The Graduate Interview

Not too long ago I had an interview with one of the prospective graduate schools that I applied to. From what I understand in art history departments, actual interviews are pretty rare. Based on my friends’ experiences, some schools will invite you to visit the campus and speak with faculty once you’ve been accepted- and possibly provide a small stipend.

However, interviews are required for some programs such as Art Administration, or Public Health, or Public Policy, but it really just depends on the school. They may invite you to visit in person, or conduct the interview via phone or Skype.

There are ways you can prepare for a graduate interview, but sometimes all the preparation you do beforehand can be all for naught. Here are some sites you can check out to help give you an idea of what they might ask:



In my case the questions were fair. Basic things, such as why this school? They also prepared questions from my personal statement. Reading over your personal statement would be wise.

In my mind, I had expected to interview with the professors I mentioned I’d be working with, perhaps the graduate chair, and maybe another faculty that would ask pertinent questions. I expected a thorough yet intimate grouping which I am pretty comfortable with. What I did not expect was a total of 7 members of the art history faculty!

I should have known better- I used to work at a fine arts community center where sometimes I’d chat with the art instructors and they’d tell me their stories when interviewing for a faculty position. It was the same as I’d described above, except they would have to stand with their slides describing their work before an admission committee.

When panic sets in, it’s kind of a hopeless case, but the best you can do is take your time to think about the questions they ask, and go with it. There were a blur of questions. My thirty minutes went by fairly quickly.

I don’t know how well I did, but what can you do? It was a definitely a learning experience. But quite honestly, I feel like I personally got more out of this than they really got to know about me. I hope they got a basic sense of where I wanted to go with my research. At the end of the evening, my perspective on what I wanted to study has grown just by speaking with a few of the faculty. My ideas are still not completely formed, but I now have a clearer direction of where I could go with my dissertation topic.

Really, more exposure to this situation will help you do better. This was my first graduate interview, but it surely won’t be my last one ever. Practice makes perfect. And don’t forget: smile!


For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

-T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding (1942)

Hello 2009! Sorry for dropping off the face of the earth. Half of my grad school apps were due in December. Add to that the stress of the holidays, and well, there you have it.

So once again, hello 2009! I hope the holidays and end of year have been good to you all. I have two more apps to go. I also hope my fellow prospective grad school applicants are more on top of things than I am. The start of a new year has made work incredibly busy and that has been taking up most of my time and focus.

While now is the usual time to start making resolutions, a good thing to remember this month is to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you’re anticipating on applying for any type of financial aid—loans, work study, etc., filling out the FAFSA is a must.

The deadlines are a bit misleading because the submission deadline for federal aid is not until June 2010, but state deadlines vary (March 2, 2009 is the deadline for California), not to mention that schools also have their own financial aid deadline. It’s best to just get started on it early. If you’re new to FAFSA, you’ll have to apply for a pin number and that takes time too. You’ll also need your W-2 forms for 2008. Just some things to think about before the deadline sneaks up on you (I still can’t believe we’re in January!).

Here are some quick links for FAFSA info:

FAFSA homepage


Documents needed

The holidays went by so quickly I haven’t had time to think straight, or even make resolutions. So I guess FAFSA will be my goal for now. To submit in February!

I also have a graduate school interview coming up pretty soon. I didn’t even realize schools would be in touch this early. Expect a post on that soon!




World Aids Day is Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. In conjunction with this event, several global art organizations participate in Day With(out) Art. It began in 1989 as a response of awareness to and mourning of those afflicted with AIDS. Museums typically shroud works of art in their galleries as a means to show how AIDS affects not just those who have it, but also the surrounding community. Given the estimate of 33 million people living with HIV worldwide in 2007, the aim of this event is to show how this crisis touches everyone. While there seems to be a decline in promotion of AIDS awareness through arts organizations for Day With(out) Art, it is in part due to the fact that in 1997 Visual AIDS began conveying this message in the opposite. Now instead of a day of mourning, arts organizations are openly promoting AIDS and HIV awareness and education not just on Dec. 1, but throughout the year.

However you decide to participate on World AIDS Day, the goal is to advocate this critical issue in all forms: protection, support, and more importantly, tolerance. This year’s theme is “Leadership”, and WAD promoters are encouraging everyone to take action. AIDS is not just a medical epidemic; the stigma around it has become a social issue that must be addressed with the utmost urgency.

As part of my commitment to advocate AIDS awareness, here are some links to organizations in the Los Angeles area participating in Day With(out) Art:

Getty Villa– Monday, Dec. 1

Armory Center– not listed on their site, but check out info on Andrew McPhail at THE.

Events in the LA area participating in World AIDS Day:

World AIDS Rides– 28 mile ride begins at 8 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 30 with later event at 6 p.m. (Beverly Hills High School)

Hollywood Remembers– Sunday, Nov. 30, 5 p.m. (Hollywood Lutheran Church)

48 Hours to Action (Featuring The Elevaters) Monday, Dec. 1 6-8 p.m. (UCLA)

Noche de las Memorias Monday, Dec. 1 7–8:30 p.m. (Lincoln Park)

List of World AIDS Day events nation and worldwide

Info on AIDS/HIV:


US Department of Health & Human Services

World Health Organization


Art for AIDS

Keith Haring article

Other AIDS organizations

AIDS Advocacy Resources

Images for your Facebook/myspace to promote World AIDS Day

Other promotions in support of World AIDS Day:


Other Product (RED) sponsors:



These are just a few websites that I found with a little investigation. I invite others to do the same and spread the word!


The Personal Statement

The personal statement. It’s the one component of the graduate application where school admissions can get an idea of your personality. So when you’re writing your statement of purpose, every word needs to count!

I’m lucky that I have friends with eagle-eyes and editor-spirits. Blogging has made my writing style extremely colloquial- the complete opposite of what your statement should be. Some key things to remember when writing the personal statement:

1. Use the active voice; avoid passive writing.

I make this mistake all the time. If you’re writing phrases such as “I am planning”, I am seeking”, “Will have had ——ing”, cut it out! Passive=weak. Not a desirable quality to have. Graduate programs are a competitive, massive undertaking, so make sure the tone of your statement is confident.

2. Clearly state your objectives and keep them focused.

Vague is not vogue to grad school admissions. If you plan on spending at least 2-5 years for your program, what you intend to get out of your educational studies should be clearly outlined. If you know you want to teach upon completion of the program, be specific as to what you’ll teach, what audience you will instruct, and so forth.

3. Why [insert school name here]?

Be sure to explain why you are applying to the school. Listing the programs of interest, faculty, and resources is fine and dandy, but also making sure to specify how this school will help attain your personal objectives is much better.

The word limits for my personal statements range from 500-1000 words, some 2-4 pages, or 1000 characters. Yikes! My fellow blogger Lindsey also had issues with this. Be prepared to pare down your work for certain schools with short word limits. Keep these words in mind and say them to yourself when you have to crop another 100 words out of your statement: “succinct, brevity, concise, and pithy.” That’s what I do.

And since I now have to tweak my statement yet again, I leave you with some useful resources to get you started.

Good luck!


Personal statements in general:

About.com – has several articles on writing the statement of purpose

Berkeley – step-by-step procedure on how to write the statement

Art History/Humanities:

UPenn – great advice on the graduate art history application in general

Duke – tips on the statement of purpose in Humanities

Why Art History?

I thought I’d take a break from filling out applications and do a proper intro to this blog. My name is Devi, I can now officially say I’m part of the Idealist.org Grad School Blog Project! I should have introduced myself earlier, but the GRE was all I could think about the month of October. And now that I have signed up to retake it AGAIN in December, I’m either: a masochist, insane, or intensely driven (I’d pick the latter). See, I just wrote a statement that involved multiple choice, then eliminated poor answer choices. I need a life– STAT.

I know neither my blog nor bio don’t reveal much about my background and my exact perspective as one of the bloggers on the project. For starters, I’m sure some of you are wondering: why a PhD in art history, and how would this blog benefit the typical reader of Idealist.org?

In order to help explain this, here’s my background:

I’m applying to graduate school after 5 years of work experience. I received my BA in Classical Archaeology in 2003, so I’m a little out of practice with writing papers and spending long wild nights at the library. After graduating, I worked part-time for a fine arts community center for a couple of years that offered art courses and had a gallery space. At the same time I continued to intern for other museums in different types of departments: Education, Public Relations, and finally Collections Management. This internship led to a position in the American art department at a museum in Los Angeles, where I now work as a curatorial administrator.

I have been learning so much about American art and the nature of museums, and all the preparation it takes to promote art to the public on a large scale. Working with curators and seeing how their ideas of art and scholarship are expressed through exhibitions has been such an inspiration to me. It’s helped me to develop my own ideas about art and what I’d like to explore in graduate school, particularly my interests in non-profit organizations and the community.

I hope that whatever readers take from this blog and the experiences I share is that you may not always exactly know what you want to do right after college, and that’s okay. It took me five years to figure out what I wanted to focus on, and I did not expect it to be American art. I have friends that changed programs after taking one inspiring course, and I know others that have gone into completely different career paths. So if the wind starts blowing, don’t be afraid to let it take you somewhere. You just never know.


P.S. Check out my fellow bloggers’ sites! All their links are on the Grad School Blog Project Tab on the right. They’re a fantastic group of people that offer a peek into their grad school experience, or those who are trying to apply (just like me).

Minor Setback


Sorry I’ve been MIA, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Since I last wrote, I took the GRE, then got caught up with Halloween and election festivities- my last hurrahs before going into the final stretch of applications!

As for the GRE, I did alright. I got the score I expected, not wanted. I think it’s a decent result, but there’s that nagging voice telling me I can do better. I may retake it, but I keep deliberating. The one horrifying thing about this blog is that in addition to sharing my triumphs, I will also be sharing my defeats and setbacks. So for anyone out there who feels at times insecure about their applications, believe me, you’re not the only one!

I’m going to have to follow my initial convictions when I first set out to apply. I knew I always wanted to make a difference in the arts, and I plan to finish what I set out.

Since I have late-Nov./early-Dec. deadlines, I am going to forge ahead. Requesting transcripts are on my mental to-do list, and I’ve been contacting people for letters of recommendation. Time to finish up that personal statement. One step at a time…

And on this day of remembrance, a special thank you to all (past and present) for your dedicated service and commitment in the armed forces. Many thanks!

I Committed!

Two weeks ago I sucked it up and plunked down $140 to take the GRE at the end of the month. It is seriously crunch time!

My friend told me once you commit to a date, you’ll want to study more. It’s true- I’m reviewing vocab words and typing this post as we speak.

Some things to note:

1. See if you’re eligible for a fee reduction voucher. I didn’t think about this until after I paid for the exam. But since I’m sort of on a deadline to get apps submitted by the end of the year, there wasn’t any time. If you know you’re not planning to take the test for a couple months, do your research. If you can save yourself $70, all the more power to you!

2. GREGuide.com– I’m using their site for vocab word review (NB: they need an editor. If bad grammar makes you sic(!), then be prepared for lots of spelling errors on their site). All I do is review vocab words, look up the words I don’t know, and review, review, review.

Some other things I’ve been doing:

I’ve now graduated from doing exercises from books to actually doing them on a computer to get the feel of how the test will be like. I’m now trying to do timed exercises as well: attack each question, then move on. I’m trying to not get boggled by a question.

I sat down over the weekend and did a practice test. Let me tell you, I had such a headache afterwards. I couldn’t even study the next day- my brain refused to work. All I did that day was make cupcakes. And most of them were overcooked because I couldn’t remember to take them out of the oven in time.

The computer adaptive test really is a draining exam–back when they had the paper exam, easy, medium, and hard questions were all mixed in. But since the test measures you constantly at your competitive level, it forces you to be constantly on your game. If you get tired, and pick the wrong answer, you go down. So I’m planning on getting some sleep, eat a nice meal a couple of hours before, and attack this test like no other!

Something I also do when working on the exercises is that I cover the answers that’s shown on the screen and try to form my own. By comparing my own version to the 5 options, it helps to weed out those tricky ones. this is particularly helpful with the antonyms, analogies, and sentence completions.

What I recently stopped doing was numbering all my scratch paper with the A, B, C, D, E. I know several of the guide books tell you to do this, but honestly, it took up a lot of my time. Once I progressed, I could figure out the answer faster than it would take to number my scratch paper. So while I still number down from time to time, I don’t do the whole 1-30. Talk about hand cramp!

As for math, see for yourself:

I think I’m okay. I brainstorm on a few writing prompts (both issue and argument) every once in awhile and actually did a practice one today with the GRE Powerprep program ETS sends you.

I can’t wait until this is over.