It Begins... Again.

Today I officially begin, once again, the process of applying to grad schools. I %absolutely love% spending $50 to be rejected by strangers. If I wanted that experience, I'd just start dating again.

The application itself wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to write that damned personal essay. Last time around, mine was about 3 pages long, and went into some detail about my odd religious upbringing and subsequent study of religion. It was well written, extensively edited, and quite safe.

Baylor has changed things a bit this year; their website now says, "submit a personal statement, including academic/research area interests." It's tempting to make some really outrageous claims like "I plan to challenge the current academic understanding of the conversion process in American Religions..." but then I remember that I don't want to piss them off. Some of the people who created the current academic understanding of the conversion process are on the faculty at Baylor. I suppose I will have to keep it down to the basics - conversion theory, growth of new religions, and the Bahá’í Faith in America. Is that specific enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to build an academic career upon? I think so, but we will see what they have to say.

"They" are those academics who already have their little collection of initials after their names. In my Sociology class just the other day, we were discussing the idea of job specialization, and how it is in your best interest, economically speaking, to join a profession, and then keep everyone else out. In theory, it keeps your specialization rare, and gives you greater value in the marketplace. So applying to grad school is, in essence, asking a group of people to let you into their club, which will eventually lessen their worth. As you progress in a grad program, you slowly make the transition from "student" to "protege" to "colleague," but in that final capacity, you really are also seen as "competitor."

It could be argued that academics would be best served by not admitting people that they feel are smarter than themselves. At least not until they are far enough along in their careers that they are no longer concerned about competition. By admitting folks who are not quite as bright as they are, the career academic lessens the risk of losing in future competition with that student - assuming that said student even makes it through the program and receives their own little collection of initials.

Of course, we cling to the idea that academics are concerned about the progress of their field and that they would never think in such base ways as to purposely choose candidates that they thought were slightly less capable than themselves. In fact, some scholars pride themselves on the success of their students and encourage them to eclipse their old mentors, but what about the subconscious mind? Is it possible that by being a challenging applicant with new ideas and an aggressive intellectual stance, you are forcing those old guard professors to react negatively to you on a subconscious level?

Maybe I'll just revise last year's essay.


WNG said...

None of that is technically the reason I never applied to grad school, but I'm completely cribbing it the next time someone asks. Just a heads up :)

His Sinfulness said...

Fine by me. So long as you cite me, in proper MLA style... ;)

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