I recently graduated from the University of Kent with BA hons in Social Anthropology and I'm really hoping to get into a PHD programme. At the moment I've been looking into American programmes and I feel like I have the process down but I hate to think I'm missing something.
I've communicated with the social science admissions officer at my chosen institution and they've been incredibly helpful so I've tried to break down the process into a series of steps.
1. Gather as much information as humanly possible on the university
2. Find out where I can take the GRE test
3. Decide which profs might kindly grant me a reference
4. Pick an article of work to submit with my application
5. Pick a faculty member at the chosen institution who has similar research interests, study theirs and others works in the region of what I'd like to compose my doctoral research on.
6. Contact them?
If I'm missing anything or anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it. I received an Upper Second Class Honours in my degree which doesn't give me the strongest possible competitive standing but I really really really want to do this and need to express this as best I can through other means.
Best wishes in your searches!
The first thing I would recommend is not to inadvertently pester a professor. I have found that contacting professors can be somewhat touch and go. Instead, contact the administrative assistant for the department in question, then ask if you can get in touch with some of the graduate students. Speak to as many of them as you can, and you should be able to find out if they're disgruntled or not. Trust that funny feeling you might get when conversing with students. That feeling that something is not right might save you from getting into a program where the professors and the program do not care if you make it or not.
Your first goal should be to get into a program that will give you product: genuine support toward attainment of your degree, so that you can then enter into your successful career.
Remember that curriculum and pedagogy are important, but they cannot outweigh the treatment of graduate students alone. Also, don't make the mistake of thinking that professors and programs won't sell you down the river (pardon the colloquialism) just because they are established anthropologists. Careerism is embedded in academic anthropology, just as in any other field.
Also, I would suggest looking into a few factors concerning the performance of the graduate program in question. Mind you, information is available on the net, but I can't vouch for the validity of it all. Nevertheless, I do know that there are independent agencies (such as US News World Report) that provide information. I would suggest College Boards or NCES perhaps for information on schools (though perhaps not on specific programs). A good Google search will also net information, but you will have to do some honest work to sift through the good and bad information.
My point is that you should look at these indicators: average time to degree completion (a very, very important indicator), professor to graduate student ratio, professor to student ratio, percent of graduate students funded (and how funded), program completion/dropout rates, diversity rates, average cost to students for degree completion, etc.
Again, getting into a program that will support you toward success may serve you better than getting into the program with the topmost ranking you can manage. You can make your mark in anthropology by your own smarts, initiative and good work.
Remember that information is your friend. At this point, you’re likely to be one of literally hundreds of applicants, and nothing really special (even though you know you are!). I find that successfully traversing a PhD program is not about getting into one, but getting through one. Getting in is just the first hoop to jump through. Also, that hoop is likely to be set the lowest to the ground, and it’s not even flaming (those come later)!