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Final results 2011-12

PhD Acceptance  

19 members have voted

  1. 1. I ultimately accepted a place at...

    • My first choice university
    • An acceptable university
    • I didn't make it this year
    • I was accepted, but deferred

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There are a couple of threads relating to application success. I was wondering if PhD Religion/Theology/etc. applicants for 2011-12 would mind answering a poll for the benefit of next year’s applicants? Also, if you got feedback, what particularly made the difference to your getting in?

Edited by Westcott
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I applied to Chicago, Andover Newton and Union NYC. I got into all three and am going to Union NYC. But I got the worst funding there (from what I've read at a glance here, maybe they don't really fund anyone). That aside, I still wanted to go there the most so I am.

Edited by Theodore Grey
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I know that the board is slow as all those who have been though the wringer of the admissions process are likely focusing on the next academic year. I totally understand, having gone through the ‘move everything and re-start life’ summer myself a few years back myself. By way of encouraging people to participate, I’d like to explain more what I was hoping to accomplish with this very unscientific poll.

We have a number of application results threads that quickly expanded to an unreadable point as people updated their results (particularly confusing when people got offers from multiple universities). When people start the process for the next admission cycle, it would be nice if they could see a snapshot of what the results really look like. Getting into the competitive PhD program you want involves long odds and an agonizing process, so let’s encourage the ones who come after. So far the few initial results we got paint a fairly positive picture.

We also have an ongoing discussion regarding priorities in the application process. What matters most: ranking of your alma mater, GPA, language skills, research proposal fit to faculty? Lots of people shared their opinions over this last cycle, but now that the cycle’s complete, are there any hard facts? If you received feedback that highlighted a part of your successful application, please share it with next year’s hopeful doctoral students.

Anyway, best of luck to everyone in your new challenges!

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  • 2 months later...

I can share some here. My results were as follows:

Applied: UNC Chapel Hill, Yale University, Princeton University, Rice University, Fordham University, Boston University

Accepted: UNC Chapel Hill, Fordham, Boston University

Waitlisted: Yale

Declined Further Consideration: Rice (they wanted me to do an interview, but I had already heard from others that I was more interested in)

Rejected: Princeton

I ended up deciding on BU.

My field is Ancient Christianity, and I decided that I really wanted a program that would allow me to gain ability in both my field as well as the larger, theoretical questions that go into the study of Religion. With jobs often wanting folks to have ability in teaching general courses in Religion, I saw a real chance in BU's more comprehensive look at religious phenomenon to be able to confidently say that I could teach an introductory course in Christianity as comfortably as I could in Eastern religious traditions, or even sociology/anthropology of religion.


- Statement of Purpose: This is your most important tool. Your GPA, GRE, language preparation, etc. are components, but if you SOP is poorly suited to the place you are applying, all of that is meaningless, and a chasing after the wind. I spent an enormous amount of time tweaking and being sure my SOP was truly tailored for each school, even re-writing some of bits that were similar between them all. In this vein, I also didn't apply anywhere to which I couldn't make a strong case for going (i.e. I didn't waste money or time with schools that were prestigious/had good funding 'just to see'). Keep it within word limits if they post them, if they don't keep it to one or two pages. If you can't communicate exactly why you are perfect for that school in that space, spend some time thinking about whether it is the right place for you, or edit the hell out of it. If it isn't clear yet, I think that there is no part of your application that is more important (other than the fee so that it actually gets read).

- Languages: I did not have a voluminous catalog of languages under my belt. I had the those I needed for my concentration, I knew them well and could demonstrate that. I had neither modern research language, I was able to do French this summer, and will do German at some point this year. Languages are helpful, and may be a notch that allows you to climb just a bit over another candidate though.

- GRE: Do well. I consider the GRE a kind of gatekeeper, that is, something that lets you in. You don't need an 800/800 (or whatever the new standard is), but you should strive to break 700 on verbal, and show some basic aptitude for math. By 'lets you in' I mean that many programs get a couple hundred applications, and they need some way to weed out substantial portion of these without reading through every one; GRE scores are a good way to do this.

- Misc: I have a Bachelor's and Master's, both in Hebrew Bible. I decided to change my field (you can do this!), and am happy I did. My M.A. is from an Ivy league Divinity School. I would suggest for those heading for a M.A./M.Div prior to a PhD to consider an Ivy or at least something comparable (Duke, Emory) if you would also like to try for a good (read: fully funded) PhD program. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of folks applying from these places (I happen to know that from my alma mater, we had a nice sweep of many spots at the bigger name schools this past application season, with about 7 people applying just in AC/NT), with LORs from profs who everyone has heard of and likely knows. If you are going to spend money on your Master's, at least do it somewhere worthwhile. At least try to apply to some, as they may not be as difficult to get into as some might think.

-Final Words: First, don't pay for a PhD. Especially not in RS. You'll enjoy your job if you can find one, but you'll make 40k per year. This was the best advice I got from one of my mentors. He knew of 4 people in the past 10 years who had, despite his and others' warnings, gone into substantial debt to get their PhD. 1 of 4 has a job, and 4 of 4 have 100k+ of debt that will take them 40 years to pay off. If you only get into one program and they don't fund, don't go. Spend a year bolstering applications and try again. If you still don't get in, consider a career change, as this should tell you something about your perceived vs. actual abilities. Second, have support as you apply. Try to find others who are doing the same thing, even if it is not in the same subfield. People you can really meet with and complain to, get really honest criticism about your SOP/writing sample, and people you can grab a celebratory drink with after you get in. It makes what can be a lonely process far more bearable.

Hope this helps, and please PM or ask here if you have other questions, I'd be glad to answer.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

As someone starting the application process now, I really value the information and experiences posted so far. I'll keep checking back for more! Thanks folks. :)

Glad you liked the thread. Although two respondents were masters students, that still puts us at 10 of the 12 accepted getting their first choice, and no one striking out. That’s great considering how competitive most of the programs discussed here are, and I think speaks well of both the quality of participants here, and the opportunity existing in the field even amidst the disasters befalling the humanities in general. Hopefully it will encourage those who find the GradCafe.

Of course, with all that good news said, we don’t have a similar poll for employment after gaining the doctorate. <_< We likely won’t, as people seem to lose interest in the forum after getting accepted, which is understandable I suppose. At any rate, for future use, I had emailed one of the moderators to ask them to make this a sticky for the rest of this admissions cycle.

Edited by Westcott
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