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Fall 2013 Applicants?


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Someone above compared this to a marathon. I'd say it's kind of like that, but right before the finish line all the spectators tackle you and kick you a lot.

Well, everyone, it's been a wild season of ups and downs, but I've now received responses from all the programs to which I applied, have finished up my campus visits, and have now accepted my offer at

My favorite comment from the results page today: "$175 for taking the GRE, $25 sending of the GRE scores to Columbia, $105 Columbia application fee....Getting rejected from Columbia: Priceless"

Yep, she's at the U of Oklahoma. We were sad to lose her last year - great prof! :)

God I am so isolated. Pitty me at my horrible little college in new jersey no one has heard of ;)

Well, good for Oklahoma, they're building up a really cool environmental history program. I wrote an encyclopedia entry for her and she was always lovely in my dealings with her.

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To a named chair position. Hard to turn that down.

She totally deserves it. One of the harder working proffies I've ever seen.

True on both counts! We miss her lots, but are obviously super proud of - and happy for - her. :)

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I know that it's a good idea to contact professors to find out if they are taking students. How do you decide whether to apply to a school if a professor has not responded about their plans for the next year?

Hard to say. Depends on how much it would cost to apply and whether or not there are other profs in the program that you could work with, in my opinion.

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I know that it's a good idea to contact professors to find out if they are taking students. How do you decide whether to apply to a school if a professor has not responded about their plans for the next year?

While it's best to know if a prof. is taking students, it's pretty common to be unaware of this and apply anyway. If you're really concerned about saving on application fees, you could email the DGS. You might also consider a couple of things to try to read the tea leaves a bit. Does their faculty page list them as being on leave for the coming year? Do they seem to be nearing the end of their career? If they're in their mid-70s, that's something to take into account, given that you're likely to be there for at least five years. If the department maintains a list of current graduate students, does this prof. have a lot of students already (relative to other professors)?

Sending emails out is a good idea because it can result in conversations or valuable information. But many profs won't respond. Not because they're inconsiderate people, but because of any number of reasons - they're busy, disorganized, on leave, inundated with a million emails a day, etc. I don't think one should expect a response. It's great if you get one, but it doesn't really mean anything if you don't. I applied (with several successes) to many schools without hearing back from my POIs because they were good fits. I didn't want to look back with a feeling of what might have been, for one thing.

Good luck.

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Sending emails out is a good idea because it can result in conversations or valuable information. But many profs won't respond.

I didn't find that to be the case. I sent out 12 or 13 feeler emails to POIs inquiring about whether they were taking students and all but one responded and more than half led to further correspondence. I, too, was worried about wasting money on applications that had no chance. By sending out those emails, I found out that 3 of the POIs I was considering were planning to retire within the next 1-3 years and so weren't taking new students. I started sending out emails the first week of September and I've always thought of contacting POIs for this purpose as being the final step in the process of narrowing down your list of schools. Of course, YMMV.

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QFT what natsteel said. Most professors in my experiance respond. Not only do you have retiring professors, but you also often get a "you should talk to so and so at X other university" who may or may not be on your list. The other thing to remember is that professors on leave in the middle of your course work can be awkward.

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I know that it's a good idea to contact professors to find out if they are taking students. How do you decide whether to apply to a school if a professor has not responded about their plans for the next year?

FWIW, only three of the eight POIs I contacted replied to my email, and one of those was a copy and paste job that didn't appear to actually read my email. Four of the five programs I was admitted to involved no prior correspondence with the POI, including my current program, so I'm glad my experience didn't discourage me from applying. I wouldn't worry too much about it. If you like the program and see a good fit, apply anyway!

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They may or may not. But for instance in my program professors about to go on sabbatical or on sabbatical wont even look at any of the applications that cycle. And at my program every professor gets a sabbatical every three years, so it can really be a crap shoot.

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Also, professors sometimes don't know whether or not their sabbaticals will be approved until the spring, after they've accepted students. So it's a tough question to ask - those who do tell you that they're going on sabbatical got their sabbatical approved already. Those who don't- they're just waiting for it and are just assuming that they're not going... therefore, they'll continue to take students.

Also every professor is different in terms of being on sabbatical. IMHO, having your adviser around in your first semester is crucial for success. But if you have a second person who can serve as your advser, then terrific! Otherwise, your first semester just might be a little rougher than you'd like it to be.

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They may or may not. But for instance in my program professors about to go on sabbatical or on sabbatical wont even look at any of the applications that cycle. And at my program every professor gets a sabbatical every three years, so it can really be a crap shoot.

Are you sure that's the case for all professors? My POI in your department is on leave this year, but he was certainly involved in reviewing applications last cycle. IME it's not unusual for professors on leave or planning to go on leave to be involved in the admissions process. I had one POI read my application in France, where he was based the entire year. My current adviser is on leave this year as well.

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He's an exception to the rule because he's the only person in your field here. No one was taken off the wait list to replace you, and his pregenerals students are having to go through significant hoops the rest of us arent' because he isn't here. I know that among the Americanists, the Europeanists and the History of Science people what i described is the general case.

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Working on my SoP and for some reason it feels so much harder to write than my MA SoP.

I'm wondering, if attending (but not participating in) a conference helped formulate some of my current research interests, is it worth mentioning? Or should I find another way to explain my current interests while focusing more on my own accomplishments?

Edited by runaway
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Nothing to say myself, but Tony Grafton posted this today over at http://historiann.com and it's something people should be seeing when thinking about Princeton admissions. Nothing about this surprised me, it also explain why the smaller fields would be looking at applications when they are on leave or going on leave, and not people from the larger fields.

It comes from a discussion of GRE scores and their usefulness.

"We receive something like 400 applications a year these days. I haven’t been on the committee in a long time, and don’t know the exact number. But the procedure is this: the committee members read all of the applications and reject about half of them. In my experience they pay most attention to the recommendations, the personal statement and grades in history courses. The GRE is a further useful indicator, nothing more. As Brian says, it’s most helpful in cases where we’re not sure what a GPA means on its own. Then the applications that survive the first scrutiny are divided by fields, and all faculty in each field read them and agree on a unified ranking.

In that second process, the writing sample is the most important single part of the file. A fair number of applicants are not native English speakers, and a fair number come from systems that don’t use GRE-like tests. We try to identify those cases and ignore part or all of the GRE if the other evidence is strong. Finally, the applications and the field committee evaluations go back to the admissions committee, which determines the order of admission, and then to the graduate school, which tells us how many we may admit. The graduate school has been known to raise questions about low GREs, but I can’t remember the deans turning someone down on that ground.

Whenever a prospective student visits–and many do–I ask if his or her adviser has described conditions in grad school and after. Usually the student has been informed, but if the answer is no, I do my best to fill in the gaps. I do the same, of course, for my own undergraduate advisees."

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Working on my SoP and for some reason it feels so much harder to write than my MA SoP.

I'm wondering, if attending (but not participating in) a conference helped formulate some of my current research interests, is it worth mentioning? Or should I find another way to explain my current interests while focusing more on my own accomplishments?

Really it would be up to you, because this is a point of style. That said, I would avoid making it sound like you got a bright idea by going to a conference. Try and phrase it more like you thinking evolved as you saw the way the field was moving, or that you have identified a lacuna in the literature that you would like to explore. Otherwise you risk sounding a bit naive.

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New England Nat,

That site is great. I am a first-generation college student. So it's very helpful to hear these things. At the end, there was interesting post about such applicants. As a whole, we tend not to know precisely how to go about the process, and we are reluctant to make excuses for mediocre GPAs. I find that extremely useful. It is difficult to know the intimates coming from a culture based around material production of things versus intellectual production. It's funny, I find it baffling that people recommend making excuses... or more euphamisticaly 'explaining.'

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I don't think you should think of it as excuse. No matter what you say they're going to notice the blemishes. I think it's more give context, and as they say in the comments of that GRE post, it's not "i'm a much better student than my scores show" it's "I was in an accident" or "I was a biochemistry major".

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  • 3 weeks later...

Soo..... How are all the 2013 applicants doing on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday?? I'm....spent. And I'm not totally done with all my applications or the semester for that matter.

I miss all the chatter. I need some updates from those on the same roller-coaster ride we call grad app season! :-)

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