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Hey everyone. So, yeah... I totally got rejected from all the PhD programs I applied to this year. Still waiting on the M.A.s to give a decision but i am thinking of just waiting and trying to apply for more PhD programs for Fall 2015.

 

So, my question is, does anyone have any experience with application consultants? like www.stratusprep.com or www.admissionsconsultants.com and the like? They are terribly expensive. I'm just wondering if hiring these places is kind of like a given that everyone knows to do and if I just missed the memo. All the news articles floating around sure make it sound like if you don't hire a consultant, you might as well not apply. Also, if anyone knows of any good consultants that are a little less pricy, I'd be interested to know about that as well. :) I'm hoping, however, that these places are just gimmicky businesses that no one actually uses. 

 

 

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I would say not for PhD applications, especially in the humanities. They might make sense for undergraduates, or perhaps those without a strong writing background, but I'd be very surprised if any of them did a good enough job for you; i.e. if you're applying to PhD programs you're better than the service you're going to get. It might be better worth your while (and wallet) to maybe form a discussion/ reading group with other 2nd term applicants from on here. That's just my opinion though, and I haven't really knocked my applications out of the park, so take it with a barrel of salt. 

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I think it really comes down to fit, sop, and writing sample, and, I agree, as a PHD candidate, you are hopefully a better paper writer than the consultants.  Plus, only you can determine fit and your research interests.  Maybe consult with a trusted professor to get a critique on your sop and writing sample???? Good luck, and I'm sorry.  I may be applying next year with you if I don't get off this wait list!

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I've never known anyone to pay for a professional consultant. In my experience, the best consultant is a trusted professor who knows the expectations of ad comms and the language and state of your field.

Also, I was shut out of PhD programs when I applied right after my BA. I applied again after my MA, and I was accepted into five. Perhaps think of an MA program as a consultant: you'll get to work on a strong writing sample and you'll make deeper connections with professors who can guide you through the process.

Good luck!

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I've never known anyone to pay for a professional consultant. In my experience, the best consultant is a trusted professor who knows the expectations of ad comms and the language and state of your field.

Also, I was shut out of PhD programs when I applied right after my BA. I applied again after my MA, and I was accepted into five. Perhaps think of an MA program as a consultant: you'll get to work on a strong writing sample and you'll make deeper connections with professors who can guide you through the process.

Good luck!

 

Yes x 1000. MAs are not the end of the world, even if unfunded (I know there are people who disagree with me here about this point). You will have the opportunity to write some really excellent future writing samples in an MA program, which will have much more rigorous standards about writing (some of the comments my first semester were pretty brutal!). Also, they usually have a better professional development person who can help you apply. I've had way more success this time around after I was shut out of every PhD program out of undergrad. In MA programs, the professors treat you like one of their professional colleagues, so it's a much different scholarly environment.

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I've never known anyone to pay for a professional consultant. In my experience, the best consultant is a trusted professor who knows the expectations of ad comms and the language and state of your field.

Also, I was shut out of PhD programs when I applied right after my BA. I applied again after my MA, and I was accepted into five. Perhaps think of an MA program as a consultant: you'll get to work on a strong writing sample and you'll make deeper connections with professors who can guide you through the process.

Good luck!

This is the best advice one can give. I had the exact same experience. Rejected to 11 PhD programs after my BA at a small lib. arts college. I thought life was over and that I was not meant for this field. Did an MA at a very low ranked school and had fantastic advisers, did lots of conferences, met some people, and this time around I've gotten into 3 programs so far. I am infinitely more prepared this time. 

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I'm just wondering if hiring these places is kind of like a given that everyone knows to do and if I just missed the memo. 

 

I'd say definitely not. I don't know of anyone who has. I haven't done well with my apps, but I do have one acceptance and I didn't use a service. I'd even go so far as to say that my apps were definitely not PhD quality, but I've still been offered a spot. (Although, I too am an MA to PhD applicant, so there's probably something to be said about doing an MA first).

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I ... kind of wish I had used one during my first round? I'd been out of school for about four years and lived very far from previous professors. I indeed tried to get former professors to help me with my statement, but no one came through with comments. I was a little nervous about sharing my statement with somewhat anonymous people on the internet.. And I had a job at the time, so I had the money.

 

However, I agree with what everyone else here has said: these consultants can probably help you with wording issues or structure, but they won't be able to comment on the creativity or validity of your proposed intervention. When I went from MA to PhD, I got help from professors in my program and some other grad students. That's probably best.

 

FWIW, these consultants also exist for job market stuff. They say they help with your cover letter, your teaching philosophy, and your interview skills. I don't know of anyone who has used one, but unfortunately I think there is a need for them: Advisers do not help people with their job letters as much as they should.

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If you are currently attending a university, I would definitely take advantage of its resources before pursuing expensive (and potentially fruitless) outside help. Even if one or two professors you ask for help don't come through or are too busy, keep trying. My undergraduate thesis advisor recently became the DGS of the college, and I was really looking to her for help, but I suspect she was too busy. I was wary to ask a professor that I just started taking a class with for help on my writing sample and personal statements, but when I did he really came through with giving me the advice I needed. I actually credit his help with me getting into a PhD program. Keep trying to get advice from professors, they are the ones who really know what is going on with admissions.

 

I'll also second everyone who has mentioned exchanging materials with peers. Sometimes reading/critiquing other's writing will get you to notice the strengths and weaknesses of your own. Even if I were out of school for a while, I still don't think I would go to a professional service. I just can't imagine them being able to give any specific advice for English programs beyond the tone and quality of your writing. In this way, maybe an MA program is the way to go because this will allow you to network with different professors that will be invested in your work and your future.

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As someone who works as an application consultant....don't do it.

 

My work is helpful and rewarding to my clients because I exclusively work with international applicants looking to study abroad, and many international students aren't familiar with the U.S. education system and its (often obtuse) norms. If you are an American, with an American educational background, I don't really know what we could do for you. Of course, my company would happily take your money, but my own checkered application results suggest that consultants are never a guarantee of success. :)

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