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so, which are the "most competitive" programs?


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The top 6 comprehensive list is small (Duke, Chicago, Princeton, Yale, Emory, Harvard), but the problem with discussing it here is that everybody wants their school to be on the list.  So folks prefer

The 5 pilgrims who voted down my post sure want their school on the list. 

I don't think it's so much as them wanting to be on the list as it is you just being an obnoxious twat. I'm sorry, but somebody had to say it.

A list was more or less compiled of programs that offer full funding plus a stipend guaranteed.

 

That's here: 

 

At the risk of starting another fire, it is my opinion, that Ph.D programs in general are very competitive. Yes, if a school receives 300+ applications (like Duke, for instance) and only has 3 or 4 spots, sometimes 1 or 2, that is extremely competitive, and yes, the most competitive probably. But even if a school only gets 60 applications yet makes offers to 4 students--that's still pretty competitive! It seems most programs in religion are able to extend offers to anywhere between 1 and 5 students a year, sometimes more. Last year, NU extended offers to 7 with one on a wait list (but I don't know how many total applied.) That was rather unprecedented I think. All of this sort of info is made public by universities, so you can search something like "program statistics" with a university name, and you should be able to track down the stats for a given program over the last few years. NU has info for every program going back to 2007 on its website.

 

Of course, with seminaries, it might be different. When I was at Fuller, it seemed a dozen or more new PhD students were entering each year, but of course, most are unfunded, and there's a much larger faculty.

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The top 6 comprehensive list is small (Duke, Chicago, Princeton, Yale, Emory, Harvard), but the problem with discussing it here is that everybody wants their school to be on the list.  So folks prefer something like the top 25 most competitive programs.  This way, everybody gets a trophy. :)  

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Thank you, Body Politics. I'm not sure where this whole "everybody wants their school to be on the list" idea comes from. I am not even at a school (and my alma mater is certainly nowhere near the top 25), so I could care less about that sort of thing. The question can be considered on its own merits, based on objective standards. 

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I'm not trying to pick a fight, get on a list, or whatever--I just want to further answer the OP's question by demonstrating what I was saying in my first post and also correct some of what I said in my first response. I took time out of my day (5 min.) to do some quick research. Here's what I found:

 

Duke had 169 applicants for the 2013 school year and extended offers to 12. That's 7%. For the 2012 school year, they had 195 and extended offers to 20 (10%).

UVA had 141 applicants for 2013, and extended offers to 21 (15%). In 2012, they had 151 applicants and made offers to 17 (11%).

Northwestern had 50 applicants for 2012 and admitted 5 (10%).

 

I didn't want to spend any more time hunting down other stats, but they're out there. I don't know about the Ivy's, but at least for Duke, the 300+ number (for their religion department) is a bit high. In past years, they have received over 200 though. They also, clearly, admit more than 3 or 4 students.

 

I'm trying to demonstrate that it's really hard to draw conclusions from this. Each school has particular specializations (either tracks or particularly popular faculty.) For instance, because of particular faculty, NU is especially competitive for students studying Catholicism in the US (and American religions more generally) and is maybe not as competitive (yet) in other fields. When I was applying in 2011, I was told by a couple UVA faculty that the TEC track is extremely competitive because they receive so many applications for it. The small admissions figure I gave before (i.e. 1 or 2 students) I think still applies if we're talking about specific tracks even if students are admitted to a program as a whole and not a track. Adcoms still divide up who is going to be admitted by what space they have in their tracks, faculty availability and interest, etc. 

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In my personal opinion, it's just such a complex question to ask. Doctoral programs are so small, with so many different subfields and interests within subfields, along so many different theological stakes, that ranking them usually reveals more about the ranker than the schools.

 

When I was applying, for example, I didn't even send in an application to a couple of the top programs, because I didn't think their current faculty matched my interests.

 

On the other hand, I don't know the numbers, but there are programs that may technically be very competitive, but don't have quite as good of job placement as places with similiar competitiveness (and none of this is taking into account the claims by some that these schools are very invested in inflating their application pools).

 

I'll probably anger people now, but I think Virginia, and to some extent Duke, might be good examples of this. I don't know the numbers, so I may be entirely wrong, but, judging from the comments on this board, they get a lot of attention from what I would consider as conservatives (who want to be taken seriously in the academy). They are the top school for many, but job placement isn't fantastic (i.e., a lot of Virginia profs come from Harvard, but not a bunch of Harvard profs come from Virginia). In other words, technical competitiveness doesn't necessarily reflect the program's strength.

 

Of course, my notions about Virginia, and to a lesser extent Duke, might actually be more useful in what they reveal about my biases than what they may reveal about those schools. Biases, however, actually also play a huge role in job placement. In certain subfields at Virginia and Duke, those people love each other and think their counterparts' work is much more important significant than what's going on at Princeton in that subfield. At my (unnamed) school, the Princeton people are huge deals, while we don't really pay attention to Yale, and especially not Chicago people.

 

So, if you want a certain type of job, Virginia or Duke might be far better than Princeton or Harvard, while other jobs/people would cringe a bit at those programs. Once you really get into the subfield, you start to stereotype each of the other schools professors and students pretty quickly (fairly or not). You can even see a dissertaiton and know which school it came from.

 

Probably more importantly than any of this, however, is that the strenght of subfields can really vary at a school. One school might  have a great Medieval Islamic studies program, but a fairly weak religion in America program, for example. Moreover, there might even be strenghts and weaknesses within the subfield. That's why it's pretty unhelpful to think about which departments are strongest, becaues you're studying in a subfield with particular strengths in that subfield more than your studying in a department.

 

Then you also have to watch out for advisors. Maybe so and so is a really big deal, but is s/he around enough to advise and advocate for her/his students? How good are their networks? Your advisor plays a huge role in your ability to succeed as a scholar and get a job.

 

All of that is to say, even if you get into a very competitive program, it doesn't mean you'll be in a good situation come job time. I don't want to freak people out here, but the subfield and your advisor are really what matter.

 

Again, in my humble opinion, the sooner you start thinking about which advisors you'd like to work with, the better. It'll also make your purpose/personal statement much stronger. All that said, you still want to be at a really strong school. Not to pick on schools, but a professor at GTU might be excellent and a perfect match for you, but GTU isn't going to be able to support you, financially or academically, the way Virginia, Duke, Yale, Chicago, etc will. 

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I don't think it's so much as them wanting to be on the list as it is you just being an obnoxious twat. I'm sorry, but somebody had to say it.

Exactly.

No one should pay attention to Perique69's advice since s/he clearly doesn't know what s/he is talking about.

(Disclaimer: I was admitted to three and wait-listed at two of the six programs on your list, so I'm not speaking out of envy.)

jdharrison and Joseph45 are spot-on. Those are the issues that matter most.

As far as top schools by area, that's really going to depend on each individual's interests. We can help you better if you tell us what you're interested in.

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I don't think it's so much as them wanting to be on the list as it is you just being an obnoxious twat. I'm sorry, but somebody had to say it.

 

Well, well, look who turned out to be Judas!  Of all people, I thought you were my friend.    :(

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Thank you, Body Politics. I'm not sure where this whole "everybody wants their school to be on the list" idea comes from. I am not even at a school (and my alma mater is certainly nowhere near the top 25), so I could care less about that sort of thing. The question can be considered on its own merits, based on objective standards. 

 

You might be an exception, but most here want the "best" whether they admit it, or not.  If they didn't want the best, they'd get their degrees online rather than battling it out for 1 of 5 slots out of 200 plus applications.  But I know younger generations have been taught to minimize language that promotes competition, hierarchy and ranking despite fully engaging in practices that promote exactly what their language minimizes.  That's why you see so many posts about "best" being relative and depending on what you study, etc.  No one wants to make the faux pas of being honest about their unbridled ambition to soar to the "top."     :wub:      

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I'd bet my bottom dollar Perique69 is one of those people at SBL whose eyes never rise above name badge level. As for wanting to be on the "list," I'm content in the knowledge that people smarter than me are making a tremendous investment both in terms of time and money to educate me and that the placement rate for my program is good (even if most of those people teach at small Liberal Arts colleges). I don't need to be the best. I don't need a festschrift when I retire. I just want to get paid to do what I love. It is really as simple as that. 

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The top 6 comprehensive list is small (Duke, Chicago, Princeton, Yale, Emory, Harvard), but the problem with discussing it here is that everybody wants their school to be on the list.  So folks prefer something like the top 25 most competitive programs.  This way, everybody gets a trophy. :)  

I'm on that list, and you're still full of crap.

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