Applying to Graduate School


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This workshop - offered annually - covers the basics on preparing for and applying for graduate school. The slides cover: choosing a program, deciding on a degree (MA or PhD), paying for the degree, and composing a statement of purpose.

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Applying to Graduate School

  1. 1. Applying for Graduate School Dr. Scott Wilson, PhD Anthropology, CSULB Undergraduate Advisor Assoc. Degree. Gaston Community College, 1992 BA. UNC-Charlotte, 1995 PhD. Stanford University 2005
  2. 2. Are you sure? Extended Academic Life – PhD: 7 to 9 years – MA/MS: 2 to 4 years Poverty, Seriously PhD: Time, but not money. MA/MS: Money, but not time. Location Location Location It could be worse …
  3. 3. Paying for Grad School MA/MS Degree – Cash – Check – Loan – Financal Aid PhD: – See above … OR – Fellowship Opportunities – Financial Packages – Public vs. Private Universities
  4. 4. Peparation (1) Start in junior year (but seniors can start now- ish) Things you can do to prepare – Field Schools – Study Abroad – Language Skills – Join the ASA or AGSA – Work on your writing skills – Develop an emphasis in your upper division electives (18 units). Not required, but good for grad school.
  5. 5. Preparation (2) Attend the AAA Conference and … – Give a paper – Meet your “heroes” and/or future mentors – Meet other graduate students – Catch up on the latest trends – Join professional networks and email lists – Let schools put a face to your application
  6. 6. Preparation (3) Cultivate relationships with CSULB faculty – Work on research projects (if possible) – Follow up on essay feedback – Tell them you’re interested in grad school, and ask for advice. – Remember: These are your rec letters
  7. 7. Preparation (4) Project Idea Development – Talk to your professors – Read your favorite journal – Zero in on some favorite anthropologists – Find out who THEY are reading (citations) – Research your geographic area / history – Research current events in your area – Look at what’s going on in the AAA
  8. 8. The Application (1) Recommendation Letters (Usually 3) – Based on relationships and performance – Not the most important part of application – Do your recommenders know you? – “Coaching Up” your recommenders – Recommenders need information – Ways we say “No” (pay attention)
  9. 9. The Application (2) GRE Scores – Take Prep Course, if Possible – Take it Early (and often if necessary) – More important in STEM, etc. – University vs. Dept Requirements – Still not high enough?
  10. 10. The Application (3) Statement of Purpose (next section) – Often the most important part – Weeding out applications (Ex: 200 to 20) – Most often the ONLY part admissions committees read (at least at first) – 2 to 3 pages, single spaced – Follow the guidelines and answer ALL questions. – Can make up for other deficiencies – No ONE right way, but I have some suggestions
  11. 11. Statement of Purpose (1) When faculty members have to choose between 1.) a badly written statement about a fascinating project and 2.) a well-written statement about a so-so project, they normally choose #2. They can teach you the anthro, but they DON’T want to teach you how to write. Not at this stage. Impress them (or fool them) now. If you’re a non-native English speaker, get someone you trust to proof-read your statement for grammar and clarity. It’s not dishonest - it’s smart.
  12. 12. Statement of Purpose (1A) Six Drafts Six Drafts Six Drafts
  13. 13. Statement of Purpose (2) Basic Format / Guidelines – Introduction – Proposed Project – Your preparation – How important your project is – Fit with the department – *For Entertainment Purposes Only*
  14. 14. Statement of Purpose (3) Introduction – Engaging anecdote or statement of problem – Illustrate your engagment / commitment – Experience (field and major) – Writing (better be good here, or …)
  15. 15. Statement of Purpose (4) Proposed Project – Seamlessly connected with introduction – You are current in the discipline – You’ve thought this out carefully – Theoretical, but also grounded and relatively free of jargon – Look at paper abstracts and online samples – Large enough for PhD, or narrow enough for MA
  16. 16. Statement of Purpose (5) Your Preparation – Can you do this? How do they know? – Why you? – If not an Anth major, why Anthropology? – If not an Anth major, stress area, lang, etc. – Play to your strengths – Be positive – Don’t be modest.
  17. 17. Statement of Purpose (6) Importance of your project – Few or no studies about this? – Why now? – Someone (you) needs to do this. – Flaunt your knowledge – Must fit the department(s) you’re applying to – Change .. • The world • Anthropology • The community you intend to study
  18. 18. Statement of Purpose (7) Fit with the Department (one para.) – Why here? – Do your homework (faculty, department) – Who would you like to work with? Why? – What would YOU contribute to THEM
  19. 19. Conclusion Remember: A PhD fellowship is worth $30,000 to $50,000 per year, over 7 to 9 years. This is what they’re committing to you on admission. It’s a job. Your statement of purpose is your best chance to explain why they should make this commitment. Work on it.