Friday, October 3, 2008

The Aftermath

It's been about a month since I found out the results of the exam.

I got the first high-pass in recent history; it's a rarity that they give them out. One professor, who is now my dissertation adviser, told me that he used my exam as a resource for designing the syllabus for the grad class he is teaching this semester. That is pretty heavy. I got to read some of the gradesheets for the exam and see what people thought about the answers... There was some nitpicking, but whatever. It's over. I sent some of my study guide to the two people who are taking it next, told them to start studying now, and now I try not to think about it too much. Even when I talk about it now to other people, I get anxious. It's like I have PTSD or something. It's one of those things where I have no idea how I managed to do that, but I did it, and there's no reason to dwell on it.

One of the hardest parts has been the transition into life after the exam. It was hard to study and get into that kind of mindset. It was hard to take it, and deal with the immediate stress of the waiting. And now it's been hard to get beyond it. I feel like a character out of a novel some days. I ran my course, I accomplished my task, I managed to destroy the One Exam and now I should be ferried out to the West. Having to go back to thinking about the whole entirety of my career after being so intensely focused on one thing hasn't been easy. Right now, I'm working on two papers, my dissertation, I'm teaching SOC 101 next semester so I'm working on my syllabus for that class, which means coming up with assignments, picking a textbook, and all that jazz, and then on top of all of that I am presenting at a conference in November, another in April (I hope), and then it's off to the job market, which is a whole other ball of wax. One of my friends on the market now has applied to 40 jobs. Another, 55. If I was on the market right now, I'd be looking at potentially moving back home, or to Chicago, Indianapolis, Boston, St. Louis, multiple cites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Maine, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, both Carolinas, Texas, and California.

Suffice it to say that going from being intensely focused on one single goal to being intensely focused on multiple things at once. In a sense, it's really cool -- I mean, how many people get to do this with their lives? -- but on the other hand, I desperately need a vacation, and I'm not going to get one until December, and even then, I'm going to be spending a good chunk of my time doing teaching prep (which, by the way, I found a genius way of reducing by not trying to cram everything from the textbook onto the syllabus and instead letting the students pick topics they'd like to go over in more detail. And now I just need to decide what movies, if any, I want to show.)

So, yeah, that's where things are now. Crazy, I feel sick a lot, but hey, the light is at the end of the tunnel. Right?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The home stretch

The exam is about three weeks away, and at this point, all I have left to do is keep memorizing articles and keep thinking about how everything hangs together. I've been doing this for the past two weeks -- talking to myself in the car, in the shower, in bed, to the dog -- so in other words, I'm in a holding pattern. I should write some practice questions to get the timing and time management aspects down, but I'm not completely concerned about that anymore. Really, I just want to get this over with.

I can talk about every major theory -- social learning, social disorganization, social bonds/control, self control, strain, labeling, conflict -- in terms of where it is, where it's been, where it's going, how each relates to the others. I can talk about peers, parents, communities, chronic offenders, gender, race, class, age, the life course, terrorism, onset, escalation, persistence, desistence, and how all of the theories above can inform these topic areas. I can talk about what constitutes high risk youth theoretically and empirically in terms of the 4/5 biggest factors in academic terms and the most important factors in layman's terms. I can talk about what we can do about it, I can talk about where the field has been going and where I think it will be going.

What I have neglected to include is research methods and social deviance, but there has never been an exam where 3 of the questions were methods & deviance related. If I am unfortunate enough to have two of those questions on the same day, I'm not entirely screwed because I have substantially beefed up my research in other areas. In looking at previous exams, I have gone from exams where there were only 2-3 questions I was 100% confident on and the remainder being a series of gambles to having 4-6 questions I am 100% confident on and the remainder being questions I can and would immediately write off (deviance or methods).

This has been an intense year building up to this, and it's hard to believe that it's so close. This definitely hasn't been what I expected it to be, and at this point all I can do is keep on keepin' on and hope that I get some good questions. That's one thing that is driving me crazy -- I know that there are going to be questions about the life course and I'm 95% sure I'm going to get something about gender, but the rest is up in the air. That's what the Tums are for, I guess.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One month

One month from right now, right this second, I will be done with my prelim and hopefully the next time I deal with this it will be to either tell the next group of people that "everything will be okay", or to sit on a committee at my next school and be on the advising and grading side of it.

This blog was a great idea, it's helped me keep my thoughts organized in spite of everything, and my posts about parent,s peers, and the community all helped me contextualize my thoughts. I have way more information that I haven't put on here, but nonetheless, its helped.

I really want this to be over with. I know it's ultimately not that difficult of a situation and that plenty of people have dealt with plenty worse in their lives. Still, that doesn't always comfort me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

38 days

Looking through past exams for the 100,000th time today, and I decided that I'm not going to touch any question related to either methods/measurement or deviance. Methods, it's too bland of a subject, I don't feel that I have enough citations for any of the possible questions, and I would fall into the trap of talking about things with my own opinions instead of saying what the literature says. Deviance, it's a fun topic, but it's not a major area of interest, and I don't want to go to the trouble of remembering 10 specific citations for one possible question.

What this means is, I've gone back in and brought up two other questions that've been asked before that I can answer. One lists 10 past Presidents of the American Society of Criminology and asks why they deserved to be President. This is just a matter of looking at some of the more obscure people and adding citations to my reading list that will be valuable elsewhere. The other question is about conflict theory, which is what I was trained in at my previous university and have since completely turned my back on. I decided to revisit this literature today because a) I'm familiar with it and b) it's easy to trash it.

So, by bringing these two topics in and discarding methods and deviance completely, I'm gambling a little, because in the unlikely chance that there are 2 methods questions and 1 deviance question on the same day, then I'm totally fucked, but there's now literally no other question I'm not comfortable with. And to be honest, I can also do a little bit of methods anyway, so it's not like I'd be trying to answer a question I didn't completely understand, it's just something I'm not focusing on.

These are the questions I would answer on both days, ideally:

1) Life course
2) Gender
3) Why are people bad?
4) Nature of theory

Day 2:

1) Family
2) Peers
3) Communities
4) 5 biggest causes of delinquency

I would destroy both of those days. I can also talk several other subjects, but this is what I would absolutely love to have.

I am so hungry.

Monday, July 7, 2008

45 days

Made myself sick with stress.

Spent parts of yesterday and today going through an old theory book to get concise summaries and criticisms of different theories. Great idea, because the author is a major theorist himself (Akers), and it helped me find some good things to talk about as far as comparisons/contrasts are concerned. Horrible idea because it's impossible to know everything, and this book throws out all kinds of citations I don't have and hadn't considered. Sucks.

I also went through some of the old exams again to see how the questions look this time, with an emphasis on some of the old juvenile delinquency exams. There's literally questions that say "list the four/five biggest causes of delinquency." Which is easy: age, learning, parents via self-control, parents via social bonds, strain, communities via collective efficacy, and communities via spatial/structural measures. Easy as pie.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Bad dream

I had a dream last night that I went in to take the exam and decided to write all of my answers out by hand. Each answer was about 1/3-1/2 of a page long and I only cited 1 or 2 sources per answer, and most of it was just my opinions and rhetoric on the subject.

That dream sucked.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Was sitting here kind of pissed because I can't find much good recent stuff about strain theory, and then I realized, I'm an idiot, I have all of the resources from three other people from past exams on top of what I've collected on my own. So I went back through the original massive study guide that I used to construct my own approach to the entire exam, and I've found some great material on this theory that I'd overlooked and can use now.

Today is July 1st. The exam is on August 21st. 51 days until the end.