Today Nicole is telling us more about her experience of applying for a DPhil at Oxford:
At the DPhil level, Oxford’s application process was similar to that of other institutions, albeit slightly more involved. It was the only school, for instance, that asked for two writing samples, both of which could not exceed ten pages in length. As a (rather verbose) Masters student, I was accustomed to writing far longer papers, and had to strategically choose excerpts of these papers that both showcased my abilities and were logically coherent.
Letter of Reference
Another important consideration was my letters of reference: It was crucial to seek out professors with whom I had worked closely and whom I knew would strongly endorse my admission. I have been told repeatedly by those “in-the-know” that nothing kills a solid application like a luke-warm letter of reference.
Finally (although this mostly applies at the postgraduate level), I had to ensure that at least one professor in the sociology department had research interests that aligned with mine. I know that talented prospective students sometimes get rejected simply because there is no one available to guide their work. Before applying, make sure that Oxford – and every other school you wish to go to – can meet your needs academically.
The nerves, the excitement...
As I now prepare to move across the world, my excitement is of course tempered by some practical considerations: Where will I open a bank account? Will my cell phone plan be transferable? What will public transit be like? More importantly, what are the supports I’ll have to put in place to ensure that my mental, physical, and spiritual health remain intact? My research can be emotionally draining, and for my sake and the sake of my study participants, it is important that I remain grounded and self-reflexive. Fortunately, both Oxford and Nuffield College appear to have ample academic, social, and medical resources. Still, I intend to explore community-based services to ensure that each of my unique needs is appropriately met: Self-care, though now a bit of a buzz-word, will have to be a priority.
I am looking forward to exploring the grounds, getting familiarized with my college, and connecting with faculty and fellow sociologists. The fear I felt in January upon receiving my confirmation of acceptance has not dissipated; it fact, it has intensified. Simultaneously, however, so has my excitement. I have very little idea of what the future holds. I am confident, however, that the knowledge and skill-set I will acquire at Oxford will serve me well as I eventually transition to the academic job market and begin life as a DPhil graduate.