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“I can’t do Emotion Algebra, [redacted name]!” said by [redacted name] in my RODBT group.

Everyone then agreed that Emotion Algebra needed to be a thing and someone should write a PhD dissertation on it. 

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The professors on stage are so bored. They’re like wandering around and talking amongst themselves. I’m entertained by this.

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Doing a Ph.D. is a really scary thought. Especially in humanities and social sciences. Especially in today’s job market.

Here I’m going to speak a little about my approach to Ph.D. applications, why I chose to do what I did, and how I put it all together including examples.

1. The Doubt

After coming out of my Master’s degree, I already had a year of research set up, so I didn’t have to think about jobs like all of my friends I had made during that degree. I watched many of them struggle to find a job offer. Some were successful in attaining a job in Cultural Resource Management, a couple got smaller jobs in local museums, but for the most part it induced a lot of stress to have come out of a Master’s degree with no prospects.

How I imagined my future at that time: I knew I didn’t want to work in a museum, I knew I didn’t like Cultural Resource Management, I knew that after all this hard work I didn’t want to end up underpaid somewhere doing data entry.

A Ph.D. has always been something that I wanted. Ever since entering the Anthropology discipline, I imagined myself working towards becoming a Professor.

Here’s what I was told when I started to consider a Ph.D. Program:

  • “Don’t do it” (said by someone who already had her Ph.D.)
  • “I wish I had gone into something with more money, even after my Ph.D. its been difficult to find stable work”
  • “If you’re doing a Ph.D. in social sciences, ONLY go if you are fully funded, otherwise it is not worth the financial debt”
  • “Most people don’t get in their first try, that’s why people apply to 10+ schools”

Coming up with a plan: After hearing this, I came up with a couple different options. Plan A: Apply to Ph.D. programs, if I get into one my first try and it’s fully funded then I’ll do it. Plan B: Find a job in Environmental consulting, I could put my GIS experience to use, make some money, and then try again for a Ph.D. later down the road if I wanted. Plan C: Move to Japan and live out my weeb dreams (I’m part Japanese and have a lot of family there so this wasn’t as crazy as it sounds).

I was genuinely okay with any of these options. They all involve things that I enjoy, none of them are bad options, none of them would feel like “failure” if I ended up not getting into a program. I think this step is very important because it forces you to figure out what you care about, and allows you to be open to change if plan A doesn’t work out.

2. Choosing a Program to Apply to

I knew that I didn’t just want to apply anywhere. Getting a job outside of a PhD is already hard enough, and I wanted the school that I chose to reflect the work that I would put into it. As much as we want to think that name brands don’t matter when it comes to education, it sure as heck does help when it comes to opportunity and being selected amongst 100′s to 1000′s of applicants. Therefore, why not shoot for the stars? What’s the harm in trying. For this reason, I decided to only apply to schools that:

  1. Had a prestigious name
  2. Had a program that supported what I wanted to study and allowed for cross-disciplinary research (Digital Archaeology focused on SE Asia)
  3. Had an advisor that had done research paralleled to mine (whether that included SE Asia or just Digital Archaeology in general).

I started research into programs with the Ivies and went down from there, also cross-comparing programs that had been ranked as best schools for studying Anthropology.

At the time of researching, the programs that stood out the most to me were:

  • Stanford (ideal because it was close-ish to home, fully funds their Phd students for 5 years, has opportunity for additional funding, had professor working with digital archaeology in Asia)
  • Harvard (had professor working in Digital Archaeology though it wasn’t in my preferred region, also has good funding, and its Harvard)
  • U Chicago (traditionally one of the top schools for Anthropology, however I had heard that a lot of this is because of “legacy” professors, and not much has come out of the department in recent years. Did not have someone specifically in my region of focus)
  • ASU (Also considered one of the top Anthropology schools, but funding is often fought for between students)
  • UC Berkeley (Had professors studying Asia, but it is a public school and also has limited guaranteed funding)

I sent e-mails to advisors that I thought I could support my research (this was probably around May, when applications are due Sep-Dec).

  • Hello Professor______,
  • My name is _______ and I am interested in applying to ________’s Doctoral program in Archaeology beginning in the fall of 2020. I would like to inquire whether you are accepting graduate students for this period, as my research interests align well with your research. I received my B.A. in __________ from _________ in 2017 and am currently _______. [Enter what you’re doing now, and any relevant experience that shows what you’re interested in researching]. [Enter something about their research, and why you’re interested in working with them/why you think you would work well with them]. I am eager to continue along this path and I feel as though your experience with _______could provide an interesting opportunity for future research. I would also be interested in working with [enter any other faculty that have similar interests, this shows that you’ve done some research into the program and the school in general] For your convenience, I have attached my CV here. If you have the time, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you further about the program and future research.
  • Best,
  • Full name

I also researched the financial aid provided to incoming Ph.D. students. After doing this, the only schools that sounded good to me were Stanford and Harvard.

Yeah, I know, only applying to Stanford and Harvard was a “big risk,” but this is how I thought about it:

  • I don’t want to commit to a Phd program for 5+ years if it’s not fully funded, doesn’t have a big name, and isn’t going to guarantee opportunity after graduating.
  • I wanted an environment where I knew I could be happy under immense amounts of pressure  (California by family, Boston by friends).
  • If I didn’t get in, I had back up options that honestly sounded really fun to me, so I was okay with pursuing those instead.
  • I didn’t want a Ph.D. just to have a Ph.D., I wanted a degree that would set me apart from others so that I could give myself the best chance for success afterward. I wanted one that, if pursued, could lead me to become a professor.

So I applied to 2 Schools.

I got scolded for this by many people… but whatever…I got in, so ha. Why spend money and time on an application for a school that you don’t really want to go to? :P

3. Applying to a Program

What an application looks like:

1. At least 3 recommendation letters:

Mine were:

  • Undergraduate Anthropology Advisor who has been helping me throughout the years with grant applications, etc. She knows me well, can speak well to my accomplishments. She is also a very well decorated anthropologist.
  • Undergraduate Professor of Geography who can speak to my GIS coursework. I’ve been updating him with my whereabouts and successes since graduating, so we have kept in touch regularly since taking his course.
  • My Master’s dissertation advisor (he stressed me out submitting his letter 3 hours before the deadline >:| )

It’s good to have your recommendation letters come from people within the academic world. These people can write on your ability to achieve your research goals, your drive, etc. It’s okay to have maybe one letter from a workplace environment, however, it’s best to get as much street cred as you can from these letters, and this comes from Professors that know what they’re doing.

2. Curriculum Vitae (C.V.): This is important because it shows everything you’ve accomplished up to this point. This is how mine was set up:

  • Full Name, Current Position, Email, Phone Number
  • Education: University Name, City, Degree in ____
  • Publications: In Edited Volumes, Journal Articles, Manuscripts in Preparation
  • Conference and Workshop Participation: Papers, Presentations
  • Grants, Awards, and Fellowships:
  • Research Experience: Project Roles, Fieldwork
  • Teaching Experience
  • Additional Employment History
  • Leadership and Extracurriculars
  • Skills/Languages

A C.V. is a list of EVERYTHING you’ve done in your career, unlike a resume which is tailored to the specific job that you’re applying to. If you’d like a specific example, send me a DM. 

3. Personal Statement: This is where you tell them why you want to be there and what makes you qualified. Why should they consider you?

Personal Statement Example

      1st paragraph, introduce the program and your research interests: I am applying to _____ for admission to the Ph.D. program in Anthropology with a focus in Archaeology. My research interests are to explore [the consequences of ….. on the environment and human responses to environmental change] in [region of the world], and how these actions of the past can be visualized through the use of remote sensing and GIS applications to archaeology.

      2nd paragraph, why you’re interested in what you’re doing: I learned the value of digital applications in archaeology through my undergraduate and master’s degree. [Digital archaeology] is appealing to me because [………]. I first became interested in [example of why you’re interested in the topic/what inspires you].  After witnessing this, I began to seek out opportunities to partake in similar research.

    3rd and 4th paragraph, what makes you qualified to pursue this degree?: I have many research experiences that qualify my pursuit of a Ph.D. dedicated to using digital methods in Anthropological research. [Talk about your undergrad experience, do some name-dropping of professors you’ve worked with], [why did these experiences inspire you to take the next step?], [how are you where you are now because of them?]

   5th paragraph, what are you doing now?

   6th paragraph, why this school in particular?: This is where you name drop the professor you are interested in working with, talk about how their research aligns well with yours by mentioning specific things that they’ve done such as theoretical approaches. What are you interested in doing that would fit well within this program? Are there any facilities on campus that you are particularly eager to work with? Show that you’ve done your research.

   7th paragraph, what do you plan to do after you get your Ph.D. from this institution?: With goals of continuing archaeological research in ________ and expanding off the networks that I have established in _______, ________’s doctoral program in Anthropology is the ideal match to further my career as a Digital/Landscape Archaeologist. The Ph.D. in Anthropology at _______ allows for _________[reasons why you like the program]. Ultimately, my postgraduate goals are to remain in academia by continuing research and gaining a university faculty position. My foundation in archaeology gained in my undergraduate, graduate, and ______experiences have equipped me with a unique set of abilities to offer to ______’s Anthropology graduate program, and I look forward to the opportunity to exchange ideas with faculty and students alike.

Have your resume and statement looked over by as many eyes as you possibly can. It took me a good 6-10 revisions before settling on something that I liked.

4. Let the professors that you’ve been in contact with know

This puts you at the front of their minds when application review comes around. They’ll be like “oh yeah, this person messaged me about this.”

I hadn’t spoken to the professors that I reached out to since those first few exchanges back in May, so sending this message was very valuable to remind them of my existence.

This email can be as simple as: Hi Professor ____, I hope you have been well since we last spoke. I am writing to inform you that I have submitted my application to _______. Since our last chat I’ve been [whatever you’re up to now that’s relevant]. I look forward to hearing from _____ soon. Best, Me.

5. Productive Waiting

Yay, you’ve submitted! That was hard, but you made it through. Time to start diving into those other plans you’ve been thinking about. What will you do if you get into your top school? What will you do if you don’t get into your top, but you do get into your 2nd or 3rd choice? What if you don’t get into any of them?

Remember that none of these options are bad, and in this world, you have to be open to change and welcome it. A Ph.D. is a really long commitment, and it doesn’t have to happen right away.

If you get in, accept only if:

  • It has the research you’re looking for
  • It has an advisor that’s supportive of what you’re doing
  • It’s transparent about what it offers its students
  • The current students are happy with the culture of the program and quality of life
  • The location is something you’re comfortable with (for me having family nearby was a very important factor)
  • The money you are offered is enough to live the lifestyle you need to maintain good mental health
  • There is an opportunity for networking and expansion of your research outside of the university

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions at @aal.archaeology on Instagram or DM here! I’m happy to share my documents with you.

Happy writing!


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Finished up my campus visit! It’s absolutely exhausting talking to people all day, but it’s definitely given me a better sense of the program. I couldn’t talk to the last graduate student as long as I would have liked since it started snowing and people were about to go absolutely wild on the roads, but I definitely had a good day over there.

Tomorrow, I start traveling yet again - first for some family stuff, and then on to the three other schools I’ve been accepted to before returning home to France.

I received news from another school - a rejection. I was expecting this one, and was honestly waiting to get this rejection so I could move on with my life. So now I’m just waiting to hear from one more school (could go either way) and then I’ll be in peak decision mode.

More related to studying, I’m quickly realizing that I’m pretty busy at the current moment and need to focus on things like sending 50 billion emails and keeping track of my visits, so I’ve decided to scale back the Latin work and focus on my French reading.

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i wanted to check my blog in between study breaks and it said my account had been terminated and i can honestly say that i’ve never felt a rush of adrenaline like what i’ve been feeling for the last 15 mins jesus CHRIST i felt my soul leave my body and yell from the cosmos

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Here’s some things that I thought were good to remember over the course of applying to graduate school. This is by no means exhaustive, but these are a few things that I’d like to underline. Disclaimer that this is specifically based on my experiences with the humanities, though I think there are some things that are universally applicable.

  • Research as early as you can

My earliest deadline was December 1, 2019 and my latest was January 17, 2020. I was applying for a Fall 2020 start.

It’s worth it to get started with research as soon as you think that that grad school is the thing for you. For one, it helps you decide a little more concretely whether grad school is the thing for you and it may also help you decide what exactly you want to keep doing. I started looking at schools a little bit during the spring of my senior year, and I had my final list completed in the summer.

It’s not a disaster if you don’t have your list together this early! My friend was still looking into schools in November and December as she was applying to others - it was just a little more stressful.

  • Ask your professors!!!!

I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you have a good relationship with a professor or professors in your undergrad department, make good use of them. It’s pretty likely they’ll know people in departments you’re applying to - or at the very least they’ll know of them. Because of this, they’ll be able to confirm concerns about department funding, department feel, and suitability of professors. Will they know everything? No. But they’ll definitely help you out.

ex: my adviser told me not to apply to a certain school because she knew they were having funding issues. A different professor told me ‘look at this school because it seems like it had good opportunities for you’ and now it’s one of my top choices.

  • List what you like

Once you know that a department appeals to you, write down what you like. Make a list. Put down just words. Make little jokes. It doesn’t matter - you just want to have some way to remind yourself about what exactly appealed to you about the school. This will help you so much when you end up writing your personal statements.

  • Don’t send your GRE where it isn’t wanted!

This is more a money saver than anything, which is important, because it’s 27$ per score and that’s a lot, especially if you’re applying to a lot of places. Look as carefully as you can - one school I applied to had it in bold that they didn’t want it, but another, I didn’t notice that it wasn’t wanted until I had submitted the app (oops).

  • Communicate with your recommenders!

It is extremely helpful if you send your recommenders a list of your schools and the deadlines for each one.

I would also say that if it’s two days before and you don’t see that letter of rec in the application, it is time to start thinking about giving a poke. I’d say if you email them about it, make it 24 hours notice, but you could also email them a little sooner if it’s stressing you out. One of my recommenders typically sent her letters in the day of, with hours to go and I almost lost my mind. But she always sent them in and typically had them written prior to that.

Be! Sure! To! Thank! Them!

  • Give yourself time to do the application

This includes making sure you have your writing samples, your transcripts, and your statements of purpose all together. Sometimes you may have to provide official transcripts, which can take a little while to send.

For me, applications didn’t open until August 2019 at the absolute earliest. So I couldn’t fill them out in the summer when I had the most time, but I was able to get the documents I had to upload in order and that made me less stressed later on. My statements just needed a few tweaks, my writing sample was well proofed, and my CV had gone through several revisions.

  • Have someone else look at your statement of purpose

You want it to make sense to someone who isn’t you and it’s often nice to get outside feedback on things like this, especially by people who know what to look for. I wasn’t a huge fan of letting other people see how I laid out my hopes and dreams, but all three of my recommenders asked me for my statement of purpose, so I had to get over that. I also had my friend look at mine and I looked over hers. It was nice to see another example and get feedback.

  • Make your peace with waiting

In the third week of January, other people were hearing back, but I hadn’t heard anything at all and I thought I wasn’t going to get into grad school and that my future was ruined. This is partially down to my anxiety, but it’s not a particularly fun time for anyone. I told my parents that I just wanted to hear one piece of news and my mom was like ‘no. that’s still asking too much’. And really, it kind of is. This is an incredibly opaque process and you will hear when you hear. Some schools put tentative dates on their websites for when they send out acceptances/rejections. Some do not. There is no great way to know for sure and unfortunately I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.

So what’s to be done? If you haven’t already, start thinking about what you could do instead. Look at jobs, look at abroad programs, look at anything that you think you would be reasonably willing to follow through with. For example, up to the moment I was accepted to a school, I was about to reapply to the teaching program I’m currently doing. It was really scary to think about not getting in, because grad school was all I really had planned for the future. Take away some of that fear, make a backup plan.

  • Figure out how you feel about rejections

I was lucky to get accepted to a school before I received my first rejection. That being said, I have been rejected from several places, including a school that I thought was my top choice at the beginning of the process.

My feelings over rejection have varied from: oh thank god [realized that school wasn’t super for me a while after i submitted the app] to aw this sucks [two schools that I thought looked good] and anywhere in between. Rejections kind of just are what they are and may come for a variety of reasons - maybe they didn’t have funding, maybe a professor is retiring, etc. It’s not a direct reflection on you, even if you may feel like that’s the case.

It really sucks not getting in, but you can’t over-fixate on them. Give yourself adequate time to mourn that application, but don’t let it drag you down.

  • Remember to hope

That first acceptance will feel so good. This statement comes from not only me, but at least 3 of my cousins who also continued their studies after undergrad.

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Howdy, new multifandom blog here, gonna start reposting all my fandom works from my main blog here so look out for that! If you’re wondering what fandom I follow, here’s what they are:

-Homestuck (I’m gonna reread it soon and I’ll probably post about it here)

-The Adventure Zone (My bread and butter of course)

-Mass Effect (I truly adore the Trilogy)

-Critical Role (I gotta catch up so you’ll see some posts about that)

-Good Omens (I wanna make some fluffy fics regarding that so that’ll be fun!)

-Not Another D&D Podcast! (I love it dearly)

-The Magnus Archives (I’m gonna start that soon so that’ll be neat)

-She-Ra (I’ve already written a ficlet for She-Ra so I’m excited!

And some other miscellaneous shows and video games I cant think of right now. But please do stick and around and feel free to send in some Asks and Requests!

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Honestly, even though it doesn’t feel like it, I’ve had a fairly productive weekend. I truly have spent all weekend doing work! Wake up, work, take a break, work more. But I still feel behind? Why?! It’s honestly just a never ending list of reading…

Next week is my reading week. And I can’t express how excited I am~ I’ve also decided to do a specific reading week spread in my bullet journal to make sure I stay motivated and productive 💪

But also relax and have fun 😎

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Little bit of reading at the cafe, enjoying the sunshine ☀️ did more readings later with a new note taking method. Treated myself to some sims and a cult documentary 👀

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a combination of grief + depression + adhd (?) has rendered my brain cotton-candy light. my future seems nonexistent. i’m pretty much lost—but i’m trying to find my feet and get back up on them.

i’m hoping to use this blog to chart my journey + create some accountability and try to actually get any single thing done.

you’re welcome to come drop into my inbox if you want to chat/share your experiences.

if you’tr a studyblr for engineering/applied sciences post-grad, academia, or job-hunting/adulting tips, like this post so i can follow you.

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Woman at craft circle: One day, a man will come into your life and he will make you very happy and you will make him very happy.

Me [a useless lesbian]: I can assure you that is not going to happen. 

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Finarfin exudes the same energy as a 19th century scientist whose discoveries are being supported by half a dozen female assistants. Good chap, brilliant and hardworking, but you just know in 20000 years there will be discourse over the fact that 20% of his politics was the uncredited work of his sister-in-law

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