Jump to content

Looking Forward

Recommended Posts

So, two years ago I was deep in PhD applications, but then I got cold feet pretty late in the game (around October). Since then, I've been trying to convince myself that it was the right thing to do, but I can't count the number of times I have found myself basically compiling an application again.


I don't want this to be long, so I'm not going to write a personal essay about why I think it is right for me to apply. Whatever. All I know is that right now it feels inevitable that I will apply to programs, but for a variety of reasons, I'm almost certain I can't apply this cycle. Knowing, then, that I will apply over a year from now, what actions can I take now to bolster my eventual application? I know I can study for the GRE and work endless hours on a writing sample, but I mean, ostensibly, I have over a year. Should I seek publication? Try to present at a conference? Are these things possible when you're just a dude who's waiting around to apply? Or should I just, you know, hang out until it's time?


Also, I greatly fear that being away from school for 4+ years and not being directly involved in professional academic pursuits will hinder my application (although right now I work in HS ELA curriculum development, which is vaguely related). Can someone confirm for me that this is unfounded anxiety?


I would really appreciate any input, especially in light of the fact that there are many others on here with far more pressing questions re: this application cycle.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi noking,


I can't really allay your fears about time away not mattering.  It might, especially if that means that your writing sample and personal statement don't interact with current scholarship in your chosen interest area.  Is there a University nearby where you could take a graduate course, ideally one in the area you are interested in?  Even if you take it pass/fail and just focus on reading/catching up and working on a new writing sample, it would be a good use of your time if possible.  If that isn't possible, try to get your hands on a subscription to one of the top journals in your area.  Read or at least skim the issues for the last couple of years.  This will tell you what people are working on now, and it may help you narrow down your list of POIs and schools to apply to.  


When you do apply, you might want to add some funded MA programs to your list of schools so that if the Ph.D. option doesn't work out right away, you've got a funded way of getting back into academia and developing your scholarship.  As to what to do this year otherwise, if you had/have a close relationship with the profs you will ask to write your LORs, you might get in touch with them and see what their advice is.  Definitely do research the dismal state of the field in terms of job statistics.  No one should walk into a Ph.D. without knowing this.  I'd recommend getting and reading Gregory Semanza's (think that's how it is spelled) Graduate Study for the 21st century.  This will tell you a lot about what a Ph.D. program will be like, and it might help you verify that you do, in fact, want to apply.  


I'd also say that it doesn't hurt to try to conference, especially if you can do it without spending lots of money.  Look for conferences near you (Check UPenn's list, which is free to access for everyone).  This would be a good place to present work you think you'd like to specialize in or, better yet, develop into your writing sample. You can get feedback about whether it is exciting/new/interesting or repeating old work.  As for publishing, if you think you've got something polished and ready to send out, you certainly can.  Worst a peer-reviewed journal can do is say no, but if you read issues of whatever journal you select, which you should always do before submitting a piece of writing, and don't feel like your writing at the moment is up to that level, work on it before you submit it.  Even if you do get rejected, you should get reader reports, which should help you revise this piece for your writing sample.  


Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.