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how intense is everyone getting with their fit paragraphs?

i honestly feel a little silly tacking these on when the people who are reading my statement know probably better than i do who i'd be suited to working with. i totally understand the need to demonstrate that i've done research on the program and that i'm not just picking random schools and hitting the "send" button 12 times on applications...but on the other hand writing these paragraphs feels like a ridiculous fiction. everybody knows we are slapping on these paragraphs at the end of multiple applications. i almost wish there was a separate box to write a "fit" statement so that it didn't feel quite so goofy to me. it's like i'm whispering to each school "no really YOU'RE my favorite...i seriously love YOU the most...don't tell the others". but that's not the point, just a minor rant.

i've been doing a little research on each program, finding out who is doing what and where and making up a few sentences. i've been mostly gearing it toward specific faculty, but i'm wondering if others are getting more general. ("to whom it may concern: the huntington library is really cool" or "there sure are a lot of americanists at this school. and famous ones too!") please all refrain from stealing my eloquent phrasing on those. i know it will be difficult, but try to resist the temptation.

at this point i'm just blabbing, but thoughts?

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I would agree that it does feel a little silly doing a fit paragraph based on, for the most part, the short faculty bios supplied on each department's website. After writing my fit paragraphs, I think the exercise is almost more important for the applicant than it is for the department. When you're writing you pretty quickly get a sense of whether you fit or not. You can only do so much if no one is working in your field of interest. If you don't 'fit' somewhere there's no reason for you to apply there and waste the application fee, and you also save the Admissions Committee some time.

That said, my approach has been really similar to yours--mentioning faculty members and what they've been up to that is relevant to me. You may also want to look into what Journals or special programs are housed at that University--for example, if you're interested in the novel and applying to Stanford, you probably would want to mention the Center for the Study of the Novel. The only time I've deviated from this formula was in my fit paragraph for my undergrad institution--students are often discouraged from returning to their undergraduate school for graduate study. I felt that I had to justify why I thought I could still acquire a rounded education from that particular program.

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I've tried to make my fit paragraphs refer to university and programs strengths rather than naming specific faculty...I kind of feel like I have no idea if I want to work with someone until I get there....but I CAN tell if the program has the kinds of resources for my articulated project, if they share the same values and approach that I do, or if they even just have "a lot" of faculty working in complementary areas. The only time I mention faculty by name is when I have read one of their works in its entirety and therefore feel comfortable making some assumptions about whether or not we might have common interests.

I know there are a lot of people on here that get really into the nitty gritty of naming professors, and I think that is ONE of the available approaches, but certainly not the only one. What you really want to convey is that you've got a legitimate reason for applying there, and I think that can be done without dropping names.

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