Hi, my name is Shannon C., and I'm an aspiring graduate student.

And for reasons that remain obscure even to me, I've decided to chronicle for the world's viewing pleasure my quest to get into a slate of schools whose entire purpose in this world is to whip up hordes of students into a frothy frenzy about oh how wondrous it would be to walk amidst the Ivy trees and then reject 93 percent of them.

 

FAQ 1: What are you then, some sort of masochist?

Yes, although my collection of leather boots says otherwise.

FAQ 2: No, really. Why are you making us watch this trainwreck?

Because useful information doesn't come from official school websites or official school visits, where current graduate students are paid in cheap wine and those Le Petit Ecolier cookies to talk about how lovely New Haven really is if you peel off the gritty wrapper. You know those cookies. Shortbread coated in chocolate, with a picture of a little French toff on it. But I digress. Useful information, as we all know, comes from Googling stuff. This is the lesson the twenty-first century has taught us, and we'd do well to listen. Any mildly on the mark piece of information I've gotten about applying to graduate school has come either from thegradcafe.com or the livejournal community applyingtograd. So I'm recording all of this not just for some sort of weird idea of posterity, but to give those who come after me an opportunity to Google it and spend the following six months obsessing over how well their records match up to mine and whether a 10-point loss in GRE score might be made up if the rank of their recommender was associate instead of assistant.

So, hazing, basically.

FAQ 3: Okay, so which schools do you think you'll get into (you elitist bitch)?

Hard to say. Here's where I'm applying, by order of deadline: Princeton Comparative Literature, Stanford English, UCSD Literature, Berkeley English, Northwestern English, University of Chicago English, Harvard English, and Yale English. Why is there no backup school here? Because one of the few mildly useful pieces of advice I got from a professor here at UCSD was to aim high for a mediocre job. To get hired at a state school, go to an Top Ten. I hear that might not be necessarily true for much longer, but my thoughts on this can be summed up with the word "whatever." It's not like the good folks at the Ohio State University are going to look at my Berkeley credentials at scoff, in the manner of a French oenophile, "Berkeley! Ha! We scoff at Berkeley!" I applied to schools that were a good fit, in acceptable locations where my husband has some reasonable chance of finding employment, and weren't likely to produce a stink in the interviewing room at the MLA.

FAQ 4: Why do you think you have a chance at any of those schools?

This is the slightly annoying portion of our presentation which nonetheless must be preserved for future Googlers everywhere. I got an 800 Verbal, 6.0 Writing, and 96th percentile on the Literature subject test. My GPA in my major was a 3.71 and my thesis on the economic metaphor of Antichrist and the common weal of the state in Early Modern England earned me a nice shiny summa cum laude. I came to work in the fellowships office here at UCSD, learned Russian, and took other assorted classes to further develop the "literature" part of my History and Literature concentration at Harvard. Maybe none of it will matter. I don't think the GRE scores are particularly helpful. And ultimately, I'll never really know, unless I steal my admissions file (which I would definitely not do. NEVER). But those are the raw statistics, and here are my writing sample and statement of purpose.

FAQ 5: You're just practicing to ask my lawyer son if he and his supermodel wife want fries with that. Ha!

Maybe. At the moment, I work at a mildly interesting job that probably won't really go anywhere for me and shove classes into the bursting suitcase of my 40-hour-workweek and fight with HR about whether I can tack 15 minute breaks onto my 30 hour lunch period to make enough time for Second-Year Russian. Worst case scenario, I spend six years studying literary technologies, verisimilitude, and forgeries and get some sort of unstable lecturing gig at a below-average school that nonetheless won't involve duking it out about 15 minutes here and there with HR. Doesn't seem so bad to me. The life of a professor, even an adjunct, is pretty sweet.