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I thought it might be helpful to start a fresh thread to cap off the admissions/notification season, and to look ahead.  If anyone else feels comfortable, perhaps you could announce/share where you plan to attend in the fall and how you came to make that decisions.  I'm also interested in hearing how others plan to prepare for the upcoming school year, or what your attention has now turned toward. 

For myself, I plan to attend the University of Utah in the fall.  The decision wasn't too difficult for me to make because their offer came with a very enticing fellowship and the faculty members in my area of interest are fantastic.  The comparable rankings among all my funded offers also made it a little easier to pick based on things that mattered to me rather than being forced to consider things like a general reputation/prestige.  

I've been out of school for a number of years now, and I'm very nervous about the process of shaking all this rust off.  My current plan is to make some some reading lists of books I think I should have read and relevant criticism/theory.  Is anyone else planning to do something like this? Or maybe brushing up on a foreign language would be helpful?

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OK, I'm game.

I chose to attend South Carolina this fall, after having the decision come down to South Carolina and LSU. I received six funded offers out of seven applications (the others being Tennessee, Louisiana-Lafayette, UNC Greensboro and Texas Woman's University; I was rejected at Auburn). It was a difficult decision between SC and LSU, but what swung the balance is SC's strength in rhetoric, whereas LSU struck me as much stronger in literature. Were I a lit guy, those two schools would have made for a difficult choice as well, but because I am a rhetoric and critical theory scholar and teacher, I felt South Carolina had the more formidable program, with more concentrated/directed offerings, and a better job placement record for rhet graduates.

LSU has a fair number of postdocs, and while they are primarily in literature and for reasons I completely understand, I went with the better track record for TT hires. Rhet/comp won't always be the jobs powerhouse it has been, and perhaps the balance has already tipped, but it remains a more promising field for prospective employment. I enjoy literature, but more as a vehicle for rhetorical criticism, and my pedagogy from 18+ years of teaching is steeped in rhetoric wherever I find it. 

I, too, have been out of school for a long time--a decade and a half--and perhaps that played into my conservatism in selecting a program with some rhetoric bona fides. I have heard the argument that one can be "too old," even on this board, but the trajectory of my life strongly argues otherwise. I was told I was "too old" to get work with my master's, and then I was told I was "too old" to find work with my J.D., and neither held true. So I will be ancient, I guess, upon graduating with my PhD, and yet I am attending South Carolina more for the experience, the internal and highly personal joy I get from setting goals and achieving them, than for any hope of living "the narrative" job-wise. I selected South Carolina because it felt right, because I felt comfortable with the faculty with whom I spoke and the courses and exams I am slated to take. I visited Columbia and found it delightful, a far cry from the brown, dry, barren nothingburger that is inland Southern California.

For this major life change, my third (or have I lost count?), I wanted a city and a program that felt comfortable yet challenging, rigorous yet supportive. South Carolina's stipend is low, but the five guaranteed years helped, and the personal attention I received throughout the application process from the wonderful DGS, other faculty, and students current and former ultimately convinced me that South Carolina should be the choice. LSU did nothing wrong, but fell consistently short, in slight and not-so-slight ways, across the board.

I didn't let a few hundred extra dollars each month cloud my sight of what was best, long term. We talk about the "best package," and yet there must be an intangible aspect to "best," because stipends are for the most part concentrated between "meager" and "slightly less meager, but still hilarious if uttered out loud."

So it's South Carolina for me. I'd like to hear about others' decisions, and congratulate you all for taking this exciting and wholly necessary step to maximize our experience on this Earth. Take care and be well, everyone.    

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I chose to attend Arizona State because it was the only offer I got :P 

But for real, they were at the top of my list, just behind WashU-STL and CU-Boulder. They have an amazing Jane Austen scholar there who has already agreed to be my advisor throughout my PhD track! In addition, they have a good number of faculty who work with Critical Theory and Digital Humanities, which gives me a good group to work with as I blend DH with traditional aspects of theory and literary analysis. 

The faculty have been nothing but helpful and supportive as I start the big move from Flint, MI to Phoenix. I am going to Skype the DGS and my faculty advisor next week to discuss more aspects of the program, my plans post-PhD, and anything they can do to help with the big moving process. It's been surreal in the best way I can imagine.

But, just like @HumanCylinder, I've been out of school for a while (7 years, to be accurate). I am worried that the transition to the other side of the classroom will be rough, considering how I am used to seeing myself as only an instructor (as far as my academic role goes). While I have complete faith that I can do this, I do have nagging worries, especially about bad habits from undergrad and my MA studies creeping back up...

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Great thread so far!

I, too, chose to attend the only (funded) offer I received: UW Seattle. But even though this was the only funded offer (I was accepted to two other programs, and waitlisted at one--but none with funding), UW was still the best possible choice for me among the programs I applied to. I will be studying 20th and 21st C American literature, with an emphasis in gender, sexuality, and queer studies, and UW has some AMAZING faculty members in those areas. Despite all of this, the decision was somewhat difficult for me to make, as this will be my first big move away from my family (in Southern CA) and I am planning a wedding for November (that is already booked in CA). So there will be lots of flights back home in the coming months, but I knew that the fully funded offer for a guaranteed 4 years at such an amazing university was an opportunity I couldn't let a few flights and missing home get in the way of.

In regards to preparing for starting the program this Fall, I am continuing to brush up on queer theory and relevant literature (I have only been out of school for a year at this point) to have a better sense of texts I might like to work with for my eventual dissertation. I am hoping to create a syllabus of sorts for myself, and begin working through it starting in June when I am done teaching for the current semester at a local CC. I am also brushing up on my foreign language to hopefully be able to test out of the language requirement and not have to take extra coursework for it. And, of course, wedding and moving plans, and all of the associated anxiety/stress.

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Awesome info, and your discussion of these programs sounds fantastic. 

@MeNotMe,  I also felt most comfortable interacting with faculty and current students at Utah, which is just great generally, and I believe it will help ease the transition.  There are actually a lot of California transplants in the program, it seems (which is my home state). 

@BooksCoffeeBeards, It's cool that you already know about your advisor! I honestly have no clue about how any of that stuff progresses.  At both A&M and Utah, I had individual professors reach out who were on the grad committee, and I thought that suggested I could start to think of them as potential advisors or committee member because of their interest in my work.  I'm sure I will figure all of this out in the fall.  My semester is just wrapping up, so hopefully I can get more organized in terms of my thinking once I submit final grades.  

@amlitbookworm Congrats on getting a funded offer!  I love UW's program, probably because I am also a modernist interested in gender (like you), but they only offered me an unfunded spot (twice now).  I plan to jet between Utah and LA quite often myself; luckily our flights won't be too long!  In terms of brushing up on a foreign language, are you just doing some independent study, reviewing old textbooks, etc.? Or are there better methods for studying?  My coursework in French is very old by this point, so I may just need to take the extra courses at this point. 

In general, I vacillate between excitement/joy at being a student again, and the anxiety that some of you all mentioned, for me primarily concerning my ability to perform up to expectations, and a bit about managing the workload.  Hence, my urge to prep over the summer.  Maybe I will feel better once I get started on that. 

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I chose to actually depart from English altogether and accepted a fellowship offer from NC State for a PhD in Higher Education Administration. I limited my grad school search to programs around Raleigh and Durham because my wife has a good job here, and I didn't want to live in poverty for the next 4-6 years. Plus, it helps that there are some great programs right around here. Aside from NC State's PhD in Higher Ed. Admin, I applied to Duke's English program, NC State's CRDM program, UNC-Chapel Hill's English program, and UNC-Greensboro's English program (all PhD). I got funded offers from UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Chapel Hill and was rejected from Duke and NC State's CRDM program. 

In the end, my decision came down to UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State for Higher Ed. Admin. This was probably the most difficult decision I've ever made, mostly because my heart has always been in literature, and UNC obviously has a fantastic program with fantastic faculty (and is one of the top-ranked programs in the country). However, the fellowship offer from NC State, coupled with the fact that it's a shorter program (4 vs. 6 years) as well as my belief that it will give me more job opportunities, ultimately won me over, and I will be enrolling there this fall. Plus, I tend to get bored/burned out with things after so long, and so the excitement of doing something completely different was also a factor. My advisor and I are currently developing a reading list for the Summer 1 term.  

I am still not really over leaving behind a discipline that has been such a significant part of my life for so long (I majored in English literature in college and in a 2-year Masters program at Wake Forest University), but I am looking very much forward to a totally new discipline. Just to be clear, I've worked for the last two years as the director of a writing center, and so that's the main experience I'm bringing to the NC State program in administration. It's also a perk that NC State is literally right down road (not even 5 minutes) from the institution whose writing center I direct, so I can still pick up some part time hours as a tutor there. All in all, I'm very excited!

Edited by TomJones678
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On 4/23/2016 at 11:32 AM, BooksCoffeeBeards said:

I chose to attend Arizona State because it was the only offer I got :P 

I'm just a lurker in a corner of the boards that hold little relevance to me, but..

Arizona State sounds like a great place! I love how forward thinking they are, and I'd love to have gone there if I could have actually studied what I wanted to there. :D The school is super huge, though. Have you visited? It's a very big school. It might be the largest campus in the US.

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@HumanCylinder Thank you, and congrats on your program as well! You're right, at least our flights aren't too long!

So far I have been using old textbooks from high school and undergrad, as well as an app called DuoLingo (on the App Store for free) to brush up on my German. I'm pretty far removed from taking those classes though, so I am hoping to be able to get myself back up to speed on my own and not have to take the extra coursework. The good thing about UW's foreign language requirement, though, is that the German test is 1 hour and 40 minutes, but it is all written (no verbal or audio), which is usually what I struggle with most. I can listen/read/understand really well, but my responses aren't nearly as quick or coherent as they probably should be. ugh.

But check out DuoLingo if you haven't already! I think it's hard to learn a language on that app, but I think it's good for refreshing if you already have a general sense of the grammar rules. :) 

Edited by amlitbookworm
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1 hour ago, Neist said:

I'm just a lurker in a corner of the boards that hold little relevance to me, but..

Arizona State sounds like a great place! I love how forward thinking they are, and I'd love to have gone there if I could have actually studied what I wanted to there. :D The school is super huge, though. Have you visited? It's a very big school. It might be the largest campus in the US.

I have a feeling I will LOVE it at ASU, but I know I'm in for a bit of culture shock. I went to two mid-sized public universities for undergrad/grad (Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green, respectively); in addition, I just finished teaching at a Univ. of Michigan satellite campus (Flint), where they have about 12 buildings total. 12.

That's about one corner of the ASU Tempe campus alone.

But, I think I will enjoy it immensely. Like you said, they are very forward-thinking there, especially at the graduate level. I'm also excited to work within a department that seems to have more resources than normal for a humanities department.

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20 minutes ago, amlitbookworm said:

But check out DuoLingo if you haven't already! I think it's hard to learn a language on that app, but I think it's good for refreshing if you already have a general sense of the grammar rules. :) 

I second DuoLingo--it's an absolutely fantastic app, and it's free. There have been some studies showing its effectiveness being similar to that of Rosetta Stone. And it's fun!

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17 minutes ago, BooksCoffeeBeards said:

I just finished teaching at a Univ. of Michigan satellite campus (Flint), where they have about 12 buildings total. 12.

I'm going to a conference there pretty soon!! I've never been there before, and I'm really looking forward to it.

And to chime in, I made my decision (MA and not PhD, though) on location, faculty, proximity to home, and stipend. Miami University seemed to have the best to offer in regards to all of these things. I'm the first one in my family to go to graduate school, so I didn't get a lot of help at home. I got the most support from my professors, but interestingly, I have the closest ties to the faculty in my second major (which isn't comp/rhet), so it was kind of cool to get their input as people not wrapped up in the comp/rhet field and filled with certain biases (though of course I asked around my rhet/comp department, too). They (second major faculty) sat down with me and asked me what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live, and all of that, and it really helped me dig deep and make my decision from there.

And of course I asked some people on here what they thought!!! :) 

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17 hours ago, HumanCylinder said:

In terms of brushing up on a foreign language, are you just doing some independent study, reviewing old textbooks, etc.? Or are there better methods for studying?  My coursework in French is very old by this point, so I may just need to take the extra courses at this point. 

 

My second major is French and I know a French professor who is going to be starting at the University of Utah in the fall! You should totally take a class with him if it suits your level/purposes, but even if you want to self-study, he's a nice guy and I'm sure he would send you a syllabus of one of his classes or something to help you brush up. Feel free to PM me if you'd like any French-specific advice or tips! 

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While I started my graduate application season with the intention of applying to Comp Lit programs, it became pretty clear that I may be better served and simultaneously increase my chances of acceptance if I applied to Scandinavian Studies departments with strong literature programs. I was really hesitant at first to pigeonhole myself into an area studies discipline, but ultimately the language support I would get and the interdisciplinarity of the programs won me over. That said, there are only around 3 graduate level programs in the States and while Europe would make sense, they don't really offer stipends. I visited my top two schools and decided largely by gut. I accepted University of Washington's offer because the department's faculty are really encouraging of broad engagement across departments, are aligning the programs more across literary currents and not national literatures, they gave me more money ;), and when I visited it really felt like a good fit.

As I'm coming from a broad humanities background, I've been doing a lot of reading within Scandinavian Studies for the last few months by way of preparation -- reading "the classics" of the discipline and broad historical overviews of the region. I'm spending my summer in intensive language programs in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, which I'm really excited about! My Icelandic is quite rusty, and soon I'll be one of the sole speakers in a department, and I worry that this will make me the de facto expert... so best brush up on my declensions! 

20 hours ago, amlitbookworm said:

The good thing about UW's foreign language requirement, though, is that the German test is 1 hour and 40 minutes, but it is all written (no verbal or audio), which is usually what I struggle with most. I can listen/read/understand really well, but my responses aren't nearly as quick or coherent as they probably should be. ugh.

Thank you @amlitbookworm for that insight into the German exam, I will have to take this test at some point throughout my program. The French one as well. I know the German department offers a summer German for Reading course, which I think my program will count as part of the foreign language requirement.

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When choosing between the University of Mississippi and UC Davis, it was a difficult decision when it came to purely academic concerns and fit with the department and faculty. What ultimately made up my mind was the huge difference in stipend and the somewhat superficial criterion of location. However, my partner will be moving with me, and the location makes a huge difference in making him happy with leaving where we are now. It's not just him though--I ain't mad at moving to California. Just continuing my western progression across the continent!

Edited by sarabethke
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  • 2 weeks later...

I applied to four schools (UBC, Georgetown, Villanova and Penn State), all for funded MA programs. I ended up getting funding from UBC (nearly everything first year, at least a teaching position second year) and Penn State (fully funded TAship) and could potentially have gotten funding from Villanova as well (I crossed them out when I got accepted by the other three schools since I liked the other three a lot better). I wanted to do either Romanticism or Science Studies since I majored in Bioengineering and minored in English for my undergrad; I'm going to be attending UBC in the Fall.

Reasons not to attend Georgetown: No funding, the school's strengths didn't match up that well with mine, the professors I really admire won't really be teaching during the two years I'll be there.

RNA Villanova: I'll be staying in the same area as my undergrad (Penn) while I like traveling and moving; strengths didn't match up that well with mine

RNA Penn State: I didn't really connect with their R & SS professors during my campus visit, I don't foresee my job prospects really going up after just getting an MA there, and having spent the last 7 years of my life in Houston and then Philadelphia, I don't particularly want to stay in State College for the next ~5 years of my life (since their MA program usually feeds into their PhD program).

Reasons to attend UBC: Decent funding, a strong science studies department (also interdisciplinary with history, philosophy etc), several professors I'm interested in working with, more networking possibilities (especially considering I'm an international Chinese student), Vancouver (beautiful accessible city).

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