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2021 Application Thread


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3 minutes ago, bakeseal said:

I did however just receive an extremely thoughtful and affirming email from a POI at another school. She wrote to tell me that I had one of the strongest applications she had ever read, but my area of interest was outside of the department’s target for the year. She is now the second POI to reject me personally who said they hoped I was not too disappointed because they assumed I was accepted somewhere else. I’d like to very gently recommend to any faculty in contact with potential graduate students that they not assume the applicants they’re in contact with were accepted at other schools, because while I’m sure it was meant to be a compliment, it was upsetting and frustrating to hear after the string of rejections. Also, ??????? Really not sure what to make of that after getting this outcome. 

This is a good reminder -- I've similarly received several kind emails from POIs at this point explaining that while I was on their shortlist I wasn't accepted for X reason...and that they're certain I'm going to be accepted elsewhere. 

I think it's a good reminder to everyone, faculty and prospective students, that it's possible to be considered a qualified, highly competitive candidate at every single school you apply to, and yet also be rejected from every single school (especially with these small cohorts). 

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Just a reminder to everyone who is applying this year. You had a difficult first half of 2020. We, faculty, did too. Grad students did too (many lost summer stipends, many doing international res

Hey folks, I have gotten a bunch of messages since posting my one acceptance, asking about my application process, etc. and I am happy to provide any feedback and answer questions whenever I can (as l

Hey there, I imagine that you must be very disappointed right now. My suggestions are 1. Take some deep breathes. 2. Disconnect from social media/your phone/the internet for a while. 3. Do something t

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On 2/11/2021 at 11:07 PM, Guest564 said:

True (and tragic) story. However, I have heard these words come out of our Chancellor's mouth here at Vanderbilt: "We want the History program to be slimmer and meaner." And this was pre-covid. Our cohorts are coming down from a long-standing average of 10 to about 3-5.. and staying there. I am picking up similar stories from many other R1 institutions. In other words, admissions WILL continue to be this rough. Do count on it.

Yawn. Call me when cutting down cohort sizes in response to job market contraction is accompanied by redirecting that money to either creating new TT faculty lines (which would improve the job market!) or even just funding and training for existing grad students, instead of cutting the department's budget.

It's easy to say programs that admit more students than they can place are irresponsible given the current market conditions, but simply admitting fewer students without investing in improving the dire state of academic hiring is not some principled decision; it's laying the groundwork for further cuts down the line. Undergraduate history enrollments keep trending downward and administrators are finding history departments increasingly costly relative to how many majors they support. Reducing grad student enrollment is the first step to reducing the size of the faculty. Why do you need so many professors when you only have so few grad students? You don't.

You're not gonna catch me applauding provosts, trustees and chancellors for pretending to be concerned about a crisis they have personally created. If they cared so much, they could just hire more TT historians.

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12 hours ago, bakeseal said:

Thinking a lot of thoughts and feeling a lot of feelings right now. I did not receive any offers this year— I was waitlisted at Berkeley, and rejected everywhere else. I technically haven’t heard from Princeton yet, though I assume rejection at this point. 

I did however just receive an extremely thoughtful and affirming email from a POI at another school. She wrote to tell me that I had one of the strongest applications she had ever read, but my area of interest was outside of the department’s target for the year. She is now the second POI to reject me personally who said they hoped I was not too disappointed because they assumed I was accepted somewhere else. I’d like to very gently recommend to any faculty in contact with potential graduate students that they not assume the applicants they’re in contact with were accepted at other schools, because while I’m sure it was meant to be a compliment, it was upsetting and frustrating to hear after the string of rejections. Also, ??????? Really not sure what to make of that after getting this outcome. 

Anyway. I may not have come out of this cycle with any actual acceptances (still keeping my fingers crossed for Berkeley), but a historian whose research I admire a great deal wrote to tell me I would make a great historian. It was a much needed reminder that these setbacks, as upsetting as they are right now, don’t need to stop me from producing work that matters and that I (and hopefully other people) care about. So while I wait to see if Berkeley can offer me a spot this year, I’m going to be shifting my attention away from stressing about applications and acceptances and prestige and towards my research (before I have to worry about looking for a job next year. Yikes!) 

Sending lots of good vibes and gratitude to other applicants and to the many helpful current grad students on this board! If/when I reapply, I will definitely have a lot more insight than I did this time around.

Sorry for the lack of offers. 

You know that somewhere in the application you can add if you are applying to other schools, right? In general, it's not a stretch to know people elsewhere. If you apply to work with me, and you application was very strong, but I see you also apply to work with my colleague in this other school whose research is up your alley, then faculty make the very informed decision you are probably going to be better served elsewhere and that here, we can better serve another student. 

True story, when I was a grad student and we had the admitted student weekend, the students in my field that were very indecisive of where to go were between my advisor or their super-pal at another institution. 

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2 hours ago, AlexaLexalEx said:

Does anyone have any information/update on East Asian Studies Masters program at Harvard, Stanford, Yale and Columbia?

Similar question; did anyone hear from Harvard Center of Middle Eastern Studies' joint programs?

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52 minutes ago, 4everstudent said:

Does anyone have any insight about the possibility of being selected off a waitlist? Specifically at Berkeley? Trying to stay positive but I don’t want to get my hopes up. 

From what I'm understanding, it varies from season to season and institution to institution.  Some schools have a larger waitlist than others, some have more active waitlists than others.  It seems like it's pretty subjective.

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On 2/12/2021 at 4:55 AM, scarletwitch said:

I don't want to apply to as many as 20 places but more like 12-15. Is it worth applying to some of these smaller places? I read that there's no point doing a History PhD unless you get into one of the top programs so am a bit wary but still open to applying. 

Would it be best to submit the MA-level essay or a section of the dissertation for the writing sample? Or simply perhaps adapt based on the required page length for each institution? 

 

In answer to the first question -- what are the "smaller schools" on your list, in your opinion? And what are you thinking of as the "top programs". The top programs on a ranked list are not going to be the same as the top programs for you personally given your interests, personality, field, advisor etc. I attend the "lowest ranked" school that I was accepted to when I applied (5 acceptances, including an ivy league school and two in the "top ten") and four years into the phd I have no regrets about the decision and, importantly, have been able to win the kinds of major grants that can be just as important for getting a job as the school you attend. I definitely attribute the success with grants to having the right advisor. A friend who just completed at a very "low ranked" school (but with an advisor who is basically the leader in my friend's field) has secured a TT position. Others might disagree with me but imo advisor > school. 

Re the writing sample -- submit your best writing. Without having read the samples no one can really tell you which one you should use. There are plenty of undergrad essays that outshine "MA level" essays. 

On 2/12/2021 at 5:51 AM, scarletwitch said:

I think the main thing will be seeing who responds to my introductory emails when I send them in June, and that will give me a good idea of which departments are interested in my project! 

Noooooo!!! To be blunt, that's a terrible terrible terrible basis on which to rule out schools. Don't think like this! There are so many reasons a potentially excellent advisor might not reply to your June email. They might be having a bad summer, they might be traveling, they might have family stuff going on, they might just miss your email because their inbox is being flooded. If a POI responds, cool; they don't reply, you have no idea why and it likely has nothing to do with you. 

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5 minutes ago, OHSP said:

Noooooo!!! To be blunt, that's a terrible terrible terrible basis on which to rule out schools. Don't think like this! There are so many reasons a potentially excellent advisor might not reply to your June email. They might be having a bad summer, they might be traveling, they might have family stuff going on, they might just miss your email because their inbox is being flooded. If a POI responds, cool; they don't reply, you have no idea why and it likely has nothing to do with you. 

Yes, I second this.

I think communicating with potential doctoral advisors plays a different role in the application process in the UK than it does in the US. From what I remember, at Cambridge at least it's pretty much impossible to get admitted without speaking to your potential advisor and securing their support for your proposed project first. That's not the case in America, where PhD programs are longer and include coursework. Most POIs pretty much assume the topic of your dissertation won't be the same as what you put down in your statement of purpose, unless you have two master's degrees or are transferring from another PhD program or something. So emailing your potential advisor is entirely optional, and not a method of establishing a shared understanding of what your research will be about. All the information they need from you is in the application, so if they like your materials, they'll push for your acceptance regardless of whether there's been prior communication or not. I hadn't said/written a single word to my advisor before I got my acceptance email.

Anyway. I don't know how well this advice will go over in this thread, where seemingly everyone is in constant communication with multiple POIs throughout the entire application cycle, but unless you have a good reason for emailing someone, like wanting to know whether they're too old/junior to accept grad students, well, don't email them before you've been accepted. It has no bearing on the outcome of your application and it's frankly a waste of their time.

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4 hours ago, OHSP said:

In answer to the first question -- what are the "smaller schools" on your list, in your opinion? And what are you thinking of as the "top programs". The top programs on a ranked list are not going to be the same as the top programs for you personally given your interests, personality, field, advisor etc. I attend the "lowest ranked" school that I was accepted to when I applied (5 acceptances, including an ivy league school and two in the "top ten") and four years into the phd I have no regrets about the decision and, importantly, have been able to win the kinds of major grants that can be just as important for getting a job as the school you attend. I definitely attribute the success with grants to having the right advisor. A friend who just completed at a very "low ranked" school (but with an advisor who is basically the leader in my friend's field) has secured a TT position. Others might disagree with me but imo advisor > school. 

Re the writing sample -- submit your best writing. Without having read the samples no one can really tell you which one you should use. There are plenty of undergrad essays that outshine "MA level" essays. 

Noooooo!!! To be blunt, that's a terrible terrible terrible basis on which to rule out schools. Don't think like this! There are so many reasons a potentially excellent advisor might not reply to your June email. They might be having a bad summer, they might be traveling, they might have family stuff going on, they might just miss your email because their inbox is being flooded. If a POI responds, cool; they don't reply, you have no idea why and it likely has nothing to do with you. 

Hi,

Thanks for this advice. Yes, I will be applying to non top 20 programs, I’m mainly looking at fit, which as you say is most important. In regards to the second part, I definitely get what you’re saying, this was just a piece of advice I received from someone else. I think it’s still important to get in touch as quite a lot of the places I want to apply to encourage contacting faculty before submitting the application, but I won’t rule a place out if I don’t hear from a POI. Best wishes!

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31 minutes ago, scarletwitch said:

In regards to the second part, I definitely get what you’re saying, this was just a piece of advice I received from someone else. I think it’s still important to get in touch as quite a lot of the places I want to apply to encourage contacting faculty before submitting the application, but I won’t rule a place out if I don’t hear from a POI.

Yup, contact them, but be aware that when you write stuff like "the main thing will be seeing who responds to my introductory emails when I send them in June," you're potentially giving the many lurkers on this thread the incorrect impression that a response from a POI (or a lack of response) is an indicator of something. I use to think people on this thread who were further along in their phds, especially towards the end of them, were super harsh. Now I'm towards the end of my PhD and I see the importance of being blunt. 

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6 minutes ago, OHSP said:

Yup, contact them, but be aware that when you write stuff like "the main thing will be seeing who responds to my introductory emails when I send them in June," you're potentially giving the many lurkers on this thread the incorrect impression that a response from a POI (or a lack of response) is an indicator of something. I use to think people on this thread who were further along in their phds, especially towards the end of them, were super harsh. Now I'm towards the end of my PhD and I see the importance of being blunt. 

Thanks, honestly I was purely going off the advice of someone who told me that was a good filtration process but I agree with you that it is not. I definitely am not going to operate in this manner at all, and see now that was probably bad advice. I’ve had a hard month with two family members having surgery and at times I’ve latched on to any advice on how to proceed with applications as it’s been a stressful time. I really don’t want that previous sentence to be held against me as it was written under bad faith and at a highly stressful time. We all make errors in judgment and I realise now this is no way to decide where to apply.

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8 hours ago, scarletwitch said:

Thanks, honestly I was purely going off the advice of someone who told me that was a good filtration process but I agree with you that it is not. I definitely am not going to operate in this manner at all, and see now that was probably bad advice. I’ve had a hard month with two family members having surgery and at times I’ve latched on to any advice on how to proceed with applications as it’s been a stressful time. I really don’t want that previous sentence to be held against me as it was written under bad faith and at a highly stressful time. We all make errors in judgment and I realise now this is no way to decide where to apply.

Scarlet makes a good point on setting up a good filtration system and probably one that relies on multiple things. Eg: if a POI does not respond by x date, reach out the the DGS. 

Other forms of filtrating:

  • Programs that offer waivers on application fees or standardized tests. 
  • Funding, not only your stipend but also the fees you'd pay (there are always hidden fees), healthcare coverage, available competitive funds, dependency of funding on your labor, etc.
  • Additional support: mental health, digital humanities, graduate certificates, nearby consortiums of libraries, etc.
  • Location, especially for those doing international research or from abroad, is there an airport? does it fly to your area? etc.

Additionally, I mentioned this already, but also remember that that a POI that doesn't communicate much does not mean they are not interested in you. There are a million reasons before your project that could prevent any faculty from writing back: they are on leave, they are busy, they are doing research, they are prioritizing their own students, they are busier, etc. 

Similarly, when they do respond, while a great sign, it also doesn't mean you are in, as sadly many of us have learned. My best conversations during application season were in schools I was rejected. 

So, I agree with Scarlet in setting up a more intentional filtration system that matches your interests with the strength of the program, without paying so much attention to arbitrary rankings. 

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21 hours ago, OHSP said:

Others might disagree with me but imo advisor > school. 

Agreed, with some qualification. There are some faculty members outside of Ivy/comparable schools who are notorious for pumping out TT faculty members. Even at top-tier universities, you have advisors who produce a disproportionate number of PhD students who go on to TT jobs.  I would counsel potential graduate students to look not only at the program's placement record, but their advisor's as well. 

Some faculty members are magnificent scholars and writers, but terrible advisors. I ran into several during my time in academia; I'm sure most of us have.

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2 hours ago, psstein said:

Agreed, with some qualification. There are some faculty members outside of Ivy/comparable schools who are notorious for pumping out TT faculty members. Even at top-tier universities, you have advisors who produce a disproportionate number of PhD students who go on to TT jobs.  I would counsel potential graduate students to look not only at the program's placement record, but their advisor's as well. 

Some faculty members are magnificent scholars and writers, but terrible advisors. I ran into several during my time in academia; I'm sure most of us have.

True, but also the other way round: There are brilliant and kind professors who'll be wonderful advisors, but they work at institutions whose graduate programs typically (or decisively) lead nowhere. Like always, the unhelpful response would be "you need a great advisor in a great school," with a great advisor in a low-tier school and a bad advisor at a great school being equally bad alternatives.

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