Tag Archives: Prospective Students

To Prospective Students: Advice That I Got and Didn’t Listen to & Advice I Didn’t Get But Wish I Would Have Before Starting MAPH (I Probably Wouldn’t Have Listened to That Advice Either)

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Bill Hutchison, MAPH ’12, who is a now a PhD candidate in English at the University of Chicago. Bill will be on Sunday’s alumni panel.

IMG_2362Hello, potential MAPH students! I’m an alumnus of the program from 2011-2012, and worked in the program as a mentor the following year. Now I’m a second-year PhD student in the English department at University of Chicago. I want to get one thing out on the table between us before you read this. I want you to know where I’m coming from. I’m a big, big fan of the program. I’m neither apologist nor evangelist, but definitely a proponent. If you want skepticism, seek elsewhere. Do MAPH right and it will change your life, or so say I.

1. Do a Thing Because You Want to Do That Thing, Not Because You Want to Do Something Else

Come to MAPH because you want to sharpen your mind and learn to be a better human, not because you want to “be a professor.” And let’s be honest about that, too. Some of the best advice I got from an advanced PhD student working as one of MAPH’s astonishingly bright instructors was: “Get a PhD because you want to write a dissertation, not because you want to be a professor.” It’s smart advice. The American Association of University Professors says that 76 percent of university staff appointments are for non-tenure track positions. The nature of academia is in flux, and romantic notions of academia and “being a professor” can blur the realities of the world so many of us want to be a part of. If you come to MAPH, come because you think it’s awesome (you’re right). Instrumentalizing the program as a way to do something else is a good way to miss big and important chunks of MAPH. Come to this program if you want to do something amazing while you are in the program. That seems like the best way to do amazing things later, too.

2. You Will Change Your Mind About a Lot of Things a Lot of Times: Go With It

loungeI was totally, totally sure what I was going to write my thesis on. I was going to write about the industrialization of animals, and was going to do it in the Philosophy department. I actually ended up writing my thesis on animality and The Island of Doctor Moreau in the English department. Yeah, there’s a bit of conceptual overlap in my actual thesis and lumpy mass of ideas I originally thought I wanted to write about.
But I found a set of ideas in MAPH that were totally unexpected, and I found them in a class I would have had no intention of taking when I started the program. This is not a unique experience. Don’t resist these experiences. Ideas like to be alive and jump around and do unexpected things. Professors here frequently talk about “the graduate student imagination,” and part of that imagination is learning how to interact with those ideas in a way that doesn’t involve cooping them up and contorting them into unnatural shapes. Follow your ideas around; they go such interesting places.

3. I Don’t Know How One Does This, But Try to Let Go of Your Ego

I’m realizing now that all the things I have to say are basically the same pieces of advice said in different ways. Nevertheless, MAPH is an intense experience. I like to say that it’s impossible. But that’s one of the amazing things about it. By the end, you have accomplished something impossible. It’s impossible to take 150% of the PhD student workload and write a high-quality thesis in a year. It can’t be done. And yet with the enthusiastic and effective support of the staff and instructors, you do it. And then even more impossible things become possible. But it requires a lowering of defenses that can be tough. Come into MAPH with an open head and open heart, and it will alter you in very real and direction-changing ways. It’s a good place to come and dismantle yourself and build an even better version. Sure, it’s a little painful at times, but it’s transformative. You don’t come out the same as when you went in, and ego makes the process more difficult than it needs to be.

4. Here Is the Secret to Getting Into Any PhD Program You Want


Be lucky. Really, really lucky. And, to quote my MAPH thesis advisor, “work your bloody ass off.” But ninety percent of it is just to be really, really lucky. That is to say, MAPH Central will tell you lots of things about why it’s important to not just do PhD prep stuff while you’re here, and why you should meet with the career people and come to the events with non-academic alumni. Listen to them! Go to those things! Just like it’s really hard to get a tenure-track job, it’s really hard to get into a top-notch PhD program. It’s hard to get into PhD programs of any notch! If you want to get a PhD, go for it, but don’t bet the the whole farm on it. Have a contingency plan. MAPH Central is the very best place to plan your plan. It doesn’t take much effort, but it can come in surprisingly handy. Yes, MAPH is a great place to hone the skills you need to be a good PhD student. Yes, lots of MAPH alumni get into great PhD programs all over the place. But sometimes it takes another couple of rounds of applications. Sometimes people don’t want to do a PhD anymore. Sometimes people just don’t have the luck when they need it. However it’s going to go down, MAPH will help you prepare for it. Use what they have to offer. Work hard in lots of different ways.
MAPH is a great place to (more really good advice I got) “put yourself in the path of opportunity.” Come and visit, ask lots of questions, and listen to the answers. Question marks and and open minds lead to revelatory experiences in MAPH. That’s my experience, anyway. And I think it’s available to anyone.

PS: One last note—

MAPH is expensive. There’s not much aid available to Master’s students. You’re likely to go into a fair amount of debt to do it. You may want to ask people if it’s “worth it.” It’s an impossible question to answer, not least because it asks for a false equivalence between knowledge and debt. Whether to take on the debt, if that is your lot, is a personal decision.
I’ll say this about my decision: What if I hadn’t gotten into a PhD program? Would it have been “worth it?” I wouldn’t regret it, that’s for sure. I don’t regret it, even though I’m ostensibly training for a job in a mostly low-paying and disappearing profession. But I’m interested as a general state of being, and that doesn’t change whether I’m in a PhD program or not. And if you’re out there looking at this program and eyeing higher education, you’re probably interested, too. So maybe a better question is—how much do I want to get even better at being interested?

 

A Guide to Transportation: Campus Days 2015

Hello Prospective Students!

We are excited to see you all for Campus Days this weekend and have some excellent events planned for you all. But first, here is some advice for getting to Hyde Park and even exploring Chicago, if you have time. Below are our recommendations for transportation. Feel free to email us (ma-humanities@uchicago.edu) if you have any questions!

From the Airport:

O’Hare: The Blue Line runs straight from ORD to the Loop, where you can grab any other L train or the buses that go to Hyde Park (see below).

ChicagoElevatedTrainMidway: The 55 bus goes straight from Midway to Hyde Park. The 55th & Ellis stop is essentially on campus, but some of you might be staying farther east, as ask your host (or Google) which stop you should use. You can also jump on the Orange Line from Midway. This will take you to the Loop, where you can grab a train to another neighborhood if you are staying/hanging out outside of Hyde Park.

Continue reading

Campus Days: If You Get Here Early

If you get to Chicago before Campus Days, or have some time here afterwards, below are some suggested spots and activities!

Within Hyde Park

4861755616_cc127e8d47_b

Osaka Garden inside Jackson Park

Although this weekend your focus will likely be on the University, Hyde Park as a whole has a lot to offer. To enjoy some time outside, I strongly recommend Promontory Point, the east end of 55th Street. Promontory Point provides a beautiful view of downtown and of the lake. Further south is another beautiful park, Jackson Park. Jackson Park was created as part of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and still contains a lovely Japanese garden from the Fair.

Hyde Park also has several bookstores worth browsing. We have the Seminary Co-op (which is also next to one of Continue reading

Campus Days: Schedule of Events

Campus Days Schedule

April 12-13, 2015

Sunday, April 12th

1:00 pm Paul Durica, former Preceptor and owner of Pocket Guide to Hell will lead a tour of the secret history of UChicago (optional). Meet in front of the Reynolds Club.

3:00 pm Welcome from the Directors (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

3:13 pm Readings from Colloquium (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

4:00 pm Alumni Panel (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

1335562301-logancenter5:00 pm Current Students Panel (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

Continue reading

Campus Days: Housing Options

Hello Prospective Students!

The Maph office is getting excited for Campus Days, on April 13th and 14th. We’re looking forward to meeting you guys and to introducing you to this program. Over Campus Days, you’ll have the chance to meet Maph students, visit classes, and, as is MAPH tradition, eat lots of food while engaging in a series of intellectual conversations.110212-NEWS-Professors-Row-Halloween-Julia-Reinitz_5-1024x680

We try to place as many people as possible with current students, but any one who isn’t housed with a Maph student, either because placements fill up quickly on a first-come, first-serve basis, or because you’d simply like a different housing experience, below are some suggestions for housing. Continue reading

Campus Days: Alternative Housing Options

Welcome prospective MAPH students! As you may already know, MAPH’s Campus Days is coming up on April 6th and 7th. This two-day introduction to the program is a great way to get a feel for what it’s like to be a MAPH student: you will have the chance to mingle with current MAPHs, meet Alumni, visit courses, and, as is MAPH tradition, eat lots of food while engaging in a series of intellectual conversations (often centered around the opening film screening and subsequent panel discussion).

For those of you who weren’t able to house with a MAPH student, whether because  placements fill up quickly on a first-come, first-serve basis, or because you’d simply like a different housing experience, MAPH has compiled some suggestions for alternative housing for the 6th & 7th.

Continue reading

Welcome Prospective Students! (CURRENT STUDENTS, CONTINUE WRITING)

Welcome to our newly admitted future-MAPHers! This is our informal current student blog (current students are currently finishing up the tenth and final week of Winter Quarter. They’re just about 2/3 of the way done with their degree, and almost 80% done with Winter). It’s a stressful time of the year, but a week during which we’re all suddenly able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

First of all, congratulations. We hope that we’ll see you April 15-16 for “Campus Days,” which a great opportunity to preview the University and meet faculty, MAPH staff, and most importantly each other. You’ll get a brief glimpse of the diversity, energy, and rigor of our program–and with any luck, campus will already be in its warm, welcoming spring colors.

I’m MAPH’s Outreach Coordinator. I graduated the program in 2010, having spent two years in Washington, DC as an advertising sales representative (which means, essentially, that I went home and screamed as loud as I could every night for 690 consecutive nights). I applied to PhD programs as a kind of escape from the horrors of the “real world,” hoping to spend some years reading books in the safety of the academy. I wrote a personal statement about politics and modern literature, a writing sample about 9/11, and mailed off what I thought were 10 very strong applications.

And I got nine rejection letters over the course of three weeks between February and March.

But I also got an unexpected letter from the University of Chicago. I knew nothing about MAPH three years ago, and I almost immediately wrote off the possibility of coming to UChicago. Looking back, three years later, I can’t really recall the specific reasons that I changed my mind. But I’m glad that I did.

Many of you applied directly to the Program, so you already know a lot about our community, our interdisciplinary approach to humanistic inquiry, and the degree to which our students improve their writing and thinking over the course of nine incredibly short months. At the University of Chicago, you (no bull) will have the most intense academic experience in your careers as students. But equally importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to find out what your chosen discipline–English, philosophy, art history, linguistics, anthropology, and whatever else–means to you. You’ll not only develop critical skills. You’ll also think hard about what the next step will be.

For many of our students, it’s a PhD at a top institution. Friends of mine from the past two years of MAPH have recently been admitted to programs at places like Duke, Wisconsin, Indiana, UCLA, UChicago, Johns Hopkins, and NYU (in English); UPenn (anthropology); Northwestern (philosophy); Cornell and UChicago (Linguistics and Southeast Asian Studies), and the list goes on.

For others, MAPH is an opportunity to decide how to pursue life of the mind in any number of career tracks. Every single one of our students is a committed life-long intellectual. But probably only about a quarter decide that they truly want to get a PhD after doing a year of graduate work. A huge part of my job is to connect current students with alumni and career resources. We have extensive professional advising opportunities, and a new syllabus of curated career events (called Career Core) to help students find work that they can be passionate about after graduation.

We have over 1600 alumni, and each year our vibrant and international base of support grows. We hope that it excites you to be part of a growing community of artists, writers, scholars, ad executives, program managers, political activists, consultants, musicians, acrobats, screenwriters, photographers, and whatever else. (STILL no astronauts–so if any of you have aspirations in the area of space flight, it might be better to attend that Physics Program instead…). But for everyone else, we hope that you’ll accept our invitation!

Finally, please consider looking into these various resources that might give you a better idea about our community. And email us! I’m at ajaronstein@uchicago.edu and you can also email ma-humanities@uchicago.edu. We’re happy to answer any questions that you might have about the program, about UChicago, or about our home in Second City.

Congratulations again, and we hope to see and hear from you soon,

A-J Aronstein (MAPH 2010)

Please also explore our website, where you’ll find a lot of information about the curriculum, our program options, and about the experience.