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allisonsie

U Delaware vs U Florida

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So it's getting close to decision time and I'm torn between University of Delaware and University of Florida.

UDel offered me admission to the MA for material culture, which is really well known, with the option of going on to my PhD there afterward or supporting me to a top-notch PhD program, like Wisconsin-Madison or UPenn. My MA would count for the first two years of my PhD, so the time is the same. It's also close to home, which is wonderful because my grandparents are in poor health. It seems like a good culture fit; small, but not too small, and close to lots of resources like the Winterthur Museum, and D.C. 

UF accepted me directly into the PhD program, and they have a lot of resources I could use, like summer TAing, and a good placement record. My biggest concerns there are how big it is - I'm worried I'll be miserable in a big school and the culture there (I went to a very small school for UG and I like the close-knit culture). And the location - it's a full 12 hours from anyone I know. I'm worried I'll hate myself if I move down there and then my grandfather passes, and I didn't spend more time with him.

My advisors at both schools seem very excited to have me, and they've both been extremely supportive of helping me figure out what's right for me. Udel doesn't have as many professors in my specific field, but a lot of my entering cohort has the same field, whereas UF has a lot of professors I could study with, but my entering cohort is almost all Latin America. Assuming both are funded more or less equally, how do I make a decision? Is it crazy to choose the MA over the PhD and stay close to home for the next couple years and try to use it to get into an even better PhD? Am I overthinking this? 

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1 hour ago, allisonsie said:

Is it crazy to choose the MA over the PhD and stay close to home for the next couple years and try to use it to get into an even better PhD? 

To me it sounds like you want to do the MA, and (with a big proviso) I basically think you should go with your gut. But: is the MA funded? Or are you going to have to go into significant amounts of debt to complete the degree? I think the MA is very, very valuable but only provided that it doesn't cost you enormous amounts of money.

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50 minutes ago, OHSP said:

To me it sounds like you want to do the MA, and (with a big proviso) I basically think you should go with your gut. But: is the MA funded? Or are you going to have to go into significant amounts of debt to complete the degree? I think the MA is very, very valuable but only provided that it doesn't cost you enormous amounts of money.

I'm first in line for funding for the MA! And my PhD at UF technically isn't funded either, but both schools think my funding will come through. I'm just scared of getting the MA and then finding myself in the same position I'm in now again in two years; will going to UF then be out of the question since I turned down this offer? 

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What is your ultimate goal? Try to avoid debt as much as possible.  It is perfectly normal to go through the process again-- your UDel MA may get you into strong programs, which you will need for the academic job market unless you do truly amazing work at UF.

UF is a big school indeed but your life will be incredibly compartmentalized.  You will only need to go to: department building, buildings nearby for classes, library, student health center, grad school building and student union.  That's it.  You won't be running all over the campus like the undergrads. Where I am, it's a very large school but most of what I need to get to are within 5-10 minutes walk from my department.  I don't even think about how *big* the school is unless I'm talking with undergrads about their experiences.

As for grandparents, it's very, very hard.  I know.  My grandfather was ill twice during my PhD. But I was also so busy and he was being well-taken care of by our family that I think that if I had attempted to be with him every weekend, it would not have changed things much for the better (and I would have fallen behind).  But every family circumstance is different.  At the end, my guess is that your grandparents will want you to go to somewhere that will make you happy-- they are already proud that you're going to get a graduate degree!

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If Delaware offers you funding for the MA, I would say to go there. They are highly regarded for material culture studies, and at the MA level, it doesn't matter as much to have profs who are exactly matched up with your interests. If you put in hard work, you'll be in a position to level up to a great Ph.D. program afterward.  You'll also be well-situated to go into the museum world if you ever decide to veer off the academic track.  Good luck!

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Thanks everyone! I'm still waiting to hear from both schools about funding, but I've made my peace that I can and will be happy and successful at either school. I know that I almost made it into Cornell, in addition to making waitlist at SMU and George Mason, so I think if I choose the MA route, I'll be fine again in two years. But I also know I'll be happy at UF - I really like my advisor and my cohort seemed awesome. I'll update if I hear about funding (and if anyone has any experience with choosing an MA over a PhD to boost chances for a better PhD later, I'd love to hear how it went!) 

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You were on the verge of being accepted to an elite program, even without an MA -- this bodes well for your future chances!  

This probably goes without saying, but if Florida doesn't offer full funding package, you should definitely not go there.  You would be closing the door on a possibility like Cornell, and you would be saddled with unnecessary financial burdens.  This is one of those crossroads in life where you want to make sure you take the right direction.

I was one of those people who benefitted from an MA. The first time I applied to grad school, I was accepted to an unfunded, low-ranked PhD program, plus a funded MA and a few unfunded MAs. Initially I was so flattered that someone out there thought I was PhD material! But I got wise when I realized that funding was the default for most programs, and the costs over 5+ years would be staggering. (At a lot of places, an unfunded offer is considered a "soft rejection.") I chose the funded MA, left with no debt, and am now in a fantastic PhD program, well beyond what I could have achieved before the MA. 

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1 hour ago, Katzenmusik said:

The first time I applied to grad school, I was accepted to an unfunded, low-ranked PhD program, plus a funded MA and a few unfunded MAs. Initially I was so flattered that someone out there thought I was PhD material! But I got wise when I realized that funding was the default for most programs, and the costs over 5+ years would be staggering. (At a lot of places, an unfunded offer is considered a "soft rejection.") I chose the funded MA, left with no debt, and am now in a fantastic PhD program, well beyond what I could have achieved before the MA. 

Sorry if you were intending to keep this private, but what was the doctoral program that accepted you on the first go around? Feel free to PM me if you don't want that info on here. 

Edited by astroid88

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19 hours ago, Katzenmusik said:

You were on the verge of being accepted to an elite program, even without an MA -- this bodes well for your future chances!  

This probably goes without saying, but if Florida doesn't offer full funding package, you should definitely not go there.  You would be closing the door on a possibility like Cornell, and you would be saddled with unnecessary financial burdens.  This is one of those crossroads in life where you want to make sure you take the right direction.

I was one of those people who benefitted from an MA. The first time I applied to grad school, I was accepted to an unfunded, low-ranked PhD program, plus a funded MA and a few unfunded MAs. Initially I was so flattered that someone out there thought I was PhD material! But I got wise when I realized that funding was the default for most programs, and the costs over 5+ years would be staggering. (At a lot of places, an unfunded offer is considered a "soft rejection.") I chose the funded MA, left with no debt, and am now in a fantastic PhD program, well beyond what I could have achieved before the MA. 

Thank you! I think the hardest part about the MA is that I'm graduating next month with an M. Ed. (that I've earned while working full time; it's been stressful) and it feels like I've put in all the work for an M.Ed. for nothing because I'll still need an MA. I know it's not true, and the M.Ed. will serve me well in teaching, but it's hard not to think that way, like my MA is a step back. But at the same time, Cornell was so upfront about the fact that I made it to the last round... I think I could apply again in 2 years and go for programs like Cornell, UPenn, UT Austin, or Wisconsin-Madison. I just wasn't sure where UF and UD stood in relation to each other, as far as prestige and job searching goes. 

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I'm not clear what your relationship to history is. Are you doing something with material culture and the history of science?

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2 hours ago, psstein said:

I'm not clear what your relationship to history is. Are you doing something with material culture and the history of science?

History of sex and gender, 19th-20th century America. But I had a public history focus in undergrad, with several museum internships, and I do like the idea of a material culture MA to fall back on since the professorship track is so hard to get on to. 

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16 hours ago, allisonsie said:

My funding came through at Delaware! $19,000/year plus tuition remission. Does anyone know what the funding at UF looks like this year?

Congrats! A funded MA in the US is rare and valuable, and a UF PhD--while the cohort and professors might be great, etc--is very likely to make life extremely, extremely difficult on the job market (rather than just extremely difficult). I'd 100% go with Delaware.

Edited by OHSP

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On 4/11/2018 at 3:50 PM, allisonsie said:

My funding came through at Delaware! $19,000/year plus tuition remission. Does anyone know what the funding at UF looks like this year?

Go to Delaware.

UF has a very tough time on the job market. My acquaintance got his PhD in American History from there. He's currently teaching high school.

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On 4/11/2018 at 1:50 PM, allisonsie said:

My funding came through at Delaware! $19,000/year plus tuition remission. Does anyone know what the funding at UF looks like this year?

For this and given your family situation, I'd head to Delaware.

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I got taken off the waitlist at SMU and was fully funded! $20,000 a year plus tuition remission. Given that my funding at UF did not come through, do I go to Delaware or SMU? Which will have the better reputation for getting a job afterwards? 

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27 minutes ago, allisonsie said:

I got taken off the waitlist at SMU and was fully funded! $20,000 a year plus tuition remission. Given that my funding at UF did not come through, do I go to Delaware or SMU? Which will have the better reputation for getting a job afterwards? 

Congrats! But I'd still go Delaware over SMU, thinking long term. 

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6 hours ago, allisonsie said:

I got taken off the waitlist at SMU and was fully funded! $20,000 a year plus tuition remission. Given that my funding at UF did not come through, do I go to Delaware or SMU? Which will have the better reputation for getting a job afterwards? 

Still go to Delaware. SMU is not a highly regarded grad program.

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5 minutes ago, psstein said:

Still go to Delaware. SMU is not a highly regarded grad program.

My only concern is that going to Delaware will pigeonhole me as a museum-studies person, not a professorship track candidate. Do you think this is a valid concern?

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On 4/14/2018 at 6:11 PM, allisonsie said:

My only concern is that going to Delaware will pigeonhole me as a museum-studies person, not a professorship track candidate. Do you think this is a valid concern?

No. When you apply for PhDs it's going to be about your stated interests and your writing sample--no one's going to sit and interrogate the emphasis of Delaware's MA program. 

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Thanks everyone! It was very hard, as SMU, UF, and UDel ALL ended up offering me funding (UF emailed me my assistantship letter 7 hours before decisions were due), but I ultimately decided to go with UDel and hope that my internships and research there will be strong enough to get me into a top-notch PhD next time around! 

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On 4/14/2018 at 5:11 PM, allisonsie said:

My only concern is that going to Delaware will pigeonhole me as a museum-studies person, not a professorship track candidate. Do you think this is a valid concern?

No, it isn't. Most of a successful PhD application involves positioning your prior knowledge and experiences in such a way to convince a committee you're a good candidate.

There's also no such thing as a "professorship track candidate." None of us are. The job market is bad and going to stay bad for some time. All you can do is give yourself the best shot you can, via going to a top program, getting publications in top journals, writing a good dissertation, etc.

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On 4/16/2018 at 12:16 PM, psstein said:

No, it isn't. Most of a successful PhD application involves positioning your prior knowledge and experiences in such a way to convince a committee you're a good candidate.

There's also no such thing as a "professorship track candidate." None of us are. The job market is bad and going to stay bad for some time. All you can do is give yourself the best shot you can, via going to a top program, getting publications in top journals, writing a good dissertation, etc.

Thanks!

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