On Re-Applying to Graduate School Programs
Now that you’ve dusted yourself off after receiving a rejection to grad school, you have two choices: 1) Abandon the plan and go on another career track altogether or 2) Re-apply. Before you re-apply, remember the statistics Arnold offered regarding getting a tenure-track job in the humanities. If you get into a grad school program, it will get tougher. But, there’s no arguing with passion, and becoming a professor of the humanities is a dream you cannot deny, here’s how to apply again.
Tighten your research focus. Despite super scores and references, you may not have gotten in because your research aspirations were vague. What field interests you the most? Is there a subject on which you might want to write a dissertation? Do you want to pursue the implications of your Honors thesis? Make a commitment, and tell the search committee exactly what you can do at their school.
Leave yourself out of it. Just as in the hamster world, anyone who might hire you or accept you into a grad program wants to know what you can do for them. That’s it. A member of the admissions committee will gloss right over how passionate you are about the 18th-century novel and literature in general, but her ears will perk up if your research dovetails nicely with hers, and you might be able to help her with one of her own projects.
Change your focus to a subject that’s in demand. When I arrived in grad school, I noticed that many people were working on variants of British modernism. Do some quick math based on the stats Arnold offered. All open positions will be flooded with applicants, but you can improve your chances by studying a field that is either emerging or not that popular. (Any medievalists who are reading can pat themselves on the back.) Otherwise, not only will you be competing with a horde of British modernists at grad school, but you’ll be competing with more of them on the job market.
Keep it short. Yeah, yeah, I should talk. This post is already long enough. But imagine how a member of an admissions committee feels after reading hundreds of statements of purpose. They’ll be thrilled at a statement of purpose that says, “Here’s the subject I want to research, and here’s why your school is the perfect place for me to do that research.”
Even if you don’t get into grad school, setting a specific goal, moving beyond the past, choosing a strategic field, and staying brief will help you no matter what you do.
Movie trailer still from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.