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Greetings, Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I figured it might be worthwhile to get a reality check from some of my peers on here, as you all would know better than many of the real-world people I know about the MES world and what their admissions processes look like. I could really use some perspective and context about this matter, so some feedback would be greatly appreciated. I am in an unconventional situation where: a) I am adamant about transitioning into academia/the humanities to study the Middle East with a focus on the intellectual history of the Levant and Ottoman Empire. b ) I have a B.Sc. in Business Administration from a top 50 public school in New England, where I double concentrated in Finance and Production Operations Management, and double minored in Statistics and English (GPA 3.20). c) my work experience in the four years since graduation has been at a tech start-up that has no relation to my academic interests. d) I do not have a thesis or any worthy research papers to provide as writing samples, (although I do have some critical analyses from somewhat pertinent (i.e. post-colonial studies) classes that I could tidy up and submit instead). On the other hand, these are the merits and motivations that compel me to pursue education in MES: 1) I quit my job a few months ago to focus on making this transition and explore my academic interests. That has involved me traveling throughout Turkey and the Arab world, as well as studying a lot of pertinent academic and literary texts on my own (Said, Massad, Ahmed, Soueif, Saleh, Hafiz, Darwish, etc). 2) I speak (and write/read, to a lesser extent) Arabic fluently, having lived in Jordan during my high school years (although US born, I am of Palestinian origin). I am currently in Palestine volunteering on a construction project, but my intention in the next few months is to relocate to Turkey (after finishing up with grad school apps) to learn and experience the Turkish language/society. 3) The more I study, the more interested I become in understanding the world through the intellectual lens of the Arab world, as reflected and informed by its cultural artifacts, society, and intellectual history. 4) I have long been interested in (and intermittently engaged) in the politics and affairs of the Arab world (ex: I founded and led a Students for Justice in Palestine coalition on my campus, attended the international Arabic debate tournament in Qatar on behalf of my university.) 5) I am privileged in the exposure and access I have been afforded in the Middle East over my lifetime: I have spent extended periods of time getting to know many villages/communities throughout Palestine, I know Amman and its society extremely well, and I have lived in two different emirates in the UAE. I have read literature from all over the Middle East. 6) I am in a fortunate situation where I do not need to go into debt to pay off a terminal MA 7) I have somewhat compensatory LORs in that they come from my more academic literature/humanities professors, and not from my quantitative/Business professors So, considering all of the above, what I need help figuring out is: 1. Considering my irrelevant academic and professional background, not to mention relatively low GPA, do I even stand a chance at getting into a reputable program in the US? From my research it appears that most academic (as opposed to security/intelligence)-focused programs are housed at the nation's most elite institutions, and thus I am looking to apply to the following programs (Columbia MESAAS, Harvard CMES, NYU, Princeton, UChicago) - Am I missing any programs, particularly ones with easier admissions? Are British universities (SOAS, Oxbridge, King's) more merciful in that regard? 2. Is there anything in particular about my profile that I should emphasize in my SOP - anything I already have that grad school admins love to see? - The way I see it, I am lacking in GPA (taking the GRE next month) and academic background (save for my English minor), but I do have the language skills and the regional experience in addition to a strong personal interest in the academics of it all (enough to be making a deliberate career pivot, as I am). After all, this is a passion-driven endeavor I am undertaking. Are any of these points particularly valuable? 3. Is a college essay entitled "The conflict of Afro-Islamic Spirituality and Western Modernity as depicted in “Ambiguous Adventure” going to cut it as a writing sample? Considering I do not have a mentor/professor to advise on the process, would it still be better if I wrote something more pertinent/up-to-date from scratch? - Frankly, I just do not have many papers from my undergraduate that are in excess of 10-15 pages, let alone ones that are of material relevance to the programs I am applying to. My hope was to edit this paper thoroughly and use it in lieu of a research paper or thesis. 4. Can my unconventional background as a Business major and tech industry member be regarded as a positive? If not, are there any obvious ways in which I could spin it as such? - I worry that I was incorrect in my early assumption that my background is not a serious hinderance to my prospects, and that it might in fact help me stand out as a truly interested/invested candidate. Is that baseless? Looking at this forum and the MES/poli sci undergrads wielding 3.8+ GPAs, three languages, and highly relevant experience... I begin to doubt the value of my earnestness to these grad admission boards. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading all of this. I look forward to getting some guidance from any fellow hopefuls or admittees - any context/perspective will help me evaluate how to best allocate and apply my efforts. Your responses are greatly appreciated!
Hello all, I need your help! I am an applicant to Master's programs in Middle East Studies. I have been accepted to my top 3 programs - Georgetown's Master's in Arab Studies (MAAS), Harvard's Center for Middle East Studies (Harvard CMES), and the University of Chicago's Center for Middle East Studies (Chicago CMES). In addition, I am currently waiting on the second round decision for a Fulbright full grant to Jordan. My research interests lie mostly in modern Middle Eastern politics. The majority of my undergraduate work has centered on Syria and Lebanon in particular. I am in my fourth year of college level Arabic study, and have traveled extensively in the region. I anticipate pursuing a career in government (foreign service, intelligence, etc.), but academia remains an option. The various offers look like this: Harvard: No funding. Will not allow deferral for Fulbright. Deadline (04/16). University of Chicago: 1/2 tuition funding. No deferral. Deadline (05/01). Georgetown: Waitlisted for a tuition scholarship. Likely deferrable. No information on deadline yet. Fulbright: No decision yet. However, my university has an excellent track record with the program, and the primary advisor seems to think that my chances are good. Will hear back anywhere from late April to mid May. Note that I need to decide which university I am attending before I hear about Fulbright. Here's the rub: I need to decide between these three programs. Georgetown has a net benefit over Harvard and UChicago in that it would likely allow for deferral if I received a Fulbright. The extra year would allow me time to apply for external sources of funding. Since I am on the waitlist for a tuition scholarship, there is some chance of funding right now. UChicago is clearly the best option if I'm looking to avoid debt. According to the website, second years in the program frequently receive full tuition funding. My impression is that UChicago's program is not geared towards the modern Middle East, but instead to the ancient Near East. Harvard is my first choice, but is accompanied by serious disadvantages. First, if I accepted their offer (on their rather early deadline), I would have to turn down Fulbright if I got it. Second, since they do not fund A.M. students, I would need to go into >50k dollars in debt to attend the program in the first year. With this said, it is a top notch program, and its branding may be important in the long run. This is especially true in the Middle East, where Harvard has made an excellent name for itself. Finally, Fulbright is very important to me. In this field, experience and language proficiency is critical. My grant would give me an opportunity to accelerate my language ability while making connections in the region. In other words, I would be heartbroken if I received the grant and was obligated to decline it. Summary: What would you do if you were in my position? Would you take Harvard, forgetting about the Fulbright and going into debt? Or Georgetown, hoping for the Fulbright and funding, but missing out on Harvard? Or finally, would you "follow the money" to UChicago, passing up on Harvard and Fulbright? Thank you all in advance for your opinions!