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2021 Application Thread

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8 hours ago, psstein said:

I would go in with a very clear understanding that you're going to need to look at non-academic careers. I'm personally on leave from my program right now, but if I go back, I do not intend to seek an academic career. I would tailor my experience and work so that I'd track explicitly towards a non-academic career.

This can be a real balancing act to pull off. I’ve been ambivalent about academia since I started and tried to straddle both worlds— I’ve fit a couple internships and a very part time (quarter-time?) research assistant/ public history position into my time so far, and my advisor has been very supportive, but in general, I’ve found it difficult to acquire the non-academic work experiences and preparation that I wanted when I entered the program.

In my experience, when you come into a graduate program, there are expectations and claims about how you will spend your time and what the bulk of your energy will go towards: these are dictated by your funding package, by the structure of the program itself, by your advisor and committee, and by the general culture of the program. I think you have to be very forceful, persistent, and organized if you want to override these various claims on your time to do something else (like an internship, or a part-time gig), keeping in mind, too, that some of them (like teaching) can’t really be helped. 

The structure of graduate education often militates against the kinds of things that grad students are often advised to do to prepare for non-academic careers. For example, during the semester, a heavy teaching load will make it difficult to squeeze in a part-time gig and do your coursework or write (which you’ll need to do to finish the program). Summers are incredibly valuable currency and there will be no end of things competing for your time during them: preliminary research to help you figure out what your dissertation should be on, time spent studying for comps, time spent preparing stuff for publication, time spent doing dissertation research, time spent writing dissertation chapters, time spent teaching (you likely won’t get paid in summers, so summer teaching is an important financial lifeline, too). And of course during all this the clock is ticking on your funding package (not to mention, you know, the rest of your life— being a grad student gets old quickly.) So you have to choose wisely, and plan ahead, and think carefully about what you want to prioritize.

I ended up fitting my work experience into semesters where I was not teaching and had already finished my research, or was too early in the program to actually have diss research to do. I was fortunate to have some of these semesters built into my funding package and in other cases I made some of my own: this year I applied for a TAship with a 2-0 teaching load, which made for a busy fall semester and a spring semester free to do a 15 hr/week internship. You might see if you can create these opportunities for yourself during your program: external fellowships, alternative graduate assistantships that aren’t teaching (e.g., working in the campus writing center, or processing manuscripts at the library). (Ask prospective programs about these during accepted student days!)

Also, speaking of visit days, my undergraduate advisors told me to keep mum about my ambivalence towards the academy during prospective visits. This was well-intentioned advice, and there are still advisors and whole programs out there who have not gotten on the alt-ac bandwagon. But in retrospect I might have benefitted from asking my potential advisors up front about whether or not preparing for non-academic careers was something they’d be willing to work with me on, taking the attitude that if it wasn’t, they weren’t going to be a good fit for me anyways. I think in the past five years, and especially with coronavirus, the landscape has changed enough that you can and should freely ask this question. You really, really don’t want to arrive at your program and realize that it’s not going to be supportive of what you need and want.

Edited by gsc

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1 hour ago, gsc said:

The structure of graduate education often militates against the kinds of things that grad students are often advised to do to prepare for non-academic careers. 

A carefully selected mandatory outside field could help. Especially if that outside field dovetails with a primary field. As an example, an outside field that presents opportunities to develop ArcGIS skills that will (ostensibly) used to make maps for one's research projects. Another possibility is to do an outside field in finance with the intent (wink wink, nudge nudge) to develop a skill set that will be valuable when you're a professor sitting on various committees.

1 hour ago, gsc said:

Also, speaking of visit days, my undergraduate advisors told me to keep mum about my ambivalence towards the academy during prospective visits. This was well-intentioned advice, and there are still advisors and whole programs out there who have not gotten on the alt-ac bandwagon. But in retrospect I might have benefited from asking my potential advisors up front about whether or not preparing for non-academic careers was something they’d be willing to work with me on, taking the attitude that if it wasn’t, they weren’t going to be a good fit for me anyways. I think in the past five years, and especially with coronavirus, the landscape has changed enough that you can and should freely ask this question. You really, really don’t want to arrive at your program and realize that it’s not going to be supportive of what you need and want.

I would run the risk assessment on being upfront IRT asking questions about non academic careers especially because of COVID-19. The coming years are going to be especially competitive for anyone seeking funding and support. If two candidates are equally qualified but one is not as committed to the profession as the other, it is not unreasonable to assume that the gate keepers will look more favorably on the true believer will get the nod over someone who is ambivalent. (Disclosure: As a former true believer, I generally had a competitive advantage when it came to admissions, support [including/especially when I screwed up], and, with one critical exception, rapport with professors. Not bitter, though.)

In the event you decide to ask direct questions about non academic jobs, please develop great questions and practice how you will ask those questions as well as the follow up questions. There is a generational divide in the Ivory Tower and it s expanding. This divide can serve as a filter that alters the way questions are heard, if not also how they're asked. Do your best to ask questions that are in your self interest without sounding selfish. One can find numerous threads on the GradCafe that center around how to phrase tough questions. If the existing threads do not provide adequate support, please consider the benefits of asking your questions in this thread.

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10 hours ago, gsc said:

 I think you have to be very forceful, persistent, and organized if you want to override these various claims on your time to do something else (like an internship, or a part-time gig), keeping in mind, too, that some of them (like teaching) can’t really be helped. 

The sad fact is that even when faculty want to support you, the structure of the graduate program is not flexible enough to handle students who want to take time to develop non-academic career skills and pursue internships in their field.

Faculty may sincerely want to help you achieve your professional goals outside of academia, but they probably will not be able to help you, and, in my experience, even dedicated "alt-ac" career officers (for those lucky enough to have them) will be unable to help you with many specific non-academic career interests. So if you're planning on taking six years out of your life to pursue a career outside of academia, I would do so feeling relatively confident about what you need to do to get there, and knowing that you will be allowed to take those steps, and when you will be allowed to take them. I would imagine that contacting alumni who recently did this is a must.

And all of this is assuming these jobs will be available in the medium term.

Edited by AfricanusCrowther

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I took am someone more inclined to a non-academic career -- though as I'm only starting grad school this fall, I don't have any huge insights. However, I did a lot of public history in undergrad in additional to research. That helped me realize while I wanted to go for a research degree, not a public history one, I did want to go to a school that did public history. UBC has a fair amount of professors that do public history work, including one of my two advisers. I think a program that has public history components is a good sign they might be more willing to help with a non-academic career path and it could be worthwhile reaching out to those profs, even if they aren't strictly in your field of interest.

I'm also continuing working remotely at the history related nonprofit I've worked at for the past four years, so I'll have that tie into the non-academic world.

That all being said, a lot of non academic history work may be tenuous in the future...it's going to be very difficult for musuems, though hopefully they'll adapt. I imagine gaining skills in online work (interactive websites, online tours, even social media) could be vastly helpful for what the future looks like.

Edited by starshiphistory

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@gsc you've made excellent points. I agree, the structure of programs and the academy more generally is such that it disincentivizes preparing for a non-academic career. It's frankly the biggest struggle I've had when it comes to going back.

@Sigaba, I hadn't thought about the finance angle of things. I'll have to see if I could fit that in, should I choose to return.

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Honestly, we've had this kind of discussion in my program-- internships and other opportunities to hone our skills.  We needed time! Our department did want to help, but the University (particularly the Graduate School) structure just makes being flexible with our funding impossible. They would have refuse to turn our TAships into paid internships with local organizations.

Honestly, there's just very little time outside of the funding and program structure to develop new skills UNLESS, as @Sigaba, mentioned, you can take a class as an elective to count towards your PhD. I tried taking quant methods for historians class after I finished my exams but ended up blowing it off at the end because (a) It wasn't for me and (b) I had more compelling tasks to complete (cough, dissertation research and TAship, cough)

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Hey, everyone.

I wrote this paragraph in one of my SOPs, and I was wondering if I could get some feedback on if it makes sense/is coherent. 

As a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, I plan to study the intersections of the cult of saints and women’s devotional lives in the late antique and early medieval Mediterranean. My intended research project will specifically explore how lay elite and noble women expressed their devotional lives and formed identities around them. Typically relegated to the domestic sphere, elite and noble women’s conspicuous religious and ritual performance and proverbial and physical connection with the saints solidified their place in social and religious hierarchies. Differences in access to saintliness and intercession also contributed to imagined stratifications on who was more deserving of a place in Heaven. My research will also explore how devotional lives and identities were shaped by cross-cultural exchange in the Mediterranean, overarchingly exploring the connection of religion and identity formation. This research will showcase lay women’s participation in the cult of saints, contributing to the growing body of scholarship about popular piety in lay women and filling the gap left by the lack of feminist scholarship about the cult of saints. This research will help to better understand religiously based social hierarchies in later medieval and early modern Europe and their ramifications, as well as understanding how contemporary religious lay women form devotional identities around a certain saint. 

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I must admit that I steamrolled over my department culture to get my way on the topic of alt-ac training. Have I stepped on toes? Hell yes. But the pros of taking care of myself and connecting with people inside and outside of academia who valued the type of work I value outweighed the cons of diminishing myself to jump through hoops that have only wzbeen maintained by "tradition." 

I also was very explicit in my personal statements about how vital my work experience has been to my scholarship. Mostly because I was naive about the resistance to PhD students who are ambivalent about academia haha! The coronavirus pandemic may make graduate admissions tighten their belts against "ambivalent" students or it may be more eager to accept students who aren't dead set on a tenure track faculty position. Either way, it's always better to be yourself and to go into this knowing what you want out of the experience. 

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3 minutes ago, NoirFemme said:

 Have I stepped on toes? Hell yes. But the pros of taking care of myself and connecting with people inside and outside of academia who valued the type of work I value outweighed the cons of diminishing myself to jump through hoops that have only wzbeen maintained by "tradition." 

Did your analysis of the cons include the possibility of members of your committees writing less than stellar letters of recommendation for you when you're on the job market? Or, even getting PNGed?

11 minutes ago, NoirFemme said:

Either way, it's always better to be yourself and to go into this knowing what you want out of the experience. 

I disagree with this overly broad statement.

How can one know beforehand what wants from an experience when that experience is designed to transform an individual in at least two ways?

 

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Hello! I am new to the forum and thought I would pose a question that I don't think has been answered yet: What is the consensus on putting beginner language skills on your application?

The conventional wisdom for professional resumes is that anything below professional competency isn't worth getting a line. But when applying to PhDs, I would think that demonstrating self-study would show initiative. But if I am only an novice speaker at the time of applying, is that really worth noting? I know that some PhD apps require proof of competency in two languages upon application, so I am not asking about those programs. Rather, those that allow you to prove competency somewhere between year two and three. 

Little background -- if it matters -- I am planning on a applying to both Cultural Anthropology and History PhD's. I am thematically interested in issues of policing, political violence, and terrorism; geographically focused in Central/Eastern Europe with a blooming interest in Central Asia. I am quasi-fluent in German, currently working on Russian and Spanish. I began taking Russian classes while living abroad at the German equivalent of a community college and am planning on taking Spanish courses at American community college in the fall (granted the classes are available in-person). I have been using a lot of duolingo and listening to lots of language-learner podcasts in the interim :)

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55 minutes ago, kapuzenernie said:

Hello! I am new to the forum and thought I would pose a question that I don't think has been answered yet: What is the consensus on putting beginner language skills on your application?

The conventional wisdom for professional resumes is that anything below professional competency isn't worth getting a line. But when applying to PhDs, I would think that demonstrating self-study would show initiative. But if I am only an novice speaker at the time of applying, is that really worth noting? I know that some PhD apps require proof of competency in two languages upon application, so I am not asking about those programs. Rather, those that allow you to prove competency somewhere between year two and three. 

Little background -- if it matters -- I am planning on a applying to both Cultural Anthropology and History PhD's. I am thematically interested in issues of policing, political violence, and terrorism; geographically focused in Central/Eastern Europe with a blooming interest in Central Asia. I am quasi-fluent in German, currently working on Russian and Spanish. I began taking Russian classes while living abroad at the German equivalent of a community college and am planning on taking Spanish courses at American community college in the fall (granted the classes are available in-person). I have been using a lot of duolingo and listening to lots of language-learner podcasts in the interim :)

It really depends. If the total number of languages will be three, it's fine. It's better than showing no progress whatsoever in Russian if that's your area of interest. However, as a Central-Eastern Europeanist who also does Central Asia -- there are many more languages to learn, then, unless you focus your interest (instead of spreading it further). This might intimidate schools with no adequate language programs if you suddenly need, say, Polish/Hungarian/Czech and perhaps Uzbek/Tajik/Kazakh in addition to an intensive preparation in Russian.

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12 hours ago, TsarandProphet said:

It really depends. If the total number of languages will be three, it's fine. It's better than showing no progress whatsoever in Russian if that's your area of interest. However, as a Central-Eastern Europeanist who also does Central Asia -- there are many more languages to learn, then, unless you focus your interest (instead of spreading it further). This might intimidate schools with no adequate language programs if you suddenly need, say, Polish/Hungarian/Czech and perhaps Uzbek/Tajik/Kazakh in addition to an intensive preparation in Russian.

Thank you for the response! I except to have to develop more language skills regardless of what field I end up in. Thankfully most of the schools I am applying to seem to have rather robust language programs and/or offer funding for language acquisition, summer programs, etc. (I guess it should also be noted that my interest in Spanish is actually more rooted in personal goals than academic lol). I think ultimately the kind of language learning I do in graduate school will be totally dependent on attending a History vs. Anthropology program. For example, I could very well see myself learning, say, Turkish or perhaps Kurdish if I go the Anthro route, less so if I end up in a History program (although who knows!) 

A question for you specifically, @TsarandProphet, was Russian the first slavic language that you learned? And if so, did you find that it helped you with learning other Slavic languages? 

Also a resource to share, if anyone is interested in learning ""rare"" Eurasian languages: https://melikian.asu.edu/ Which offers funding for graduate students (unfortunately only for US citizens in most cases 😕) for some of their summer programs. I am definitely planning on applying to these programs at some point, if my research necessitates it!

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On 5/20/2020 at 8:42 PM, Sigaba said:

Did your analysis of the cons include the possibility of members of your committees writing less than stellar letters of recommendation for you when you're on the job market? Or, even getting PNGed?

I disagree with this overly broad statement.

How can one know beforehand what wants from an experience when that experience is designed to transform an individual in at least two ways?

 

No. Because the toes stepped on have to respect the hell out of my work and my prominent external recognition. 

Maybe my perspective is based on being a WOC, who learned very quickly that the institution of academia regularly grinds out POC. Not to mention that I would not have the CV I have without these core values being at the forefront of my work and experience. 

I'm curious about what two ways of transformation you mean. Personality wise? Public speaking? Writing skills? Or is it just intellectual?

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I've seen a rumor that some PhD programs (NYU History rumored, Princeton Sociology confirmed) won't be admitting a cohort of students for 2021 at all, and will instead be using those funds to support current students. Has anyone heard about this at other schools? I've heard of plenty of schools reducing cohort size, but not admitting any students at all? Looks like 2020/2021 might be a an even worse year to apply...

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I am not sure the veracity, but two people in my program have told me that NYU History is not accepting students for Fall 2021. 

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Just now, bakeseal said:

I've seen a rumor that some PhD programs (NYU History rumored, Princeton Sociology confirmed) won't be admitting a cohort of students for 2021 at all, and will instead be using those funds to support current students. Has anyone heard about this at other schools? I've heard of plenty of schools reducing cohort size, but not admitting any students at all? Looks like 2020/2021 might be a an even worse year to apply...

Haha, jinx! I heard about NYU History from two people in my program, though I am not sure if that is true or not. I have heard from Fordham, Toronto, and Penn Religious Studies faculty that it should not be an issue, but I just emailed my potential programs to confirm. FWIW, a professor at Yale recommended Medieval Studies to me, as it was smaller and would likely not be as affected by budgetary constraints. Nevertheless, I sent out emails, and will be trying like hell to win my Fulbright. 

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49 minutes ago, bakeseal said:

I've seen a rumor that some PhD programs (NYU History rumored, Princeton Sociology confirmed) won't be admitting a cohort of students for 2021 at all, and will instead be using those funds to support current students. Has anyone heard about this at other schools? I've heard of plenty of schools reducing cohort size, but not admitting any students at all? Looks like 2020/2021 might be a an even worse year to apply...

I'd say this is still very early to tell.  Universities are still re-working their 2021 fiscal year budgets, especially public universities. The deadline is coming up and states are still finalizing their own budgets for distribution to public universities.  I expect that you will know for sure around early August after things shake out internally from the top administrators down to department leel (things move very slowly with plenty of black boxes in the way).

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Semester ended, grades submitted, students graduated. 

*cracks fingers*

On 5/20/2020 at 8:09 PM, MtrlHstryGrl said:

Hey, everyone.

I wrote this paragraph in one of my SOPs, and I was wondering if I could get some feedback on if it makes sense/is coherent. 

As a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, I plan to study the intersections of the cult of saints and women’s devotional lives in the late antique and early medieval Mediterranean. My intended research project will specifically explore how lay elite and noble women expressed their devotional lives and formed identities around them. Typically relegated to the domestic sphere, elite and noble women’s conspicuous religious and ritual performance and proverbial and physical connection with the saints solidified their place in social and religious hierarchies. Differences in access to saintliness and intercession also contributed to imagined stratifications on who was more deserving of a place in Heaven. My research will also explore how devotional lives and identities were shaped by cross-cultural exchange in the Mediterranean, overarchingly exploring the connection of religion and identity formation. This research will showcase lay women’s participation in the cult of saints, contributing to the growing body of scholarship about popular piety in lay women and filling the gap left by the lack of feminist scholarship about the cult of saints. This research will help to better understand religiously based social hierarchies in later medieval and early modern Europe and their ramifications, as well as understanding how contemporary religious lay women form devotional identities around a certain saint. 

I think you are wasting too much space with all the verbose sentences. "As a doctoral student at..." can simply be "At the U of P, I will study this, this, and that". Also, get rid of passive voice. I may be alone in this but do not ever justify your relevance by "filling the gap". You are not a filler. 

 

On 5/20/2020 at 11:11 PM, kapuzenernie said:

I would think that demonstrating self-study would show initiative. 

No one will read that much into the CV. Just list "Known languages". You will still have to sit for an exam. 

9 hours ago, NoirFemme said:

No. Because the toes stepped on have to respect the hell out of my work and my prominent external recognition. 

Maybe my perspective is based on being a WOC, who learned very quickly that the institution of academia regularly grinds out POC. Not to mention that I would not have the CV I have without these core values being at the forefront of my work and experience. 

I'm curious about what two ways of transformation you mean. Personality wise? Public speaking? Writing skills? Or is it just intellectual?

I understand what you are getting at, NoirFemme. However, I think @Sigaba was saying something else. I'm sure you did not go to a PhD program to improve your writing skills? A PhD, I think this is what @Sigaba was getting at, is supposed to challenge you intellectually, to open your horizons, to make ask more questions, and seek more answers (hence, the dissertation). True, many people improve their writing skills, their public speaking skills, or they discover what they want to do (or not to do for that matter) for the rest of their lives. But I don't think anyone sacrifices six years of their lives to improve some writing skills. 

7 hours ago, TMP said:

I'd say this is still very early to tell.  Universities are still re-working their 2021 fiscal year budgets, especially public universities. The deadline is coming up and states are still finalizing their own budgets for distribution to public universities.  I expect that you will know for sure around early August after things shake out internally from the top administrators down to department leel (things move very slowly with plenty of black boxes in the way).

And on the topic of rumor, to all applicants. Pay attention to the grapevine but do not make decisions based on what you hear. Prepare, just in case they are true, but that's it. 

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