Nicole Nathan '11
earning PhD in Anthropology
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1. For a timeline, start early! Plan everything down to the week, and stick to it. It is very easy in senior year for things to pile up. If possible, take the GRE in the summer, so you can devote time to study without worrying about classwork. Also, then you will also be able to retake it and every score will get in on time. I suggest having all applications done by Thanksgiving so you can study for finals and enjoy Christmas Break.
2. It's tough to decide which schools to apply to. Try to have a variety of rankings, include at least two fall-back schools, but don't be afraid to apply to a top ten. Also try to have a variety of degrees, it is increasingly difficult to get into a PhD straight out of undergrad--so apply to Masters and PhDs. I recommend applying to top-rated masters and well-ranked but less prestigious PhD programs. I think eight is a good number. You should definitely know your strengths and emphasize those in your application, but also use them to draw a realistic idea of where you can get in. PhDs are typically full-funded, but with this economy that is no longer a guarantee, and Masters are even less likely to be funded so also check out scholarship opportunities. Uschi holds a workshop and is extremely helpful. gradcafe.com was also useful and has a detailed list of scholarships by discipline.
3. Once you have decided which schools, really research them. Just because a school is well-ranked does not mean that it is strong in your specialty. Research all of the professors at your potential schools and their current graduate students. Check to see if both their interest area and the methodology/theories match with yours. Then, pick out at least two professors who could be potential advisors, find some of their articles and read them. Then contact these professors and discuss their articles and why you are interested in their program and why you would be a good fit. Making these contacts early on is very helpful in a lasting impression as well as showing you are a serious student.
4. Seek out all the help/advice you can. I went to Margaret Krantz in the Career Center, and she helped me with my CV and my admission essay. Be very specific in the essay and tailor it to each program. One essay is not applicable to every school, like it was when applying to undergrad. Mention what you want to do,why you are a good fit, mention whose theories you are influenced by and why, and who you want to work with and why. Being clear and concise is very important, don't repeat information you can find in your CV and don't make it an autobiography. Show them that you are not only a good student, but that you are a good student for their program.
Questions to ask recruiters: funding opportunities, job placement (or PhD placement if it is a masters), how long to complete the degree.
It is definitely a learning process, I wish I had been better prepared (and I was well prepared!)and I wish I had done everything sooner. Try to find a support group of people who are also applying, because those who aren't, don't understand how stressful it can be, and also your group can give each other advice.