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MotherofAllCorgis

Do top grad schools care about your course load?

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I hope it's okay posting here as well.

I'm in 3rd year and looking to do a history MA at Oxbridge or one of the Ivies. I was wondering if they look at your course load in admissions? Will they penalize you if you took a class less for a semester or two?

I took some classes in the summer and as a result I took one less class then the usual. I was thinking of doing it again next year but wanted to check if that would cause some problems.

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This is something that I have wondered about as well. I entered my university with a lot of transfer credit and took 3 classes/quarter (as opposed to 4) for several quarters to avoid graduating in the fall. I was still admitted to two top-50 programs, though ūü§∑ūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ

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Oxford and ‚Äúthe ivies‚ÄĚ are not equivalent and MA admissions work differently in different countries. Ivy¬†MA programs are often cash cows.¬†I‚Äôd also question why you assume ‚Äúthe ivies‚ÄĚ (a relatively diverse group of schools) will be the best place for your research, and why you‚Äôd assume they‚Äôre necessarily better¬†than other schools‚ÄĒit rings¬†some serious¬†warning bells.¬†

Edited by OHSP

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No. As long as you finish the degree (or will be by the time you enter grad school).  People vary their courseloads all the time for different reasons including medical and family.

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Currently working on my MPhil at Cambridge.  They don’t really care about courseload.  They do however care about research experience.  At Oxbridge in particular, the masters level degree is quite independent and very much research based.  Understand this going into one and you’ll love it, but I have friends that are a little disappointed because they thought the masters would be structured like programs in the U.S.  Personally, I’ve had an amazing time, but my research interests fit very well with my department’s strengths and I’ve been lucky to have fantastic advisors.  

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If it helps, my experience:

BA in Israel (3 years normally, 96 credits - each lecture course is 2 credits, each seminar is 4). Even though I was drafted to the army during the first semester of my first year, I was able to complete 36 credits (out of 40 attempted). During my second year, which was only 3 years later, I completed 48 credits (which is an awful lot), leaving me with 12 hours for this final year. Got into Yale/UIUC.

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I got into a good MA program with full funding with a pretty varied course load. The director of the program didn't mention my course load at all, but emphasized that they were impressed by my writing sample! I know that @OHSP already mentioned this, but Masters at Ivy schools have a reputation of being cash cows, and I'm pretty sure that MA programs in the UK also tend to be unfunded. Funded MA programs are rare, but they exist! I've always heard the advice of not paying for graduate school and I believe that whole-heartedly.

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@historygeek, yes it is very hard to find funding for non-UK/Commonwealth/EU MAs. For funding, you would have to go into a MA/PhD and then go through the whole visa application process. The upside is that degrees are awarded in a faster timeline and are usually less expensive than US programs.

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8 minutes ago, speech-geek said:

@historygeek, yes it is very hard to find funding for non-UK/Commonwealth/EU MAs. For funding, you would have to go into a MA/PhD and then go through the whole visa application process. The upside is that degrees are awarded in a faster timeline and are usually less expensive than US programs.

Just echoing this! Oxbridge do offer some financial support and several universities have scholarships for international students now, but this is usually for students from Third World countries (that's literally how they say it I think).

However, UK MAs are only one year full-time, and for History about £25k -- seems like an insanely high price to me, but considering the Columbia MA I looked at (HiLi) was $53k, it's a lot cheaper.

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1 minute ago, elx said:

Just echoing this! Oxbridge do offer some financial support and several universities have scholarships for international students now, but this is usually for students from Third World countries (that's literally how they say it I think).

However, UK MAs are only one year full-time, and for History about £25k -- seems like an insanely high price to me, but considering the Columbia MA I looked at (HiLi) was $53k, it's a lot cheaper.

Even if it is cheaper, you also have to consider the fact that you have to pay for living expenses, relocation, etc. In addition to spending ~33k in USD for tuition and fees, you would have to spend the money out of pocket to get to England (and back, including any visits that you want to have with family), rent/housing, food, etc. It's still a lot of money, just a little less than you have to pay doing an American MA. 

Bottom line is that you shouldn't pay to go to grad school, at least according to several professors and people on GradCafe. 

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Plus you have to prove to the UK government that you can 100% financially survive without a job (the student visa allows something like 20hrs a week employment) BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE COUNTRY. If you can't prove this, you'll get denied a visa and sad times all around as you will not be able to attend the school. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, historygeek said:

Even if it is cheaper, you also have to consider the fact that you have to pay for living expenses, relocation, etc. In addition to spending ~33k in USD for tuition and fees, you would have to spend the money out of pocket to get to England (and back, including any visits that you want to have with family), rent/housing, food, etc. It's still a lot of money, just a little less than you have to pay doing an American MA. 

Bottom line is that you shouldn't pay to go to grad school, at least according to several professors and people on GradCafe. 

Yeah it's a lot of money, but you might have to relocate for an American MA too -- and living costs are $13,000 a year plus flights, which I believe is lower than you'd pay in the US. Paying for grad school is really common here, especially for MAs, because while it's expensive, it's not going to break the bank in the same way an unfunded MA would do in the states.

I get an undergrad tuition fee loan as a non-UK EU citizen, but only $3,000 a year (means-tested bursary + scholarship) for living costs, yet I've been able to pay off all my living costs with working 15h/week. It's not easy, but it's doable.

Sorry for hijacking the topic, OP! Promise this is my final post. Just looking to preach the system they have here :D

Edited by elx

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OP, I would really think about spending money on an MA. Like,¬†really¬†think about it. Student loan debt sucks, and I would advise getting into as little debt as you can. ¬Į\_(„ÉĄ)_/¬Į¬†

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On 3/1/2019 at 5:13 PM, historygeek said:

OP, I would really think about spending money on an MA. Like,¬†really¬†think about it. Student loan debt sucks, and I would advise getting into as little debt as you can. ¬Į\_(„ÉĄ)_/¬Į¬†

Hey thanks for the concern! I don't think I will go into any debt. My parents saved a lot of money for my education. Plus I got huge scholarships and government funding for my undergrad so as a result I almost didn't have to pay a dime there.

 

Nevertheless I take your point which is why I am shying a bit away from American schools that I think tend to be more expensive.

 

 

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UK universities will barely understand your transcript, let alone count the courses you took each semester, and neither UK nor US universities will care.

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On 3/1/2019 at 9:16 AM, speech-geek said:

@historygeek, yes it is very hard to find funding for non-UK/Commonwealth/EU MAs. For funding, you would have to go into a MA/PhD and then go through the whole visa application process. The upside is that degrees are awarded in a faster timeline and are usually less expensive than US programs.

The downside, of course, is that Oxbridge PhDs, no matter how prestigious, have a hell of a time finding a US job.

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2 hours ago, psstein said:

The downside, of course, is that Oxbridge PhDs, no matter how prestigious, have a hell of a time finding a US job.

Out of curiosity why is this?

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7 hours ago, MotherofAllCorgis said:

Out of curiosity why is this?

Controversial statement but US PhD programs are just rigorous in a very different way. I think people outside of the US, unfamiliar with the US system, assume that the two years of coursework are "unnecessary", time-wasting, etc (these are opinions I encountered when I was writing my MA outside of the US). Coursework years are better considered as focused reading years that both compel you and provide you with time to establish breadth of knowledge, to diversify research interests, and to work towards your project with faculty you might not otherwise encounter (and who often have thoughtful advice to offer re your work). Sometimes I've hated the coursework, but it's already made the dissertation I'm working towards so much better. Being in the US has made me even more skeptical of 3 to 4 year PhD programs--it's enough time to write a focused dissertation on a specialized subject, but I don't think it's enough time to become truly well-versed in literature across multiple fields. I'm really glad I didn't enter a program that would have had me writing my dissertation proposal and dissertation (and little else) right away--which isn't to say that I won't use the writing I've worked on in coursework years. US departments know about these differences, and so Oxbridge prestige doesn't mean all that much. 

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25 minutes ago, OHSP said:

Controversial statement but US PhD programs are just rigorous in a very different way. I think people outside of the US, unfamiliar with the US system, assume that the two years of coursework are "unnecessary", time-wasting, etc (these are opinions I encountered when I was writing my MA outside of the US). Coursework years are better considered as focused reading years that both compel you and provide you with time to establish breadth of knowledge, to diversify research interests, and to work towards your project with faculty you might not otherwise encounter (and who often have thoughtful advice to offer re your work). Sometimes I've hated the coursework, but it's already made the dissertation I'm working towards so much better. Being in the US has made me even more skeptical of 3 to 4 year PhD programs--it's enough time to write a focused dissertation on a specialized subject, but I don't think it's enough time to become truly well-versed in literature across multiple fields. I'm really glad I didn't enter a program that would have had me writing my dissertation proposal and dissertation (and little else) right away--which isn't to say that I won't use the writing I've worked on in coursework years. US departments know about these differences, and so Oxbridge prestige doesn't mean all that much. 

In the UK, you have to do a Master's programme before your PhD, you can't just get it on the way like in the US - so that's another extra year of learning and developing your interests. I see what you mean though. You definitely don't get the same type of teaching/research experiences, it's just a programme to write a dissertation. I definitely believe it's hard to find work in the States, but that might also be because Oxbridge are great, but still not as good as the Ivies -- at least that's what I've been told!

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5 minutes ago, elx said:

In the UK, you have to do a Master's programme before your PhD, you can't just get it on the way like in the US - so that's another extra year of learning and developing your interests. 

I know, I'm not from the US. But the MA is not the same as the first two years of a US PhD, and plenty of US PhD students also have a masters degree. It's not just a matter of "extra time". Comprehensive exams (or their equivalent), for instance, are an integral part of the US system. 

7 minutes ago, elx said:

¬†I definitely believe it's hard to find work in the States, but that might also be because Oxbridge are great, but still not as good as the Ivies -- at least that's what I've been told!ÔĽŅ

It's not just the ivies. The ivies are not inherently better than other schools except when you're hoping to impress people who know very little about academia. 

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10 minutes ago, OHSP said:

plenty of US PhD students also have a masters degree

And even with a master's degree or master's degrees, PhD students in US programs sometimes still need to do the course work and get another MA (then a MPhil) on their way towards passing the comprehensive exam, which will make me a serial Master's degree collector...

Also, while schools may not care that much about your course load, some (great) programs do care about the kind of courses you've taken. When I was applying for the first time (spoiler alert: I didn't succeed), one of the reasons for my top program to reject me was that I didn't take any courses related to pre-20th century Japanese history (my focus was 20th century Japanese history back then). 

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1 hour ago, AnUglyBoringNerd said:

And even with a master's degree or master's degrees, PhD students in US programs sometimes still need to do the course work and get another MA (then a MPhil) on their way towards passing the comprehensive exam, which will make me a serial Master's degree collector...

Also, while schools may not care that much about your course load, some (great) programs do care about the kind of courses you've taken. When I was applying for the first time (spoiler alert: I didn't succeed), one of the reasons for my top program to reject me was that I didn't take any courses related to pre-20th century Japanese history (my focus was 20th century Japanese history back then). 

Yeah, most of my cohort have MAs and all of us have taken coursework etc‚ÄĒit‚Äôs a whole different thing (or it serves a very different purpose) in a PhD context.¬†

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