In the last few months, I've now gotten letters from prospective graduate students with CVs that suffer from what I would call "Areas of Interest" bloat. One had twenty-five (25!) areas of interest and the other was also well over a dozen.
This is just too much. Yes, you are young and the whole world looks like a giant oyster -- but too many raw oyster can give you really bad indigestion.
As a general rule, try to keep your areas of interest to less than six or so. Since I (rarely) try to practice what I preach, here are my "Areas of Interest:"
- Region 1 (general world region): East Asia
- Sub-region (country or local area): Japan
- Topic 1: Disability Studies
- Topic 2: Politics of Identity and social movements
- Sub-discipline: Sociocultural and Visual Anthropology
OK, I cheated on the last two bullet points...... anyway, you get my point.
Try to go through your areas of interest with a very fine tooth comb and make sure it's as concise and focused as possible. Use it as a way to find out which departments might be interested in what you study and vice versa.
I also tell my graduate students to perfect their elevator speech, but that's a topic for an entirely new blog entry.