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PhD Applications Fall '17 Season


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On 12/21/2016 at 8:44 PM, xypathos said:

Anyone here familiar with the Canadian system? I've applied to several schools and was notified today that my application for Manitoba was pulled for decision by the department. I've inquired with the department contact  but haven't heard back. I asked a Canadian friend and was told that with particularly strong (or weak) applications that they'll make decisions before the deadline ever closes but that seems to run counter to this whole process as I've understood it. 

I'm not familiar with the Canadian system, but have had a similar experience. I was encouraged by POI's to apply early to their program, and have heard back from them (informally) that I should be getting a formal call in early Jan., despite the deadline technically being Jan. 1. My POI indicated that I was one of 2 applicants they had made an early admit decision on.

And, just so nobody starts freaking out on this thread yet, this is in a discipline other than RS. 

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Hey folks, I've applied to Ph.D. programs in Religious Ethics on the East Coast. I haven't seen anyone else around here mention applying to study ethics but I guess most people are just observing and not sharing. Or maybe I'm the only one and just picked a really fortuitous time to apply. :lol:

Have any of you heard of people finishing a Ph.D. in Religion in the United States in less than five years? I heard some stories of people doing it in four and was interested to hear more about how they pulled it off.

Edited by Adonalsium
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Howdy @Adonalsium! This year has been remarkably quiet, certainly more than most years! While I'm not applying to ethics, I have applied to several programs though primarily around moral theology so not that far from your field.

It's uncommon to finish a Ph.D. in five though if you're coming in with a strong M*, I have certainly heard that it's doable if you hit the ground running and already have an established dissertation idea. I forget their names but the faculty at VDS mentioned several students finishing the Ph.D. in 3-4 but they came in overqualified, to use their term. I don't know your background but the biggest corners to cut would be to minimize courses you need to take and obviously to be prepared to sit for your exams ASAP after those courses are completed. Some schools want students to be prepared to take those exams the summer after courses and going straight into a proposal defense, while others suggest taking up to a year. Obviously though it depends on the student and school.

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13 hours ago, xypathos said:

Howdy @Adonalsium! This year has been remarkably quiet, certainly more than most years! While I'm not applying to ethics, I have applied to several programs though primarily around moral theology so not that far from your field.

It's uncommon to finish a Ph.D. in five though if you're coming in with a strong M*, I have certainly heard that it's doable if you hit the ground running and already have an established dissertation idea. I forget their names but the faculty at VDS mentioned several students finishing the Ph.D. in 3-4 but they came in overqualified, to use their term. I don't know your background but the biggest corners to cut would be to minimize courses you need to take and obviously to be prepared to sit for your exams ASAP after those courses are completed. Some schools want students to be prepared to take those exams the summer after courses and going straight into a proposal defense, while others suggest taking up to a year. Obviously though it depends on the student and school.

Also coming in with all or at least most of one's languages would be important in order to do this. 

In any case, I was also thinking about how quickly I can finish my PhD, but now I realize that I shouldn't rush it at all. It takes a certain amount of incubation time to become an expert and budding scholar.

(To be clear, I just applied for PhD's and don't even know if I'll get in. But I'm now leaning towards US PhDs whereas prior I was focusing my energies on UK ones.) 

Edited by Averroes MD
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On 12/26/2016 at 0:31 PM, xypathos said:

It's uncommon to finish a Ph.D. in five though if you're coming in with a strong M*, I have certainly heard that it's doable if you hit the ground running and already have an established dissertation idea. I forget their names but the faculty at VDS mentioned several students finishing the Ph.D. in 3-4 but they came in overqualified, to use their term. I don't know your background but the biggest corners to cut would be to minimize courses you need to take and obviously to be prepared to sit for your exams ASAP after those courses are completed. Some schools want students to be prepared to take those exams the summer after courses and going straight into a proposal defense, while others suggest taking up to a year. Obviously though it depends on the student and school.

One important factor here is the end game: the job market. In my program the standard time is 5 years, but people will stay for a 6th year or (less likely) finish in 4 depending on their luck on the job market.

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On 12/26/2016 at 11:18 AM, Adonalsium said:

Hey folks, I've applied to Ph.D. programs in Religious Ethics on the East Coast. I haven't seen anyone else around here mention applying to study ethics but I guess most people are just observing and not sharing. Or maybe I'm the only one and just picked a really fortuitous time to apply. :lol:

Have any of you heard of people finishing a Ph.D. in Religion in the United States in less than five years? I heard some stories of people doing it in four and was interested to hear more about how they pulled it off.

I've heard of people doing this too - one person I know who did it ended up using papers from their coursework as chapters of their dissertation. They knew exactly what they were writing their dissertation on, though, so they knew how to direct every paper toward it.

good luck! 

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On 12/26/2016 at 11:18 AM, Adonalsium said:

Hey folks, I've applied to Ph.D. programs in Religious Ethics on the East Coast. I haven't seen anyone else around here mention applying to study ethics but I guess most people are just observing and not sharing. Or maybe I'm the only one and just picked a really fortuitous time to apply. :lol:

Have any of you heard of people finishing a Ph.D. in Religion in the United States in less than five years? I heard some stories of people doing it in four and was interested to hear more about how they pulled it off.

Much of whether or not a person can finish in five or six years depends on the program and the advisor and, depending on those factors, could have nothing to do with how prepared a person is. Program flexibility often changes with the DGS, so, for example, maybe one DGS allows exceptionally prepared students to take their exams a year early (e.g. maybe they already have an MA in religious studies, etc.) but a new DGS comes in a couple years later and puts an end to that. Some universities (mine, for example) don't allow anyone to transfer any units from completed master's degrees toward their PhD course work. I had to earn a third MA through coursework in my program. Some of the coursework was actually very helpful for my exams and now my dissertation--some not so much. I only know of one person (so far) who has graduated from my program in under five years. Most take six or more. I think 5-7 years is pretty common in religious studies. People doing archival research (e.g. history) tend to take 7-8 years.

20 hours ago, gidadu said:

I've heard of people doing this too - one person I know who did it ended up using papers from their coursework as chapters of their dissertation. They knew exactly what they were writing their dissertation on, though, so they knew how to direct every paper toward it.

good luck! 

Using papers as dissertation material is pretty common. Some advisors prep their first year students right from the beginning to structure their entire program toward the dissertation. It's not necessarily a guarantor of finishing early though. In most cases, I'd say it's necessary in order to finish in the "standard" 5-6 years. As I said, I came into my program with two master's degrees. I'm in my fifth year now, and I know it will take me at least until the end of my sixth year to graduate, possibly into my seventh (though I hope not!) When I thought about how exactly I wanted to frame my dissertation in my prospectus, I used many of my seminar papers as a reference to figure out what exactly it was that interested my about my figure/texts that I'm writing about. Courses should no longer just be ends in themselves at the PhD level. They're stepping stones toward the larger, far more difficult project.

On 12/27/2016 at 4:52 PM, xypathos said:

Absolutely @Rabbit Run! I forgot to even mention the job market situation/fiasco, post-doc(s) while trying to line up a TT job, some students spend an extra year working on their dissertation while adjuncting to line up even more teaching experience and to buff up their stipend, etc.

A TT job? Any job. People aren't hanging around their programs or getting postdocs because they're turning up their nose at a tenure track job offer from a third tier state school or tiny liberal arts college. The vast majority of people would be happy to get anything that provides some semblance of job security beyond adjuncting. I hope that doesn't come off as too harsh--but having realistic expectations is important. Almost no one is getting a TT job right out of their program--even people graduating from TT schools. 

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This thread's low turnout is interesting, indeed. It just doesn't make much sense to pour into a religion PhD only to end up in a market offering about 1 job for every 100 graduates (at best). Compare this ratio to newly minted psychiatrists who cherry pick from approximately 50 job offers per individual.  Even if the "prestigious" religion PhD lands a job, the salary is so meager that canned baked beans soon become costly. Meanwhile, lowly nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and IT folks command salaries well over $100k with a fraction of the education and debt of a religion PhD. Resist the narcissistic institutions who keep irresponsibly offering degrees requiring years to earn but deliver such figuratively and literally paltry returns. Walk away. Clear your dewy eyes and become something of which Thomas Paine would be proud.           

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On 12/29/2016 at 1:57 PM, marXian said:

A TT job? Any job. People aren't hanging around their programs or getting postdocs because they're turning up their nose at a tenure track job offer from a third tier state school or tiny liberal arts college. The vast majority of people would be happy to get anything that provides some semblance of job security beyond adjuncting. I hope that doesn't come off as too harsh--but having realistic expectations is important. Almost no one is getting a TT job right out of their program--even people graduating from TT schools. 

I'm almost positive TT means Tenure Track with reference to jobs. Seems like you're using it to mean Top Tier?? Someone can land a TT job at a SLAC (small liberal arts college) or at an R1 (top ranked research university).

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47 minutes ago, Laodiceans said:

I'm almost positive TT means Tenure Track with reference to jobs. Seems like you're using it to mean Top Tier?? Someone can land a TT job at a SLAC (small liberal arts college) or at an R1 (top ranked research university).

I did read it as top tier, but tenure track does make more sense. Usually when people use TT as an abbreviation on this forum, they mean top tier, though that's usually in reference to PhD programs.

Sure, it's possible to get a tenure track jobs at a SLAC out of graduation. It's more difficult (statistically) than getting into a PhD program, but it can happen. Almost no one gets an R1 tenure track job out of graduation. The chances of that are slim to none--that's all I was trying to get across with my original comment. 

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Adding to the fray here. I think I am alone in my specialization though; applying to PhD in NELC for Egyptology/ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology. 

Applied to Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA, U Michigan, Penn, Brown, JHU, and NYU IFA (I am hoping to work towards a museum position, and they have connections with the Met, so...).

Fully expecting rejections from everyone. Whee! Hoping maybe Chicago will let me into their MA program, because apparently all PhD applicants, if not accepted for PhD, are automatically reviewed for potential admission to the MA program. 

Does anyone have any idea when programs start saying anything to anyone?

Also, has anyone applied to Michigan/have any idea what they mean when Wolverine Access says "application is not complete"? The statement seems obvious except that it is also showing that everything has been received, so... Has anyone had issues with this? Does it affect that application (this is for receipt of things like GRE scores, LORs, and transcripts, and not the things I had to attach to the application itself when I submitted it). I've email them about it, but I am kind of freaking out over here, and haven't heard anything yet...

So yeah, also pretty much a nervous wreck...

 

 

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Maybe this is an ignorant question, but anecdotally, it often seems that there are lower hurdles to a PhD in religious studies (broadly speaking) in the UK than a top tier program in the U.S. I once spoke with a professor who told me to look across the Atlantic if I ever got the PhD itch; you don't have to spend time stressing about your GRE scores, the length of the program is often shorter, and it's quite possible to find inexpensive programs. He told me that after his Master's program, he had struck out in his first round of applications to doctoral programs in the U.S., so he went over to Manchester for a few years, came back with a PhD, and promptly got a job at an American university. 

Again, as I said at the beginning, most of the evidence I've heard for UK PhD programs is anecdotal, but it does leave me wondering- are there significant disadvantages to pursuing a PhD in the UK? Just curious based on some of the comments I've seen on this thread and others.

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32 minutes ago, KALChicago said:

Does anyone have any idea when programs start saying anything to anyone?

 

Based on a little research of notification dates for the programs I applied to, I think its reasonable to start hearing about interviews the last week in January and then hear about admissions decisions February through early March. Obviously notifications still happen after that, but the bulk of the first wave decisions seems to happen in February (for my fields).

 

32 minutes ago, KALChicago said:

Also, has anyone applied to Michigan/have any idea what they mean when Wolverine Access says "application is not complete"? The statement seems obvious except that it is also showing that everything has been received, so... Has anyone had issues with this? Does it affect that application (this is for receipt of things like GRE scores, LORs, and transcripts, and not the things I had to attach to the application itself when I submitted it). I've email them about it, but I am kind of freaking out over here, and haven't heard anything yet...

This has happened to me with Northwestern's app. I e-mailed the department, but haven't heard back. I think that's about all you can do. If you have a good relationship with your POI you might be able to inquire there as well. 

 

17 minutes ago, 918Philosophizer said:

are there significant disadvantages to pursuing a PhD in the UK?

I have had several conversations with different faculty at different institutions about this. For the seminary and divinity faculty I've spoke to, the hiring of UK PhD's is quite acceptable, though I will caveat this to say that these were all faculty at non-top tier programs. 

Speaking with my dept. chair and others with hiring experiencing at an R1 State University, they are more inclined to hire an American PhD. They stated that typically the American PhD candidate has more breadth due to coursework requirements (which translates to the ability to teach a broader variety of courses) as well as typically more teaching experience. This is all still anecdotal though. I'm not sure you'll be able to find any concrete stats on this kind of thing. 

Edited by menge
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28 minutes ago, KALChicago said:

Adding to the fray here. I think I am alone in my specialization though; applying to PhD in NELC for Egyptology/ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology. 

Applied to Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA, U Michigan, Penn, Brown, JHU, and NYU IFA (I am hoping to work towards a museum position, and they have connections with the Met, so...).

Fully expecting rejections from everyone. Whee! Hoping maybe Chicago will let me into their MA program, because apparently all PhD applicants, if not accepted for PhD, are automatically reviewed for potential admission to the MA program. 

Does anyone have any idea when programs start saying anything to anyone?

Also, has anyone applied to Michigan/have any idea what they mean when Wolverine Access says "application is not complete"? The statement seems obvious except that it is also showing that everything has been received, so... Has anyone had issues with this? Does it affect that application (this is for receipt of things like GRE scores, LORs, and transcripts, and not the things I had to attach to the application itself when I submitted it). I've email them about it, but I am kind of freaking out over here, and haven't heard anything yet...

So yeah, also pretty much a nervous wreck...

 

 

Most schools start trickling notifications around mid-February but ultimately it can vary by 2-3 weeks each year. Generally, we'll start seeing some interview invitations late January to early February, with some decisions really beginning mid-February.

Applications, generally, remain as "incomplete" until an actual staff member certifies it as Complete.

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17 minutes ago, 918Philosophizer said:

are there significant disadvantages to pursuing a PhD in the UK?

Echo @menge's sentiments in that in Religious Studies, Theology, etc - going to the UK and getting a PhD is generally acceptable and often simpler in terms of application. Funding though is an entirely different matter! Getting accepted to even say Oxford and Cambridge as an American is easy, the competition comes in getting funding since almost all of their bursaries are reserved for EU members and students from the developing world.

UK Theology degrees are also known to be more accommodating to conservative students so there's that stigma when trying to land a job in the US too.

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On 1/10/2017 at 0:14 PM, 918Philosophizer said:

Maybe this is an ignorant question, but anecdotally, it often seems that there are lower hurdles to a PhD in religious studies (broadly speaking) in the UK than a top tier program in the U.S. I once spoke with a professor who told me to look across the Atlantic if I ever got the PhD itch; you don't have to spend time stressing about your GRE scores, the length of the program is often shorter, and it's quite possible to find inexpensive programs. He told me that after his Master's program, he had struck out in his first round of applications to doctoral programs in the U.S., so he went over to Manchester for a few years, came back with a PhD, and promptly got a job at an American university. 

Again, as I said at the beginning, most of the evidence I've heard for UK PhD programs is anecdotal, but it does leave me wondering- are there significant disadvantages to pursuing a PhD in the UK? Just curious based on some of the comments I've seen on this thread and others.

Definitely not an ignorant question. Here are some things to note:

In theology/biblical studies in particular, there tend to be a disproportionate number of PhDs from overseas when compared to other humanities disciplines. That's because people coming out of more conservative seminaries who aren't able to find a place in a US program are able to, essentially, write whatever conservative dissertation they want at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, etc., and come back to the US for a job at a conservative school. It's a fairly common practice.

In religious studies, I would say going overseas is an enormous risk. The major difference between a US and a UK program is that in the latter, you're simply writing your dissertation. No coursework and no exams in the UK. The problem is that US departments look for particular things that the US system is, at least in a vacuum, designed to give students, despite the dismal job market. For example, US departments want to know that you're competent to teach in particular areas. Exams help you demonstrate competence. It's certainly not enough to only have the exams, but having those gives you an advantage over UK applicants. E.g. those book lists can be fashioned into courses syllabi centered around your exam questions, and you might even have the opportunity to teach those courses during your program. The dissertation is everyone's "calling card"--it's certainly the most important thing coming out of any PhD program. But US departments are looking for a lot more than just a good dissertation. 

It's difficult for US students to get funding for UK schools. A three year program, at say Oxford, could still end up well over 100k (tuition + living expenses + research expenses). If all of that is in loans, that's an insane amount of debt to take on for the sort of job prospects. The days of simply stepping into a job out of a PhD are long over. I just don't think it's worth the risk unless you're embedded in the world of conservative Christianity and have an "in" at a conservative bible college or something.

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In Bible, it's getting more and more rare to see folks with UK PhDs teaching in non-confessional schools. That's anecdotal (I didn't run a study on this) but, more and more, this seems to me to be the arrangement of the tea leaves. How one wants to read them, I'll leave that to others.

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1 hour ago, xypathos said:

Final batch of applications are in. Now I get to join everyone else and officially twiddle my thumbs until *hopefully* interview invites start trickling in.

Just got done with the last one here as well. It's out of my hands now (the application, not the thumb twiddles)

 

Edited by Almaqah Thwn
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Congrats @Almaqah Thwn and @xypathos on finishing the apps. I thought I would be relieved to have them done, but I'm finding the waiting even harder since there is nothing left under my control.

Also, I see what appears to be a troll on the results page already, posting a PhD interview at Rutgers. As far as I'm aware, Rutgers only offers a terminal MA. 

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2 hours ago, menge said:

 

Also, I see what appears to be a troll on the results page already, posting a PhD interview at Rutgers. As far as I'm aware, Rutgers only offers a terminal MA. 

I don't think they're posting a decision for religious studies; rather, it looks like they've applied to the sociology department (deadline was 12/1) with an intent to focus on religion/anthropology. That is, unless the person who posted a few below them about an interview from Rutgers in sociology is also a troll. 

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5 hours ago, MayaK said:

I don't think they're posting a decision for religious studies; rather, it looks like they've applied to the sociology department (deadline was 12/1) with an intent to focus on religion/anthropology. That is, unless the person who posted a few below them about an interview from Rutgers in sociology is also a troll. 

That's a fair analyses, perhaps I flagged it too quickly. I think what threw me off is that USC has an actual program with that name, while Rutgers doesn't. Near as I can tell, neither the Anthro or Soc departments at Rutgers offer subfields with that name. But you're probably right, its likely a matter of someone throwing their interests up there rather than report as a general Soc. interview. 

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