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26 minutes ago, Jetpacked said:

I could have written some parts of this — Oxbridge BA and MA from elsewhere, waitlisted for funding last year at UK schools and eventually rejected, and I received almost exactly the same frustrating non-feedback last time (“liked the project, but not as much as others”). I chose to reapply in the UK system and I’m waiting to find out if I’ll be rejected for funding again, and if so I’ve pretty much decided not to apply a third time, though it’ll be a heartbreaking choice to make. However, both of us aren’t out of the game yet, and while I think you’re right to be thinking about contingencies, don’t jump the gun while there’s still a while to go in this cycle. I can’t offer much advice, just solidarity that there are those of us who may also have to make that choice with what feels like not enough info to go on.

 

2 hours ago, gradattack said:

Hello! 

I have been lurking here for months and I am finally posting to ask for advice/rant. I am sorry if this is not very coherent but I am genuinely just heartbroken. I am an international student with a master's in English from Oxbridge but I am facing the very real possibility of a complete shut out this year. I have been waitlisted by UVa English and Emory Comp Lit but I have received outright rejections from six other schools. I am waiting to hear back from three more places, but I am not very hopeful about either of them. Upon contacting some places about feedback on the reasons behind my rejection or anything I should change to improve my chances if I re-apply, I received bittersweet responses like the following:

"I do understand your disappointment and, to be honest, while it’s been wonderful being able to be introduced to so many wildly diverse and interesting applicants and projects, there is a certain melancholy to the process, too, since it’s of course the case that there is a person at the other side of every application and, because we can’t accept everyone, this means that we have to turn down so many more applicants than we can accept....In regard to your file in particular, while both readers liked your attention to the complex lives and representations of X—and especially your attention to the role of memory, nostalgia, and trauma in the forging of marginalized identities—one scored you higher than the other and, in our more general discussion, arguments were made for other candidates. I wouldn’t say that there is anything in particular that I would suggest you do differently. You are already accomplished and I believe that much had to do with the increased size of the pool this year and the fact that we also need to make accommodations for applicants in different fields.

I know this probably isn’t a satisfactory answer. In the end, the competition is very stiff and we simply cannot accept even qualified applicants because, as you can imagine, there are many more qualified applicants than we can admit."

I wish someone would tell me something concrete about how to improve my chances if I decide to apply again. I was accepted to a bunch of UK schools last year but couldn't manage to secure funding. Perhaps it is foolish of me to consider giving PhD apps a go the third time around but I have never wanted to do anything else besides academia. I am not sure if being waitlisted and narrowly missing funding in the UK could mean that I have a shot, or if I am stupid to just not recognize that academia won't happen after two years of things not working out for me. Moreover, I don't really know what to change about my profile since I honestly believe I tried my best. I can't think of anything except trying to squeeze in one more publication or appearing for the GRE Subject Test, since I skipped that the last time. I am not sure about my master's supervisor's reference letter since I didn't interact with them too much, but it would look very suspicious if I didn't have my supervisor's letter. I also very much doubt they would have written a bad letter, since they readily agreed to write me one. I did put in a lot of effort which included getting my SoP and writing sample vetted by multiple professors and friends in grad school. I had a really high GRE verbal score (but a poor quant one and although I was told I shouldn't worry about it but now I am wondering if I should have).

Also does anyone know what is happening with NYU? Radio silence from that side, I emailed the DGS and he did not reply as well.

Fall 2020: Columbia, UPenn, McGill, NYU, Harvard South Asia, UCLA Comp Lit, Princeton, Emory Comp LitUVa, Michigan, UT Austin  (Implied rejection/Rejection/PendingWaitlist)
Publications: 1; 
BA: First Division from a South Asian university; MA: 2:1 from Oxbridge (Merit but not a distinction)
Profile: Three semesters of work experience as a TA 
Research interests: South Asian culture/memory studies/spatiality


 

I’m sorry I don’t have much to offer in response to your concerns. I’m just wondering - to whom did you address your requests for feedback? 
I’m in the middle of a not-so-great cycle myself and have been wanting to ask several of the schools that rejected me for feedback but haven’t been sure of how to do that...

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1 minute ago, onerepublic96 said:

 

I’m sorry I don’t have much to offer in response to your concerns. I’m just wondering - to whom did you address your requests for feedback? 
I’m in the middle of a not-so-great cycle myself and have been wanting to ask several of the schools that rejected me for feedback but haven’t been sure of how to do that...

May not be too useful for you as it’s UK, but I emailed my POI to ask about what I could improve on a reapplication and was later able to arrange to drop by their office as I lived in the same city. There still wasn’t much they could say, either in writing or in person, and I can’t say I had much idea going into this cycle about what needed changing (although I did change a lot with the benefit of my MA research experience). UK Research Councils specify they do not offer any feedback so I received none from them.

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12 minutes ago, onerepublic96 said:

 

I’m sorry I don’t have much to offer in response to your concerns. I’m just wondering - to whom did you address your requests for feedback? 
I’m in the middle of a not-so-great cycle myself and have been wanting to ask several of the schools that rejected me for feedback but haven’t been sure of how to do that...

So I was told its a good idea to send introductory emails to POIs before applying and I received very encouraging responses from a bunch. I emailed them on the same thread to inform them about rejections. All my POIs expressed their sympathy and said they weren't on the admissions committee but some, like my Princeton POI, recommended I get in touch with the Director of Graduate Admissions to ask for feedback. So I sent the DGA a mail (importantly, I cc'd my POI) and received a very quick reply. The email was thoughtful and considerate but not particularly helpful.

I also think that since application fees in the US are so steep, departments should have a responsibility to provide feedback.
 

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2 hours ago, gradattack said:

So I was told its a good idea to send introductory emails to POIs before applying and I received very encouraging responses from a bunch. I emailed them on the same thread to inform them about rejections. All my POIs expressed their sympathy and said they weren't on the admissions committee but some, like my Princeton POI, recommended I get in touch with the Director of Graduate Admissions to ask for feedback. So I sent the DGA a mail (importantly, I cc'd my POI) and received a very quick reply. The email was thoughtful and considerate but not particularly helpful.

I also think that since application fees in the US are so steep, departments should have a responsibility to provide feedback.
 

It's such a tricky thing, because I'm also wondering why I paid like $800 to get no real feedback except "sorry, no." On the other hand, I know how much extra labor people in general are asked to do in academia so I'm wary of calling for something like robust individual feedback outright.

But as I think about the possibility of reapplying, I do want to know if there's anything I could have done differently. The email you received is a good reminder that it is usually not about a lack of qualifications, but other random decisions made my flawed humans. I keep going through my materials, and there's nothing more I could have done for most of them (4.0, 99th percentile GRE, LORs from "prestigious institution"), and I would guess I might get some kind of response similar to yours. In terms of what is left to work on in the next year, I am going to turn to more professors/friends for feedback on SoP and WS, since those are the only things left to improve at this point. 

Edited by lotsoffeelings

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Okay, but seriously: acceptances to UCR went out 31 January. Here it is 26 February, and the rest of us are just... still waiting for an official rejection. Is it just UCs that seem to have this problem? I remember waiting a very, very long time to get officially rejected by Berkeley (lol) last year. 

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17 minutes ago, lotsoffeelings said:

I keep going through my materials, and there's nothing more I could have done for most of them (4.0, 99th percentile GRE, LORs from "prestigious institution"), and I would guess I might get some kind of response similar to yours. In terms of what is left to work on in the next year, I am going to turn to more professors/friends for feedback on SoP and WS, since those are the only things left to improve at this point. 

I also have LORs from a “prestigious institution” and even though I’m starting to be mentally prepared for next year, the thought of telling my recommenders about this year fills me with dread. I know they put a great deal of effort into my letter and I hate to disappoint them. They had such high expectations and well here I am lol

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1 hour ago, vondafkossum said:

Okay, but seriously: acceptances to UCR went out 31 January. Here it is 26 February, and the rest of us are just... still waiting for an official rejection. Is it just UCs that seem to have this problem? I remember waiting a very, very long time to get officially rejected by Berkeley (lol) last year. 

In a complete state of delirium and desperation, I emailed UCR last night asking for them to rip off the bandaid already (in the nicest way possible, of course) so I'll let y'all know if I hear anything. The drawn out rejection is just pure torture.

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21 minutes ago, bethisbetter said:

In a complete state of delirium and desperation, I emailed UCR last night asking for them to rip off the bandaid already (in the nicest way possible, of course) so I'll let y'all know if I hear anything. The drawn out rejection is just pure torture.

Let me know if they respond! I sent an email about two weeks ago that has yet to receive a response.

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Ugh. Just got rejected from Brandeis. I only have one more to go (chandler voice: BU could you B any slower?), but it's not looking good. I know everyone says it's not over until it's over, but I kind of wish I could trick my brain into thinking it's over. I'm 100% reapplying next year (and probably adding 10 extra schools) and I plan on retaking both GREs and working on my writing, but I feel a bit lost.

I know we all feel this way, and we are all right the feel this way, but I really felt like I earned it and I deserved to get in... My heart truly goes out to anyone feeling this pain right now. I hope you know you're worthy and you deserve all of the chocolate cake money can buy.

 

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Well, I got offered a MA spot at Boston College (same thing they offered last year - scholarship of 11K). BC was my dream school when I was in high school many moons ago - my god, the architecture - and it was hard to walk away from the offer last year.  However, as much as my heart wants to accept on aesthetic alone, I don't know if going into more debt is worth it. However, however, it opens the possibility of getting into a """better""" PhD program afterwards with a stronger writing sample and teaching experience. However, however, however, I'm also very, very tired of this process and want to just start the damn PhD already. 

Hey! Hey, Boston University! Yeah you, ya punk! I need you to hurry the F up and make my life either easier or even more indecisive! 

Edited by gooniesneversaydie

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2 hours ago, Wimsey said:

On the day before my first campus visit, a conspicuous pimple decides to appear on my face. Love that for me. 😅

Never had acne in my life and yet...pimples ever since my ACCEPTANCE. Wtf

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I'm going to post a quick rant, which I'm writing for cathartic/therapeutic reasons. Don't take anything in it too seriously.

In office hours the other day, I let my thesis chair know that I was not having much luck this season. She made a remark to the effect of: "I regret having wasted the time writing you a letter." She phrased it in a comical way--we joke darkly with one another--so it wasn't as if she was intending to be hurtful. But it stung, because before now, I had only thought of how disappointing it would be for me if I were shut out--not that it would be a disappointment to all of the people who took time to write letters of recommendation, look over my writing sample, listen to me stress out, and so on. I've taken on some debt in the course of my MA; I've also worked harder and for longer than I ever have in my life (and I have been in some strenuous work situations; doing physical labor for sixteen hours a day six days a week actually didn't feel as difficult as some moments in my MA). This was the only goal I have been working toward for years--the prospect of getting shut out now makes me feel so foolish. I exhausted myself in full display of everyone I care about and respect and it's beginning to look as if I have failed nonetheless.

(What's even more aggravating is the fact that so many "radical" scholars are putatively opposed to hierarchy, while the Ph.D. admissions process is so clearly an orgy of fascination with prestige. Academics, once again, show themselves to be all theory and no praxis. I was rejected by all of the prestigious schools I applied to and waitlisted by all of the less-prestigious schools I applied to, leaving me to wonder if the extreme lack of prestige at my current institution was a deciding factor in admissions decisions--unless, of course, my writing sample was precisely good enough to grant me access to one realm of academia but not the other, which strikes me as a rather unlikely scenario.)

Edit: with an hour's time between me and this post, I can tell that there's a somewhat unpleasant element of ressentiment to the above post. Of course, if I get admitted off of the waitlist (or to Fordham, the last school I've applied to but haven't heard back from), you can count on a post from me to the effect of, "The system works!!!! If at first u don't succeed, try, try again!!" and so on. As Bo Burnham says, though, if someone wins the lottery, they're going to tell you to buy a ticket. 

Edited by digital_lime
sheepish regret

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I feel everyone on the struggle to figure out what you did wrong when you've worked so hard and people you respect gave you feedback. To me, the worst feeling is the world is not knowing how to get better.  Don't forget the lottery element and factors out of your control, like school prestige, connections of your LORs, whether you're non-traditional, etc.; give your SoP and writing sample another clear, critical, ruthless look and get more feedback; and if you can-- just get back in the ring to try your chances again. You're going to need persistence in this game no matter what you do.

I feel lucky at this point that I am going to pull through, but I applied to sixteen schools. If I'd applied to the nine that rejected me - a very respectable number - my only options would be a nonfunded MA at Boulder and I'd be in the shutout category.

Edited by merry night wanderer

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2 hours ago, digital_lime said:

I'm going to post a quick rant, which I'm writing for cathartic/therapeutic reasons. Don't take anything in it too seriously.

In office hours the other day, I let my thesis chair know that I was not having much luck this season. She made a remark to the effect of: "I regret having wasted the time writing you a letter." She phrased it in a comical way--we joke darkly with one another--so it wasn't as if she was intending to be hurtful. But it stung, because before now, I had only thought of how disappointing it would be for me if I were shut out--not that it would be a disappointment to all of the people who took time to write letters of recommendation, look over my writing sample, listen to me stress out, and so on. I've taken on some debt in the course of my MA; I've also worked harder and for longer than I ever have in my life (and I have been in some strenuous work situations; doing physical labor for sixteen hours a day six days a week actually didn't feel as difficult as some moments in my MA). This was the only goal I have been working toward for years--the prospect of getting shut out now makes me feel so foolish. I exhausted myself in full display of everyone I care about and respect and it's beginning to look as if I have failed nonetheless.

I'm only on waitlists, too, and I have an MA from a program ranked in the 40s. I'm really sorry for the hurt you're feeling after your advisor's comment. The reality is that they have a job in your dream field, and it doesn't REALLY hurt them if you don't get in after they write a letter, so it's too bad that they made that comment. I let my advisor know about my situation, and they replied that it's such a hard time and programs are accepting fewer and fewer people, etc. I hope you can get some encouragement like that too, because you have worked SO HARD. The reality of all this is that rejections are very rarely about you--it's such a luck thing. Fingers crossed for Fordham or a an acceptance off a waitlist for you (or both!)!!

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Even though I'm yet to hear from NYU and UPenn (I mean, who HAS - both are implied rejects I suppose (congrats to the admits)), I'm considering the rejection I got from Columbia today as the final nail in the coffin for any further good news. Thinking about this as the end of my application cycle, I can't help but feel relieved - I have one solid acceptance to what has been my dream school since finishing my MA in 2018 (and my dream city since visiting in 2012). Now all I've got to do is visit next week, soak it in, and say yes. Not being Oxford or Cambridge educated, from a failing state secondary school, a "first generation scholar," I was convinced that this application cycle would be a complete bust for me. It turns out that all it takes is one offer to make the whole thing worth it (despite the imposter syndrome I have as a constant companion at the moment). Despite feeling crushed by all the rejection (my supervisor once told me that the experience of working in Academia is the experience of rejection, and keeps a stack of every rejection they ever got in their office), I feel like the luckiest little queer scholar who could. And it really was luck; I hope that you all get just as lucky very soon. x

Edited by ja.col

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2 hours ago, ja.col said:

Even though I'm yet to hear from NYU and UPenn (I mean, who HAS - both are implied rejects I suppose (congrats to the admits)), I'm considering the rejection I got from Columbia today as the final nail in the coffin for any further good news. Thinking about this as the end of my application cycle, I can't help but feel relieved - I have one solid acceptance to what has been my dream school since finishing my MA in 2018 (and my dream city since visiting in 2012). Now all I've got to do is visit next week, soak it in, and say yes. Not being Oxford or Cambridge educated, from a failing state secondary school, a "first generation scholar," I was convinced that this application cycle would be a complete bust for me. It turns out that all it takes is one offer to make the whole thing worth it (despite the imposter syndrome I have as a constant companion at the moment). Despite feeling crushed by all the rejection (my supervisor once told me that the experience of working in Academia is the experience of rejection, and keeps a stack of every rejection they ever got in their office), I feel like the luckiest little queer scholar who could. And it really was luck; I hope that you all get just as lucky very soon. x

I see you! This is a very nice and healthy way of thinking. I still subscribe to the idea that you only need one to make this worth all the struggle. Too sad that I've yet to get my one. 

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5 hours ago, Wimsey said:

On the day before my first campus visit, a conspicuous pimple decides to appear on my face. Love that for me. 😅

Are you going to WUSTL? Please let me know how it goes and your thoughts on it. I can't make it😩

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1 hour ago, timespentreading said:

I'm only on waitlists, too, and I have an MA from a program ranked in the 40s. I'm really sorry for the hurt you're feeling after your advisor's comment. The reality is that they have a job in your dream field, and it doesn't REALLY hurt them if you don't get in after they write a letter, so it's too bad that they made that comment. I let my advisor know about my situation, and they replied that it's such a hard time and programs are accepting fewer and fewer people, etc. I hope you can get some encouragement like that too, because you have worked SO HARD. The reality of all this is that rejections are very rarely about you--it's such a luck thing. Fingers crossed for Fordham or a an acceptance off a waitlist for you (or both!)!!

Thanks for your kindness, internet stranger. You brightened my day!

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12 minutes ago, ja.col said:

Even though I'm yet to hear from NYU and UPenn (I mean, who HAS - both are implied rejects I suppose (congrats to the admits)), I'm considering the rejection I got from Columbia today as the final nail in the coffin for any further good news. Thinking about this as the end of my application cycle, I can't help but feel relieved - I have one solid acceptance to what has been my dream school since finishing my MA in 2018 (and my dream city since visiting in 2012). Now all I've got to do is visit next week, soak it in, and say yes. Not being Oxford or Cambridge educated, from a failing state secondary school, a "first generation scholar," I was convinced that this application cycle would be a complete bust for me. It turns out that all it takes is one offer to make the whole thing worth it (despite the imposter syndrome I have as a constant companion at the moment). Despite feeling crushed by all the rejection (my supervisor once told me that the experience of working in Academia is the experience of rejection, and keeps a stack of every rejection they ever got in their office), I feel like the luckiest little queer scholar who could. And it really was luck; I hope that you all get just as lucky very soon. x

Love, love, love--you've accomplished so much already just getting to Chicago, and the years you've got ahead of you are so exciting! I look forward to the day a few years from now when I'll read a new, excellent essay in queer studies thinking, Gosh, that's brilliant, I've never thought of it that way, without knowing that the writer is an anonymous GradCafe user from years ago who went to their dream school. 

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19 minutes ago, Cryss said:

Are you going to WUSTL? Please let me know how it goes and your thoughts on it. I can't make it😩

I am! Sorry to hear you can't make it. I will let you know my thoughts. 

Now I just hope the weather in my region will cooperate with my flight schedule....

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47 minutes ago, ja.col said:

Even though I'm yet to hear from NYU and UPenn (I mean, who HAS - both are implied rejects I suppose (congrats to the admits)), I'm considering the rejection I got from Columbia today as the final nail in the coffin for any further good news. Thinking about this as the end of my application cycle, I can't help but feel relieved - I have one solid acceptance to what has been my dream school since finishing my MA in 2018 (and my dream city since visiting in 2012). Now all I've got to do is visit next week, soak it in, and say yes. Not being Oxford or Cambridge educated, from a failing state secondary school, a "first generation scholar," I was convinced that this application cycle would be a complete bust for me. It turns out that all it takes is one offer to make the whole thing worth it (despite the imposter syndrome I have as a constant companion at the moment). Despite feeling crushed by all the rejection (my supervisor once told me that the experience of working in Academia is the experience of rejection, and keeps a stack of every rejection they ever got in their office), I feel like the luckiest little queer scholar who could. And it really was luck; I hope that you all get just as lucky very soon. x

Sounds like you'll fit in really well here. I look forward to meeting you next week. 

Edited by snorkles

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I'm in the process of coming up with questions to ask current grad students via email and when I go to my in-person visit. Their profiles online do not state what year they are, which is a bummer. But out of the 8 people I'm emailing, I'm hoping to get varying insights. I don't want to bombard anyone (I probably will anyways, because 'type A' personality), but does anyone have any recommendations on what should be asked to current students? 

Edited by gooniesneversaydie

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3 hours ago, digital_lime said:

In office hours the other day, I let my thesis chair know that I was not having much luck this season. She made a remark to the effect of: "I regret having wasted the time writing you a letter." She phrased it in a comical way--we joke darkly with one another--so it wasn't as if she was intending to be hurtful. But it stung, because before now, I had only thought of how disappointing it would be for me if I were shut out--not that it would be a disappointment to all of the people who took time to write letters of recommendation, look over my writing sample, listen to me stress out, and so on. I've taken on some debt in the course of my MA; I've also worked harder and for longer than I ever have in my life (and I have been in some strenuous work situations; doing physical labor for sixteen hours a day six days a week actually didn't feel as difficult as some moments in my MA). This was the only goal I have been working toward for years--the prospect of getting shut out now makes me feel so foolish. I exhausted myself in full display of everyone I care about and respect and it's beginning to look as if I have failed nonetheless.

I feel this last sentence a lot from my rejections last year. To be fair, a lot of the reaction I interpreted as disappointment is because none of my close family or friends have ever applied for PhDs before, so nobody really understood the process or the odds. I don't know if it's the same for you, but a lot of people may just know that you're a very clever and hardworking person who loves their research and therefore don't understand why you would be struggling to get a place, and express their support and frustration on your behalf in a way that sounds like disappointment in you. Some of my family and friends who said the most hurtful things in the thick of it (like "why did you even attempt it?") were the ones who were most worried about my health during a very difficult year, and looking back I can't really fault them for saying the wrong thing at a stressful time; I was obviously exhausted, as so many of us are, and it did have a direct impact on my health, and I don't blame anyone for not understanding why you're still so committed to an experience that pushes you so hard at times.

As for your thesis chair, I'm sorry she said that, though it sounds like it was also an ill-judged attempt to make you feel better. I actually got upset this year in a meeting with my MA director because I hated having to ask him and others to write more LoRs for me after last year's failed cycle, and he was incredulous and a little bit angry that I was even worried about it, because (in order) "I'm glad to support you, it's literally my job, the application system shuts out excellent candidates all the time and you're nowhere near the first person to ask more than once, and the circumstances in which I might be unable to write a letter for you would be nothing to do with your worth as an applicant". Anyone who has taken the time to help you out with your application is very unlikely to be disappointed in you, as they know all the time you've put in; they're far more likely, if they've seen how hard you worked, to be seeing your own disappointment now too and offering some solidarity and frustration for you, in perhaps a slightly misguided way.

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