The Dark-Eyed Mistress of Sweet, Sweet Pain (jenni_the_odd) wrote,
The Dark-Eyed Mistress of Sweet, Sweet Pain
jenni_the_odd

When in doubt regarding my future, I turn, as always, to the interwebs.

It is decision time again, Livejournal. I must decide (a) if I am going to pursue a PhD and (b), if so, where I will be doing this pursuing.
The primary problem I'm having is that if I do decide to go the PhD route? I should have made these decisions a year ago, while starting my first semester of my MLA.
For now, let's assume I'm diving headfirst into the PhD circus.

Things Most Universities Want For Admissions
  • An MA in English--Here is the biggest possibly-an-obstacle. I will not have an MA in English. I will have an MLA with a concentration in English. They are not, technically, the same thing. Whether the universities to which I send my pleading requests will take note of this and dismiss me offhand, I do not know. I plan to narrow down the field a bit more before emailing or calling people and asking "by the way, I don't have the degree you want, is that cool anyway?" On the plus side, my GPA should be within the acceptable range (most places want 3.5/4 or higher). But again, this won't matter unless they are cool with that extra 'L'.
  • Letters of recommendation--I have two professors who will write me glowing happy letters, and I have to find a third. This requires careful analysis and assessment to determine in which class I've slacked off the least and refrained from talking too much. I slack off and talk a lot. One or two people reading this have been in classes with me. They will tell you. Oh, they will tell you.
  • A scholarly/critical paper--I will presumably have something resembling this after this semester; I will likely use my Little Red Riding Hood paper for my Literary Criticism class. Whether it's up to snuff or not, I have no idea, because I have received minimal feedback save for a single peer review from someone whose intelligence I question and the professor telling me "write moar".
  • A portfolio, ranging from 5 poems to as much as 50 pages, depending on the university. Probably poetry. I have no idea what to include. Cue panicking like a marching band on fire*.
  • A letter of academic intent, or some other form of "why do you want to go to school here" essay. I loathe these things. I never know what to say, and I never feel like it sounds anything but horrifically fakey and ridiculous.
  • The GRE, sometimes both general and subject. I have not taken the GRE; I took the GMAT to get into business school. This is where I should have been preparing a year ago. While the general GRE is available year-round (I will be taking it on the 17th), the subject GRE--in my case, for literature--is available only at very specific times. In this case, sometime in April. Did I mention that the deadline for fall admittance to all these PhD programs is January 1 or 15 (with one or two in February)? Yeah.

    So I have two choices:
    I can either wait a year, take the subject GRE, build up a stronger portfolio, maybe try and get published god-knows-where, and then apply all over the place and hope I get in. Or, I can dismiss the schools that want both the general AND subject GRE, pray everything gets there by the deadline, pray they are cool with an MLA instead of an MA, and hope someone accepts me for fall of 2011.

    Waiting a Year
    Pros
  • The University of Houston is the one school I actually want to get into. It has one of the best creative writing PhD programs in the country, and it's in my hometown, which I love and where I'd happily live for the rest of my life.
  • A year off from school sounds kind of wonderful, as does employment.
  • More time theoretically means more time to write, including finishing my Master's thesis, and thus having a more solid array of writing to pull from for my application portfolios. This also means more time to send my work to this nebulous 'out' I keep hearing about, in hopes of someone else publishing it.
    Cons
  • There is no guarantee I'll be able to find employment. Honestly, I'm never even sure where I should apply. I'm under-experienced and over-qualified for the vast majority of jobs, and while I'd be perfectly fine working retail or phones again (both jobs I enjoyed quite a bit), the places I've contacted never have any interest in me. I know part of this is that I have not been available during anything resembling regular, normal work hours due to classes. A sudden increase in availability might help. Or it might not.
  • There is also no guarantee I'll be able to get much writing done. I am terrible at writing on a schedule, and while I'm trying to work on that, it doesn't always go well.
  • I very well might not get in to U of H. According to their website, they accept roughly 8-12 people per year, and that's for the MFA and PhD programs combined. I don't have the degree they want, there's no guarantee my GRE scores will be that strong, and I have very little clue what I'm doing in general. That could mean waiting a year for nothing.
  • My parents are really big on not taking breaks from school. As in, whenever I've suggested it (because, quite frankly, I've probably needed it at any one of several points), my mom puts on her "ABSOLUTELY NOT" face. They are paying for my education, and if they decide not to, there are always student loans, but those will be some good-sized loans, and if I try to do this writer thing, odds are I will not be making much money and it will take a while to pay them off.

    Applying Immediately
    Pros
  • There is the concern that if I take off time from school, I will lose any momentum I have and not ever have the motivation to go back. Given that my general level of motivation to do anything is slightly above that of a dead slug, this is a very real possibility. Continuing straight through from Spring '11 to Fall '11 without taking a break might be my best bet--having a summer with no classes will be a break in and of itself (I generally take at least two classes per summer, and have for some time).
  • I am currently fresher in the minds of my professors, making writing those letters of recommendation that much easier for them.
    Cons
  • Everything needs to happen NOW NOW NOW.
  • There is, as always, the looming risk of burnout. You could make the argument that I'm already burnt out, and have just been running on fumes for a while now.
  • Because U of H would be off the table, being accepted anywhere else would require moving. As I mentioned before, I love Houston. And for the first time in my life, I actually have several friends in the city who I see outside of school. I do not make meatspace friends easily. All the aforementioned friends are because of Laurels, and it took nearly two years at UST for me to be comfortable enough to start making those friends. In my two years in San Antonio, I made two friends, one of whom vanished after our first semester. So, a net total of one friend. My two years at HCC? No friends made there. Even allowing for the fact that I became progressively more stable as time went on, that's still a long time spent at any one place before I begin to settle in and make connections with other people. Honestly, I am not looking forward to doing that again.

    What do I do? Help me, lazywebs.

    *Who did I steal that phrase from? It was one of you, and it makes me giggle with horrified joy every time I read/use it.

    This entry was originally posted at http://www.dreamwidth.org/12345.html. Please comment here or there using OpenID.
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