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decision help


Wugie
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Greetings Linguists,

I'm trying to decide between a few master's programs and I need your help. 

The programs are: 

Other European and Canadian programs will probably not admit me because of my lack of background in linguistics (more about that here )

I'm hoping to apply to PhD programs after my MA studies. I'm not exactly sure about my interests right now and I'm looking to get exposure to different sub-fields. I do find phonetics interesting though. 

So, does anyone here have experience with any of the above programs or know what the graduates from the above programs end up doing? Also, about the Edinburgh one, how are the British (taught) masters programs different from the American ones? Which is more likely to give me a (bigger) boost when applying to PhD program in the future?

The Edinburgh one looks like students might be taking 9 courses per semester on average (not to mention if you choose to take fewer courses during the second semester in order to work on the thesis), which sounds like a lot. Is it doable?

*The programs are all one-year programs. I know one-year programs are not ideal in terms of application to PhD programs, but I don't have enough funding for 2+year programs.

Any more last minute programs to apply to? 

All comments welcome.

Thank you

Edited by Wugie
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Congratulations! UChicago is the largest program with the most diverse faculty. BU is also well enough known, difference being that Chicago actually has its own graduate program but BU doesn't, so Chicago faculty will have more experience with graduate-level teaching and advising. On the other hand, there are opportunities to make connections and sit in on classes at Harvard and MIT, though it'd be hard to really get too much out of that in a one-year program. I can't tell you much about class sizes or what students end up doing, but you should ask about that. If you're not funded, I'd bet that Chicago is somewhat cheaper but both Hyde Park and Boston are expensive. The problem with these one-year programs is that you need to start applying right after you start the program, unless you want to wait a year, so it's not clear how much they help you immediately. You won't have strong letters or a writing sample from the program at that point. I know s-side people in Edinburgh and they're great; I don't know p-side people or what students end up doing with their degree. 9 courses per semester sounds completely crazy. It's a lot for a year. I know almost no one in Spain, and I don't think that's necessarily the best move. I don't know what more to say, other than that my hunch is that staying in North America would be more beneficial. 

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54 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

BU is also well enough known, difference being that Chicago actually has its own graduate program but BU doesn't

Thank you Fuzzy! 

Although from the look of it, the master's program at Chicago (https://maph.uchicago.edu/ ) is somewhat like a build-it-yourself kind of program (with the cohort size of about 100 per year) in humanities in general with the possibility of taking courses in linguistics, and it is not directly related to the linguistics department. Hence maybe a little bit problematic? 

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7 minutes ago, Wugie said:

Thank you Fuzzy! 

Although from the look of it, the master's program at Chicago (https://maph.uchicago.edu/ ) is somewhat like a build-it-yourself kind of program (with the cohort size of about 100 per year) in humanities in general with the possibility of taking courses in linguistics, and it is not directly related to the linguistics department. Hence maybe a little bit problematic? 

No clue, I'd never heard of this program before. The question would be what your actual day-to-day life would be like. Would you be taking courses with linguistics graduate students or undergrads? (What are the class sizes?) Would you have an office and an advisor in linguistics? Connections with the incoming first-year cohort? Interaction with other profs? Personalized attention of any kind to help you actually get good letters and have opportunities to write some papers? Those will determine what you get out of this program. 

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13 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

Would you be taking courses with linguistics graduate students or undergrads? (What are the class sizes?)

Mostly with graduate students, class size about 5-10, probably, with the exception of one compulsory course from the MA program (interpretive theory). I will be allowed to take a total of two undergrad courses during the entire program if I so choose, but if I take the undergraduate course(s) during the first semester, I risk missing the graduate level "I" courses (as in phonological analysis I, syntax I) and directly take the "II"s (phonological analysis II, syntax II) in the second semester. And if I don't take some introductory level undergrad courses I might lack the foundation I need to do well in the grad level courses. 

13 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

Would you have an office and an advisor in linguistics?

No there will probably be no office for me in linguistics. According to the master's program website, "Students are placed in groups of 10-12 and work closely with an assigned Preceptor—an advanced PhD student in a humanistic field—throughout the year", and "Over the winter and spring quarters, MAPH students work closely with a faculty member who has agreed to serve as their thesis advisor".

19 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

Connections with the incoming first-year cohort? Interaction with other profs? Personalized attention of any kind to help you actually get good letters and have opportunities to write some papers?

I may be taking courses with/from them. But maybe that's just it.

 

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On 2018/3/27 at 12:56 AM, fuzzylogician said:

In that case, I think BU would be better than UChicago. I have less to say about Edinburgh, as I noted above. If you have more specific questions, that may help. 

Thank you Fuzzy. I'm just a bit hung up on the idea that UChicago and Edinburgh are both ranked higher than BU, and that might be a bonus when I apply for PhD programs (?). 

On 2018/3/26 at 3:40 AM, fuzzylogician said:

there are opportunities to make connections and sit in on classes at Harvard and MIT

According the the BU website,

 The primary schools in the cross-registration consortium are Boston College, Brandeis University, Tufts University, and Hebrew College.

So maybe Harvard and MIT are no longer available for BU students to sit in on classes at. 

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On 3/27/2018 at 3:58 PM, Wugie said:

Thank you Fuzzy. I'm just a bit hung up on the idea that UChicago and Edinburgh are both ranked higher than BU, and that might be a bonus when I apply for PhD programs (?). 

Seeing as the BU program is brand new, I'm not terribly surprised by that. I also don't think rankings are what really matters in PhD applications (read: they are by far not the most important factor), especially for a program that couldn't possibly have a relevant grad ranking.  

On 3/27/2018 at 3:58 PM, Wugie said:

According the the BU website,

 The primary schools in the cross-registration consortium are Boston College, Brandeis University, Tufts University, and Hebrew College.

So maybe Harvard and MIT are no longer available for BU students to sit in on classes at. 

Oh, I meant more like physically be present in classes, colloquia and reading groups there, I wasn't really thinking about credits (I have no idea about that). You're in physical proximity to these really good programs with lots of things happening in them every day. Even if you don't take classes there, you still have the chance to establish some connections with the faculty there; though classes could be a good place to start, especially if you have less theoretical background so you won't be working on a project you could meet with them about. 

 

Here is my general thinking: if the goal is a PhD program, and you don't at the moment have enough background or preparation, the main things you want out of a program are 

  1. A sense of whether you want to do a PhD, and in what area (roughly). This is a prerequisite for applying to PhD programs. Assuming it's a yes, you mainly want:
  2. Sufficient preparation to be able to write a strong SOP -- a sense of direction for a PhD, and enough background to back it up 
  3. Connections with faculty who will write you strong letters of recommendation. Likely, the profs in your program. Possible but less likely: profs from nearby programs you can connect with. 
  4. A strong writing sample 

All three programs should give you (1) and (2).* The main question is about (3) and (4). Where are the best known profs who send students off to the kinds of programs you want to be in? Who will do the best job supporting a research project and paper writing at the MA level? There is no easy answer. The UChicago program has a large number of leading profs. If you had more contact with them, I'd say it's a winner. But since that isn't quite the case, the decision is more difficult. BU has a brand new program and therefore it has motivation to produce students that go on to do great things, which should be an advantage, but there might be quirks in their program because of inexperience, and we can't really talk about their placement record. For the record, though, I think that there are several excellent faculty there. Again, I know less about Edinburgh, but I do think that their s-side profs are great. 

In all cases, a one-year program in your case means you will need to wait to finish the program before applying for a PhD, and the research project and writing sample at the end might be limited. That's something to worry about, because producing a strong writing sample should be one of your main goals for the degree. 

And then there are financial considerations, which are also important but only you can weigh against the other factors. 

If it were me, I'd pick BU out of those three, given what I understand about the UChicago program; but I don't think you'd go wrong with with UChicago or Edinburgh. It's more about what you do with the opportunity, and that's up to you. 

 

* at least, the US programs will definitely prepare you for the kind of classes and materials you'll be exposed to in a PhD program in the US. I'm a little less sure about Edinburgh. 

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