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So I'm heading into my MA program next month and I was wondering if anybody has advice about preparing my PhD application for next year. This past year I only applied to PhD programs and I was only accepted into MA programs. So what should I be doing/participating in/working on to improve my applications for next year. Thank you! And good luck to all of you getting your materials together.

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Hi! I hope your MA experience is amazing and best of luck with your first semester! 

If I could sum up some of the things that I learned from my MA (in a way that is hopefully helpful to you), I would say - 

(1) Be open and engaged with professors; they're (obviously) some of your strongest allies in the application process. Getting to know them and asking their opinions on best practices towards applying during that first semester will (a) give you a network of awesome LWs and advisers and (2) help you figure out what adviser style works for you. Hitching your wagon to a superstar is great, but you risk detaching somewhere in the troposphere if the adviser is misaligned with you in a holistic way. It's a weird way to put it, but I hope I'm at least sort of clear.

(2) Be open and engaged with your peers; they're your second line of defense in PhD apps. Finding good friends means (usually) good and honest eyes who can read your SOP and WS. Moreover, I've some of my best app/scholarship practices from friends (and from reading their work.) 

(3) Focus on creating a great WS by keeping things simple. There are many opinions on what the WS is; I would say that the WS is the "workhorse" of your application - its primary goal is to prove that you can create and sustain an intelligent and engaged academic argument for 18ish pages. It's also good to explore a bit in your field, but the WS doesn't need to be the "showhorse"  that the SOP (with all its ambition and intellectual acrobatics) needs to be. I learned this in a lovely convo with a peer today, so - hey - friends are key. 

(4) Reach out for help if you need it - there are lovely folks on here willing to talk. There are lovely folks at your program (in the English department and elsewhere) likely willing to help. It sounds like a platitude because it is, but it takes a village (in some sense) to make this whole PhD app thing work. 

FWIW, I haven't stuck the landing yet in terms of apps, so please - take my advice with a lot of salt (well-intended, not Salty Salt), ignore whatever doesn't work for you, and PM if something does stick out. 

Best!

Edited by a_sort_of_fractious_angel
some of the typos
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21 hours ago, a_sort_of_fractious_angel said:

(3) Focus on creating a great WS by keeping things simple. There are many opinions on what the WS is; I would say that the WS is the "workhorse" of your application - its primary goal is to prove that you can create and sustain an intelligent and engaged academic argument for 18ish pages. It's also good to explore a bit in your field, but the WS doesn't need to be the "showhorse"  that the SOP (with all its ambition and intellectual acrobatics) needs to be. I learned this in a lovely convo with a peer today, so - hey - friends are key. 

Take me with a grain of salt too because I haven't applied yet, and the fact that there's always differing perspectives on the application process. But from my conversations and understanding, the SOP is written in plain language and answers key questions (why you, how prepared are you, etc) with compelling reasons, while the WS is supposed to show your best writing ability at a professional level of scholarship. In that sense, I understand the roles as reversed: the SOP is not the showhorse, but the WS is.

 

 

Edited by Doll Tearsheet
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Keep an open mind about the different classes you take and the different fields of specialization you come in contact with. The MA is a great time to really explore your interests and options. I started off in one time period/national literature and ended up applying to PhDs in a completely different specialization. In other words, you don't want to pigeon-hole yourself as the "contemporary American poetry person" or the "postcolonial Africanist person" too early. For the first year, be really open to all the classes you take and concentrate on generating good seminar papers.

Edited by Bumblebea
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On 8/1/2017 at 6:19 PM, Doll Tearsheet said:

 

Take me with a grain of salt too because I haven't applied yet, and the fact that there's always differing perspectives on the application process. But from my conversations and understanding, the SOP is written in plain language and answers key questions (why you, how prepared are you, etc) with compelling reasons, while the WS is supposed to show your best writing ability at a professional level of scholarship. In that sense, I understand the roles as reversed: the SOP is not the showhorse, but the WS is.

 

 

This is a great point - I need to think more about my metaphor, because @Doll Tearsheet - you're spot on. I think the SOP can be brought down swiftly by too much Intellectual Stuff (if that makes sense) and the WS absolutely needs to be at a professional level of scholarship. I perhaps meant more that the WS shows "hey, I can produce the kind of professional scholarship that is required at the doctoral level" and, for me, that more how I envision work versus show, but this is also totally semantics and not important. The important points are, as @Doll Tearsheet notes, the SOP should speak plainly and clearly on its goals and the WS should prove your academic abilities. 

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On ‎7‎/‎31‎/‎2017 at 10:49 AM, JessicaLange said:

So I'm heading into my MA program next month and I was wondering if anybody has advice about preparing my PhD application for next year. This past year I only applied to PhD programs and I was only accepted into MA programs. So what should I be doing/participating in/working on to improve my applications for next year. Thank you! And good luck to all of you getting your materials together.

I finished my MA program in May and begin my PhD program Aug 14 when I report for teaching orientation. Hopefully, you have a GA position and get to work with some cool professors. I think that what I learned from the professors I worked for over the course of two years was amazing. I learned things about my own writing, as I talked to undergrads about their papers and how to think in expansive ways. If you plan on writing a master's thesis, it's not too soon to begin exploring ideas and topics. During my first semester, I took the grad level research class my school required. As a result, I began with this humongous broad topic that would, if researched properly be enough to write three-dissertations (maybe more). During the spring I took a class and read Cormac McCarthy for the first time, and became enthralled with his writing. Then I read another of his books in a different class and became more engrossed, until three of McCarthy's texts became the basis for my master's thesis. I plan on expanding and writing my dissertation on McCarthy, as well. I knew all along that I was a 20th C Americanist, but not to the extent that was true. Sometimes you know and sometimes you don't. That first paper on McCarthy became a chapter in my thesis and my WS. It went through a number of rounds of editing. When I had done as much as I felt I could, I sent it early last fall to professors who had agreed to write LORs for me. They also had comments. You will find your path. Don't push it, it will come. Just always keep your eyes and heart open.

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