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synthla

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Everything posted by synthla

  1. I can second ridgey - I actually got an 800V/790Q/6.0W and you can see that my results were 50/50. I'm sure it didn't hurt, but it certainly didn't get me accepted to places where my interests weren't a great match and/or other attributes didn't match up.
  2. strike "business" and insert "law" and that's exactly what I'm doing... i'm looking forward to being a graduate student again, but not having to be a broke one.
  3. I'd think that as long as you're above 600, it won't really hurt your application. I had a verbal experimental last year, thankfully - I ended up doing well on the math side of things, but if I'd been confronted with another math section, I may have walked out.
  4. Yep, in the right places, there are some really good deals. I went with a 30-year fixed mortgage on the house I bought and my combined mortgage, tax and insurance payments are less than $850 per month. Property taxes are very low in my area and my interest rate is under 5%. Obviously it doesn't make sense for everyone and people have different financial (and spousal) situations, but for me this will be a much better way of spending my housing money than a similar amount (or more) for an apartment or university housing that would be half the size, without a yard, and 20-30 years older.
  5. Congratulations and good luck! I'll finally be moving across country and into the house I bought soon... very excited about that.
  6. I had almost ten years off and got into 2 of the 3 top-20 schools where I applied. For what it's worth.
  7. I was in a lull at work last summer so had a lot of the legwork done early on. As a result I had all of my applications in by late September, but I don't think it made a bit of difference, except allowing me to stop worrying about it and move on. Although I have to say that I'm very happy I didn't discover these forums until after the deadlines had all passed.
  8. I currently practice law full time but am going back to pursue a history Ph.D beginning this fall. Just click on my name and search my posts because I have discussed my perspective on law vs history in depth, and don't have the time at this moment to go into it again. Suffice to say that law school is not a guaranteed route to a job these days, and for many people it never was. It sounds like you got into decent schools where your odds would be good, but I can say as someone who graduated from a top 10 law school, I have many friends who have been laid off over the last year and the market is flooded with high-quality resumes of people who were making well into the six figures and are now jobless. I'm very thankful to be in the position that I am. I think it's safe to say that if you're questioning law school before you get there, you shouldn't go - most people don't start questioning it until they're a year in. The practice of law in contemporary society is a business, not a profession, and there is a dramatic difference between slaving away over the minutae of a contract for some mega-company, and spending hours in an archive researching a topic you love. :wink:
  9. When it comes to "formal" training, I actually had 0 years of my primary language and only 1 semester of my secondary language on my applications and was still admitted to two top-20 programs. I didn't even explain myself really, just said I was proficient in the latter and working on regaining proficiency in the former (which is now the case). Both true, but no one asked me to prove it.
  10. If only I could develop an interest in either area...
  11. I just bought in a college town that hasn't seen huge drops for that reason, but I also don't think there's any reason to expect that those drops will suddenly come because the academic population isn't going anywhere. I also found that the rental stock in town wasn't that great for similar reasons - mostly student/relatively-short-term rentals in not-the-best condition. My all-in mortgage/taxes/insurance payment is at least 30% less than what I would pay in rent for something of similar quality. That was with 20% down, but it would still be very competitive even if I'd had to make a much smaller down payment.
  12. I kept pretty much everything from undergrad, which ended nearly a decade ago. I was aided and abetted in this by the fact that all of my moves until this point were employer-paid, so I had absolutely no incentive to trim down because it wasn't my dime or effort to get the stuff from point A to point B. That being said, a couple years ago I was doing some de-cluttering and came very close to ditching my old undergrad materials because I hadn't opened the boxes since I left college. Of course then I finally decided to go back to graduate school, and was never more thankful that I didn't follow through on something becuase without those boxes of documents, I would have had a much harder time putting together my application. And for purely sentimental reasons, it's nice to have the stuff - it's the kind of thing that your relatives will get a kick out of looking through someday and once you throw it away, it's gone forever.
  13. Well I'm not entirely convinced I can beat the odds, but I would like to spend a number of years studying history full-time. I often think it would have been better had I gone straight to graduate school in history after undergrad rather than pursuing another career first, but at least that career is there to fall back on if I don't beat the odds.
  14. synthla

    a few questions

    I would probably have gone with 3 academics, if a 3rd had been readily available, so even though I had a non-academic, I wouldn't say it's a sure fire way to go. I tried to look at it from an AdComm perspective though - if you're applying nearly a decade out of undergrad, how relevant are your undergrad professors observations? On the one hand, if you stood out sufficiently that they remember you all that time later and like you enough to write strong references, that says something; on the other hand, it would seem that hearing from someone who can assess the type of thinker you are today, ten years on, would seem more meaningful to me, but that's why I'm not on an AdComm. We definitely took different approaches on the SOP; I don't think I went into as much detail, although I probably should have in retrospect. Yet one professor I met with post-admit said that my grasp on the historiography of the field (based on our in-person conversation) was much greater than what they expected from an entering MA student. And I don't think said grasp is all that great - in fact, I have a growing unease as the end of August approaches. But at least there's one program out there that doesn't expect their newly entering MA students to be masters of their field. In any case, I don't want anyone to think I'm presenting my application as perfect - certainly 50% of the schools to which I applied found it lacking - but as someone who struggled with applying after a long break from academia and an intervening profession, I'm just describing how I did it and that even a flawed application can succeed. Thepoorstockinger's advice is probably better in terms of making your application the best possible.
  15. synthla

    a few questions

    I DID do that, which definitely has merit. Most of law is research and writing after all. Which is also why I had one non-academic LOR - someone who had seen me research and write for years. And even better, there were clients who actually paid for my written results, unlike academia.
  16. synthla

    a few questions

    Keeping in mind that I can't imagine a part of the application that will be more unique to the applicant, I agree that you want to be as specific as possible. At the same time, I took to heart some advice that you also don't want to appear to be TOO narrowly focused, because that may turn off people who would otherwise be interested in your application. Plus, going to graduate school, especially at the MA level, is supposed to be about exploration, at least in part, so you should be open to it. Personally, I expressed one narrow interest, how that particular interest fit into one or two broader interests, and then finished up with the statement that I was looking forward to exposure to new areas, historiography and issues during graduate school, which I perceived to be fundamental to the undertaking. I'll PM you for any other questions you might have.
  17. synthla

    a few questions

    Hello me of a year ago. I have been practicing for about twice as long as you, and I had some success with applications so it can be done. Success is an inherently subjective assessment, but I was admitted to my personal top choice in the MA/PhD program with the standard 5 year package of tuition/stipend, so that's success for me. As for your questions, my personal take is: 1. The GRE Quant is undoubtedly less important, but I would still try to get it up as far as possible. I had not had a math class in a decade, but I bought a GRE prep book and studied obsessively in the two weeks leading up to the exam. I got 700+Q... I hated every second of it and hope to never do anything similar again, but it is doable, and though I'm sure I didn't need a 700+, I Am also sure it didn't hurt me. 2. Most people are going to tell you that you need academic LORs and they are generally correct. I started priming the LOR pump a few years ago when I first started thinking seriously about going back - got back in touch with old professors, etc., long before I had to ask for an LOR, mostly because I hate asking for things, and even more, I hate reaching out to people after years only to ask for something. You may not have the luxury of years, but you do have months, and with a little memory jogging, your old professors may remember more than you think. And what about law school professors? I actually had one non-academic LOR, which I justified with the thinking that certainly having an LOR from someone who has actually seen me at work within the last decade should count for something from a practical standpoint. Maybe it hurt me, who knows, but it did not stop my application in its tracks. 3. Some people will say yes, doing an MA first will shore up your application, give you a chance to explore interests and further define your area of study, get LORs, etc. All those things are more or less true, but personally I wanted just to be certain I had the opportunity to complete the PhD... the idea of going through the application process all over again in 2 years did not appeal to me. Even if you apply to some straight MAs, at least apply to some MA/Phds - you never know, especially if the fit is right, and it is much easier to get funding with the latter. Obviously I do not know your financial picture, but some money is always better than none, even if you do not absolutely need it. 4. I cannot add anything on this one. Most people I meet assume I want to study history in a way that is directly related to law, but that is not the case. There is a reason I am going from full-time legal work back to school, and it is not because I love the law.
  18. I second the advice to apply to some PhD programs as well. Especially if you're going into an MA/PhD program rather than having already completed an MA, I feel like you have a bit more flexibility on expressing your area of interest, as long as you have the general time period and region narrowed down. Personally, I said something like "I'm most interested in X, but I have also been exploring Y and Z, and I'm looking forward to being exposed to new things while at ABC University." If you had already completed an MA, it'd be a different story, but I think many professors don't find a certain openness of mind to be a bad thing.
  19. I'll second that. Very useful pre-writing exercises in particular.
  20. I think you'll be fine - I even had an LOR from a non-academic, and apparently it worked in at least 50% of my applications.
  21. I guess I didn't see the "in some instances" type language in your original blanket statements.
  22. I'm not sure either of these is true in all cases. I dealt with some professors who were very forthright on these issues. Also, determining whether a potential advisor is going to be taking on new students is one of the primary reasons to contact them in advance of submitting an application. Not that I ever did that.
  23. I used a paper that was technically within the same general region and time period that I intend to pursue but did not really match well with my professed intended course of study. That being said, the best review I received on it was from a professor whose interests matched up nearly exactly with my writing sample - and I was somewhat flattered by that given that if it a crock of crap, he surely would have been the one to point it out.
  24. I would just say that as with any other aspect of your application, the writing sample will be judged differently by different readers. I had one professor say my writing sample was weak in primary sources and that I needed to provide a second one, which I did. I had another professor (better known, better department) state that the exact same writing sample was one of the strongest parts of my application. I would say that your overall ability to write coherently and concisely is most important - if your application otherwise presents you as an intelligent person, it seems unlikely a faculty member will look at a dearth of primary sources and assume you can't learn to work with them or that you can't research.
  25. I don't know what kind of downpayment you have, but putting 20-30% down will make the lender underwriting much less onerous, because they're more comfortable - thinking you wouldn't put so much of your own money up if you couldn't make it work. And don't just go to one bank, use a mortgage broker who can interface with a number of lenders to find one who will work with your situation.
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