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There are a ton of different ways to see schools. Prestige (department, specialty, school), presence of PoI, proximity to X, financial aid, TA-ships, sports titles, faculty recommendation, because they have cute squirrels on campus...

How did you choose where to apply? Or, for those of us with an eye to this upcoming cycle, how will you choose?

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There are a ton of different ways to see schools. Prestige (department, specialty, school), presence of PoI, proximity to X, financial aid, TA-ships, sports titles, faculty recommendation, because they have cute squirrels on campus...

How did you choose where to apply? Or, for those of us with an eye to this upcoming cycle, how will you choose?

It's impossible for me to say definitively until I actually (hopefully!) am in the position of choosing between schools, but as of now, I'd say that these are the most important factors for me, in order of importance:

1.) Funding

2.) Faculty

3.) Placement Rate (I originally had #2 and #3 switched; I suspect that the quality of the faculty has something to do with placement)

4.) Prestige (specialty, followed by department, followed by university as a whole)

5.) Location (social demographics, urban/suburban/rural, weather, cost of living, whether I can live there without a car or not, etc.)

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Just to clarify, in case it changes your answer, I'm asking about how you choose where to send your application in the first place. I'm sure there are a ton of fun analytics that go into making the decision of where to attend, but that happy problem is leagues away from my current position. ;)

My list of schools of interest is quite long, and was made up almost entirely of looking up faculty of interest and going from there. I was wondering what other people did so that I (and hopefully anyone else reading this!) might get a great idea on how to cull the list to only those schools that are going to make sense for me.

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I'd also like to know how others are doing or have done this. Right now my process is primarily POI based. Full tuition/stipend, liberality of program/student body/location go into it too. I'm having trouble finding programs that would not only be a 'good fit' (can someone define what this even means!?!) but also 'safety' schools, even if there's really no such thing when applying to MA/PhD programs in the humanities.

Edited by evsnow113

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When I choose places to apply to, this was my process. Take it with a grain of salt!

I made a giant list of schools, and then pared it down with these points.

1. Funding.

Funding is/was really paramount for me, for all the general reasons, but also because I have student loans I was to continue paying off, and I have paltry savings. I know I couldn't supplement my income with anything set aside, and anything I did set aside would go to loans.

2. Faculty/Department Atmosphere (or what you can gleam of that online, anyway)

My research interests are kind of strange. I'm a Gender/Sexuality person with subfields in postcolonial (mostly Arabic lit) and pop culture. While pretty much every program has a Gender/Sexuality subfield, looking for places that would be open to my other two interests was challenging. In addition, I knew I needed a program that welcomed interdisciplinary stuff and offered a lot of freedom to its students, because that was the sort of environment I would thrive in.

3. Placement.

Where were the recent grads going, and were they even graduating?

4. Workload.

If it was possible, I poked around the department website and found out how the semesters were structured, and judged how I thought I could cope with it. Some programs were more rigorous than others, and others didn't seem to offer enough (like lack of teaching opportunities.)

5. Location.

I'm easily affected by my surroundings, and while focusing on location at all seems a little silly, I knew it would really impact my studies.Neither bustling, distracting cities nor really rural places are my thing, so I kept that in mind when I was applying as well.

Once I did all this, I had a pretty solid list of programs, but a lot of them were pretty highly ranked. Not that this was an issue, but I was worried about my chances of actually getting into any of them. I debated whether or not to throw in a 'safety' school, but ultimately decided against it. I asked myself if I would be happy going to my safety school if that was the only option I had--and the answer was no, not for any of the 'safety' places I was considering. If it came to me not going to grad school in the fall, or going to a place that I didn't think would be an ideal match for me, I knew I would rather lick my wounds and try again later on. You can apply many times, but you only go to a PhD program once.

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I started by searching for programs with strengths in my area of interest (medieval). I looked for multiple faculty members focused on medieval literature, and schools with extra medieval resources (such as medieval programs where I could take interdisciplinary courses). Then I took out any school that didn't offer at least the possiblity of full funding, any school that required an MA before admitting into PhD (I don't have an MA), and any school that wasn't in the U.S. (since my husband is being so wonderful about uprooting, I figured it was fair to promise him we would at least stay in the country). At this point, I still had 20+ schools. So, I did a more concentrated study on faculty and took location into consideration to find "good fits." For me, a "good fit" was a school with 3-5 faculty members working on medieval literature, particularily on topics that interest me (Arthurian lit, miracle stories, etc.), in a location that I felt comfortable living (nowhere hot+humid). I admit, a lot was also based on my gut feelings, especially when choosing between schools with similar programs--I would look at how friendly the school website was, if the family housing was dog-friendly, and if the program really seemed dedicated to their students. These may seem like silly things to make decisions on, but they helped me avoid schools that I felt uncomfortable about. This got me down to 15 or so programs. I then e-mailed the list to my undergraduate advisor for her input, and made some adjustments based off of her advice to end up at my 13 programs (and it's a good thing I asked her advice, because she suggested the school I've decided to attend). I aimed for a well-balanced mix of reach schools and decent-chance schools, although it's pretty much impossible to predict ( I didn't really consider any school a "safety" school). I didn't look too much at school rankings or placements--I guess I just figured that the outcome of my doctorate is going to be more a result of what I put into it, and as long as I could get into a supportive program and be willing to work my very hardest, then everything will turn out as it's meant to, whether that involves tenure or a return to editing magazines. In the end, it all requires a leap of faith :)

Edited by eriksmegs

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Just to clarify, in case it changes your answer, I'm asking about how you choose where to send your application in the first place. I'm sure there are a ton of fun analytics that go into making the decision of where to attend, but that happy problem is leagues away from my current position. ;)

My list of schools of interest is quite long, and was made up almost entirely of looking up faculty of interest and going from there. I was wondering what other people did so that I (and hopefully anyone else reading this!) might get a great idea on how to cull the list to only those schools that are going to make sense for me.

Oops, didn't see the "apply" part of the topic. :blink:

Anyways, my list still stands! That's how I'm narrowing them down.

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I winged it. It was strength of program and then gut. This mostly happened because I was working full time and attending school full time when I applied, which left me barely enough time to sleep and not enough time to research more in depth. I don't recommend the approach. I was accepted to the two schools which were last minute add ons and I felt had the least to do with my interests, but I'm in with full funding plus stipend for one.

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I began this process thinking only about Ph.D. programs. I started with a list of great schools based loosely on "rankings" from a variety of sources. I checked to see if the funding packages were good first, then read as much as I could on faculty members and haunted JSTOR. As I moved further along I started to consider job placement as a factor as well, though there is only so much one can predict about the market in 5-6 years. The more I read around here, the more I also started to consider department affiliations with things like the Folger library or the availability of conferences in the school's area.

As the new year rolled around, however, I discovered that a shimmering chimera known as the "funded MA" actually exists. If any of you 2013-ers are coming out of your BA immediately or after even a few years off, I would strongly advise you add a few of these programs to your list of grad schools. When I started, I just assumed that basically no MA's were funded, but this is not the case (and there are several threads hiding about here dedicated to them). I was fortunate enough to stumble upon several of these programs and am very happy with the results. If I were to do this all over again (pleasegodno) I would increase the number of funded MA's on my list and prioritize Ph.D. placement and funding the highest.

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1. Location. Unfortunately, my fiance has no interest in moving outside of LA, and I'm not interested in spending 5-7 years in another state, so I'm fairly limited in where I can apply; thankfully, southern California has a number of great schools that fit my research interests perfectly.

2. Funding.

3. Fit.

4. Faculty.

5. Prestige.

6. Workload - I'm a glutton for punishment, so I don't mind an insane workload.

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I have changed my list a number of times and I think the two things that have largely affected my list are 1) Location and 2) Research Interests.

Initially, I used the usnews rankings to make my list because it was the fastest way to see which schools offered a Phd in English. Then I looked over the current and past course offerings and faculty research interests at each school to determine fit.

My parents are military doctors so we moved quite a bit when I was younger. Committing myself to one city for 5-7 years is nerve-wracking and so far Texas and Harvard are the only two schools that consistently make the cut. Texas is my alma mater and Austin is "home" to me. I'm currently attending Harvard, so Boston/Cambridge has become my second home. However, I like the idea of someone else footing the bill for me to live somewhere new.

Funding is 3rd on my list. I found a website http://www.bestplaces.net/col/ that compares the cost of living between two cities and plugged in the fellowship amount (+ savings $$) for the salary. This website has helped me whittle down my list since location is extremely important to me.

Random/Non- Academic factors:

1. As a UT alumna and die-hard Longhorn, I absolutely refuse to consider Texas A&M. I just can't. Not even as a safety school. (Side note regarding the squirrels comment: as much as I love UT, there is a huge squirrel problem on campus and those rascals are fearless. If you end up attending UT, don't be alarmed if a squirrel approaches you)

2. As a die-hard Boston sports fan- I will consider any school in the Boston area and will likely submit an application to the majority of the schools in the area.

3. My family spent two of the worst years of my life in Pineville, Louisiana and the mere thought of going back to Louisiana invokes the Dueling Banjos scene from Deliverance for me. Won't do it.

Currently my list hovers between 6 and 13 schools. I'm also superstitious so there is a possibility that I would apply to 12 or 14 schools, just to avoid the number 13 :P

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I went through a very, very long process. Something like two years of deliberating (I'm a few years removed from undergrad, have not done an MA, and was living abroad in a isolated place with some time to kill).

PRELIMS: I started out just going through the website of every English/Comp Lit PhD program I found, which ended up being just about every major program in the country and a few abroad. I was just doing a quick read of the mission statementy stuff on the home pages and then a glance at specialties and courses to gauge if I would kind of fit. I also looked quickly to see if there was a Slavics department/program at the school so I'd have language support. That took a long time. I kept two bookmarks folders: pass and maybe. The passes I tried to never look at again (just for the sake of my own sanity). The maybe folder ended up with something like thirty schools.

RECONSIDERING MAs: Around that time, I also started thinking about an MA in regional studies. So I repeated the process. Fortunately, there are only 15-20 programs that do Russian/East European regional studies. So that didn't take too long but it added, I think, six or seven more schools.

LOL@SUBJECT TEST: Then, for English programs, I cut all of them that required the subject GRE. Because fuck that, right? That narrowed the field by about 60-70%, I think.

LOCATION: Then I looked quickly at location, having decided that, no matter how ridiculous the funding offer might be, there was no way I was going to live any further south than North Carolina. I don't do well in humid heat and/or intense sun. And I figured if I could decrease the number of "heritage not hate" bumper stickers in my vicinity even slightly, that'd be a plus. These criteria took out a few schools (though Comp Lit program in Georgia still made the cut, for reasons I can't remember).

SPREADSHEET BONANZA: That's when I started my spreadsheet with due dates, locations, requirements for the writing sample and statement(s), the GRE codes, all that. Also a column that had my status (n/a, applied, accepted/denied/waitlisted) and a funding column with two categories "always" and "sometimes," meaning how frequently grad students were admitted with full-funding. I didn't apply to any programs where full tuition coverage and a good stipend wasn't a possibility.

FINE GRAIN SANDPAPER: Then I really got into the minutiae of faculty that were kind of interested in similar things (there's almost nobody that matches very well to what I want to do outside of Slavics programs, and I'm not ready for that, so I wasn't looking for exact matches, just ballpark overlap). Then I looked at current grad students' interests (if they were listed on the website). I looked at available courses again. I looked at recent dissertation titles and abstracts (if I could find them) and the types of books being published by the faculty. I added a second sheet to my .xls file that named profs of interest and specific programs (a certificate in Marxist theory, or whatever) and all the little things like special library holdings that might add up to something better. I also added a column that gauged my spouse's interest in moving there with cursory reactions like "that's close to family!" or "...if you have to."

IN THE END: I completely eliminated all English programs. A number of Comp Lit programs also bit the dust but most of my MA programs in regional studies stuck. I finished with 4 Comp Lit PhD programs (all rejections), a PhD program in Rhetoric (rejection), a PhD program in Literature (1st on the waitlist), 6 regional studies MA programs (5 acceptances, 1 unknown), and a liberal studies MA program (acceptance).

$$$$: Another factor that almost led me to apply to some other schools was the availability of application fee waivers, which are available for all sorts of people (you can usually find the info just by googling "superawesomeschoolnamehere grad application fee waiver"). As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I got fee waivers at UMich, Berkeley, IU-Bloomington, Columbia, Penn, and Emory and there are plenty more available. That saved me $520.

I hope this helps someone applying next year; good luck!

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Funding is 3rd on my list. I found a website http://www.bestplaces.net/col/ that compares the cost of living between two cities and plugged in the fellowship amount (+ savings $$) for the salary. This website has helped me whittle down my list since location is extremely important to me.

This is the best site! I've been making a spreadsheet of city data that goes in conjunction with the school data spreadsheet, because I have a husband to think about too--he's incredibly supportive and willing to go wherever I get in and decide, but he had two stipulations: nothing in NYC and nothing in California.

But I've been working on my list of schools, whittling, retooling, adding and dropping for about 2 years. I started with the US News rankings (who doesn't?) and researched from that list based on location and what I knew about the schools. Then I found the PhDs.org site that allows you to customize your search for the best program that fits your preferences and priorities--that has been incredibly valuable in this process.

So I had a list of about 15, and started doing more in-depth research on the programs, courses offered (most departments list their course offerings for the past few years), faculty, and general "feel" of the school and department. I have a core of about 5 schools that have remained on the list, and then I've had 5 other "spots" that have fluctuated over the past year. I feel pretty solid in my list now, though--I've gone over it a few times with some professors and my current MA advisor, and I feel it's a pretty good range.

I'm limiting myself to 10 applications, which I think offers a wide range, while allowing me to research each school closely and possibly even visit a few (to get the city/campus feel).

Here's an example of my city data insanity (color coded!). Baltimore is the control--as you can see, it sucks.

yTaJ6.jpg

p.s. I just added Harvard a few weeks ago as kind of a lark because I have a bunch of family/friends in that area. I'm not 100% sure if I'll apply there, but I thought "Hey, what the hell?" ;)

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I started with location. Weak, I know, but I had strong personal reasons to stay on the east coast. It was a cheap and easy way to eliminate a lot of schools.

From there I started thinking about where I would actually want to attend. I didn't apply anywhere I wouldn't want to go.

From there I started looking at places that might actually support the work I wanted to do. Then I totally ignored this information and applied where ever I wanted to apply anyway.

I did limit the number of really, really top schools to which I applied. I did that by thinking about where I'd rather be; if A and B are both top 15ish, and I could pick, which one would it be? I applied to that one and cut the other from the list.

If I could do it again, I would have payed more attention to the schools that would have been good fits. I didn't pay enough attention to that, and it was probably a waste of money in the long run. But oh well.

Good luck! B)

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My interests are also medieval so this is great! I'll be applying to start an MA in the fall of 2013 and really have no idea where to start... I'm Canadian, haven't taken the GRE and have no interest in going to the States, so I have been looking at universities in Canada and the UK (U. of York seems like a dream for medieval...).

One thing I see come up a lot is faculty... I hope this doesn't seem ignorant but I truly do not know who to look for. Should I just read the descriptions of medieval professors to see if their interests align with mine? As well, would it be better to go for a school with a specific Medieval Literature MA or one with a general English MA?

Thanks for helping out a n00b. :)

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My interests are also medieval so this is great! I'll be applying to start an MA in the fall of 2013 and really have no idea where to start... I'm Canadian, haven't taken the GRE and have no interest in going to the States, so I have been looking at universities in Canada and the UK (U. of York seems like a dream for medieval...).

One thing I see come up a lot is faculty... I hope this doesn't seem ignorant but I truly do not know who to look for. Should I just read the descriptions of medieval professors to see if their interests align with mine? As well, would it be better to go for a school with a specific Medieval Literature MA or one with a general English MA?

Thanks for helping out a n00b. :)

What are your language skills? If you have solid Old English and Latin, than Medieval Studies programs might be better for you. If not, you'll probably want to focus on English, which tends to be more lenient with language requirements. As for finding POIs, start with the list of medieval faculty and make a list of the profs that look interesting. You may also want to look at faculty in English, French, Medieval Studies, and History departments (though focus on the department you'll actually be applying to). Then you should try to read work by the people you are interested in, even if it is just to skim a couple of articles, so you can get a feel for their methadology.

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But I've been working on my list of schools, whittling, retooling, adding and dropping for about 2 years.

yTaJ6.jpg

Great scott!!!!!!!!!

Edited by hazelbite

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