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PhD applicants 2012-13, final results poll



18 members have voted

  1. 1. Where did you accept a place as a doctoral student?

    • My first choice PhD program
    • Another PhD program
    • I did not make it this year

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I was wondering if PhD applicants for 2012-13 would mind answering a poll for the benefit of next year’s applicants? The prospect of pursuing a PhD in Classics with a poor economy and the humanities under attack is pretty daunting. 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. The PhD application thread quickly expanded to an unreadable point as people updated their results (particularly confusing when people got offers from multiple universities).

Also, please share some anecdotal evidence in your *single* post:

1) if you got feedback, was there anything in particular that made the difference to your getting in?

2) what level of funding, if any, came with the offer you accepted?

3) for those of you who accepted placement in a program that was not your first choice, was it your so-called ‘safety’ program?

My apologies for starting this thread while a few people haven’t heard yet. I waited too long to ask a similar question last year, and everyone departed to begin packing for their move to their new university, so there was little response. At any rate, congratulations to those of who who made it this year, and for those who didn't, don't give up!


Edited by Westcott
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1. Branch out. Definitely make contact with the programs that you really want. One thing that helped out a fellow classmate of mine was going to the APA and networking. Be careful in making contact, however, as you don't want it to be transparent.

2. Do it for free. Save some money and fill out the forms early to receive an application fee waiver. I applied to 14 schools, and I think 12 I them offered the possibility to apply for an application fee waiver. All you need to do, generally, is give them a copy of your FASFA, a general letter from your financial aid dept stating that you are in "financial hardship" (which you are considered to be in if you are an MA student since you more than likely make less than $20,000/year - not including loans). Not all schools require a great deal of information, and applying is free so definitely go for it. Like I said, I applied to 14 schools, which was supposed to cost around $1,200... In the end I dropped $185.

3. Don't aim too high. We all want to go to a top elite program, but we all can't. I applied to too many top tier programs, and then only 2 low-second tier "safeties". I would suggest having a good mix of schools...we all know the guy who applied to only Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Berkeley and was rejected at all four. Don't be that guy. Be realistic.

4. Apply everywhere. Focus your attention on your first choices first, but then be sure to get as many applications out there as possible. It's a tough economy, you're supposed to apply everywhere. Remember, applying to a school that you don't think you would want doesn't mean you have to go there, but it gives you options. Plus, if you apply for an application few waiver it could be free!! A friend of mine actually ended up having 5 choices, and in the end, after visiting them all, turned down 2 really good programs ( Cincinnati and Wisconsin-Madison) for a school that he thought initially was a "safety".

Edited by Veilside1
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Well, I'll be brave and post my results:

For PhD in Classics (Philology)

Rejected: Yale, Princeton, UPenn, Stanford, UCLA

Accepted: UNC-CH, Berkeley, UVa, CU Boulder

I chose to go to UVa (5 years funding guaranteed, tuition+stipend+insurance, first year no teaching, teaching next four years)

I didn't initially really have a top choice, per se, but I would say that when I was applying, UVa was in my pool of top 4. I'm interested in Greek historiography, and prose writing in general, and they've got a killer faculty in that regard. When I went to visit, though, UVa quickly became my top choice, even though I still hadn't heard from half the schools I applied at. The people were amazing, both faculty and students, and the stipend is really good relative to the cost of living, which cannot be said for many places.

Everywhere I went to visit/ interview, people remembered my writing sample, which was on an unusual topic. I suppose that may have been a factor.

BTW I have an MA ( from CU Boulder), which may have been a factor as well,

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Applied: 12

Accepted: 5 (all with 4-5 years of full funding, 2 off of wait-lists)

Attending - UNC-CH Classics Department

I didn't actually have a "top choice" going into my applications. I applied to a variety of programs with different strengths that correspond with my varied interests. I don't think it's productive to have your heart set on a school. It keeps you narrow-minded and causes you to be more crushed if/when that rejection letter comes. My ranking of schools changed at least on a daily basis, even after I had my acceptances.

Don't just apply to the Ivies. In addition to the comments above, fit matters a lot more than name. Classics is a small world and future hiring committees will know that x school is as good or nearly as good a y Ivy for z topic. It's what you do with the degree that matters. I turned down Oxford for an MA last year because a non-Oxbridge, but still top school was a better fit. I only applied to three Ivies this year, but struck out on them. I'm not sure whether I would have attended over my ultimate choice anyway.

If you don't have an MA, apply to MA programs in addition to PhDs! More and more PhD students are starting with MAs and it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's also a great stepping stone into the workload/mindset that will be a PhD or MA/PhD program. Some MA programs (alas, not in the UK) even have decent to great funding.

Be open minded and visit! It's important to know how you really fit in with the people in the department and not just how you fit on paper. I didn't end up liking what I thought was one of my top-two schools and really loved one that wasn't. Granted, it never was at the bottom of the list either.

Good luck!

Veilside - I wish I knew about the application waivers. I didn't realize I had a chance of qualifying, but I wasn't making any money in the UK. Sigh. Also, perhaps I'll see you around at UNC?

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Applied: 7

Accepted: 5 (all with at least 5 years of funding)

Attending: Yale

I think a lot of good points have already been covered, but I guess confirmation never hurts:)

1. I definitely agree that fit is much more important than the name; Harvard, for instance, is a great place to do classics in general, but when it comes to classical philosophy, its program may not be as strong as other places. Similarly, Yale's department is quite literary, and perhaps not as strong in material culture. At the end, it really depends on your own interests.

2. I heard from a lot of people that reaching out to programs and professors could be an advantage in the admissions process, but unfortunately this wasn't my case: the only place I contacted was one of the two places where I got rejected. So it depends on the personality of the professor, and the culture of the department, whether reaching out helps.

3. For Berkeley, make sure you spend some (but not a lot) time on the personal history statement; I suspect that's the reason I received a prestigious fellowship there.

4. Most importantly, for me at least, you should know your strengths and weaknesses and try to craft your application in a way that emphasizes one and shows that the other could be easily improved. As an applicant, you could be traditionally strong, or you could be sexy. Someone with strong training, say 6 or 7 years of both Greek and Latin, who went to a reputable university, and maybe even have an MA, will most likely get into a very good school. But this doesn't mean you have to be that person to get into a top program; you could have a very provocative writing sample that challenges current scholarship, or you could have extensive exposure to one or two related fields, for instance. I don't have an MA; I have less than 2 years of experience in both Greek and Latin (though the experience was quite intensive), and I still got into many of the top programs.

Good luck to everyone!

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Applied: 4

Accepted: 3

I agree with everything that has been said except the amount of schools to apply to. I think people should apply only to schools they are honestly interested in. Also, every application should be tailored accordingly to the programs, so that it shows the genuine interest in them, not cold, statistical calculations.

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You need to add a "still waiting to hear from some places" option. Also, a "completely disillusioned with the entire process" option.

Having said that, I do have some observations.

1 - Try contacting programs before applying. If they can't bother to get back to you, this does not bode well for a timely application response.

2 - Have some people in mind to work with and see if you can get somebody on your side. It seems to have done some good for others.

3 - Have a backup plan. Preferrably one you can live with in the long-term, if need be. Because the only thing that would be worse than rejection limbo is outright rejection with no idea what to do with your life outside of endlessly reapplying.

4 - Seriously examine your goals and be willing to set a limit on applications. Whether it's the number of applications, the number of application seasons, or simply a time-limit, give yourself some sort of deadline. And be willing to stick to it. Because if you can't make yourself get off the roller-coaster, you're whole life will stay in limbo indefinitely.

But most importantly, have somebody who backs you upwithout reservation. Because when rejections roll in, and maybe the acceptances don't, you will go absolutely insane. And if you don't have somebody to back you up, a moment of absolute insanity could lead to something drastic. Like chucking your entire educational plan and spending the rest of your life making coffee and writing bad poems about how philosophy in general, and Plato in particular, must die in a fire.

No, that isn't MY example, it only SEEMS highly specific.

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I think that taking a "gap" year after graduating with my BA really helped me. At first, I thought I would be at a disadvantage because I took time off. But, the year allowed me to focus on polishing my application, and my writing sample and GRE scores were very good as a result. Plus, my letters were stronger -- in fact, one of my best recommenders said that she didn't think I would have gotten into the type of PhD programs that I did if she had written for me just one year ago. As my thesis adviser, she saw me mature both personally and academically through the spring and fall of 2011. The downside of taking time off, of course, is that your languages might get weak -- I had to be disciplined this year to read independently.

Interviews are also important -- one of the professors who interviewed me said that a lot of this process is about "chemistry", meaning that the candidates need to fit with the department. To some extent, you can't control this, but do try to get along with the current students. If the adcom perceives that you will create strife within the department, you probably won't get an offer, no matter how stellar you are.

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I should mention I had a weird mix of programs, so my experience was with a range of areas in Classics

Applied: 8

Accepted: 5 (3 Ancient History, 1 Classical Archaeology, 1 Classical Studies)

Feedback I got: Every program I was accepted to (except for one) mentioned several times that the professors were impressed with my writing sample so that seems very important. Re: Beezelbub's post my writing sample was on an untraditional topic so that seems to have helped.

Reaching out to programs: In my experience again, it depends on the program. I reached out to a little more than half of the programs I applied to and at some places it helped and at some it didn't. [For future reference, it seems to have helped a lot to reach out to Penn; they even suggest visiting in the fall if you can (although I just e-mailed and still got accepted). Comparatively, my friend warned me not to bother visiting Stanford before submitting an application because he and the other students there call it the kiss of death. Therefore, if you can, I'd suggest asking people at the programs whether or not it helps and which professors it makes a difference to talk to.]

Number of applications: I actually agree with soleil on this one. I am one of those people that only applied to top name programs but that was because I only wanted to apply to places that I would actually go (granted a still applied to quite a few--I liked them all!). Also, since I am coming straight out of undergrad, I figured I could shoot big and hope it worked out and if it it didn't I could do something else for a year and reapply.

Favorites: I also tried though not to have a favorite during the process since I did not want to get my heart set on a school. I'm really glad I did this because in the end the program that ended up seeming like best fit for me caught me very much by surprise! If I had made my decision without visiting the programs, I would have chosen very differently. Overall, this process completely upended my expectations. The programs that I thought were a complete reach I ended up getting and some of the ones I thought I was the best fit for I didn't.

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