General Question

mteutsch's avatar

How do I get into a doctoral program?

Asked by mteutsch (177points) April 20th, 2008

For the past 4 years, I have tried to get into doctoral programs in English. Next year will be my final year to try. During that time, I have come to some realizations, the market sucks and the process is competitive, so I know those factors. I have attended national, regional, and state conferences, and I have been working on getting essays published. One has been accepted conditionally and I need to rework it. Even with all of this, I have had trouble getting accepted. I believe this is for a number of reasons. One, the economy sucks. Two, the field is over saturated. Three, I graduated from a Louisiana school that is not LSU (University of Louisiana at Monroe). Now, what should I do to better my chances for next year?

I am thinking about applying to cultural studies programs next year too.

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20 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Perhaps if you are serious about a PhD in English, you might want to eliminate “suck” from your writing.

And how does getting into a doctoral program relate to the market or the economy? Finding a suitable job after you have the degree would correlate.

How did you do on your GREs?

nikipedia's avatar

Have you contacted any of the schools that rejected you to ask about weaknesses in your application? What do YOU think your weaknesses are? How many schools are you applying to each year? Are the schools all in the same “tier”?

nikipedia's avatar

@gailcalled: When the job market is tough applications to grad school tend to increase, making admissions more competitive.

jrpowell's avatar

Actually having a lackluster economy will affect the number of people that return to school. So you get more applications with the same number of openings when the economy slows.

edit :: What nikipedia said.

gailcalled's avatar

Aha. I understand now. Good point, nik and john.

mteutsch's avatar

I don’t use suck, or other slang in academic writing. This appears to be a casual site, so I decided to use it here. Anyways, the schools have not replied to my inquiries about why I did not get in. I thought I had a good shot at Memphis this year; however, I was wrong. Another school, and Memphis, did tell me that due to economic constraints, not mentioning the number of applicants, they were unable to accept everyone they wanted to. So, it appears that the number of available slots decreases as the economy lags. That actually plays into John’s statement too. Anyways, that’s what I have so far.

gailcalled's avatar

@mteutsch; What do you want to do with a Doctorate in English? Write, teach, both?

You will see a huge spectrum of writing quality on this site, in spite of its casual appearance. There are many people who pride themselves on being original, literate, informed, and often funny. There is also the gang who love the ”“awesome,” “lol”, “suck,” “definately,” endless confusion with “its, it’s, whose, who’s, their, they’re, there,”
”!!!!!!!!!!!!”, “hahahahahahahahah,”...well, you get the point. The age range of the collective, at last tally, runs from 14 (a bilingual Dutch kid) to 71 (that would be moi.)

In any case, welcome.

mteutsch's avatar

I want to teach. Right now, I teach composition, hence academic writing, at the University of Louisiana Monroe. I really just want to teach and explore literature and culture. That’s the main thing. I see a lot of problems with there, they’re, and their. I actually have a shirt that I wear to class when my students have problems with those pronouns. I got it from

Alina1235's avatar

Just a question…. What does PhD really stand for? I mean the translation of the abbreviation

gailcalled's avatar

Doctor of Philosophy.Learn details.

gailcalled's avatar

@mt: have you thought about getting an MA and teaching
English in all its forms at a good Independent Day School?. The competitive ones get really bright students and the teachers are always challenged. I worked in a Quaker one in Phila. for years, and my kids got an extraordinary education there. See *NAIS

*Nat’l Association of Independent Schools

nikipedia's avatar

What about my other questions? What do you think the weaknesses in your application were, how many schools did you apply to, and were they all in the same tier?

mteutsch's avatar

My weakness, I believe, comes from my writing sample. The one I sent this year was accepted by a journal conditionally, and I have submitted a short work to another journal. Apart from that, I have no idea.

I’ve applied to anywhere between 6–10 schools at a time, all different tiers.

nikipedia's avatar

What are your GRE scores? How confident are you in your LORs? If even one of them said something that could be construed negatively, that could absolutely be the kiss of death.

How about grades? Any big red flags?

Have you considered a terminal masters program? Not instead of PhD but as a stepping stone….

mteutsch's avatar

What do you mean by a terminal masters program? I have my M.A. My GRE scores are average, and my grades, for my M.A. work were phenomenal. I even completed the program in a year. one school told me I was qualified; however, they couldn’t accept everyone they wanted to. Another school, last year, told me I was at the very top of the list of individuals who weren’t chosen. That’s the school I had hopes for this year.

nikipedia's avatar

I didn’t realize you had an MA already. I meant a masters program that ends at the masters degree rather than being part of a doctoral program.

By “average” do you mean 50th percentile for all 3 sections? An average score on math probably wouldn’t matter, but in the verbal or AWA section that would probably be a big issue for most admissions committees.

How confident are you that your LORs were positive?

mteutsch's avatar

I’m average, about 520–30 verbal. 570 quantitative. And I have a 5 in analytical writing. I’ve taken it numerous times, and the verbal kills me.

nikipedia's avatar

I know this sucks but if I were you I would not apply again without a much stronger verbal score. What have you done to prepare for the exam in the past?

mteutsch's avatar

Studied. I’ve taken it 3, maybe 4, times. I can just see committees looking over applications and throwing out ones with sub-600 verbal or quantitative scores. That’s why I’ve been trying to beef up my C.V. I’m teaching 6 classes of composition this semester and last. I’m going to conferences, national and regional. Presenting at my university. Working on publications.

jaytron's avatar

520 on the verbal portion is no where near a high enough score to be accepted into any averagely competitive English PhD program. Most programs will want to see scores at least in the mid-high 600s.

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