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5 hours ago, Michael Scarn said:

Hi everyone! Long time lurker over the past few years here and there. Looking to apply this cycle to at least two schools, and then if I don't get in, try again next year. (I'll explain this theory in a bit). Educational background: History and International Studies with French Minor undergrad at Texas A&M University in 2017 (3.97 GPA) , took the GRE have okay scores (164 verbal 150 quant, 4.5 writing- terrible I know, all I can say is I took it at a rough time), but I'm told by my current adviser they don't look at that at all, just want to make sure you have it. They really only care about SOP, LORs, and writing sample. I'm currently getting my master at NYU, and am interested in their joint french studies/history phd. This is where I'd really like to end up, but obviously don't want to throw all my eggs in one basket! 

I'm interested in French nationalism/cultural history in the 19th & 20th c. 

I'm beginning to look into other schools as well, based on recommendations from my adviser- Princeton, UCLA, Duke, Chicago. -  Although I feel as if I'm not qualified enough for any of these top tier schools. 

My one hang up is not having an insanely specific research idea as many people I have seen already have. I beginning to start looking at materials that would benefit me in my research, but with my part time job and my current load as a masters student, it's proving more difficult. Hence, why I don't really want to take another year off (I took last year off), but if I don't get in, I know I'll be able to take advantage of the time.

Anyways, I know I'm late to the draw on the application cycle, but I figured I'd finally post since I always find my way back to these pages. 

 

Where are you exactly in your master's program?  Are you planning to graduate this spring? The bar is a a little higher for MA students because they should *know* already what kind of questions they'd like to explore in the PhD program (thanks, coursework and thesis!).  So you'll want to be sure that you show your growth in your SOP/writing sample and that the MA wasn't a "waste of time."  Those kinds of questions that you have should actually guide you in choosing advisers and their PhD programs.

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Not sure if anyone is still reading this but I've been accepted to William and Mary's PhD off their waitlist! I couldn't be happier!

Finally got some good news: I was admitted to Central European University's MA program in Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies with a full tuition waiver, so it looks like I'll be in Vienna

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 i

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43 minutes ago, TMP said:

Where are you exactly in your master's program?  Are you planning to graduate this spring? The bar is a a little higher for MA students because they should *know* already what kind of questions they'd like to explore in the PhD program (thanks, coursework and thesis!).  So you'll want to be sure that you show your growth in your SOP/writing sample and that the MA wasn't a "waste of time."  Those kinds of questions that you have should actually guide you in choosing advisers and their PhD programs.

The program is only one year, so I'll be graduating in late July, when we finish our masters examinations. There is no big thesis paper, but there is a less substantial research paper at the end- either way, I'd be using a writing sample from undergrad that got me into this grad program. 

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1 hour ago, Sigaba said:

I would suggest that your hang up is not thinking that you're qualified enough for the schools that your advisor is recommending. If you weren't, your advisor wouldn't recommend that you apply to any of them. ("Well, and you're an Aggie...." sneered the Longhorn.?)

Is anything keeping you from writing a master's thesis /report that could serve as the core of your writing sample?

Having not done an honors thesis, or 25 page research paper in undergrad, this is why I think I'm not qualified, even though he is recommending them. 

Only thing keeping me is it's not a part of this masters program- there is a research paper at the end, but not a large thesis paper. @Sigaba While I know I could possibly benefit from a year off, I'm just not sure what job I would do as a hold over in the meantime. I certainly wouldn't be doing another masters. 

 

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57 minutes ago, Michael Scarn said:

Having not done an honors thesis, or 25 page research paper in undergrad, this is why I think I'm not qualified, even though he is recommending them. 

Only thing keeping me is it's not a part of this masters program- there is a research paper at the end, but not a large thesis paper. @Sigaba While I know I could possibly benefit from a year off, I'm just not sure what job I would do as a hold over in the meantime. I certainly wouldn't be doing another masters. 

 

How long is the research paper? My MA program didn't have a thesis option, but we had a capstone research paper that needed to be 25-30 pages long. I used that as a writing sample and did fine when I applied to PhDs. Even if your research paper is, say, 15 pages, you should be able to expand it to a respectable 20-25 pages.

I'd be more concerned about narrowing down your interests so you can convey them in the SOP. You need a topic specific enough to conceivably be a dissertation, backed by literature and knowledge of your subfield, methodological approaches and specific analytical lenses, but you also need to know how to "go broad" and explain how your project fits in with the larger field. Committees know SOP proposals change, some drastically, once students enter a PhD program, so it's not a contract. Look at it as a way to play around with directions you want to go and to demonstrate you understand what a dissertation proposal entails. Some people are hyper specific about their projects and stick with them, other people are sufficiently specific and develop them, both groups can also change their mind. My project narrowed significantly by the time I became ABD. 

In short, focus on conceiving a dissertation topic with the relevant literature, methodologies, lenses etc. It sounds like you have at least the scaffolding for a solid writing sample, but the SOP is equally-if-not-more important.

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Hi all. I have a question that probably doesn't matter at all but I'm worried about anyways! I'm working on my writing sample and I just cited a book by a person of interest in discussing the general historiography surrounding the specific topic of my chapter. Is this going to be perceived as brown-nosing/sucking up? Or am I just too worried?

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I'm wondering if anyone has ideas about how to choose a book for the book review component of the Yale history PhD application.

The website says, "The department requires a short book review (maximum two pages) to accompany the application. It should cover the book that has most shaped the applicant’s understanding of the kind of work he or she would like to do as a historian."

Do you think it should be a book that is very close in subject matter to my research interests? Or, maybe a book about a different topic, but which uses similar methods?

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54 minutes ago, historygeek said:

Hi all. I have a question that probably doesn't matter at all but I'm worried about anyways! I'm working on my writing sample and I just cited a book by a person of interest in discussing the general historiography surrounding the specific topic of my chapter. Is this going to be perceived as brown-nosing/sucking up?

Not if the citation is logical and appropriate.

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14 hours ago, Vergangenheitsbewältigung said:

I'm wondering if anyone has ideas about how to choose a book for the book review component of the Yale history PhD application.

The website says, "The department requires a short book review (maximum two pages) to accompany the application. It should cover the book that has most shaped the applicant’s understanding of the kind of work he or she would like to do as a historian."

Do you think it should be a book that is very close in subject matter to my research interests? Or, maybe a book about a different topic, but which uses similar methods?

You should choose a recent enough book that you can, due to your knowledge of the sub-field, review. A book very close to your research interests would be appropriate. Choosing a book about 15th century Japan when you're interested in the 19th century US would not be appropriate. 

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Hello,  I am a fist time poster. I am a current junior History major at Texas Christian University (TCU) and I am interested in going to grad school in American history. My topics of interest are 19th century American history and specifically state formation and important powerholders outside of the presidency. Ideally would love to go to a top tier program ( I have high GPA and GRE). What are your suggestions for things I can do in the next year to make a competitive application? 

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On 10/10/2018 at 4:51 PM, historygeek said:

Hi all. I have a question that probably doesn't matter at all but I'm worried about anyways! I'm working on my writing sample and I just cited a book by a person of interest in discussing the general historiography surrounding the specific topic of my chapter. Is this going to be perceived as brown-nosing/sucking up? Or am I just too worried?

If the book offers the best available summary of the historiography you are probably okay. If there's a work that does it better, you could go with that option. The only sure way to avoid creating the perception that you're "sucking up" is to use a different work.

On 10/10/2018 at 5:46 PM, Vergangenheitsbewältigung said:

I'm wondering if anyone has ideas about how to choose a book for the book review component of the Yale history PhD application.

The website says, "The department requires a short book review (maximum two pages) to accompany the application. It should cover the book that has most shaped the applicant’s understanding of the kind of work he or she would like to do as a historian."

Do you think it should be a book that is very close in subject matter to my research interests? Or, maybe a book about a different topic, but which uses similar methods?

FWIW, I disagree slightly with @psstein 's response.

If you can convincingly demonstrate that the work on fifteenth-century Japanese history represents a method that has not been tried by Americanists studying the nineteenth century, and that there's a need for this new approach, I would recommend that you write on that work of Japanese history.

Whichever work you select, do your due diligence to understand how members of the department might view it. Don't pander to the potential audience, but don't pick a book that's going to push buttons either. 

6 hours ago, NichoasR said:

Hello,  I am a fist time poster. I am a current junior History major at Texas Christian University (TCU) and I am interested in going to grad school in American history. My topics of interest are 19th century American history and specifically state formation and important powerholders outside of the presidency. Ideally would love to go to a top tier program ( I have high GPA and GRE). What are your suggestions for things I can do in the next year to make a competitive application? 

  • Start developing relationships with professors and graduate students who might write LoRs for you and/or give you sound guidance on picking programs.
    • At the risk of sounding provincial, I'd recommend Steven Woodworth.
  • Do what you can to earn a research assistantship for the coming summer.
  • Do what you can to write a thesis that can be used as a writing sample.
  • Develop a list of academics with whom you'd like to work.
  • Start working on your languages so you can bang out that requirement in your first year.
    • (This recommendation is for aspiring Americanists only.)
  • Work on defining your fields of interest more clearly and succinctly.
    • What part of the nineteenth century?
    • What do you mean by "state formation?"
    • What kind of power?
    • Can you be more specific than outside the presidency?
      • (Do you mean the executive branch of the federal government? Do you mean labor leaders? Do you mean intellectuals?
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11 hours ago, NichoasR said:

Hello,  I am a fist time poster. I am a current junior History major at Texas Christian University (TCU) and I am interested in going to grad school in American history. My topics of interest are 19th century American history and specifically state formation and important powerholders outside of the presidency. Ideally would love to go to a top tier program ( I have high GPA and GRE). What are your suggestions for things I can do in the next year to make a competitive application? 

I would second all of Sigaba's excellent advice. My advice to all prospective grad students is to deeply research departments so you can make the best case as to why you fit the program and it fits you. This includes POIs (in history and sister disciplines), department strengths (ex: Professor X's strength in oral history, Professor Y's focus on interdisciplinarity, Professor Z's interest in transnational history), materials in the university or local libraries/archives, etc. 

I just want to add that you should look at top historians in your field as well as elite programs. Davis has a great placement record and a ridiculously strong cohort of 19th century historians (Ari Kelman and Louis Warren both recently won the Bancroft, we have Rachel St. John and Greg Downs who are both well respected, Lisa Materson and Eric Rauchway straddle 19th/20th century, Justin Leroy's work is amazing and Sally McKee has moved into researching 19th century). Of course it's not Harvard, but my point is to look closely at subfields at respected departments in addition to elite programs. Caveat always being: cut any program with an abysmal placement record from your list.

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Round 2, fight!  I'm doing a real application cycle this year, as opposed to last year where I had a really rough writing sample due to not having finished my MA thesis so I just went with a single free application to one of my top schools.  This year I'm probably looking at 7-8 applications, 5-6 in the US and 2 in the EU.  Did well on the verbal part of the GRE last year and mediocre on the math so I'm not gonna retake it this fall since most programs aren't going to care about the math bit.

List of schools in my sig isn't final; I need to check and see what movement there has been in potential POIs over this past year (I found out that Nancy Rose Hunt moved from UM to Florida so that dropped Michigan down my list, for example) before I finalize.

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1 hour ago, historygeek said:

I'm going to my first graduate school visit next week! Actually, in less than a week. What are some good questions to ask the professors I'm meeting with?

two words: search function; old threads

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On 10/16/2018 at 8:14 PM, historygeek said:

I'm going to my first graduate school visit next week! Actually, in less than a week. What are some good questions to ask the professors I'm meeting with?

Ask them for the email address of grad students and know (seriously) that you're not going to get anything particularly useful unless you talk to current graduate students because they know things that professors (even the really nice professor who's lovely and thinks you're great) will NOT KNOW. I cannot over-stress this. 

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2 hours ago, OHSP said:

Ask them for the email address of grad students and know (seriously) that you're not going to get anything particularly useful unless you talk to current graduate students because they know things that professors (even the really nice professor who's lovely and thinks you're great) will NOT KNOW. I cannot over-stress this. 

I am having lunch with two graduate students-- one is working on her dissertation, and the other is ABD. 

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I honestly don't mean to sound harsh, it's just so important for everyone to bear in mind. Try to talk to people in course work as well--the more people the better. I used to think that regular posters on this forum were overly harsh/critical/blah and now I'm like: their advice is gold, they know what they're talking about, and their tone is warranted because grad school can be terrible if you don't make really smart moves at critical points (and even if you do make smart moves at critical points). 

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On 10/18/2018 at 4:20 PM, OHSP said:

Ask them for the email address of grad students and know (seriously) that you're not going to get anything particularly useful unless you talk to current graduate students because they know things that professors (even the really nice professor who's lovely and thinks you're great) will NOT KNOW. I cannot over-stress this. 

Grad students will talk way more than faculty ever will. A friend commented to his advisor that there'd been a negative atmosphere in his department. This faculty member, who's generally very perceptive, didn't know anyone felt that way.

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On 10/18/2018 at 7:04 PM, OHSP said:

I honestly don't mean to sound harsh, it's just so important for everyone to bear in mind. Try to talk to people in course work as well--the more people the better. I used to think that regular posters on this forum were overly harsh/critical/blah and now I'm like: their advice is gold, they know what they're talking about, and their tone is warranted because grad school can be terrible if you don't make really smart moves at critical points (and even if you do make smart moves at critical points). 

This. This. This. I wish I could upvote this a dozen times.

I went into grad school with what I thought was an iron-clad plan to be ABD at the end of my 3rd year (as is custom in my program). In the first quarter, roadblocks appeared. Professors who were going to teach didn't, my minor field plans went to shit, etc. I know people who had similar issues and they ended up languishing, not reaching ABD on time, which anyone can tell you really slows your research down. I had a moment of being upset, like I needed to make my naive dream of grad school a reality no matter what. An advanced grad student straight up told me "screw the class you wanted, take the class that's available and can fill a requirement" and that I needed to have the mindset of "jump the hurdles as quickly and efficiently as possible." Basically older grads drilled in my head that the whole point of grad school isn't the classes and requirements that lead to ABD, but being ABD itself. 

Current grads can tell you about known pitfalls, what to avoid, what to run toward etc. Without the really good advice of advanced grad students in my program, I wouldn't have completed coursework and comps on time. I cannot stress enough how helpful talking to people have gone through a program's motions is (and it keeps being helpful at every stage of your graduate career).

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1 hour ago, ashiepoo72 said:

Basically older grads drilled in my head that the whole point of grad school isn't the classes and requirements that lead to ABD, but being ABD itself. 

1

At one time, I would have agreed with this statement. Now I am not so sure.

Is the optimal approach a series of hurdles such as: Course work == > prepare for quals ==> dissertation proposal ==> dissertation. (Hereafter, Path A)*

Or is it ...

Course work ==========>

Prepare for quals=======>         Dissertation (Hereafter, Path B)*

Dissertation proposal ===>

I think that what I'm trying to ask is if a graduate student defined her dissertation area at about the same time she selected her fields and did so her during her first year, could she find opportunities for lateral transfer of effort? I took this approach as an undergraduate but less so as a graduate student.

______________________________________________________

* Yes, I'm leaving out languages because I speak Americanist. ?

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1 hour ago, Sigaba said:

At one time, I would have agreed with this statement. Now I am not so sure.

Is the optimal approach a series of hurdles such as: Course work == > prepare for quals ==> dissertation proposal ==> dissertation. (Hereafter, Path A)*

Or is it ...

Course work ==========>

Prepare for quals=======>         Dissertation (Hereafter, Path B)*

Dissertation proposal ===>

I think that what I'm trying to ask is if a graduate student defined her dissertation area at about the same time she selected her fields and did so her during her first year, could she find opportunities for lateral transfer of effort? I took this approach as an undergraduate but less so as a graduate student.

______________________________________________________

* Yes, I'm leaving out languages because I speak Americanist. ?

It's ok, I'm fluent in Americanist!

I don't disagree with you, and I think you can find a balance between proceeding quickly through coursework and making sure some/most of the classes you take are specifically beneficial to your dissertation. The impression I got from advanced grads is there are people who significantly slow down their progress to get all the classes they want, and that's just not smart imo. Besides, some of the most helpful classes I've taken were happy accidents: not on my initial "plan," but chosen purely so I could advance.

Also, it should be a meme that grad students can make any subject relate to their dissertation...or maybe that's just my desperate attempt to always have something to say ;) 

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@ashiepoo72 Truth!  I wasn't told at first that one might not get dissertation research fellowships at first or the big ones at all and one must cobble together many small grants. I had to learn the very hard way to believe the advanced graduate students. I was then prepared to be flexible about how my dissertation would look if I didn't get the major dissertation fellowships the second time around (thankfully, I did and I am getting the dissertation that I want). So.... many.... things out of one's control.

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I'm only a first year PhD student but I feel that one's supervisor can also be tremendously helpful. Generally speaking, my supervisor and I discuss my status + performance for around an hour every week, and my supervisor has been offering advice regarding when to take which courses (especially those offered by other departments), which workshops I might want to attend, and which email lists I might want to be added to, etc, this whole time, and now I gradually come to see how my supervisor's advice is really tailored to my needs and making my first half semester such a wonderful experience. While I also benefited a lot from and really appreciate advanced graduate students' advice, the impression I get from my interaction with my supervisor is rather something like "Ok, someone's got my back". I do enjoy independence but it feels really good to have this level of support and to have someone tell me something as specific as “you are doing good at this stage of your PhD". So, in short,  while I agree with ashiepoo72, I somewhat feel my supervisor knows more about the potential pitfalls and opportunities than some of the advanced graduate students in my department simply because my supervisor knows more about my specific situation than any of my fellow students. 

And..to make this post more relevant to the 2019 application - I didn't get in anywhere during my first cycle of PhD application, and if I did, I wouldn't have got my current supervisor (I didn't apply to my current program the first time). So...to all the applicants, especially the not-my-first-time applicants out there, good luck to you all!!! 

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