Post Academic

Resources: Applying to Graduate School Site

When applying to graduate school, it’s easy to get disorganized. To maximize your chances, you may be applying to a million and one programs, and your advisor may or may not be helpful.

However, a University of Michigan grad student in Psychology has created a Web page that walks grad students through the application process step-by-step. You could print out the front page of this Web site and treat it like a checklist or even a substitute advisor.

Some of the best advice involves the personal statement. The Live Journal site “So you want to go to grad school?” often features students posting their personal statements and asking for feedback. Before you even think of drafting a personal statement, visit the Applying to Graduate School page on the subject, and it will save you a lot of trouble. Here’s a sample tip:

Remember, it’s called a “statement of purpose”, NOT a “personal statement.” This is not an essay about your emotional development. If something in your personal life is integral to your studies, then you should include it. However, most of the time, professors do not want to read about your personal life. The statement of purpose should read more like a professional document.

While we give plenty of advice for the “post-academic” phase, I’m sure plenty of “pre-academics” are visiting this site. If you’re one of them, bookmark this site now.

Applying to Graduate School

And that’s a wrap–at least for this year (Part 2)

So I left off yesterday with a decision looming before me about whether to attend MLA in Philly.  Here’s what I was weighing…


* Actually having a job interview

* Seeing some friends I haven’t caught up with in a while

* Eating an authentic Philly cheesesteak, which I missed the last time MLA was in the City of Brotherly Love because I didn’t want to emit an oniony smell during my interviews

Philly cheesesteak by Cessator (Creative Commons)


* Paying over $1000 for airline tix and a hotel and spending parts of 5 days in Philly for basically a 30-min interview

* Packing during Christmas for my flight early on 12/26

* Not being able to do family stuff before and after Christmas because I’d be stressing out prepping for my interview and getting ready to travel

When you put it like that, the decision was a lot easier to make: I cancelled my hotel reservations, took the $150 penalty on my plane tix, and stayed home.  Pretty much none of my academic friends thought this was a shrewd decision, but I really couldn’t stomach spending the money and the time for a single half-hour interview, even if my career hung in the balance.  Moreover, I’m pretty sure the interview request was made on the strength of a single tout by a very supportive, very helpful faculty friend, so I didn’t know if the whole thing was a courtesy deal or if I was blowing a really golden opportunity.  After all, I was offered an interview before they even *asked* for a writing sample or official recs, so it was a situation that was hard to read.

Once I settled on my decision, though, I was more than happy to be watching The Princess and the Frog with my family peeps the day after Christmas, instead of worrying about whether I’d be snowed in making a connection in Denver.

But surprisingly, the story doesn’t end, quite yet!  Continued, below the fold…


And that’s a wrap–at least for this year (Part 1)

About a month and half ago, I wrote about the last–maybe the very last–job application that I sent out for a postdoc I had found out about at the last minute.  It was a pretty easy application to put together, since I had applied for so many postdocs this year and had a project proposal more or less ready to go.  Of course, I was as dubious as ever about my odds of actually being selected for the postdoc–actually, more so than usual even, due to the late date and the very short application period, which made me think that an inside candidate must’ve been lined up and the posting must’ve been done for compliance purposes.  Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Or, just nothing gained: It wasn’t much of a shock, but I received my email rejection for the postdoc late last week, which was my first interaction with the institution, since they didn’t bother to send an acknowledgement.  Actually, I had found out at the Academic Job Wiki postdocs page that a decision had been made, so my “personal” rejection–lacking a personal salutation to me and hundreds of other applicants–just confirmed what I already knew.  I know they’re being nice and all, but, c’mon, you don’t need to include platitudes like the committee found your research “original and engaging”, when it’s likely that most of the hundreds of applications aren’t, my own possibly included.  It wasn’t the worst rejection letter, but it wouldn’t have hurt them to read our rejection letter do’s and don’t’s posts, here and here.

Don’t know if I’m ready for a career post-mortem yet, but here’s the post-game analysis on this year’s job cycle for me, since all the results are in.  See it, below the fold…


Transfer Your Skills: Interviews in the Hamster World

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on April 13, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAfter turning your CV into a resume, you need to prepare for potential interviews. Most interview advice is universal. Preparing for an academic job interview is brutal because you have to sum up your whole grad-school career in a matter of minutes. The hamster world interview will probably seem like a breeze in comparison, but you still need to accomplish a few tasks if you want to get hired:

Write Answers for the Standard Interview Questions: All interviewers will ask some variation of the following questions:
1. What are your strengths?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. How have you overcome a challenge at work?

Write out honest, succinct answers, and practice delivering them before you go into the interview. Be warned: The second question is tricky, as you want to choose a weakness that might actually be a strength depending on the job. Being “too much of a perfectionist” might work well if you’d like to be an editor.

More after the jump! Image of office in 1710 public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

To whom it may concern: Rejection letter do’s and don’t’s, part 2

As I mentioned the other day in this post, I have received a late spate of rejection letters this week.  I’m assuming it must have to do with HR compliance or something, so maybe a few more will be on their way soon.  Yesterday, I received a new kind of bureaucratic B.S. rejection, one that is actually sent from HR but masked as if it’s from the (unnamed) “Search Committee Chair.”  (OK, at least it’s not as brutal as the prom rejection pictured to the left!  Ouch!)

In this follow-up post, I’m dealing with some of my personal pet peeves when it comes to application correspondence, along with some of the nicer touches I’ve experienced in the past.  Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add to the list or if you have your own stories you’d like to tell.


To whom it may concern: Rejection letter do’s and don’t’s, Part 1

So, for whatever reason, I’ve received a whole batch of rejection emails in my inbox the last few days, for jobs that had long been filled (thanks, Wiki!) and for some applications that were still open (boo-hoo!).  This is probably a total breach of protocol, but here’s some of what has come through my inbox in the last 48 hours:

The Good

Dear Candidate:

I am writing to thank you for your interest in the Americanist position at [school name redacted]. We received an extraordinarily high number of applications for this position and choosing among them was particularly difficult. We have now concluded our search and regret that we had to turn away candidates who had so much to offer. We wish you success in your job search and appreciate your taking the time to prepare materials for [redacted].


“Search Committee Chair”

The lame:

Dear Arnold;

Thank you for your interest in the Assistant Professor of English position at [school name redacted]. The search committee recently ended the search process; this letter is to notify you that we have selected another candidate.

Best wishes for continued success in your professional endeavors.


“Human Resources Person”

Unfortunately, I have enough experience with this subject to offer some “insight” into what makes a good rejection letter and a bad rejection letter, if search committees want input from the rejected.  (The answer is, probably not.)  It really is a reflection on how bad the academic job market has become, when one’s pride and dignity depend on how s/he is rejected and when a little professional courtesy has become an exception rather than the rule.  There may be no vested interest in being courteous, but every job search committee member has been this position before (though perhaps at a time that wasn’t so dire) and has students who are encountering this crumminess right now.

While, of course, what I’m discussing doesn’t apply to all departments, it probably applies to all-too-many, at least if my experience is any measure.  In fact, there’s a whole Academic Jobs Wiki section addressed to hypothetical search committees, as well as some discussion on the Modern Brit lit list over good and bad rejection letters (scroll to the bottom of the page to find it).  In particular, there’s an interesting exchange on the Wiki American Lit page (scroll down to the Case Western Reserve section to find it), where a search committee member asked applicants what they found wrong with a particularly cold rejection (which I received too!) that picks up on a lot of the issues I address below the fold.  Today, I’ll cover the basics and I’ll address some personal pet peeves and pats on backs later.


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