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3 hours ago, potsupotsu said:

It's very last minute but I'm still struggling whether to choose Harvard or Yale. I like my POIs at both places a lot but, even outside of my field, Yale's program is definitely the better intellectual fit. But I feel the quality of life would be much better in Boston than in New Haven...

Adding to this, I cannot find anyone who can name someone from my field who came out of Yale after studying with my POI (though he has mentored at least two "big names" when he was at Harvard) and I was kind of shrugged off when I asked about the job market: "If you're good you shouldn't worry about finding a job" "you can just do something else." But at Harvard they seemed very sympathetic and said that they try their best to promote their students at every opportunity. 

Big yikes, but in the interest of fairness, who said this? Was it a random faculty member/panelist/grad student or someone you would expect to mentor you or support your career directly?

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Posted (edited)

I am trying to make a decision very last minute between my two top programs - Penn and Yale. I am an early Americanist who, very broadly speaking, is interested in studying the American Revolution from the perspective of the backcountry, Indian affairs, and the development of 18th and early 19th-century Indian policy. I'm extremely conflicted and think there are a lot of pros and cons to each program both academically and lifestyle wise. I had settled on going to Yale until I was recently offered a spot in Penn's JD/PhD (American legal history program) off the waitlist. 

I was able to visit Yale and had very productive talks with my advisors and other students. I feel very comfortable with the support I would get there and quite liked New Haven even if my quality of life would probably be a fair bit better in a big city like Philadelphia. In contrast, I haven't been able to visit Penn itself and have only been able to speak with my potential advisors over the phone.

That said, in theory, my prospective advisor at Penn is probably the best fit and is among the very biggest names in my area of interest with a proven track record of advising students who do well on the job market. He is, however, transitioning towards retirement and will be living permanently on the other side of the country starting in what would be my third year. He has committed to advising me throughout my Ph.D. career (and I have heard nothing but praise when I ask about him as an advisor) but after my second year, most of this would have to be done over Skype and phone. I am trying to figure out how big of a red flag that is. 

 

Edited by Dark Paladin

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, Dark Paladin said:

He is, however, transitioning towards retirement and will be living permanently on the other side of the country starting in what would be my third year. He has committed to advising me throughout my Ph.D. career (and I have heard nothing but praise when I ask about him as an advisor) but after my second year, most of this would have to be done over Skype and phone. I am trying to figure out how big of a red flag that is. 

 

I would find this very, very off-putting--I was in a similar position w Penn a few years ago. My prospective advisor seemed amazing but she was also very near retirement and I couldn't imagine who would become my primary advisor if she were suddenly unable to advise me. I would highly stress the importance of a supportive team over a supportive individual (and I wouldn't put too much emphasis on big names, though this person also sounds like they have a record as a good advisor, so that's a bit different). To me, a stranger reading your post, it sounds like you'd be more secure at Yale, and feeling secure in your program is really important. 

Edited by OHSP

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17 minutes ago, Dark Paladin said:

That said, in theory, my prospective advisor at Penn is probably the best fit and is among the very biggest names in my area of interest with a proven track record of advising students who do well on the job market. He is, however, transitioning towards retirement and will be living permanently on the other side of the country starting in what would be my third year. He has committed to advising me throughout my Ph.D. career (and I have heard nothing but praise when I ask about him as an advisor) but after my second year, most of this would have to be done over Skype and phone. I am trying to figure out how big of a red flag that is. 

 

More significant than you'd probably hope. He sounds like a great guy and a good advisor. There are two very significant concerns here:

1. Will you be able to get the type of support you need from an absentee advisor? Are there other faculty you can lean on at Penn? Just anecdotally, a friend finished his PhD last May. His advisor had recently retired and was in the middle of doing other things. He said that it was impossible to get in contact with the guy-- it took weeks to get comments on drafts and feedback. Nothing to do with ability, but a lot to do with availability.

2. Do you need a JD? Graduate programs already take an inordinate amount of time (6 years is a floor at most universities). A JD/PhD will only extend that period. I also want to say that a JD is, in a very real sense, a far more useful degree than a PhD. The job market for law is bad. The job market and long-term outlook for academic history is nothing short of miserable.

21 hours ago, potsupotsu said:

Adding to this, I cannot find anyone who can name someone from my field who came out of Yale after studying with my POI (though he has mentored at least two "big names" when he was at Harvard) and I was kind of shrugged off when I asked about the job market: "If you're good you shouldn't worry about finding a job" "you can just do something else." But at Harvard they seemed very sympathetic and said that they try their best to promote their students at every opportunity. 

This is nothing short of an absolutely giant red flag. A lack of a proven track record of success, combined with a nonchalant attitude to the job market should set off a very loud warning klaxon. The market is brutal, even for someone from a top-tier Ivy. As I've said many, many times, the point is not to get into graduate school. It's to find a job after graduate school.

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21 hours ago, potsupotsu said:

Adding to this, I cannot find anyone who can name someone from my field who came out of Yale after studying with my POI (though he has mentored at least two "big names" when he was at Harvard) and I was kind of shrugged off when I asked about the job market: "If you're good you shouldn't worry about finding a job" "you can just do something else." But at Harvard they seemed very sympathetic and said that they try their best to promote their students at every opportunity. 

I'm pretty sure I know who you're talking about and ... go to Harvard. Or feel free to pm re why. 

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I got an 11th hour waitlist offer yesterday. My decision making is thrown into a tailspin. 

Pros: Ample resources to support the work I want to do. It's clear faculty take supporting grad students very seriously. Generous funding.

Cons: Family/health needs would make living in that area very challenging. 

Just screaming into the void a little, I know no one can make this choice but me. But holy shit, this is the biggest decision of my life?!

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48 minutes ago, LastPossibleSecond said:

I got an 11th hour waitlist offer yesterday. My decision making is thrown into a tailspin. 

Pros: Ample resources to support the work I want to do. It's clear faculty take supporting grad students very seriously. Generous funding.

Cons: Family/health needs would make living in that area very challenging. 

Just screaming into the void a little, I know no one can make this choice but me. But holy shit, this is the biggest decision of my life?!

As I usually bang on about, keep in mind placement and funding sources. Four years TA-ship is unfortunately quite common, but it also delays research productivity.

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On 4/13/2019 at 3:45 PM, potsupotsu said:

It's very last minute but I'm still struggling whether to choose Harvard or Yale. I like my POIs at both places a lot but, even outside of my field, Yale's program is definitely the better intellectual fit. But I feel the quality of life would be much better in Boston than in New Haven...

Adding to this, I cannot find anyone who can name someone from my field who came out of Yale after studying with my POI (though he has mentored at least two "big names" when he was at Harvard) and I was kind of shrugged off when I asked about the job market: "If you're good you shouldn't worry about finding a job" "you can just do something else." But at Harvard they seemed very sympathetic and said that they try their best to promote their students at every opportunity. 

You do Japanese history, right? And, given your particular interest in Yale, I'm guessing you do Tokugawa/early modern? One thing I'd note in terms of there not being people with good jobs in your field who went to Yale is that Yale has only been really strong in early modern Japan for the past several years. I did my undergrad there, graduating in 2010. At the time I graduated, FD had just been hired a couple years earlier (and was still too junior to be getting grad students). DB wasn't hired until shortly after I left (I don't remember precisely what year). So the first cohort of grad students to work with the current faculty would have been applying in 2011 or 2012 at the earliest, so they're really just starting to finish now. Which means that I wouldn't treat the lack of people in your field who studied with your POI at Yale as a bad sign necessarily. The comments about the job market are still worrying, but a failure to understand the actual difficulties of the market seems to be endemic among faculty at top departments (I certainly saw it at Harvard as well).
If you think Yale is the better intellectual fit for your interests, I think you should probably go there. I'm not saying that your concerns aren't valid, but I don't have the impression that one department is going to give you a clear edge over the other in terms of hiring - they both have very good reputations and some very good students in their programs. (Also, FYI, Yale just hired a new junior faculty member in modern Japanese history, starting Fall 2020, who does really cool work on Japanese empire across the Korea Strait, so that's a definite boost to the program. Of course, she did her PhD at Harvard, so not sure which way that should push you...).

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On 4/11/2019 at 5:05 PM, Sigaba said:

If you've not done so already, do what you can to schedule "exit interviews" with those at your current institution who have helped you get to this point. Pick their brains for suggestions on how you can improve as a historian at Villanova.

Please consider the advantages of not, repeat, not asking what you could do to become a stronger applicant.

Thanks for this, I will do it. My feedback from two of the programs I got rejected from (which I didn't ask for, by the way..I simply emailed POI's to thank them for the time they had taken to email me) was my application was competitive at Princeton and I made it to the top tier of applicants at Notre Dame.) My interest is specifically how the reorientation of American politics in the 20th century towards the Sunbelt influenced foreign relations and specifically with Latin America (it's a bit of a combo between domestic political/urban history and Foreign relations.)

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8 hours ago, Dark Paladin said:

He has committed to advising me throughout my Ph.D. career (and I have heard nothing but praise when I ask about him as an advisor) but after my second year, most of this would have to be done over Skype and phone. I am trying to figure out how big of a red flag that is. 

 

Congratulations on a very successful application season.

A slightly different question than @psstein's query about an absentee advisor. Do you know if you work better in a hands off or hands on environment?  (Because distance does not automatically entail detachment.)

If you attend Penn, you will have two years to get as much guidance as you can from this professor while also developing relationships with other professors (and would they all have to be at Penn?) who can provide the support you need in case he decides "Hey, I'm retired" after he relocates. (It happens, despite the best intentions.)

 

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19 hours ago, psstein said:

More significant than you'd probably hope. He sounds like a great guy and a good advisor. There are two very significant concerns here:

1. Will you be able to get the type of support you need from an absentee advisor? Are there other faculty you can lean on at Penn? Just anecdotally, a friend finished his PhD last May. His advisor had recently retired and was in the middle of doing other things. He said that it was impossible to get in contact with the guy-- it took weeks to get comments on drafts and feedback. Nothing to do with ability, but a lot to do with availability.

20 hours ago, Dark Paladin said:

 

That said, in theory, my prospective advisor at Penn is probably the best fit and is among the very biggest names in my area of interest with a proven track record of advising students who do well on the job market. He is, however, transitioning towards retirement and will be living permanently on the other side of the country starting in what would be my third year. He has committed to advising me throughout my Ph.D. career (and I have heard nothing but praise when I ask about him as an advisor) but after my second year, most of this would have to be done over Skype and phone. I am trying to figure out how big of a red flag that is. 

 

I'm going to second the challenges that come with an "absentee advisor." Who knows, maybe this person is excellent and it won't make a difference, but there is a gamble involved. During my MA career an advisor went on sabbatical, but did not travel far, to work on research. I had periods of great, quick feedback and other periods where I was forced to wait weeks for any kinds of comments. One segment was even overlooked in e-mail, causing it to sit for an extended period of time! Lets just say that right before the deadline I was in a mad scramble to try to complete the project.

With all the best intentions, if you want more advice or guidance I would proceed with extreme caution in considering an advisor across the country.

 

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Good luck to everyone making decisions and hopefully hearing about waitlists today!

Personally, I have accepted my offer to Kentucky with a TA funding offer. I don't know how this happened, but I don't have to move, as I currently live about 30 minutes from campus!

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It feels completely surreal to say this, but I have accepted an offer from Northwestern. On my way home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I said out loud to my partner, "I have fully accepted that in two days I'll get an email from them telling me that there's no space for me this year." Two minutes later, the offer email came in (at 2 AM Chicago time--deadlines don't respect normal sleep schedules). 

Even after everything I've put into this process, I still spent the day yesterday in deep reflection on whether I really, truly want to take this leap. I wanted to be sure that I was accepting their offer because it's the right one, not because it's the only one. Ultimately, this was the best option all along to support the work I want to do.

Best of luck to everyone who's making a decision today, or waiting on one. I still can't quite believe it, but it's real. 

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20 hours ago, Dark Paladin said:

It was the hardest decision I've ever made but I have declined Penn's offer and will be heading to Yale next year. 

I honestly still feel very conflicted, but I am incredibly excited for what is to come. 

Best of luck to everyone else! 

FWIW, I think you made the correct decision.

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@psstein With all due respect, I don’t know any Penn law graduates who are not just employed, but gainfully employed. Recent employment statistics to Penn Law, prove me out—https://www.law.upenn.edu/careers/employment-statistics.php

in short, it’s not just a T14 law school, but it’s typical and historically within the top 6 or 7 law schools in the nation. I would go as far to say, that Penn graduates not just have job prospects, but multiple lucrative ones.....

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1 hour ago, Boolakanaka said:

@psstein With all due respect, I don’t know any Penn law graduates who are not just employed, but gainfully employed. Recent employment statistics to Penn Law, prove me out—https://www.law.upenn.edu/careers/employment-statistics.php

in short, it’s not just a T14 law school, but it’s typical and historically within the top 6 or 7 law schools in the nation. I would go as far to say, that Penn graduates not just have job prospects, but multiple lucrative ones.....

I made the point really as part of a bigger contrast. Employment prospects in law aren't phenomenal (in view of the debt incurred) outside of T14 schools, and even some of them have problems (e.g. UVA), but they are far, far better than any academic history employment prospects. The vast majority of law jobs will pay better than the vast majority of academic jobs.

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I just accepted my offer for a fully funded MA at the University of Oregon. It feels surreal that I was accepted to my top choice AND receive a fully funded package. This forum was incredibly helpful through this whole process. 

Good luck to everyone who accepted offers! 

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On 4/16/2019 at 12:03 AM, Dark Paladin said:

It was the hardest decision I've ever made but I have declined Penn's offer and will be heading to Yale next year. 

I honestly still feel very conflicted, but I am incredibly excited for what is to come. 

Best of luck to everyone else! 

See you in New Haven, then!

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Hi people, I saw some of you here were talking about Central European University. I'm assuming you have more experience with their process of admission and can maybe give it to me straight :) 

So, it is already almost April 18th which means that I have now been on the waiting list for their PhD program longer than 3 weeks (since March 26th). I don't exactly know what is the deadline for those that were admitted to accept their offers nor do I know how high on the waiting list I could possibly be. All I know is that I could technically be left in this limbo until September. :(

 

So what I'm trying to ask here is how much hope is left for me in your honest opinion?

Thanks for your inputs. 

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I have been so busy that I haven't been on here in over a month! It is nice to come back and read where everybody ended up, with many surprises along the way. After having the opportunity to visit both Yale and Harvard, I actually decided to decline Yale and go with Harvard. As many here probably know, I was decidedly Yale, but Harvard really chipped away over the final month, and they stole my heart during the visit day. Overall, they offered many things that Yale just could not, and the worries that I had about Yale seemed not to be present at Harvard. Therefore, I felt most comfortable going with Harvard, and I feel fairly confident in my decision. 

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10 hours ago, looneytune said:

Hi people, I saw some of you here were talking about Central European University. I'm assuming you have more experience with their process of admission and can maybe give it to me straight :)

So, it is already almost April 18th which means that I have now been on the waiting list for their PhD program longer than 3 weeks (since March 26th). I don't exactly know what is the deadline for those that were admitted to accept their offers nor do I know how high on the waiting list I could possibly be. All I know is that I could technically be left in this limbo until September. :(

 

So what I'm trying to ask here is how much hope is left for me in your honest opinion?

Thanks for your inputs. 

Just contact them! There is really no harm in asking!

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