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2019 Visit Days/Decisions

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This may be an odd question, but is it normal for a program to not offer a formal visitation weekend? I went to visit my top choice program a week before the application deadline, but through email contact with a current student I learned that the next time I’m expectedly on campus is for an orientation weekend in AUGUST!

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4 minutes ago, DanaJ said:

This may be an odd question, but is it normal for a program to not offer a formal visitation weekend? I went to visit my top choice program a week before the application deadline, but through email contact with a current student I learned that the next time I’m expectedly on campus is for an orientation weekend in AUGUST!

My guess is that your top-choice program doesn't have the funds for "visiting weekends" as mentioned in these forums.  You can politely inquire about a prospective student day to the DGS and see what s/he says. 

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I was recently accepted into Columbia's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA, and I'm trying to decide whether or not attending the program is worth the cost (if this sounds familiar, I posted last week in a different thread, but I have since received my official acceptance with more funding information). Essentially, the total cost of the program would be around 80k, and I have been offered a 20k fellowship. I'm hoping I can also offset the cost to some extent with personal contributions and potentially finding a part-time job, but at some point I will need to take out loans to cover the rest.

I eventually want to end up in a PhD program studying medieval history (I struck out on all of my applications this cycle). It seems the main benefit of completing this MA is improving my language skills--I'm comfortable reading in German and I took four years of Latin in high school, but I did not continue it in undergrad, which I think ended up hurting my PhD application. My hope is that I could refresh my familiarity in Latin and use some primary Latin sources in my MA thesis to use as a writing sample for the next application cycle as a way to demonstrate comfort with using Latin sources.

I would really appreciate any thoughts you all might have on my situation.

tl;dr: Accepted into Columbia's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA, program is very expensive, trying to decide if attending is worth it.

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1 hour ago, joebobthebumbo said:

I was recently accepted into Columbia's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA, and I'm trying to decide whether or not attending the program is worth the cost (if this sounds familiar, I posted last week in a different thread, but I have since received my official acceptance with more funding information). Essentially, the total cost of the program would be around 80k, and I have been offered a 20k fellowship. I'm hoping I can also offset the cost to some extent with personal contributions and potentially finding a part-time job, but at some point I will need to take out loans to cover the rest.

I eventually want to end up in a PhD program studying medieval history (I struck out on all of my applications this cycle). It seems the main benefit of completing this MA is improving my language skills--I'm comfortable reading in German and I took four years of Latin in high school, but I did not continue it in undergrad, which I think ended up hurting my PhD application. My hope is that I could refresh my familiarity in Latin and use some primary Latin sources in my MA thesis to use as a writing sample for the next application cycle as a way to demonstrate comfort with using Latin sources.

I would really appreciate any thoughts you all might have on my situation.

tl;dr: Accepted into Columbia's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA, program is very expensive, trying to decide if attending is worth it.

Short answer: no.

Long answer: If you did not apply to any other MA programs, I'd take the year off.  I'd work on your languages and demonstrate them in your writing sample.  I'd apply to MA programs that have more funding and (ideally) in a cheaper area than NYC and PhD programs again and go from there.  With the economy being what it is, it's not worth taking out that much in loans.  It's also NOT worth staying in "deferment" for loans while in a PhD program as the interest still accrues.

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1 hour ago, joebobthebumbo said:

I was recently accepted into Columbia's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA, and I'm trying to decide whether or not attending the program is worth the cost (if this sounds familiar, I posted last week in a different thread, but I have since received my official acceptance with more funding information). Essentially, the total cost of the program would be around 80k, and I have been offered a 20k fellowship. I'm hoping I can also offset the cost to some extent with personal contributions and potentially finding a part-time job, but at some point I will need to take out loans to cover the rest.

I eventually want to end up in a PhD program studying medieval history (I struck out on all of my applications this cycle). It seems the main benefit of completing this MA is improving my language skills--I'm comfortable reading in German and I took four years of Latin in high school, but I did not continue it in undergrad, which I think ended up hurting my PhD application. My hope is that I could refresh my familiarity in Latin and use some primary Latin sources in my MA thesis to use as a writing sample for the next application cycle as a way to demonstrate comfort with using Latin sources.

I would really appreciate any thoughts you all might have on my situation.

tl;dr: Accepted into Columbia's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA, program is very expensive, trying to decide if attending is worth it.

No, don't do it.

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1 hour ago, TMP said:

Short answer: no.

Long answer: If you did not apply to any other MA programs, I'd take the year off.  I'd work on your languages and demonstrate them in your writing sample.  I'd apply to MA programs that have more funding and (ideally) in a cheaper area than NYC and PhD programs again and go from there.  With the economy being what it is, it's not worth taking out that much in loans.  It's also NOT worth staying in "deferment" for loans while in a PhD program as the interest still accrues.

I second this.

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1 hour ago, TMP said:

Short answer: no.

Long answer: If you did not apply to any other MA programs, I'd take the year off.  I'd work on your languages and demonstrate them in your writing sample.  I'd apply to MA programs that have more funding and (ideally) in a cheaper area than NYC and PhD programs again and go from there.  With the economy being what it is, it's not worth taking out that much in loans.  It's also NOT worth staying in "deferment" for loans while in a PhD program as the interest still accrues.

I agree with your advice. I wonder if someone could help this student find resources to work on languages while outside the academy. I worked through a grammar book of Swahili before I applied to programs, and that coupled with some courses from college gave me passable reading knowledge -- of a language I promptly forgot and have never used since coming to graduate school.

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I'm currently deciding between Yale and Harvard. I've already been to Yale's visit day, but Harvard's is later this month. One of the considerations that is pulling me more toward Yale is that their funding offer was considerably higher: $31,800 vs $29,730. Is it acceptable (or recommended) to bring up the fact that their offer was lower than Yale's at the visit day? I was told that I'm the only Japanese history person accepted this year, so I'm sure that there is some room to negotiate, but I am afraid of seeming greedy or rude for asking about funding. 

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1 hour ago, potsupotsu said:

I'm currently deciding between Yale and Harvard. I've already been to Yale's visit day, but Harvard's is later this month. One of the considerations that is pulling me more toward Yale is that their funding offer was considerably higher: $31,800 vs $29,730. Is it acceptable (or recommended) to bring up the fact that their offer was lower than Yale's at the visit day? I was told that I'm the only Japanese history person accepted this year, so I'm sure that there is some room to negotiate, but I am afraid of seeming greedy or rude for asking about funding. 

You shouldn't bring this up with anyone outside of the people in a position to do something about it. I would also recommend sending an email saying something along the lines of "I want to attend Harvard for reasons x/y/z, but I currently have a slightly better offer from Yale, etc. Would it be at all possible for the department to increase my level of stipend?" Or something like that at least. You want to be as polite as possible about it, because money can always get touchy, even at places richer than God Himself.

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14 hours ago, potsupotsu said:

I'm currently deciding between Yale and Harvard. I've already been to Yale's visit day, but Harvard's is later this month. One of the considerations that is pulling me more toward Yale is that their funding offer was considerably higher: $31,800 vs $29,730. Is it acceptable (or recommended) to bring up the fact that their offer was lower than Yale's at the visit day? I was told that I'm the only Japanese history person accepted this year, so I'm sure that there is some room to negotiate, but I am afraid of seeming greedy or rude for asking about funding. 

It's not just $2000 when you compare cost of living in New Haven vs. Cambridge! But I had been told the Harvard package was up to $35,000... strange.

If you do ask, just be diplomatic. You have some concerns about living in such an expensive real estate market and Yale's offer would seem to create less stress on a personal level, and is there any way for Harvard to assist with this?

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2 hours ago, telkanuru said:

It's not just $2000 when you compare cost of living in New Haven vs. Cambridge! But I had been told the Harvard package was up to $35,000... strange.

If you do ask, just be diplomatic. You have some concerns about living in such an expensive real estate market and Yale's offer would seem to create less stress on a personal level, and is there any way for Harvard to assist with this?

I think the lower stipend has something to do with the fact that HEAL (History and East Asian Languages) is under the East Asian Languages and Civilizations department and not History (another worry I have about Harvard is that, even though it is a dual program, I will not be receiving a History degree but an area studies degree). But thank you, that's good advice.

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On 2/26/2019 at 2:04 PM, TMP said:

You sign a contract when you accept the offer.  You want everything in writing.  Assurances is different from guaranteed. People use "assurances" here to say that their POIs/DGS have reassured them verbally/over e-mail that they will get X but will not be on the final contract.  You want your final contract to reflect what you are actually going to get.

I'm not sure this is universal. I didn't sign a contract, but here we are not teaching/TAing/RAing for money either. (Just to evidence that this might vary from place to place).

 

On 3/7/2019 at 10:32 AM, birvxine said:

Hi everyone, I'm a long time lurker on these forums and will probably post more as I come to making decisions (I have three offers that I'm deciding between). I'm an international student and can't go on any of the visit days due to visa issues, so I've been emailing and will skype with my POIs to help me decide. One of my three offers is probably the one I will accept but I haven't fully committed to it yet because it is such a big decision. I'm not sure how open to be about this with the POIs -- one of them at another choice has suggested he could advocate for housing for me to help me make my decision, so I'm torn between being transparent and telling him that I'm leaning towards another option but would like still like to talk over the phone, or not and letting him do so. I don't want him to feel like I'm wasting his time. Generally, I'm just finding this quite difficult to navigate in a way that doesn't drag it out but also allows me to consider everything! 

I'm curious what "advocate for housing" means. Does it mean that they will ask around? Does it mean that the school has housing for postdocs/visiting faculty and might consider you for that place? There are many things that are not in the POI's hands, unfortunately. Although negotiating is not a bad skill to begin developing now, thread carefully. You can also mention to one of them: "I am very excited about this offer. I am weighing in other factors into my decision, including housing opportunities". When I enquired back in the day, they just sent me a link to a very outdated university website. 

 

On 3/12/2019 at 12:45 PM, DanaJ said:

This may be an odd question, but is it normal for a program to not offer a formal visitation weekend? I went to visit my top choice program a week before the application deadline, but through email contact with a current student I learned that the next time I’m expectedly on campus is for an orientation weekend in AUGUST!

I don't think is something everybody does. It depends on budget. 

 

On 3/12/2019 at 7:41 PM, potsupotsu said:

I'm currently deciding between Yale and Harvard. I've already been to Yale's visit day, but Harvard's is later this month. One of the considerations that is pulling me more toward Yale is that their funding offer was considerably higher: $31,800 vs $29,730. Is it acceptable (or recommended) to bring up the fact that their offer was lower than Yale's at the visit day? I was told that I'm the only Japanese history person accepted this year, so I'm sure that there is some room to negotiate, but I am afraid of seeming greedy or rude for asking about funding. 

Given the information in the forum, I would certainly inquiry when you meet with the Chair or the DGS (no one else should give you advice on this). 

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On 3/13/2019 at 12:47 PM, potsupotsu said:

I think the lower stipend has something to do with the fact that HEAL (History and East Asian Languages) is under the East Asian Languages and Civilizations department and not History (another worry I have about Harvard is that, even though it is a dual program, I will not be receiving a History degree but an area studies degree). But thank you, that's good advice.

EALC 10-month stipends are same as history ones. I think the people saying $35,000 are including summer funding, which does differ between history and EALC in that EALC students only get 2 years of summer funding while History students get 4 years (this is supposedly made up for by EALC only requiring 3 semesters of teaching in the 5 year package while History requires 4, but, frankly, I don't know anyone who wouldn't have traded an extra $12,000 in guaranteed funding for one more term as a TF). Anyway, unless something has changed, you should get about $35,000 the first two years (does your offer letter not say anything about summer funding? - it's been 8 years since I was in your shoes, so I can't swear things are the same).

Anyway, as to practicalities, HEAL is not an area studies degree, it's a History degree from a program managed by an area studies department (it actually used to be jointly managed by History and EALC, but that changed for obscure bureaucratic reasons. Did that change make the degree less valuable? Given that I don't think anyone who's not Harvard-affiliated even knows how the HEAL program is managed, I very much doubt it). I have seen no evidence that this hurts anyone on the job market (the first word of the degree is, indeed, History, and HEAL has historically produced quite a lot of very successful historians employed in history departments).

On funding. Harvard's funding is indeed not up to par with several peer programs, and my impression is that there is no money available to improve the offer (you can ask, I just don't think you should expect a positive response). In addition to the money being less, unless something has changed, there are still only 5 guaranteed years of funding as opposed to 6 at Yale. If all else is equal for you (that is, if you don't have scholarly or personal reasons to choose one over the other) then the money should send you to Yale. That said, Harvard funding is indeed enough to live on reasonably comfortably (as long as you're willing to have roommates and/or have an employed partner you can live with and share expenses with. I even know people who lived as small families on a single Harvard student stipend, though I don't think I'd recommend that). This is a different sort of choice than choosing between Yale and a place that's offering $18,000/yr and requiring you to teach all 5 years. That is, since both are viable packages with reasonable teaching requirements, I'd argue that you should choose the place where you think you will be better able to do your work. Which depends on what your work is and who you can work with at each place, your rapport with advisors/other students, etc. The money could be a nudge factor, but it probably isn't a crucial enough difference to be the main factor.

Edited by pudewen

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