21 December 2010

PhD applications

It appears that my PhD applications are now mostly out of my hands and I can reflect a little on the process so far.  I'll give a short description of the process that I followed, but do so without knowledge of the results, and therefore the conclusion of whether it's a post on what to do or what not to do.

So, in May 2010 I had just returned from my research in Bolivia and had begun to develop my notes into a coherent thesis.  As I did that I began to see how my thesis would take shape and knew generally what my arguments would be and how I fit into the world of anthropology.  I knew at that point that I enjoyed researching and writing so thought that anthropology would be a decent career and so I began by looking at potential universities.  This involved two basic tracks, to begin with Universities and to begin with professors.  Looking at universities consisted of finding faculty lists of departments and systematically looking for professors that had similar interests as me.  This was very thorough, but also quite time-consuming.  The second path was to look up professors who I was interested in working with and finding how I might fit into their departments.  This was relatively effective, but many professors that I enjoyed reading were either retired, retiring, or no longer accepting advisees.  

Once I had a decent list of professors who I found interesting, I e-mailed them to describe my work and inform them of my interest in applying to their university.  Some of these received lukewarm responses, others received lots of interest, and a few were not returned.  From this response I began to sort out where I might fit in and where I wouldn't.  I even received an invite to a conference based on one of my e-mails and my participation has opened up a lot of opportunities.  Looking back, e-mailing professors was the most effective thing I've done in this process.  It's gotten my name out, brought up more opportunities, and earned a lot of suggestions.  

The rest of the summer I prepared my thesis and my presentations.  After graduation I finished my application packets which consisted of standard information and a detailed letter stating my interest, research history, and research proposal.  Once my applications were in on time, I re-e-mailed the professors who I was interested in working with and also e-mailed a few faculty members who might also be interested in my proposal.  Now, I'm waiting til March or so when I should hear news on my applications and possible funding. 

The best advice I can provide is to develop a solid research proposal and then find professors who would be interested in it.  E-mailing professors not only helped my chances of acceptance, but opened up new opportunities which I'd hardly considered before.

More news to come.  

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