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Am I ready to apply to PhD programs?


Photomontage

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Hello!

I am applying to History of Art Graduate Programs with a concentration in the History of Photography for this upcoming fall. I am currently a senior at NC State majoring in History with Honors and Art Studies with a concentration in Visual Art. I am also minoring in Film. I am graduating one semester late, but I am working on my honors thesis right now and was advised not to complete my senior seminars in both of my majors as I write it. My thesis topic focuses on the photographic artwork of Wilhelm von Gloeden and how Taormina, Sicily acted as a disparate location for homosexual men and artists. Last summer I travelled on a grant from my college to NYC, Berlin, and Florence over the course of eight weeks to research for this project. I got to interview scholars and curators familiar with von Gloeden's work, as well as see original prints in person at the Fratelli Alinari Archives. After my defense this spring, I will be returning to Italy to present my research at a conference in Palermo, Sicily about eroticism (this won't happen if I get an offer from the Whitney of the MET for a summer internship though!).

In graduate school I want to continue my research on queer photographers and their impact on the social history of sexual identity. I am applying to Six PHD programs (Yale, Brown, Michigan, UCLA, UPenn and Princeton) and five Masters programs (Rutgers, City College of New York, Stony Brook NY, University of Madison-Wisconsin, and Columbia). 

My GPA is a 3.625 and I am a strong student in my department and have solid recommendations from art history professors and museum professionals. I studied abroad in Vienna for a summer to study German and the Secessionists. I have research experience abroad and also work at the Special Collections Research Center at my university as a student archivist.  I have taken four German courses (although I did drop advanced German during a semester of 18 hours) and would say I have an intermediate reading proficient in German. In the fall I plan on taking another 300 level German course, but with emphasis on reading and translation. As for museum work, I have interned as a photo archivist at the museum on campus and I have also interned at the North Carolina Museum of art as an education intern. Before I graduate I plan on completing a curatorial internship to add under my belt. I am a student ambassador and I have accolades and awards as a photographer. 

So what do you think are my chances? I have yet to take the GRE, but once my summer plans fall in place I will schedule my test date. Also, any advice for admissions is greatly appreciated!

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Hey! So I don't think anyone can answer for you if you're ready to pursue a grad program, but it sounds like you're passionate about your research and have a good focus. A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Most programs will want you to have taken at least 12 credit hours in Art History specifically. Is that the equivalent of Art Studies at your school/did you fulfill that? It's less of an issue for MA programs, but PhD programs may be more picky about it.
  • This is a somewhat controversial opinion, but don't take out loans to do an MA. I know City College has funding (and Ellen Handy is a great professor) and University of Madison might, but Columbia definitely does not for their MA. Have you considered applying for their PhD program instead?
  • If you've got time, start learning French too. Most programs will ask you for both.

Good luck! You sound like you have a real passion!

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12 hours ago, modmuse said:

Hey! So I don't think anyone can answer for you if you're ready to pursue a grad program, but it sounds like you're passionate about your research and have a good focus. A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Most programs will want you to have taken at least 12 credit hours in Art History specifically. Is that the equivalent of Art Studies at your school/did you fulfill that? It's less of an issue for MA programs, but PhD programs may be more picky about it.
  • This is a somewhat controversial opinion, but don't take out loans to do an MA. I know City College has funding (and Ellen Handy is a great professor) and University of Madison might, but Columbia definitely does not for their MA. Have you considered applying for their PhD program instead?
  • If you've got time, start learning French too. Most programs will ask you for both.

Good luck! You sound like you have a real passion!

Thanks for the reply, modmuse! I should have prefaced my post with that I am considering earning my master's as a stepping stone for the PhD programs I dream of going to. I have the finances to not need to take out loans for an MA, but that does not mean I would not readily attempt to get funding.  I have taken 15 hours of Art History (currently enrolled in History of Photography) and I have taken 9 hours in total over the course of three semesters for my thesis under the advise of an Art History professor. The art studies program at my school incorporates history, production, and other breadth courses. My other major, History, allows me to work more closely with my Art History coursework and my minor in Film Studies teaches me more about photography and film as an art medium. The Art Studies program at my school not very focused, but I think I have managed to self-design an art history degree from a STEM college which does not offer a Art History major. I applied to UNC to transfer during undergrad and got in, but I decided not to go because I had already planned my thesis work with the professor of my choosing here at NCSU. As for French, do you think I should strengthen my German so I can confidently say I have proficient reading knowledge? Or do you think I should attempt to learn French at the same time.

Edited by Photomontage
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You certainly have enough experience for the PhD, though your undergrad institution and GPA might be a bit of stumbling block for top, top programs. Experience and GPA only matter so much, however. What admissions committees care about is the quality of your work. If your writing sample and personal statement are top notch, you'll be fine. They'll need to be well written, well researched, and original; that is, they have to demonstrate a solid grasp on the major debates in your field and at least indicate a path towards an original intervention in those debates. You should talk to your professors about your readiness for the PhD--they'll know best.

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4 hours ago, Bronte1985 said:

You certainly have enough experience for the PhD, though your undergrad institution and GPA might be a bit of stumbling block for top, top programs. Experience and GPA only matter so much, however. What admissions committees care about is the quality of your work. If your writing sample and personal statement are top notch, you'll be fine. They'll need to be well written, well researched, and original; that is, they have to demonstrate a solid grasp on the major debates in your field and at least indicate a path towards an original intervention in those debates. You should talk to your professors about your readiness for the PhD--they'll know best.

Bronte 1985, Thanks for the advice. I've been working on my thesis for a year and a half now and have been obsessed with my topic. My advisor, who is also my professor for Art History, heavily critiques my work. We have meetings by weekly and he was the person who told me I should even be applying to Yale. I've talked with other scholars on von Gloeden's photography and I am familiar with the discourse on his artwork, as well as the history of tourism and Taormina (where he lived and worked, from 1878-1931). As for my GPA, I am going to be able to get it up to a 3.7 by the time I graduate. I agree, my GPA is low when compared to the GPA's of other aspiring Art Historians applying to these programs. I forgot to mention that I came to NC State to pursue a science degree, so my first year transcript consists of Calculus, Chemistry, and Biology courses. I did not do bad, but I wouldn't say I made many A's that year, but my GPA was above a 3.5 by the time I finished my first semester of my sophomore year. I made a 4.0 that semester, and that was the first time I was only taking Humanities and Social Science courses. I think I am really going my research experiences in my personal statement and how I've grown from writing my Honors thesis. I am sending certain chapters in for publication, so my fingers are crossed that I will be able to put that on my resume before it comes time to apply!

Another big question I have is, how do I condense my paper down to twenty pages without cutting out my crucial claims? I've thrown away large amounts of text while working on this paper, but I believe that the context I cover now is all necessary. I don't expect anyone to answer this, of course, but I guess what I really am wondering is how you all went about picking a writing sample for graduate school. 

Edited by Photomontage
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Hey there. Did you consider UK schools? I am also a future 19th-century photography historian and will be pursuing a Ph.D. in the UK this Fall. I have a sense your topic would fit well with some scholars at the Courtauld Institute, UCL, and perhaps the University of Edinburgh, maybe even St Andrews and Cambridge. You might want to consider these, just a thought. Also feel free to message me if you have any questions, I'd be glad to help :)

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