37 years ago, I was writing applications for history doctoral programs. I was a senior in college, had one of my professors give me the “tenured jobs in history are shrinking, regardless of what others are saying” talk (he was right), and had no clue what doctoral admissions committees look for. I applied to a dozen programs, was admitted to a few, and given a promise of full support at one, at the University of Pennsylvania. And that’s where I attended. I vaguely remember that the departments generally had different essay questions — I think Yale’s program asked applicants to write about a history book that inspired us, and why, and I chose Peter Laslett’s The World We Have Lost, which was published in 1965 and probably not anything like what they were looking for in prospective students.
If you’re applying to doctoral programs, don’t do what I did. I don’t mean, don’t apply to doctoral programs; that’s a more complicated discussion. Read the relevant portions of Jessica Calarco’s The Field Guide to Graduate School and Tressie Mcmillan Cottom’s blog entry on the topic for more complete and thoughtful comments. What I mean is, don’t apply as if it’s the 1980s with no solid information widely available about doctoral programs and what admissions committees often look for (I wrote some thoughts on this in March 2015).1Continue reading “Applying to doctoral programs”
- Some of the context from March 2015 is no longer true eight years later. [↩]