PhD Program Frustration and Final Decisions

Applying for PhD programs is a long, tiring process. Part of the reason for this is because they want to weed out less serious candidates. PhD programs accept only a few new candidates per year so competition can be fairly stiff. I decided, during my two + months of putting together various application materials, that the applications are designed to make you feel bad about yourself (okay, not really, but with all the spaces for special achievements I ended up leaving blank how was I supposed to feel??). I put in a total of 6 applications, all of which required various forms, 3 letters of recommendation for each, GRE scores, transcripts, writing samples (of various lengths; some of them had to be 20 pages or less and some didn’t have a length limit), personal statements, and other random statements (such as a “diversity” statement and a teaching statement); it was exhausting, not to mention expensive. I probably spent $500-$600 applying for places I knew would very likely turn me down. All of this was a lot of work, but it’s not the worst part. The worst part is the waiting for a decision. Months of waiting. Not knowing if I’m going to be moving across the country in just a few short months or stay in my current state, unable to apply for summer jobs or search for apartments. Unsure, even, if I was going to be starting a PhD program in the fall or if I was going to be forced to use a contingency plan.

I applied to six universities with the hope that one, maybe two would accept me. Something that’s not typically understood about applying to PhD programs (to those outside of academia) is that it’s not always ability-based. Many candidates are capable, intelligent, and hardworking. Often, it comes down to research compatibility. Do the research interests you expressed in your personal statement match the university? Are they in line with the image that the university wants to create/maintain for itself? Do the professors think you have potential? Can they teach you what you need to learn? Would you be a fit for the current cohorts? It’s infinitely more delicate and more political than applying for an undergraduate or even Master’s program. So, there is waiting. And waiting. And waiting…

I was lucky enough to be accepted to two universities. One offered me sure funding while the other asked me to wait while their first-string choices decided if they were going to accept or not (while they didn’t say that in so many words, it’s what they were doing). Tired of waiting, and only having two more weeks before the deadline to make a decision, I said goodbye to the second university and accepted the offer from Arizona State University.

I am very excited to being my PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at ASU starting this August. The faculty at ASU is amazing and I’ve enjoyed working with some of them. I heartily look forward to working with more of them in the coming years. I am also very much looking forward to having my own classroom after working as an Instructional Assistant for a year and a half. I have some big ideas for the classroom, some of which I will share here on this blog.

Stay tuned; I plan to make a splash.


2 responses to “PhD Program Frustration and Final Decisions

  1. Congratulations on your choice to attend ASU. After just having gone through this process myself your blog post really rang true. I’m going to be on the east coast at George Mason. I’m nervous and excited! Good luck 🙂


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