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Can you suggest some options for less-competitive schools? I'm already kind of banking on being at CUNY next year, so I don't see any point in applying to schools that are qualitatively worse than CUNY.

As someone mentioned, Northwestern would be great for that. They typically accept 7-12% of applicants. Also, UT Austin, Penn State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Madison all have great programs.

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I just got a phone call from Tufts University! First acceptance. Beyond excited.

I'm reading this thread and seeing your stories and concerns, and they transport me back six years ago, when I first applied to graduate school. I applied to graduate school right out of my undergrad.

I just got into Syracuse's MA! Holy shit. Weight lifted.   Funding info to come, but they try to fund everyone. Woooo!

As someone mentioned, Northwestern would be great for that. They typically accept 7-12% of applicants. Also, UT Austin, Penn State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Madison all have great programs.

 

This.

 

And that will give you a super substantial list if you tack it onto the schools you're already applying to.

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Hi there!

 

Oddly, I'm already a little freaked by the application season, probably because I'm already in grad school and the idea of applying to grad school again at the same time makes me die a little inside! Before I start preparing properly, there are a couple of things I'm a bit worried about. It'd be great if you guys could offer a little help with them!

 

  1. When I was absently considering applying last season (I didn't because I got another funded year out of my MFA), I asked my MA thesis supervisor for a recommendation but she didn't reply to either of my emails. She'd offered to write me a letter unprompted previously, but I'm a little nervous about contacting her again. I have other, possibly better recommenders at my previous grad school, but I'm wondering whether it'll look weird if my MA supervisor isn't one of them. I'm also working with a prof in the English department at my current uni, so there's potential there provided we develop a good relationship. I guess my question is, when it comes to recommenders, what criteria wins out? Would it be okay if all of my recommendations came from my MFA rather than my MA? I'm also a little nervy about asking profs for letters more than once!
  2. UPenn is my dream school, and I actually did a year of graduate study there as an undergrad on an exchange program. I did well (As, A-s), but due to my general ignorance of the American system at the time, and the lack of support from my home uni, I failed to withdraw from a course I didn't need and thus got an F on my transcript. I was gutted! 'm hoping an adcomm would see this is a total anomaly considering the other grades I got, but I wonder if there's a way to explain it somehow, without sounding like the idiot I am (or was). Anyone think this could be a problem? I've since presented a paper at UPenn's McNeil Centre, so hopefully that'll look okay.
  3. Anyone worried about whether their interests seem too disparate? I'm finding it hard to label mine because there's a lot of cross-over with the stuff I'm interested in.
  4. As a fiction writer, it's important to me to attend a program with a strong focus on Narrative Theory and a generally strong creative writing community. I'm wondering how much I should make of my fiction writing in an application. Anyone think the MFA could be a put-off for some programs?
  5. Language requirement: I passed my reading exam for UVA but I'm not fluent, which worries me when it comes to some of the programs on my list. I think it'll be the weakest part of my application. Any suggestions as to what I can do in this short time to strengthen it?

Sorry for all the questions and thanks so much for your help! i love this forum already!

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Hi there!

 

Oddly, I'm already a little freaked by the application season, probably because I'm already in grad school and the idea of applying to grad school again at the same time makes me die a little inside! Before I start preparing properly, there are a couple of things I'm a bit worried about. It'd be great if you guys could offer a little help with them!

 

  1. When I was absently considering applying last season (I didn't because I got another funded year out of my MFA), I asked my MA thesis supervisor for a recommendation but she didn't reply to either of my emails. She'd offered to write me a letter unprompted previously, but I'm a little nervous about contacting her again. I have other, possibly better recommenders at my previous grad school, but I'm wondering whether it'll look weird if my MA supervisor isn't one of them. I'm also working with a prof in the English department at my current uni, so there's potential there provided we develop a good relationship. I guess my question is, when it comes to recommenders, what criteria wins out? Would it be okay if all of my recommendations came from my MFA rather than my MA? I'm also a little nervy about asking profs for letters more than once!
  2. UPenn is my dream school, and I actually did a year of graduate study there as an undergrad on an exchange program. I did well (As, A-s), but due to my general ignorance of the American system at the time, and the lack of support from my home uni, I failed to withdraw from a course I didn't need and thus got an F on my transcript. I was gutted! 'm hoping an adcomm would see this is a total anomaly considering the other grades I got, but I wonder if there's a way to explain it somehow, without sounding like the idiot I am (or was). Anyone think this could be a problem? I've since presented a paper at UPenn's McNeil Centre, so hopefully that'll look okay.
  3. Anyone worried about whether their interests seem too disparate? I'm finding it hard to label mine because there's a lot of cross-over with the stuff I'm interested in.
  4. As a fiction writer, it's important to me to attend a program with a strong focus on Narrative Theory and a generally strong creative writing community. I'm wondering how much I should make of my fiction writing in an application. Anyone think the MFA could be a put-off for some programs?
  5. Language requirement: I passed my reading exam for UVA but I'm not fluent, which worries me when it comes to some of the programs on my list. I think it'll be the weakest part of my application. Any suggestions as to what I can do in this short time to strengthen it?

Sorry for all the questions and thanks so much for your help! i love this forum already!

 

I know there are some people on these boards who were successful applying to phds out of MFA programs and they could definitely give a better opinion about this, but my advice would be to keep mum about your creative writing ambitions in your english phd applications (that's what my advisors told me).

 

In your statement of purpose, focus your interests (artificially if neccessary--as I did); a long list of things you're into won't do (unless they're made coherent somehow).

 

For recommendations, Lit professors are better than creative writing professors.

 

As far as languages, you're applying to english not comp lit--language skills are good, but you don't need to be an expert.

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  1. Language requirement: I passed my reading exam for UVA but I'm not fluent, which worries me when it comes to some of the programs on my list. I think it'll be the weakest part of my application. Any suggestions as to what I can do in this short time to strengthen it?

 

Hi!

 

I don't have much to add about most of your questions, but a site that I like for language practice is duolingo.com. They make learning into a game of sorts (leveling up and such) and it keeps me engaged.

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 UCSC will be less competitive, but they also don't have a comp lit program, per se. 

eh, i got into a handful of top-10 and top-20 English programs, and was rejected from santa cruz. they have a really interesting, nontraditional department, so fitting their ethos is prob more important to them than most.

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My department just hired a recent UCSC Lit PhD into a TT position. Nothing to scoff at - it's a great program! Donna Haraway is emerita in their History of Consciousness department. Plus, Santa Cruz is gorgeous. I generally agree with Phil Sparrow, but it's also really important to do your research about not only placement numbers but also what sorts of jobs people are getting in particular departments - there are a few wild-card lower-ranked ones (~30-60) that do quite well in certain subfields and aren't just placing into heavy teaching colleges.

smellybug, I'm a third-year at Michigan and had no idea that Rackham collected and published all that data! Seriously, all schools should do this. Here are the English stats for anyone interested. Looks like a 71% rate of grads in TT jobs within five years of graduation - really about as good as it gets. Thanks for posting!

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Thanks for your help!

 

At the risk of sounding supremely negative, this feels exhausting and a bit impossible already. Researching today gave me a big case of the ickies. :( I cannot think of an activity I find less pleasurable than applying to grad school, but then I've never been waterboarded...

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Hi all,

 

It appears I'm late to this thread, but I'm applying next year too (just registered here). I've been out of undergrad for coming up on five years (good lord), which presents a host of challenges. Three of my best professors have died in that period, and I'm wondering how well the remainder remember me. I was a bright, if precocious and immature, undergraduate with good but not perfect grades. I never stopped reading, though, and in my time away from school I've really solidified my research interests and writing skills. In the time before application I'm hoping to develop my German reading knowledge and try to get some Italian under my belt, in addition to the usual rigamarole of GRE, SOP, LOR, OMG, WTF, ETC. I'm primarily applying to Comp. Lit, though I'm still open to pursuing pure English for the right program. I'm open to any and all recommendations! The current strategy is to stay organized and tenacious with what I assume is a pretty typical Excel spreadsheet setup.

 

Right now I'm most curious as to how prepared Comp. Lit. students are in their secondary languages. Obviously this is central to these programs, but I have little in the way of institutional proof of study (except for Latin, which is not really relevant to my interests). Should I shell out the (deeply needed) cash to take a program at the Goethe Institut? Or should I just study on my own?

 

Good to meet you all!

Hi, I'm applying to comp lit too. I'll try to study basic German with a private tutor but I don't know what level will be safe to mention on my CV. I also don't know if there's a cluster of languages that are related to each other. I mean; If you're going to study English/Arabic, who decides which third language work well with those two? Should I study German or Persian?

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eh, i got into a handful of top-10 and top-20 English programs, and was rejected from santa cruz. they have a really interesting, nontraditional department, so fitting their ethos is prob more important to them than most.

 

They are very interdisciplinary (not just in theory) and are looking for people who are not just interested in literature in the traditional sense. I didn't mean to imply that it wasn't a great program, but on visit day there were twelve of us. And that's just the people who could make it. I am assuming they made close to twenty offers, which is really a lot. Perhaps this is an unfair assumption, but I thought that meant it would be less competitive. Great program, but they still make a lot of offers.

 

intextrovert, could I ask you a couple questions about the program at Michigan? That is likely where I will be headed in the fall. 

 

ETA: When asked about placement, UCSC said they have a decent track record of placing people who study American-minority literatures. A current grad student told me that some schools seem to be "confused" by the unique program and that may hinder job-seeking graduates.  

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Twenty offers is not a lot at all - almost all programs, including mine, admit about double the number they expect to enroll. That's reasonable when most people will have multiple offers. But yes, like I said, lower-ranked programs like UCSC that do well tend to do well in particular subfields, not overall - hence the need to do detailed research beyond just raw numbers.

 

Yes, feel free to PM me with questions about Michigan!

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Maybe this deserves its own thread, but I'm curious as to what specific interests people have. I have 2 major areas, if you like, which I think I will probably tailor my SOP to depending on the program.

 

1. Place and the construction of race and personhood in Early American and 19th / 20th Century African American literature

2. Race, aesthetics and form in 20th / 21st century African American and Ethnic American lit ( with a particular interest in mixed-race studies - I'm a bit in love with Michele Elam at Stanford - and short fiction )

 

Secondary interests include: humour and representations of race and gender in American culture (from lit to stand up); and, contemporary black female short fiction (ZZ Packer, Danielle Evans, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Edwidge Danticat, etc).

 

I feel like squishing these things together to come up with one clearly defined interest is going to be really hard, so I'm not sure yet if I'll try.

 

What are you guys all hoping to work on?

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Maybe this deserves its own thread, but I'm curious as to what specific interests people have. I have 2 major areas, if you like, which I think I will probably tailor my SOP to depending on the program.

 

1. Place and the construction of race and personhood in Early American and 19th / 20th Century African American literature

2. Race, aesthetics and form in 20th / 21st century African American and Ethnic American lit ( with a particular interest in mixed-race studies - I'm a bit in love with Michele Elam at Stanford - and short fiction )

 

Secondary interests include: humour and representations of race and gender in American culture (from lit to stand up); and, contemporary black female short fiction (ZZ Packer, Danielle Evans, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Edwidge Danticat, etc).

 

I feel like squishing these things together to come up with one clearly defined interest is going to be really hard, so I'm not sure yet if I'll try.

 

What are you guys all hoping to work on?

 

I think this is a good place for this hehe. I think I asked about this earlier in this thread, but I forgot to follow up on it.

 

My interests are listed pretty broadly in my signature. More specifically, I'm interested in the role of race in feminism, particularly when coupled along with this whole "postracial" society business. I have a good deal of interest in all aspects of YA Lit (I have an education background), particularly dystopian YA Lit. Even more specifically, I'm interest in the use of race and gender in dystopian YA lit. 

 

And then there's Pop Culture. I'm a bit of a Pop Culture nerd, especially in terms of film and tv, but also in relation to celebrity culture. A lot of what I do applies theory/criticism (often African American, Feminist and/or Queer) to some aspect of Pop Culture. I'm currently working on two papers that would fall into this category, one of which I'm definitely planning to submit for possible publication. I think that, more so than anything else, I'm greatly interested in how culture comes across in film and tv.

 

I have a hard time being super specific about this sort of thing hehe. I have too many interests for my own good I think. But essentially, I'm interested in the intersections of all those areas in my signature. Figuring out how they interact, work with each other, work against each other, etc. makes me a little bit giddy.

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Maybe this deserves its own thread, but I'm curious as to what specific interests people have. I have 2 major areas, if you like, which I think I will probably tailor my SOP to depending on the program.

 

1. Place and the construction of race and personhood in Early American and 19th / 20th Century African American literature

2. Race, aesthetics and form in 20th / 21st century African American and Ethnic American lit ( with a particular interest in mixed-race studies - I'm a bit in love with Michele Elam at Stanford - and short fiction )

 

Secondary interests include: humour and representations of race and gender in American culture (from lit to stand up); and, contemporary black female short fiction (ZZ Packer, Danielle Evans, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Edwidge Danticat, etc).

 

I feel like squishing these things together to come up with one clearly defined interest is going to be really hard, so I'm not sure yet if I'll try.

 

What are you guys all hoping to work on?

 

I don't really belong in this thread because I was somehow successful this year, but I just wanted to share that I'm also interested in mixed-race literature though in 19th-century American lit.

 

Also, you should know that it's okay if you're still deciding on what you want to focus on and how to tailor your statement of purpose to reflect a focused interest. In fact, at this time last year, I was in the same boat. I was worried because I wasn't really sure if my interests were focused enough and I was bouncing between early American literature or 19th/20th-century American literature. It wasn't until a few months into my senior year that I realized what I really wanted to study, and it just came naturally. So don't fret yet. You still have time. Besides, your two areas are pretty similar. If you can, try to take a class next semester in one or both of those areas to see which you like best. And try to remind yourself why you are interested in those areas. For me, I realized that my biography contributed to my research interests, so keep those kinds of things in mind.

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Thanks, Gauche. Although I think it's a going to be different for me, already having two graduate degrees in the same / cognate field. At this point I have somewhere in the region of 12 graduate classes in Early American / African American / Ethnic-American lit  - once they see that on a transcript, expectations for the focus of the SOP will be understandably high. It's not a problem, really. I know where my focus is, but I want to avoid the trap of being too broad (she doesn't know what she's doing) or too specific (she's already been trained in a school of thought which makes her less attractive (to some programs)). The advice I've received thus far is to pick the programs with a couple of people doing similar work in either area, then depending on fit, pick either no.1 or no.2 to focus on, because I want to extrapolate my dissertation from elements of both. I basically need a program that's flexible with both period and theme. Ah, I really hope that makes sense!

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One thing's for certain: it's a lot easier to puzzle things out properly once you're in a program.

 

I get so obsessed over precision (thanks, MFA) it's probably going to take me about six months to pick the little labels UPenn asks you to put at the top of your SOP! It'll sound like this: Surely African American Lit isn't necessary if I put American Lit and I want to work across multiple periods so I shouldn't put one of those and then where the hell does narrative theory fit into all this oh i've got to put some period down what if I just put twentieth century because well there's tonnes of good books written in there but that leaves out early american... I don't know, maybe I should just give up!

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I can definitely say that one of the benefits of being in an MA program is that I have lot more focus, direction and understanding of what areas I want to work in, even if they are still broad. If I would've tried to go straight to the Ph.D., I think I would've been all sorts of messed up.

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One thing's for certain: it's a lot easier to puzzle things out properly once you're in a program.

 

Exactly. The most respected researcher I've worked with in undergrad told me that it was absolutely fine to get to a program and shift your interests. 

 

Hell, it should probably be expected if the department is bringing in truly intellectually curious people.

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