Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Applying to Graduate School

FemaleScienceProfessor discussed graduate school applications today. Because I am a digital packrat (oh fine, I'm a material pack rat as well), I still have all of my undergraduate papers in a file neatly marked "undergraduate". Within that file, next to all of the papers I wrote for my undergraduate degree in English Literature, I found my graduate school application essay. And you know what? It's good. I wrote a damn good essay for getting into graduate school. I discussed relevant, challenging courses, summer research experiences, extra-curricular activities that had a direct bearing on what I wanted to do. Fine, what I actually settled on for my dissertation is absolutely nothing like what I said I wanted to do, but that's more because the school that I decided on doesn't really have a program for what I really wanted to do.

When I applied to programs, I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist. Unfortunately, there are tons of young, eager undergraduates who are enamoured by the court system, don't want to go to law school or medical school, and fall into applications for forensic anthropology. All of the universities I applied to with big forensic programs were likely inundated with strong applicants for very few spots. This is perhaps why I was turned down for all of those schools. I applied to several other schools with weaker forensic programs, but excellent overall programs in anthropology/primatology/paleontology/osteology/biology/etc. I tailored my application letter slightly differently with these programs, and I was accepted into all of them (I think - hard to remember now).

I could have done a masters degree and tried for the forensic stuff again, but I went for a Ph.D. program with a less specialized program instead. And now I do nothing having anything at all to do with forensic anthropology. Was this a good decision? Only time will tell.


  1. Hello, I linked off here from FemaleScienceProfessor's blog. Question: does the fact that you wrote a brilliant entrance paper make you feel much less sympathetic to your students of the same general age?

  2. Well, my undergrads are generally younger than me now, but when I started teaching they weren't. No, it doesn't make me feel unsympathetic. I was an English major as well as a science major as an undergrad so I knew a lot about writing in general and how to write an effective essay. I think that helped me a lot in my own entrance exams.

  3. English Kudos to you on that one. I can talk up one side and down the other regarding Spanish grammar, but when it comes to English grammar, I am completely lost. I blame the high schools..