I am currently feeling a tad overwhelmed. Engaging myself in the search for the perfect PhD program is simultaneously frustrating and rewarding, especially when I have altered my list of schools and my expectations so drastically in the course of my search.
I started out looking both at LIS and History departments, and while I still think there are some exciting and wonderful History programs out there, I feel like I would be restricting myself too much to solely focus on that. I love my history research and plan on continuing it, but I love how LIS embraces new technologies and is open to new ideas. I feel like in History, I would find myself having to justify why I'm so passionate about our open access journal or why I feel like resources and information should be shared, not privileged. Of course every History department isn't going to be like that, but I have yet to find a discipline that is as broad and interesting as LIS! Everywhere I am applying has faculty members who do research across many disciplines, and I would get a chance to explore new fields and ideas while honing the skills and interests I already have.
I am saving myself a lot of stress right now by keeping my options open and not picking a 'top school' (or even doing much in the way of ranking my choices). In some people's cases, there's a program that fits perfectly with all of their interests and desires and if so, great! You have a top choice. I have a wide range of interests, and want to work with the faculty at all of these schools, so I have the luxury of knowing that I will be happy and productive wherever I end up--the last time I applied to PhD programs was for Psychology in 2006, it was so stressful, especially because I focused more on figuring out which schools were 'better' and lost sight of looking at how my interests and experiences could mesh with a program (or not).
I'm sure I'll keep refining my goals and interests throughout the process (that's part of the fun!) but I feel like LIS has already taught me so much, and it has so much more to teach me. My colleagues are passionate and engaged, and I can't wait to spend time learning the ropes in a new department!
This isn't my first time applying for grad schools, so I've definitely gleaned some practical advice from the process (I might update this depending on how well it all goes!):
1. Complete any and all applications within 5 years of taking the GRE. Remember how horrible that test was? Don't re-take it if it can be avoided.
2. Start applications early. Everyone says it, and it's true! You probably *can* get away with applying at the last minute, but you have more of a chance to polish your applications and to control your stress levels. Here's my current strategy (which may or may not be ideal):
-This spring/early summer I talked to my recommenders to make sure they would be willing to write letters for me. Currently, I'm making 'packets' for each of them that include instructions for each school along with any forms/etc. and stamped envelopes (most schools do online letters now, but some offer the option of mailing them in, which your recommenders might prefer).
-Come September, when the applications officially 'open,' I will go ahead and cough up the sizable sum for transcripts/GRE scores/etc. Just because I don't want to think about them!
-September 12 is my next conference talk, after which I can focus on writing statements of purpose and such. I'm hoping that I can recycle the same one, more or less, for each school.
-I make a point of adding to my CV as publications are accepted/conference talks approved/etc. so that all I have to do before submitting it with my applications is to give it a quick look over (to take a look, go here and click on 'CV').
For those who have already gone through this process and are pursuing the PhD, I would love to hear your thoughts/advice! If you have anything to share either about the application process, or about the PhD experience once you've arrived in the department, let me know!