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Comp Lit Dartmouth MA/Purdue Ph.D/Penn State Ph.D


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I am trying to make the final decision between these programs above. Here's the case: I am admitted to Purdue and Penn State' s Comp Lit Ph.D. Programs with funding, and into Dartmouth's one-year M.A. program with tuition waiver and TAship but fellowship stipend awards are still in process (and the hope is slim :( ).

Well, I am considering seriously accepting the offer from Dartmouth. Sounds crazy? But I really like some time to consolidate my research experience, so as to be better prepared for my application for some top Ph.D. program next year. Also, I think the reputation of Dartmouth MIGHT be higher than the other two.

However, I am not sure whether this is a good strategy for me, especially considering the financial situation in the following years. I am warned that getting into a Ph.D. program is going to be more difficult in the following years.

Any advance? I really count on you guys.

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I don't know specifics about Dartmouth's program and I always hear the inane "shoot for the stars" on this forum. My advice is to really, really consider Purdue and PSU. Penn State is pretty great (that's the only one I researched of your group). Talk to both of those schools and get a feel for them. If you don't feel right about them, that's one thing. However, there is a very real possibility that you go to Dartmouth next year and don't get into any better schools and possibly don't even get into these schools. Everything about this process is random, don't forget that. So, if this is all about trying to get into the best school you can, I think that's just the ego thinking. Good luck.

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Don't be silly. I got an MA offer from Harvard and turned that down. In this economy and with forcasted budget cuts across the board (some PhD programs are staring to consider accepting applicants on only alternate years) it's a much better bet to go with the PhD program. Always go where the money is, not just in this economic clime, but in general. As humanities people we can't afford overwhelming debt, especially given the less than stellar job prospects. Moreover, it is not about the reputation of the school, it's about YOUR reputation while there. What I would do is take the offer from Penn State, do your masters portion, and TRANSFER if you hate the program. Yes, you can do that. Yes, I have friends who have done it and it has worked out just fine for them. But you might find out that you really like your PhD program and the people there. You must be a fit (right?), you were accepted. Personally, I would go wherever there is funding. You can always transfer or do a postdoc or teach at Dartmouth if you decide that that's really where you want to be. Also, make sure you look at your specialization. Which school is ranked higher for that? I'm not saying the program itself, but which school has profs working specifically in your area? Email those people, ask them about the program, ask them if they'd be willing to work with you, ask them what sort of research they do, etc. You might find that taking another look at what you previously thought to be an unappealing option actually does a world of good.

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Many thanks for the advices! Hi, jabberwocky, I am a little curious, why did you turn down the MA offer from Harvard? Mainly because of the financial factor? Harvard's Comp Lit Program is extremely strong in my interests (music and literature, West and East,etc).

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I would agree with the jabberwocky on this one. It's remarkable to me that, in this economic climate, people are seriously considering unfunded MA offers over funded PhD spots -- especially in the humanities!

I suppose I could see it if you had an offer from an ivy and your phd offer was from a really subpar program, but come on! I don't know a whole lot about Dartmouth, but in my mind there's not a lot of difference btwn these programs in terms of reputation.

I had a professor who went to Brown as an undergrad and did his PhD in complit at Purdue -- turned out fine. To me this is kind of a no-brainer.

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A friend of mine did that MA and ended up at UC-Berkeley for the PhD.

I think what people are saying about finances is important, but if money is not the deciding issue then it might be a good idea to go to Dartmouth, and then reapply to other schools next year.

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Another thing you could (and maybe should) do is to email Dartmouth's MA program and ask if they keep records of Ph.D. placements. If 80% of their grads are going to top-10 schools, that's one thing. If Tugboat Captain's friend was an exception to the rule, that's another thing. It would help you a lot to have more information.

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Well my situation is a little different, but yes I turned down Harvard because an unfunded MA, even from Harvard, is not worth the financial sacrifice, especially in times like these, when job offers are scarce and loan repayment invoices start coming in regularly once you've finished your program. I've seen enough, lived in enough places to realize that prestige of the institution is not the foremost determining factor in your career. Rather, it's what you do, and how good at it you are. Look at Cornell's comp. lit. program. This year they took the grand number of THREE applicants out out a pool of four-five hundred. That's ridiculous. And no one can guarantee that just because you were one of those three applicants, you would have better job prospects when you came out. In fact, most job offers right now are coming from two-year colleges who are looking for part timers. What they want is teaching experience and a solid educational foundation, they're not interested in how famous your school is or in what school of theory you've made your stake, but in how much training you've had and what your recommendations say. And the fact is that at a lot of these big-name schools you don't get much attention, especially as a MA student, because most of these MA programs are cash-cows for the department. They know you'll be in and out in two years max and the money is what they care about. You're not a long term investment or an asset to them, but a customer, which means you might not get a lot of one on one time. Do take a look at Dartmouth's placement list and where candidates have gone. And email a few people and ask how they like the program. I ended up choosing a state-school PhD program that would allow me to teach and design my own courses, take classes across a broad range of areas, and ensure that I received some personal attention so that I could get to know faculty members and get decent recs. for my dossier. (That becomes hugely important later on.)

I went to an Ivy as an undergrad and I know what the prestige of a place can do, as well as how horrible it can be to be stuck in a department that's considered top-three in the country, where the profs are super-stars who bicker among themselves and don't give a damn about their graduate students. A friend of mind is currently working with the best Auden scholar around but he's so busy with his conferences and his inflated ego that he never seems to find the time to review her work or help her form contacts. And then employers start to wonder: how come your dossier is so thin? There is this old Croatian proverb (I do comp.lit too, with English) that says: "better to be first man in the village than the idiot of the town". And these PhD programs you mention aren't even that bad! They're great in fact! It's a win-win situation. And I think you'd get to work with people who would really care about what you do and would help you perfect your skills and become a good prof. And that's what you want because in the end, it's yourself and your mind that are the most important thing in this business. We all study literature because we love it, knowing fully well what our earnings will be like. So if for once someone is extending a hand and saying -- look, I'm going to pay you to do what you like best, it's an amazing thing. Take advantage of that.

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Sorry, when I posed this thread,I forgot to mention that the Dartmouth's M.A. is not unfunded. I've got the tuition waiver and TAship, and am just waiting for the news about my stipends awards(if any). So funding is not my deciding factor. The thing is, as an international student,I just want to spend one year to find out whether I can take the challenge from Ph.D study. Anyway, thank you to all of you!

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Hello. While I understand that this is a difficult and important decision for you and your career, please also realize that while you are trying to get all of this sorted out that there are people on the waitlists at the other 2 schools who are waiting for those spots. By all means, examine all of your options closely, but also in a timely fashion in consideration of the other applicants, their partners/spouses, families, and friends.

All the best.

-dg

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Hi dgauthier,

Actually, I have turned down the Comp Lit program at Dartmouth, Purdue as soon as I decided to go to Penn State, because I know the similar painful experience of waiting. Hope this information helps.

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