Monday, January 23, 2006


I am in the process of rethinking this blog space. I just don't have enough time to be a critic I guess. I think that the far more interesting topic (at least for me) is whether or not a man of my intellectual deficiency can hope to get into a good English PhD program. That is my goal, and while I recognize up front that it is a lofty one, something drives me toward it. So off I go.
The question becomes whether or not this is a Kamikaze mission. It may be. There are definitely no guarantees, but this is where I stand as far as I can guesstimate:

1. The GRE- I am going to have to take this test for what will be the fourth time. Pretty sad, but the truth of the matter is that I need about a hundred more points on this bad boy to be in a competitive place.
My Score: 550 (Verbal)
Needed: 650.
Plus there is the whole issue of the English Literature subject test. Also known as the hardest test on the planet, even among current English doctoral candidates.

2. The letter of intent/personal statement- This little 2 page piece is the one chance that the multitudes of stuffy professorial types have of getting to know you. My last attempt bordered on the “exactly what not to write in a letter of intent” variety, now that I know a little about it. This piece, if done right, will not be easy and will be very time consuming. It becomes my task to personalize 10+ letters in a way that will make me seem like the best candidate for the particulars of that university. In other words, in principle, my letters to UC Irvine and the University of Washington will need to be very different. I need not only to show their board that their school is the perfect fit for me, but also that I am the perfect fit for them—that I will add something significant to their institution in my 6-7 years on campus. All that, and help them get to know me. Sheesh.

3. The single most important document that you will send (so the experts say) is your writing sample. I took Milton and Rhetoric this semester almost with the pure intent of both using the paper that I write for both of these classes as my sample, and getting these tenured professors to write me letters (which actually deserves the #4 here, but I will just mention it parenthetically instead). I am confident that these papers (after undergoing numerous rewrites in the writing center) will be the strongest piece of my application and will hopefully outshine my dismal GRE scores.

4. Finally, I am hoping that this double major thing that I am doing will also make me stand out. When I finish, I will be certified to teach English in High School and will have X number of hours experience in the English classroom to my name. I also have my past experience of teaching ancient texts from my seminary days, plus I have my current experience in the writing center, to boot. This has to mean something in the eyes of the graduate committee that will read my application.

And, if all else fails I will still have a job to start in the Fall of ’07 (hopefully).
So that is it. That is my plan of action. Currently, I am investigating my many school options. My plan is to go through at least the top 50 and see if I can’t find the best fits. We would be SO excited to go to a California school, and all of the UCs are great. I would also (Tina, not as much) to go east. Brown, Duke, Purdue, University of Chicago, all have great programs that might be a little too green for my pasture. But I’m not counting any out yet!

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