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Hello everyone,

I am considering applying to a history MA program in this round and would love your advice on a few things.

For background: I am an undergrad at GWU in Washington, DC. I am pursuing a BS with double major in Economics and International Affairs (Asia Concentration). My current GPA in 3.6 and I can perhaps pull it to about 3.64 by the time in graduate in May 2019. I have not taken very many history courses during my college but have always been interested in modern history of South Asia. Thus, I (ultimately) want to pursue a PhD in History or Political Science or some interdisciplinary South Asia department. However, I realize that my application might suffer from my low GPA at the moment. Thus, I want to beef up my credentials with a MA degree. I do not want to spend too much money on a masters, thus I am only looking at MA programs outside North America. For now, I am thinking of the following:

MA History, SOAS, University of London (1 year)

MSc Modern South Asia, Oxford (1 year)

MPhil Modern South Asia, Cambridge (1 year)

MSc Contemporary India, Kings College London (1 year)

MA Global History, Humbolt University zu Berlin (2 years)

 

I am wondering if you guys can offer any advice on my short-listed schools. Am I aiming too high for my GPA? Are there other schools that I should consider? I feel like Oxbridge might be out of my reach for the moment given my scores. Is that true? If so, is there anything that I can do to make that look less bad? Also, I have heard very mixed reviews about Humbolt's history program. Anyone here who has been a part of that program and can offer some insights?

As for my work background: I have a had a couple of good internships-- one at a strategic communications firm and a year-long gig at the World Bank. I have also worked as an RA for 2 Economics Professors. Currently, I am writing 2 senior thesis for my 2 majors. 

Thanks in advance everyone! Appreciate your help :)

 

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I don't think you'll have much problems getting into a British MA because they exist to extract dollars from Americans. It's unlikely you'll get any financial support, however, because they exist to extract dollars from Americans

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3 hours ago, history_new said:

I do not want to spend too much money on a masters, thus I am only looking at MA programs outside North America.

Have you looked into MA programs inside the USA that are funded? Being in a funded program will allow you to focus on your application for the PHD without having to worry about finances for moving countries, living expenses and such.

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Just now, Warelin said:

Have you looked into MA programs inside the USA that are funded? Being in a funded program will allow you to focus on your application for the PHD without having to worry about finances for moving countries, living expenses and such.

I actually have not. I am not sure if my application is strong enough for me to even consider getting funding for an MA. Thus, I was just thinking of applying straight away to paid programs that are cheaper. Do you have thoughts on the strength of my application or my shortlisted progs? Thanks

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telkanuru hit the nail on the head with the British MAs. The UK loves to milk foreigners for money and rarely offers scholarships to foreigners, even more so with the chaos of Brexit. As for the MA Global History in Berlin, it is fairly similar to American MAs in intensity and workload. If you want to go abroad, I would apply directly to the programs, but also fill out the Fulbright applications (US-UK and US-Germany), Marshall Scholarship (US-UK), and DAAD (US-Germany). Living in Berlin is fairly easy off of a part-time job, but it will definitely be tight some months. In all, I don't see why you should not apply to MA programs. If you emphasize your work experiences, you can bolster your application.

Edited by Tigla
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1 hour ago, Tigla said:

As for the MA Global History in Berlin, it is fairly similar to American MAs in intensity and workload.

I have read some terrible reviews about this program. Is it true that most people end up finishing this 2 year degree in 3 years? I have also heard that the professors don't care about their students as much and there is little supervision or support, either from them or the admin staff. I do not speak any German; would that be a problem? Lastly, some reviews also gave me the impression that this program, in addition to attracting just a few motivated students, mostly attracts laid back kids. Is any of this true?

Thank you

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I didn't apply abroad so I don't think I'm the best person to help, but if you have questions about applying to US MA programs I'd be happy to offer my thoughts. Fwiw, I went to an unfunded MA, have debt from it and don't regret it (on most days...)

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1 minute ago, ashiepoo72 said:

I didn't apply abroad so I don't think I'm the best person to help, but if you have questions about applying to US MA programs I'd be happy to offer my thoughts. Fwiw, I went to an unfunded MA, have debt from it and don't regret it (on most days...)

The most ideal scenario for me would the World History MA offered jointly by Columbia/LSE or the MAPH/MAPSS program by UChicago. However, I feel my profile (especially my GPA) is way too weak for that. Am I right in my conclusion? Do you know of any other good MA History/South Asia programs that I can consider? 

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I heavily encourage you to look into 2 year MA programs in History or in a subfield of history that you're most interested in. There are a number of reasons I'd recommend a 2 year program over a 1 year program:

  • 2 years will allow you to gain a better understanding of your interest and discover new interests that you may never knew existed.
  • This will allow you to gain more time to present at conferences in your field
  • Two years also allows your professors to know you more and encourage you to submit to conferences in your field that you may not have been aware from. Grad schools might also have funding set aside that you can apply for so you can present at such conferences
  • This will allow you to take a full year of courses to figure out who you could ask to write your letters of recommendation
  • If your ultimate goal is to obtain a PHD in the USA, professors in the USA are more accustomed to the PHD process here.
  • While the job market remains rough, it's easier to land a tenure-track job if it's from the same country you graduated from
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34 minutes ago, Warelin said:

I heavily encourage you to look into 2 year MA programs in History or in a subfield of history that you're most interested in. There are a number of reasons I'd recommend a 2 year program over a 1 year program:

  •  2 years will allow you to gain a better understanding of your interest and discover new interests that you may never knew existed.
  • This will allow you to gain more time to present at conferences in your field
  • Two years also allows your professors to know you more and encourage you to submit to conferences in your field that you may not have been aware from. Grad schools might also have funding set aside that you can apply for so you can present at such conferences
  • This will allow you to take a full year of courses to figure out who you could ask to write your letters of recommendation
  • If your ultimate goal is to obtain a PHD in the USA, professors in the USA are more accustomed to the PHD process here.
  • While the job market remains rough, it's easier to land a tenure-track job if it's from the same country you graduated from

@Warelin, thanks a lot. This was quite insightful. I think the more I talk to people, I do realize that a 2 year US program might work better for me. No harm in applying, I guess. Thanks!

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14 minutes ago, history_new said:

@Warelin, thanks a lot. This was quite insightful. I think the more I talk to people, I do realize that a 2 year US program might work better for me. No harm in applying, I guess. Thanks!

I can assure you that your GPA will be the least important thing in your admissions decisions. I think you stand a really good chance if you can showcase how your major in Economics and International Affairs has influenced you to become interested in obtaining an advanced degree in History. Best of luck!

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23 hours ago, history_new said:

The most ideal scenario for me would the World History MA offered jointly by Columbia/LSE or the MAPH/MAPSS program by UChicago. However, I feel my profile (especially my GPA) is way too weak for that. Am I right in my conclusion? Do you know of any other good MA History/South Asia programs that I can consider? 

Here's the thing...most MAs in the US want students so they can get our money. Sad, but true. You should definitely apply and focus on your statement of purpose over your grades. If you had an "off" quarter, explain it in the least "woe is me" way possible (for example, I went through a period of low grades then turned it around, but during my low period I had a baby--not that it excuses the grades, but it was a way to show the committee life happened). Otherwise, get strong recommendations, write a stellar SOP and polish the f--- out of your writing sample.

If I was you, I would look for world history/South Asia scholars you admire and research their programs, not the other way around. Maybe these scholars' departments offer general history MAs but have a good cohort of people in or related to your field. That way you won't be as limited in where you consider. There's a fair chance many of the historians you've read work at M1/M2/M3 universities (majority MA granting)...it's just a fact of the job market.

Good luck!

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On 10/3/2018 at 11:35 AM, history_new said:

The most ideal scenario for me would the World History MA offered jointly by Columbia/LSE or the MAPH/MAPSS program by UChicago. However, I feel my profile (especially my GPA) is way too weak for that. Am I right in my conclusion? Do you know of any other good MA History/South Asia programs that I can consider? 

Neither one of these are good choices, frankly. The MAPH/MAPSS program is very much a cash cow, cut throat MA program. I've met several graduate students who went through that program. None of them impressed me, beyond the degree they were cutthroat ladder climbers, some of the least pleasant people I've met in graduate school. The Columbia MAs are very well-known for ignoring their students and extracting as much money as they can from them. 

 

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4 minutes ago, psstein said:

The MAPH/MAPSS program is very much a cash cow, cut throat MA program. I've met several graduate students who went through that program. None of them impressed me, beyond the degree they were cutthroat ladder climbers, some of the least pleasant people I've met in graduate school.

The MAPSS is very different from the MAPH both in terms of environment and student outcomes. There's usually at least half tuition covered, and they have a solid placement rate both within Chicago and elsewhere. I've known many very nice MAPSS alums, including at least two in my current program. Of course, Chicago in general tends to breed a certain type of... how to put this nicely?... aggressive student, but those who did their undergraduates there are usually the worst offenders.

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3 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

The MAPSS is very different from the MAPH both in terms of environment and student outcomes. There's usually at least half tuition covered, and they have a solid placement rate both within Chicago and elsewhere. I've known many very nice MAPSS alums, including at least two in my current program. Of course, Chicago in general tends to breed a certain type of... how to put this nicely?... aggressive student, but those who did their undergraduates there are usually the worst offenders.

I admit that I may have a bias! 

 

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Everyone, thanks a lot for your inputs; I really appreciate your insight.

In light of your remarks, I was thinking of another option-- would it be a good idea for me to just stay in college an extra semester and pick up a history major? (If I do this, I would have been in school for 9 instead of the usual 8 semesters.) Do you think it can enhance my PhD application such that I would not have to invest in a masters? I am considering this option because it is cheaper, requires lesser time, and moreover, allows me to take a more diverse range of classes than most 1 year master programs. What do you all think?  Thank you :) 

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1 hour ago, history_new said:

Everyone, thanks a lot for your inputs; I really appreciate your insight.

In light of your remarks, I was thinking of another option-- would it be a good idea for me to just stay in college an extra semester and pick up a history major? (If I do this, I would have been in school for 9 instead of the usual 8 semesters.) Do you think it can enhance my PhD application such that I would not have to invest in a masters? I am considering this option because it is cheaper, requires lesser time, and moreover, allows me to take a more diverse range of classes than most 1 year master programs. What do you all think?  Thank you :) 

You're asking the wrong question. Your on-paper major matters very little. What matter are your application materials: SoP, Writing sample, and letters.  

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On 10/3/2018 at 12:28 PM, history_new said:

I have read some terrible reviews about this program. Is it true that most people end up finishing this 2 year degree in 3 years? I have also heard that the professors don't care about their students as much and there is little supervision or support, either from them or the admin staff. I do not speak any German; would that be a problem? Lastly, some reviews also gave me the impression that this program, in addition to attracting just a few motivated students, mostly attracts laid back kids. Is any of this true?

2

German has a perfect response "jaein." I guess the translation (there is no real translation) is "yeah, but no." The program is only 5 years old and is starting to have students apply and enter some of the top European PhD programs, which has helped create a touch of awareness for the program in the US. Name recognition is on the rise, but it still has a way to go before it becomes a "premier program." This is partially due to the German education system and culture around graduate programs. In Germany (generally Europe too), graduate programs are seen as a means to weed out researchers and scholars from professionals. This leads the university, staff, and professors not offering much help unless you reach out and ask for it. Even then, you must be prepared or you will be brushed off. The idea, from my experience, is to throw students into the deep end and see who swims and who floats. The floaters are passed through the program while the swimmers are fine-tuned and prepared for PhD study.

I recommend picking up German if you study in Germany or do anything related to Europe since most universities will ask you to have basic knowledge of German for advanced studies. In the case of the MA in Berlin, German is an unwritten necessity. You can complete the entire program in English, but you will miss out on the uniqueness of German academia and historical thinking without a working knowledge of German. Since I am training to be a historian of Germany since 1945, I loved my experience in Berlin as it taught me a lot of important realities/effects of the Cold War ('the West' and 'the East' blended in a curious manner in Berlin after 1990). If you are training in African or Chinese history, then I highly recommend the program as several renowned European scholars work in Berlin and the program encourages outreach to these scholars.

Lastly, the student body is a mixture of 'good' and 'bad' students. As stated above, the system will not babysit you. A lot of American and British students expect the system to support them by holding their hand due to the design and goal of American and British undergraduate systems. The German system is a sink or swim one and it is ruthless, which, I believe, has caused mixed reviews of the program. If you are studying an MA to prepare for a PhD program, then you will not have any problems in finding support. If you are studying an MA to live in Berlin, however, then be prepared to flounder.

Edited by Tigla
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