the only field where you can find work after a PhD. I read your introductory post, and I'm also a first gen phd applicant. In terms of professionalization and securing a spot, the only recipe I can share is stay close to and work with people who will advocate for you, and have a good lines of communication with the grad center? I know it sounds basic, but it has gotten further than I would have by myself. 

On a personal note: I am reconsidering if a phd is right for me as well. Today, I turned to my Fall notes for inspiration. I kept asking myself what things about each program inspired me to apply. It has been a crazy month. It's okay to take a couple of days to reconsider your situation. We still have fifty days to make a decision (April 15). Ask former professors, reach out to current and former grad students in the next couple of weeks. What are they doing now? What are their thoughts about the program? There is time to think about all of these things. For now just breath. This process is overwhelming. You are doing better than you think. 

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18 hours ago, AtlasFox said:

So after I got my rejection from USC at 4 AM yesterday, I woke up today with a phone call from Rhode Island. I've been accepted to URI with a TAship, and I admire several of the faculty members there. I saw on the results page someone else was accepted this morning, too, so if anybody wants to compare notes or share thoughts about the program and other offers, please reach out to me! I have a feeling I'm going to be torn between my current options. 

I'm honestly just happy to have the win right now. Having eight rejections was starting to weigh on me. 

Out of reactions currently, but congratulations on URI!

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16 hours ago, Sheep4wheat said:

Hello! I made this account just to respond to you. (Long time lurker) I've noticed several people asking questions about UNC Chapel Hill and I personally had written them off as a rejection when I saw acceptances and didn't hear anything, but I ended up getting an acceptance several days later. (I am now one of the acceptance posts on the results page.) The email I received said they won't be sending official acceptance letters out for a couple more weeks, so I think it is safe to hold onto some hope for now. 

This is great to hear! Thank you so much for the information and congratulations on your acceptance!

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