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L13

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L13 last won the day on June 14

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About L13

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  1. L13

    How can I strengthen my application to Oxbridge?

    Re. British history, everyone in my department who comes in focusing exclusively on English sources is required to pass at least one foreign language exam and this will be the case at most PhD programs. I assume it’s less important at the master’s level, but you will be expected to know a foreign language at some point in the future even if it never becomes relevant to your interests (which is possible, but as @Tigla said it’s getting rarer and rarer in your field because of the greater marketability of having an international or transnational element in your work). Again, don’t stress over this now, but be realistic about the expectations of the field and pencil some language classes into your schedule if you can. The language exam I took at my school entailed reading an excerpt from a scholarly text and translating it into English with the aid of a dictionary. (I should have taken two exams, but the one in Latin was waived for me. Obviously that one would have included primary source materials.) The format may be different for other languages/at other schools, but the point is that your reading skills are the focus. Edit: I remember now that I had the same GPA cutoffs as @glycoprotein1, for the record. My GPA was slightly below 3.7, though, so as I said, they're potentially flexible.
  2. L13

    How can I strengthen my application to Oxbridge?

    No problem! IDK about RAing, sorry. I don't think ECs and credentials are that important compared to your own words and your letters of recommendation, but maybe they count for more than I know. It's good that you don't actually need a foreign language (yet), but the more languages you know in history, the better. People in this field will take you more seriously the more languages you can read, rightly or wrongly (I think rightly, personally), so IF you can fit it into your schedule, do work on your classical languages/French. You never know when you might need them. But don't prioritize this/stress over it. I submitted more or less the same application to both universities. At the time, I thought I knew what I wanted to do very well and didn't want to hedge my bets by applying to different programs. Re. specialization, different people can have vastly different takes on this, but I think it's good when you're a research professional and bad when you're a student. My undergrad history department had breadth requirements that forced me to take classes in different subfields and I regard it as one of the most beneficial features of my undergraduate education. If you get tunnel vision too early, you'll only get exposed to methodologies and theorists your favourite professors think are important--scholars tend to have personal mini-canons and I think you need exposure to as many of them as possible in order to develop as a historian--you won't know what's in and what's considered passé by the field as a whole, you may have a harder time adjusting to new trends and ideas, you'll miss out on valuable interdisciplinary work, etc. etc. etc. These are generalizations, but many historians believe in them and I do too. When I told my advisor I had been reading recent issues of the top journal in our subfield in search of inspiration for my dissertation, she told me to stop doing that and start reading the AHR. Well, first she said I shouldn't be reading any journals at all and should let my topic appear to me in a dream (paraphrasing...), but then she said you keep up with the field by reading a generalist journal. Again, other historians may disagree here, but basically, my position is that learning about many things is better than learning about one thing when you're still building a knowledge base.
  3. L13

    How can I strengthen my application to Oxbridge?

    Yes, of course checking to make sure there's an advisor likely to take you is important, but your interests should be driving the school search process, not the other way around. By purpose and fit I mean a clear and specific research proposal or at the very least specific examples of skills you're hoping to acquire as a student and classes/resources you'd make use of. In my experience, UK universities expect you to have a slightly more concrete idea of what you want to do than US schools, but this is a generalization and I may be wrong about it. Re. fit, demonstrate you're familiar with the course requirements and opportunities and would be well positioned to make use of them. At the master's level, advisor fit, as in the overlap between your interests and your advisor's, is less important. As long as you occupy the same broad category, e.g. cultural history of the early Middle Ages or women's history in early modern France, your prospective advisor should be okay with taking you on. In fact, at Cambridge you're not required to request an advisor and may not get your desired advisor if you do, which is one more argument against picking an advisor before you've picked your research interests. (I don't remember right now if that's how it works at Oxford too.) Not sure what the distinction between 'original research' and 'using primary sources well' is. You want to do both. How do you use primary sources well without doing ingenious things with them, which is what original research is? (You could be editing unedited sources that you discovered in an archive, I suppose... Are you doing that?) If by original research you mean off-the-wall speculation without a strong empirical grounding, though, avoid that. Demonstrating facility with primary sources and languages should be the primary goal of the writing sample IMO. I'm just saying these master's programs are not as selective as PhD programs in the US. (I see now that Oxford has recently merged most master's degrees in history into one program, though, and don't know what that will mean for course selectivity going forward.) The MSt in global history at Oxford is a slight exception, and the MPhil in intellectual history at Cambridge may be one too, IDK, but even a 20% acceptance rate is not that bad. Again, funding allocation is where the majority of admitted students are 'culled,' in the sense that even if they can afford to attend, they will have lost out on funding to other students; I'm sure the history faculties at Oxbridge don't see this final filter as a good thing and would like to be able to fund all students, but it is what it is. I assume I demonstrated sufficient research potential through my writing sample and SOP, which outlined the historical questions I'm interested in. I turned down the offer from Cambridge because I couldn't defer enrollment in my PhD program. Work on your language skills if applicable, take classes that will allow you to produce a 15-20-page piece in which you analyse primary sources, read secondary literature widely and let it guide your interests. Do not specialize too early.
  4. L13

    How can I strengthen my application to Oxbridge?

    1. For acceptance, no. But you do need a writing sample that shows off your research skills, meaning that you need experience writing research papers, plus if you're hoping to secure funding you'll be competing against a whole new tier of overachievers, some of whom will have prior graduate degrees and serious publications (or, failing that, degrees from Harvard, Princeton, etc., which Oxford and Cambridge love). 2. As with all research, the more you do of it and the more original it is, the better. If you can complete a major research project, do it. If not, find some other way to demonstrate research potential, e.g. by writing a seminar paper. 3. I'm not responsible for admissions at any university, let alone Oxford or Cambridge, but I would imagine your writing sample and research proposal. Pay particular attention to your research proposal when applying to UK institutions and make sure it demonstrates a clear sense of purpose (which is less necessary in US admissions) and fit. 4. UK universities usually specify GPA cutoffs for admission (3.6 for the courses I applied to if I remember correctly). Those are sometimes flexible, but make sure you're as close to meeting them as possible. Beyond that, I doubt your grades matter much. 5. Letting the faculty roster of a particular university shape your interests is a bad idea, yes. There's no guarantee the faculty members you model your work after will even be there when you apply. Source: I also wanted to get a master's degree in the UK after studying at Oxford as a visiting student in undergrad and researched the application process seriously. I was accepted to master's programmes in history at both Oxford and Cambridge and received funding from Cambridge. However, ultimately I did not matriculate, so my expertise is very limited. I can tell you this, however. Getting into a master's programme at Oxford or Cambridge is not that hard. Getting money, on the other hand, is a bloodbath.
  5. L13

    Fall 2019 Applicants

    Sample A, definitely. Stuff like prizes and funding is nice, but it doesn't really affect profs' perception of your writing sample. And how closely your sample relates to your proposed topic is not very important, if at all, at least not based on my observations. Demonstrating facility with primary sources and relevant foreign languages is FAR more impressive, especially if it comes with an original argument. Also, the fact your paper is already the length of a typical writing sample means it is already digestible as a complete piece and you don't have to cut it down from 50-100 pages while retaining the structure and clarity of the original historical argument, which is pretty difficult and time-consuming if you've never done it. Also, frankly, senior theses tend to be unfocused and to lack rhetorical impact and seminar papers are often where the best undergraduate writing is to be found, but obviously YMMV on this. (I say this as someone who wrote a senior thesis and used one of its chapters as a writing sample, so no hate.)
  6. L13

    Starting a PhD or Reapplying?

    I empathise. I have undergrad loans to pay off after my PhD too and it sucks. I am also familiar with UK university loans and the conditions for repayment. But it's really quite simple. More loans = bad, even if you have to pay them off later, they're not as exploitative as the loans you already have and it feels like you don't have loans right now. Do NOT take out loans to pay for a PhD.
  7. L13

    Starting a PhD or Reapplying?

    Do NOT take out loans. Defer your acceptance for a year and apply for external funding sources. At the same time, apply to PhD programs in the US.
  8. L13

    How strong is my application really?

    Worry less about your GPA and more about your writing sample, which is the single most important part of the application and largely determines its strength, together with the statement of purpose. The fact you've gotten encouraging responses from potential advisors bodes well for your SOP, which needs to exploit/maximize the things that make your research appealing to them. Grades in your major(s), rec letters and language skills are also important and you seem to be in a good spot there. Your ECs don't matter.
  9. L13

    Where Top-Tier PhD Students Got Their BA/MA

    Yeah, most 'elite' universities in the US discourage their students from applying to their programs because there's a slight bias against job candidates who've never moved between schools and experienced different departmental dynamics. This is by no means a hard and fast rule, but I've heard about this prejudice from different people at different schools.
  10. L13

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    My take: Dress however you want and don't listen to the prescriptive advice in this thread. I've seen prospective students wearing suits and ties, tweed jackets, summer dresses, jeans and sweatshirts, sleeveless tank tops, slogan t-shirts, etc. without attracting any comment. (The one thing I don't remember seeing is workout clothing, which may actually stand out enough for some professors to find it off-putting.) It's true most grad students tend to dress in a particular way, but at least in my department that's a personal choice and not something professors or other grad students care about. Your behavior/general demeanor is what people will remember from your visit, so just make sure your clothes are clean and you feel confident in them.
  11. L13

    History Masters Oxford Background help!

    Honestly, just contact the graduate admissions person at the history faculty with the question, "Is my background going to count against me and is it common for students in the two courses I'm interested in to have profiles like mine?" If the admissions person brushes you off or gives you an unsatisfactory answer, carefully and politely email the convenors of the two programs, whose names you'll find in the degree handbooks, or the director of graduate studies. (It took me less than a minute to find the handbooks: https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/history/documents/media/graduate-handbook-ESH-MSc.pdf and https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/history/documents/media/graduate-handbook-GIH-1617.pdf) For what it's worth, I suspect your profile will not be treated as problematic by the economic and social history program but may warrant a stronger justification to the global and imperial history program. But in general it's not uncommon for people with historical interests but without history degrees to apply to master's programs in history, so as long as you explain the connection to your research/coursework well in your statement, I'd expect you to be okay.
  12. L13

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    That means your acceptance is pending. Congrats!
  13. L13

    Where Top-Tier PhD Students Got Their BA/MA

    Yeah, in terms of your chances of admission, I think the value of an MA program is mostly in the writing sample it allows you to produce. I wrote a senior thesis in undergrad, so I was able to use the first chapter as a writing sample and didn't have to do an MA. I'd never published or presented anything either. By bypassing the master's-to-doctorate pipeline, I did miss out on a year or two of additional training and thinking about my interests, which means I'm behind some of my peers in my PhD program in terms of pre-dissertation research, but as far as the application cycle goes, the thing that matters the most is your writing sample.
  14. L13

    Writing Style Recommendations

    I mean, there are well written articles and poorly written articles. "You have to learn to write articles" isn't the same as "style is not a concern for you." It's not actually an article, but Caroline Bynum's presidential address to the AHA on wonder, published in AHR 102:1, is quite readable in my opinion and a good stylistic model for a historical argument pitched to a specialist audience. (As an aside, academic articles comprised most of my assigned reading in undergrad, while so far in grad school I've mostly been told to read books. I far preferred my previous reading diet of articles and primary sources to the endless slog through converted dissertations and disingenuously framed trivia dumps that I've been condemned to as a grad student. I mean, okay, I'm being overdramatic and way too harsh on some good books, but the point is that I prefer the genre of the scholarly article as a reader.)
  15. L13

    Fall 2018 Applicants

    Sorry to respond so late, but I know exactly how you feel. I'm an international student who didn't get into a PhD program the first time around and ended up at one of the schools that rejected you after reapplying. (I didn't, and still don't, have any publications or conference papers, by the way.) Lots of people go through several application cycles before landing somewhere, so I urge you not to give up. Be realistic about your chances, but don't be too down on yourself. The application game is kind of a crapshoot and it's very possible you'll fare better next year. Give yourself a break for the time being, figure out what you're going to do next year in terms of work/life, and then start brainstorming ways to improve your application. You may have to tweak the focus, pick different schools to apply to, or consider a master's program.
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