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KvV

Anyone else get shut out this year?

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I feel like a huge fool. Looking back, there are so many things that I would have done differently. I unfortunately have an interest in Existentialism, which is apparently a non-existent area of study, so my first change would have been to pick something (ANYTHING) else that is more mainstream. I mentioned in my SOP that I was interested in narrative theory within 20th century literature, but I probably should have been more specific. I probably shouldn't have even brought up Existentialism at all. I also feel like I dropped the ball by not getting into direct contact with the professors that I was interested in working with. NO ONE in my family even has a bachelor's, so I was effectively going into this with an idealistic conception of the process. Needless to say, my idealism has now been strangled, dismembered, and buried out in the woods somewhere. Has anyone had this experience, or am I alone here? Anyone get in their second time around? I'd appreciate all the advice that I can get.

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You are not alone! My friend who is already in grad school read my SOP, and she told me to write about something that is already in the established disciplines - to enter the discourse, so said she. I used writing an SOP more as an opportunity of self-expression and listing my interests. I feel like I did not address a specific topic that I want to work on. Now when I look at it, my SOP is more like a PS for college, which is actually more fun to write. Maybe check out what other people are doing with your interested topics? Or what the professors are working on? 

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Posted (edited)

I'm Spanish literature, but I also got shut out this cycle. Several people read my SOP and said it was good and helped me make it better. However, I only applied to three and I know one of the potential advisers just couldn't take on any more students (and I'm grateful they didn't try, honestly!)...I'm sure you were a great applicant, but the cards just weren't in your favour this time around. It just gives you time to reflect if it is what you really want, time to contact potential people (I did, but it was really late in the game), and do tons of self-care. Don't be too discouraged! 

Edited by senorbrightside

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Yeah, this is all good advice. I appreciate it! There are a few people that I am in my MA with who are excellent at what they do, very hardworking and insightful, yet also got shut out this round. The MLA had a discussion about the status of grad school at the beginning of the year, so perhaps programs are tightening up on their requirements in an attempt to address the dismal state of the job market. I myself am mostly worried about the level of viewpoint diversity we have in our programs. While it is wonderful that certain areas of the discipline are finally getting the attention that they deserve, I perceive a tendency for faddishness in academia which more than likely stunts the growth of the discipline. I hope that this is something that is addressed, since fads were what kept several areas (feminist and minority literature, speculative fiction, ect.) out of academia previously and these areas have made large contributions in the field. But that's just my opinion... I could be way off the mark.

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22 minutes ago, KvV said:

I myself am mostly worried about the level of viewpoint diversity we have in our programs. While it is wonderful that certain areas of the discipline are finally getting the attention that they deserve, I perceive a tendency for faddishness in academia which more than likely stunts the growth of the discipline.

This is an interesting perspective, and I'd be curious to hear more of your thoughts. What would you say are topics that are undergoing a kind of "fad" wave, and what are areas that are currently underrepresented in the discipline?

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Posted (edited)

I’m still waiting on one school that (I think) is an implied rejection and one waitlist that I’m not optimistic about either.

I should probably contact my recommenders about now and ask if they’d be able to resubmit their letters again in the fall, but every time I start drafting emails, I start feeling so embarrassed and awkward and can’t figure out a way to start that conversation. I end up either saying something along the lines of ‘Well, looks like I was a failure this cycle, can you waste more of your time helping me try again next fall?’ or just feeling super embarrassed and like asking them again would make me seem obnoxious. It doesn’t help that this would be the 3rd time they’d have to write letters for me (they were my MA recommenders as well). Does anyone have any tips or advice? 

Edited by onerepublic96

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4 minutes ago, onerepublic96 said:

I’m still waiting on one school that (I think) is an implied rejection and one waitlist that I’m not optimistic about either.

I should probably contact my recommenders about now and ask if they’d be able to resubmit their letters again in the fall, but every time I start drafting emails, I start feeling so embarrassed and awkward and can’t figure out a way to start that conversation. I end up either saying something along the lines of ‘Well, looks like I was a failure this cycle, can you waste more of your time helping me try again next fall?’ or just feeling super embarrassed and like asking them again would make me seem obnoxious. It doesn’t help that this would be the 3rd time they’d have to write letters for me (they were my MA recommenders as well). Does anyone have any tips or advice? 

Is there an opportunity for you to arrange in-person meetings? It might be helpful to review where you're at in the process. Are you still invested and willing to revise or are you just going through the motions of applying, using the same materials? These conversations are easier in person, I think. Also, I'm curious why you didn't seek any of your MA professors to write you a letter? 

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6 minutes ago, onerepublic96 said:

I’m still waiting on one school that (I think) is an implied rejection and one waitlist that I’m not optimistic about either.

I should probably contact my recommenders about now and ask if they’d be able to resubmit their letters again in the fall, but every time I start drafting emails, I start feeling so embarrassed and awkward and can’t figure out a way to start that conversation. I end up either saying something along the lines of ‘Well, looks like I was a failure this cycle, can you waste more of your time helping me try again next fall?’ or just feeling super embarrassed and like asking them again would make me seem obnoxious. It doesn’t help that this would be the 3rd time they’d have to write letters for me (they were my MA recommenders as well). Does anyone have any tips or advice? 

First, I totally get the embarrassment thing. I'm struggling with that a bit myself, but it's important to remind yourself that there's nothing to be ashamed about. These programs are so competitive and they accept so few people, so it's not a reflection on your worth as a student at all. Second, I am also in the process of drafting those emails and I've tried to put a bit of a positive spin on it. So far I have: "Thank you so much for your support throughout the application process this year. Unfortunately, I was not admitted to any programs for the fall of 2020. While I am disappointed, I am not discouraged. I plan to use this upcoming year to enhance my resume and strengthen my application materials for the fall of 2021." I haven't gotten to the bit where I ask them to be my references next year as well, so if you have any tips I'd love to hear them! 

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Just now, onerepublic96 said:

I’m still waiting on one school that (I think) is an implied rejection and one waitlist that I’m not optimistic about either.

I should probably contact my recommenders about now and ask if they’d be able to resubmit their letters again in the fall, but every time I start drafting emails, I start feeling so embarrassed and awkward and can’t figure out a way to start that conversation. 

No advice, just solidarity. I've emailed one out of three so far. Trying to get the energy up to email the other two this week... Cosign @snorkles's thought about in person may be easier--I didn't even think of this as it's not a possibility for me due to how far I moved after college, and one of my recommenders is at an even further-out university. 

I phrase my one email as "here's an update on my application process; thinking ahead, if not admitted I believe I'll reapply this fall, could we chat about strategy after the end of the spring semester." Prof responded with a characteristically short but not cool reply not to give up on waitlist but would be happy to chat. When we do, I'll ask explicitly if prof is willing to write another reference. I think I'll take a similar approach for the other two. 

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1 hour ago, snorkles said:

Is there an opportunity for you to arrange in-person meetings? It might be helpful to review where you're at in the process. Are you still invested and willing to revise or are you just going through the motions of applying, using the same materials? These conversations are easier in person, I think. Also, I'm curious why you didn't seek any of your MA professors to write you a letter? 

I’m definitely still invested. If I do end up shut out, I’m planning to start from scratch on researching programs, contacting POIs this time  and maybe reaching out to current students to get a feel for what the department is like regarding methodological trends, emphases, etc. Also will seriously rework my writing sample and hopefully consult with professors to probably do something very different with my SOP. 

About my MA... I had a weird time adjusting to grad work and the structure of my particular program, not in the sense that I didn’t do well (I did) but I just found myself not communicating very much with my professors outside class time and paper feedback. As a result I feel like I didn’t develop relationships significant enough to have them write very strong LORs. My undergrad professors were a much better choice because they knew me better, and still remembered me because this was essentially just one year from my graduating undergrad. I did have one MA recommendation, though, from my dissertation supervisor, which I believe should have been pretty strong as I had a good relationship with him and he seemed to be very supportive of and confident in my work. 

59 minutes ago, GoldHippie said:

First, I totally get the embarrassment thing. I'm struggling with that a bit myself, but it's important to remind yourself that there's nothing to be ashamed about. These programs are so competitive and they accept so few people, so it's not a reflection on your worth as a student at all. Second, I am also in the process of drafting those emails and I've tried to put a bit of a positive spin on it. So far I have: "Thank you so much for your support throughout the application process this year. Unfortunately, I was not admitted to any programs for the fall of 2020. While I am disappointed, I am not discouraged. I plan to use this upcoming year to enhance my resume and strengthen my application materials for the fall of 2021." I haven't gotten to the bit where I ask them to be my references next year as well, so if you have any tips I'd love to hear them! 

 

52 minutes ago, caffeinated applicant said:

No advice, just solidarity. I've emailed one out of three so far. Trying to get the energy up to email the other two this week... Cosign @snorkles's thought about in person may be easier--I didn't even think of this as it's not a possibility for me due to how far I moved after college, and one of my recommenders is at an even further-out university. 

I phrase my one email as "here's an update on my application process; thinking ahead, if not admitted I believe I'll reapply this fall, could we chat about strategy after the end of the spring semester." Prof responded with a characteristically short but not cool reply not to give up on waitlist but would be happy to chat. When we do, I'll ask explicitly if prof is willing to write another reference. I think I'll take a similar approach for the other two. 

I feel like this is the best way to go, too, but I’m really conflicted. I don’t want to dump a request on them so soon, but at the same time, the uncertainty regarding whether or not I’ll be able to get letters from them again feeds directly into whether or not I’ll be able to apply again, as the three professors I have in mind are really the only ones who know me well enough to write strong letters (my fault, I should have communicated and networked more). It would really suck to get motivated, hopeful, and ready to reapply only to then hear that I can’t get the required recommendations.

I think I’ll try to just weasel the hope in there something like: ‘I am not discouraged and am motivated to rework my application materials, rethink my program choices, and try again, and I would really appreciate it if you could help me once more by resubmitting recommendation letters on my behalf. Etc.’ 

Rationally, I feel like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal because they’ve already written the letters, so provided they haven’t deleted them, they would really just need to resubmit. I guess that’s one more reason to ask earlier rather than later... 

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7 minutes ago, onerepublic96 said:

Rationally, I feel like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal because they’ve already written the letters, so provided they haven’t deleted them, they would really just need to resubmit. I guess that’s one more reason to ask earlier rather than later... 

Just copy-pasting what I wrote before on the Applicants thread on this topic:

"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 [or annoyed], as they know all the time you've put in."

You're right that it's not a big deal, and I don't see any reason why they'd not support a second application, but it is a hard conversation to have. Don't do what I did, and leave it until a couple of weeks before the deadlines for submission, because I was so worked up about sending the emails! This precipitated the weepy conversation with my MA director above, who was three parts bemused and one part exasperated (not at me for asking, but at the thought processes that had led me to take so long to ask in the first place). And they still wrote me and/or resubmitted some presumably nice LoRs that have got me accepted to three programmes in the UK and nominated for funding at all of them too, so if you're asking now, you're doing one better than me.

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21 hours ago, Jetpacked said:

Just copy-pasting what I wrote before on the Applicants thread on this topic:

"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 [or annoyed], as they know all the time you've put in."

You're right that it's not a big deal, and I don't see any reason why they'd not support a second application, but it is a hard conversation to have. Don't do what I did, and leave it until a couple of weeks before the deadlines for submission, because I was so worked up about sending the emails! This precipitated the weepy conversation with my MA director above, who was three parts bemused and one part exasperated (not at me for asking, but at the thought processes that had led me to take so long to ask in the first place). And they still wrote me and/or resubmitted some presumably nice LoRs that have got me accepted to three programmes in the UK and nominated for funding at all of them too, so if you're asking now, you're doing one better than me.

Thank you for this! The whole process of applying, and getting rejected, and gearing up to do it again has done a number on my sanity and made me question everything about myself, so it’s really reassuring to hear from someone who has been in a similar position and made it through. 

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