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OK, let's talk about UChicago's MAPH. I need some advice...


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I've seen a lot of posts on Gradcafe where people say MAPH is a cash cow, that professors give MAPHers less attention, that the program isn't even super competitive (that they let a good number in because they are willing to pay). I wanted to ask, is UChicago's MAPH the real deal? I'm feeling really proud to get into such a great institution, but I'm hearing all this talk about how it's a makeshift degree at a first-rate university...  I got a 10,500 dollar scholarship, but that's a small dent in overall expenses if I decide to go.  I studied poli sci in undergrad, and thought MAPH would be a great way to transition to English lit as a PHD.  

If I decide to go to MAPH I don't want to feel like an impostor, and I wanted to know if getting in is comparable to people who got into specific discipline MAs in Chicago (MA in Philosophy, English, etc.).

Edited by StarkDark1
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FWIW: The unsubsidized Graduate direct student loan rate was 6.6 percent in 2018-2019. There are no subsidized loans for Graduate Students. Let's assume you decide to go to this unfunded program an

So, I am someone who is attending MAPH currently, and wanted to add my two cents: 1) The money issue is 100% valid. It costs a lot of money, and I would not have gone if I had to pay the full cos

it’s about to be 3 am and I’m more than a little tipsy (A LOT! very much so!!! absolutely sloshed my friends) so take this with a grain of salt, but I’m feeling emotional about this and I would strong

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the bottom line is that there are fully funded masters programs and unless it’s necessary to go this year, it’s usually a wider financial decision to just apply again the next year (unless you’re personally wealthy). there’s no program an maph from chicago will get you into that people don’t already get into without having an ma at all. 

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I mean, the Chicago MA is a year, right? Let’s say you have the money or inclination to take out loans and you did do it— are you going to apply for a PhD program and ask for letters from people who have known you for 6 weeks? Would you complete the program, then take a gap year to apply? It honestly doesn’t actually seem like a great transition timeline-wise. 

Otherwise, I don’t know much about Chicago’s program, but it would make sense if the professors don’t care too much about MA students. You would be competing with PhD students who have years to cultivate relationships with professors, whereas the MA students are basically a revolving door.

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There aren't program-specific MAs at Chicago-- at least not for the humanities (only MAPH) and social sciences (only MAPSS).

I know people in lots of top programs (Columbia, Berkley, NYU, Northwestern, etc etc) who did MAPH... but then again, it seems likely that those kinds of strong candidates would have been able to end up in top programs by some other route, too. 

Anyways, I would guess that there absolutely is something great that you could get out of it-- the question is if that something is worth the crushing debt (i.e. how free are you going to feel to pursue a career in the humanities-- in academia or not-- that you love, knowing that those kinds of jobs often don't pay well, when you have massive debt from one year?)

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it’s about to be 3 am and I’m more than a little tipsy (A LOT! very much so!!! absolutely sloshed my friends) so take this with a grain of salt, but I’m feeling emotional about this and I would strongly encourage anyone considering the MAPH to... not. unless it works for you due to outside financial circumstances. especially do not take out loans for that degree. you - anyone considering this - you deserve more. your value is so much higher. it will not give you any advantage that you couldn’t get from taking an extra year to research and write and figure things out on your own (I’m about to be two years out from undergrad and have desperately wanted to apply since then and couldn’t before now and, you know, it wasn’t ideal, actually it sucked a whole lot, but the time away only strengthened my application - didn’t make things worse - waiting until next year is truly not the worst thing at all). beginning your academic career with enormous debt will do nothing to benefit you, and it’ll be this weight hanging over you for so many years, especially if you already have any undergraduate loans (like me!). I know it feels like an honor in some ways to be accepted by any program at a very prestigious school, but think of it as a vote of confidence that means you do not need their program in the first place! and think about how much you’ve learned during the application process, that’s honestly the most valuable thing you could bring into another round. tbh i’d do so much differently if I did this again and it’s nothing I could have learned in a masters program.

I’m sure I’ll come back to this in the morning (the real morning) and cringe a lot because I am Out Of It lbr but I also know I’ll stand by the main idea, which is: know that you deserve better. nothing they can give you is worth debt. maybe it’s right for you, given personal circumstances, but if it’s right for you, you’ll know. but don’t let them profit off uncertainty. it might offer benefits, sure, but they don’t outweigh the negatives and they aren’t much different from the benefits you could add to your application on your own outside of their ridiculously expensive program. take the acceptance as a compliment but not as your only option. 

not sure how coherent this is but. anyway. that’s my take.

Edited by amphilanthus
and you SHOULD be so proud of yourself, especially coming into English from a polisci background! that’s amazing. want to make sure I say congrats too, on top of everything else.
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I say go for it if you have the financial means. It's a great chance to meet new people, make connections, and expand your research interests. This is more so if you are an international student studying at an institution where english is not the primary language. I don't think all the negativity towards unfunded MA programs are entirely justified / necessary / serious. There is no shame in trying to get the best education you can (especially when you have no other choice available to you due to whatever circumstances).

Edit: Not assuming the OP to be an international student. Just saying, if you are currently in an environment that does not fully support your enthusiasm for english literature, and IF you have the money for it, an unfunded MA is not really that bad of an option :S

Edited by Hopeful and Not
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3 hours ago, Hopeful and Not said:

I say go for it if you have the financial means.

Lol. MAPH tuition is something like $60k, plus assume a minimum $20k for living expenses in Chicago. Even with the OP's scholarship we talking in the ballpark of $70k. Oh and given that it's a one year program, it's almost impossible to apply to PhD programs w/o a gap year. Don't recklessly give people advice.

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For the love of sweet baby Jesus, do not accept the Chicago MAPH offer. It's not that doing so would doom your academic prospects (and no doubt you'll find examples of MAPH grads who have gone on to do well). It's that no one should pay for an MA in the humanities, let alone one as expensive as Chicago. The entire premise of that program is using Chicago's prestige to prey upon naive, enthusiastic kids who don't know they could go to another school for free. It is a deeply fucked up, shitty practice, and Chicago should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to host that travesty. 

Aside from money, you should know that it is very difficult to get the full MA experience in one year. It takes time to develop intellectually, and the very fact that Chicago tries to compact a program into a year tells you that they are not interested in your academic maturation. 

Edited by Ramus
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4 hours ago, Hopeful and Not said:

 I don't think all the negativity towards unfunded MA programs are entirely justified / necessary / serious. There is no shame in trying to get the best education you can (especially when you have no other choice available to you due to whatever circumstances).

I'm a big fan of MA programs. More prospective students should consider them. But applicants should only consider fully-funded MA programs (and there are many of them). Telling someone to pursue "the best education they can get," without considering anything else, is, with all due respect, irresponsible advice. OP, I implore you to ignore this line of reasoning. 

To put a finer point on this, if the choice is between the MAPH and not going to graduate school this year, don't go to graduate school this year.

Edited by Ramus
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14 minutes ago, dilby said:

I fucking love gradcafe. this is how you know you're about to get the TEA

meanwhile.... waking up this morning to discover that the first thing I did after getting home last night was get on gradcafe and post a MAPH screed seems to be definitive proof that applying to grad school has permanently broken my brain 

D03FCFA9-3FA7-4BF1-89E1-644BA96A78AA.jpeg.0775860ca0366290714958cb2f9b4e13.jpeg

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I agree with all those who are giving advice on this issue. By no means should you pay for an MAPH if money is a factor in your decision. I myself will avoid them. Never did I suggest the op to go for the Chicago program over other funded MAs (I understand though that I may have been misleading in my choice of words).

I said what I said because I don’t think it’s fair to have those who will be attending, as I am sure there are, feel like naive students who are either filthy rich or misinformed. If possible, I suggest the op contact current maph students at chicago and listen to what they have to say.

If I sounded way too optimistic about the program in my previous post, I apologize for the confusion.

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FWIW, I know people who have done MAPH and it doesn't sound worth it. Expect a cohort of nearly 100 (imagine how many acceptances they initially sent out) and the above-articulated issues of timing (gap years). During my first round of apps I was offered a spot in the MAPH program and the money (plus moving and cost of living) just made it a hard pass for me. Like truly, that tuition tag is criminal. Next year I applied after bettering my application and got in to my top choice. I think nine months is better spent garnering zero debt and bettering your app. I also think MAPH preys on shut-outs, tbh. Sorry, OP. 

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I just want to raise the chorus's volume with me loud voice, I would suggest you do not go. The "prestige" is what makes people consider them, but it's also exposes how much of a lie they are in general. What makes a school prestigious? Will you have access to any of that? Is accessing it within a year even possible? Is it worth a lifetime of debt?

My story is that when I first applied to graduate school I got these same offers from Columbia and NYU who have similar cash cow programs. I think it is telling that these all tend to be at private schools with big names, in first class cities (yea I classed them), and they seem to be on broad topics that cover huge areas to admit a lot of applicants.

If you really want to an MA to transition to a new field do that. Like people said there are funded ones. Belgium and Germany also offer MAs with no tuition and low cost of living. Getting shut out is not the end and please do not feed into the system that these programs foster. 

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everyone chiming in is totally right, but i also want to say that it feels really bad to be a near shut-out and to then take any offer you do have and i really understand. i did that and it ended up being okay, as I did receive full funding, but it was a bad decision to accept an offer with only "potential" funding and a small scholarship. i also want to echo what other's have said in that a year for a master's is definitely not enough... if it's between a one-year program and a gap year, the gap year will be a much better way to prepare for your next application cycle. you obviously have great potential as an accepted student to MAPH, despite the potential problems of the program, and i'm sure that you will fair much better your next round. congratulations regardless, OP! you should be proud, especially as someone transitioning to the field, but ultimately i think you deserve better. there are other programs that would be thrilled to have you. 

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4 hours ago, amphilanthus said:

meanwhile.... waking up this morning to discover that the first thing I did after getting home last night was get on gradcafe and post a MAPH screed seems to be definitive proof that applying to grad school has permanently broken my brain 

D03FCFA9-3FA7-4BF1-89E1-644BA96A78AA.jpeg.0775860ca0366290714958cb2f9b4e13.jpeg

i'm screaming

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I have a couple of colleagues who did the MAPH. I've never really pried (they aren't close friends), but on the surface they seem very proud of the experience. 

Personally, I wouldn't touch it with a 20 foot pole. I was accepted to it with the same partial scholarship you've been offered. Imagine my shock when I went to a prospective student weekend at a program that accepted me and met a half a dozen other students who had all been accepted to MAPH.

A close friend of mine did an unfunded masters at Columbia. She seems ambivalent about it when she talks about it. My wife did a partially funded humanities masters (one year of TAship in a two year program) at a well-known school because she had to geographically limit her list of programs at the time.  She looks fondly of her time there, but the debt causes her no small degree of anxiety and resentment, and I don't think she would do it again if she had a second crack.

I know several colleagues who did funded MAs at lesser known schools and they all have nothing but great things to say about their funded MA programs.

Edited by jrockford27
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FWIW: The unsubsidized Graduate direct student loan rate was 6.6 percent in 2018-2019. There are no subsidized loans for Graduate Students.

Let's assume you decide to go to this unfunded program and take out a total of 60,000 for tuition and living expenses. Let's also assume that you can't afford to pay any of this loan back while in school because you're focused on writing great papers and developing deeper connections with your professors. You finish your 1-year program and take a gap year while working  at a new job and paying for applications.

After the deferment period of 12 months, the new loan balance is $64,059.09 , including $4,059.09 in accrued interest.

Let's suppose you manage to make interest-only payments during your gap year. You work hard;  save up money for grad applications and get accepted into a Ph.D. program. Your stipend isn't high enough to cover payments though so you defer.
 

After the deferment period of 72 months, the new loan balance is $88,864.53 , including $28,864.53 in accrued interest.

Without the interest capitalization there would have been 120 payments of $684.34 , for a total payment of $82,120.80 (including a total of $22,120.80 in interest) plus an additional $23,760.00 in interest paid during the deferment period.

With the interest capitalization there are 120 payments of $1,013.57 , for a total payment of $121,628.40 (including a total of $32,763.87 in interest plus $28,864.53 in interest accrued during the deferment period).


But: I will pay that off in 25 years, you say.

Without the interest capitalization there would have been 300 payments of $408.88 , for a total payment of $122,664.00 (including a total of $62,664.00 in interest) plus an additional $23,760.00 in interest paid during the deferment period.

With the interest capitalization there are 300 payments of $605.58 , for a total payment of $181,674.00 (including a total of $92,809.47 in interest plus $28,864.53 in interest accrued during the deferment period).

(Information grabbed from FinAid's calculator)

Costs not covered: Conferences, Moving Expenses, Emergencies,  Private loans if unable to find work, etc.


 

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I think for a Masters-level degree, the debt is too much. I get sore eyes just looking at it (and converting it to my Australian currency makes me angry).

I like the idea of going to Europe. Maybe not suitable for everyone, but would improve language skills and acquiring new perspectives (which is vital for any scholar in literature). Plus, some universities in Europe have generous living costs allowances. Postgraduate is demanding and rigorous- and it'll help if your university supports you- whether that's financially or even just looking out for your best interests. 

I'd be curious to see if this process has tarnished anyone's opinions of Ph.D. programs at the University of Chicago (and to a lesser extent- NYU and Columbia). Would anyone reapply to Doctorate programs at U.Chicago- even if you are insulted by the MAPH response? Has this impacted on how you perceive top-tier universities in big cities?

As someone who thought about applying to a Doctorate program at Chicago- the experience of others has tarnished my opinion of postgraduate at Chicago and makes me not want to apply. 

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2 hours ago, Prophecies said:

I think for a Masters-level degree, the debt is too much. I get sore eyes just looking at it (and converting it to my Australian currency makes me angry).

I like the idea of going to Europe. Maybe not suitable for everyone, but would improve language skills and acquiring new perspectives (which is vital for any scholar in literature). Plus, some universities in Europe have generous living costs allowances. Postgraduate is demanding and rigorous- and it'll help if your university supports you- whether that's financially or even just looking out for your best interests. 

I'd be curious to see if this process has tarnished anyone's opinions of Ph.D. programs at the University of Chicago (and to a lesser extent- NYU and Columbia). Would anyone reapply to Doctorate programs at U.Chicago- even if you are insulted by the MAPH response? Has this impacted on how you perceive top-tier universities in big cities?

As someone who thought about applying to a Doctorate program at Chicago- the experience of others has tarnished my opinion of postgraduate at Chicago and makes me not want to apply. 

I agree with you wholeheartedly but I would also give all my surplus organs to work with Berlant 🤷🏼‍♀️

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Coming from someone who worked as an intern (paid, I might add, as I have similarly bad feelings about unpaid internships) at a bankruptcy law office throughout high school and college, I am really looking out for everyone when I say do not go into debt for your humanities degree. There are many people I saw coming into that office who were plunged into horrendous debt from their degrees, and the pain they were going through I cannot imagine was worth it. Because of that experience, I chose to turn down undergrad offers at more prestigious schools to go to the school where I received tuition remission and a scholarship, and I think that was the absolute best choice I ever could have made to start my adult life on the right foot. Now I know I wasn’t an English literature student, but I’m married to one and the fact that neither of us have student debt makes a huge impact on our ability to get through this PhD. I think it’s  awful that Chicago preys on people with this extremely expensive program. As far as I’m aware, even my alma mater offers funding for their English MAs and I am certain Chicago is rolling in way more money, so Chicago should be ashamed of that. Don’t fall into the trap of accruing student loan debt for your humanities degree! 

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2 hours ago, punctilious said:

As far as I’m aware, even my alma mater offers funding for their English MAs and I am certain Chicago is rolling in way more money, so Chicago should be ashamed of that. Don’t fall into the trap of accruing student loan debt for your humanities degree! 

YEP. 

FWIW, I went to a small, rural MA program that was completely funded: tuition remission, two-year teaching appointment that came with a living stipend (and actually livable), and they funded 1 conference a year (for me, not all, but I applied for funding like no other). The school, otherwise, has little-to-no money and the graduate students make *almost* as much as the adjuncts, but they put every dime into their graduate students --- even those who are going alt-ac or K-12. 

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13 hours ago, Prophecies said:

Would anyone reapply to Doctorate programs at U.Chicago- even if you are insulted by the MAPH response?

Nope. After reading about the bad experiences of MAPH students, I wouldn't want to contribute to that system. They have some amazing faculty, but I'd definitely not apply to Chicago again, and I'd warn other people against it as well.

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So, I am someone who is attending MAPH currently, and wanted to add my two cents:

1) The money issue is 100% valid. It costs a lot of money, and I would not have gone if I had to pay the full cost. I got a scholarship (for 27k - half the cost of the program), and I'm doing their new TLO second-year option (it makes MAPH into a 2 year program, with the second year focused on language study - the cost of the second year is 90% discounted, so comes out to about 5k). For me, this means that I ended up paying 16k/year. I had worked full time for several years before hand and had a decent amount of savings, worked part time during the program, and ended up with ~20k in loans, which is a lot less than what someone without those resources would have to take out; still, it's a lot of money. I don't think I can say if it's worth it to take out more loans than I did, or even as much as I did - it depends on your own situation. I don't think I would have gone if I hadn't gotten the larger scholarship – because of the financial burden, not because of the quality of the education. Fwiw, the TLO option gives you an automatic 5k grant to use on summer language study (which is more than enough to do a full intensive summer study abroad program, flights and all). You apply to PhD programs in your second year, having already finished your thesis, made connections and found recommenders, and taken a year's worth of classes – this avoids the gap year issue.

2) MAPH, like any unfunded MA program (which are way more numerous than funded ones), is of course a cash cow for the university. That doesn't mean that you don't still get something in exchange (a UChicago education). You pay for your undergrad, no? 

3) Like anything else, the program is what you make of it. If you want it and you work for it, you can squeeze every penny's worth out of UChicago, and get a great education. You have full access to UChicago resources, faculty, facilities, events, and grad student career counseling. I have worked with some of the most brilliant people I have ever met; I went to a highly-ranked state school for undergrad, and the pedagogy at UChicago is just leagues beyond what I had experienced there. I am leaving the program working and thinking on a level I never even imagined I was capable of, speaking 2 new languages, and starting my PhD at Northwestern in the Fall. 

4) The part about professors not caring about MAPH students is pretty bullshit. I did not have a single experience in which I was made to feel less important. My advisor, who has many PhD students and is a top name in their field, gave me a lot of feedback, time, and advising. I never felt slighted. There are, of course, exceptions, and some professors will say that MA students in general are not allowed in their seminars. Just go to the first day of class, say something smart, and ask the Prof. after class for permission to take the class. The one time this didn't work for a student, they petitioned the professor with help from the MAPH admin and the prof. opened up the course to MA students.

You are treated the same way the PhD students are treated, and it is pretty universally recognized among the professors that the MAPH year is significantly more intense than the first year in a PhD program (this is true – full course load, a thesis, performing at a UChicago level, and adjusting to a new place in one year was really, really hard). I have seen many course descriptions that say "MAPH students are welcome", and have heard several professors express that they quite like working with MAPH students and advising MAPH theses. 

5) MAPH is a really, really expensive way to realize you don't want to get a PhD. Unfortunately, that is something that a lot of people figure out while they're here. If, however, you realize that you do, in fact , want to get a PhD, MAPH is an absolutely excellent way to prepare for further graduate study. Performing on a UChicago level means you'll be able to perform almost anywhere else (in this regard, this school is kind of ridiculous, but that has nothing to do with maph). The MAPH office provides you with a ton of support and professional training, as well as teaching you what it takes to actually be a professional scholar (i.e. PhD student, professor, etc.). This is important: I re-read my SOP from when I applied originally (shutout, except for MAPH), and realized that I didn't understand the exercise at all - I had no clue what grad school was really about. Being at MAPH gave me a much clearer understanding of the field, and made my applications this round a lot stronger. 

6) This year, it seems that about half the people in the program applied to MAPH *directly*. There are many students in the cohort who went to T1 schools for undergrad (Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, etc.) These things make me suspect that MAPH's reputation is increasing, because the program does turn out some incredible students, who are also being placed well: many of the MAPH alum I know have gotten offers to phenomenal PhD programs, both T1 and T2, as well as great jobs in the pubic humanities, publishing, the art world, etc. 

7) It is shitty and elitist and snobby, and it shouldn't be this way, but a MA from UChicago opens a lot of doors and gets people's attention. That's just the way it is, because people who are on ACs know and respect the institution. Yes, it is a matter of 'prestige', which for some reason people seem to think is negligible in this process... while prestige doesn't guarantee you a spot in a PhD program, it does make people pay attention and really read your dossier, at which point it is really dependent on your application materials. Not to mention that UChicago recommendation letters are a really big deal, and carry a lot of weight.

😎 As some other people have mentioned, yes, you can of course get into PhD programs without going to MAPH, but it definitely makes it a lot easier, and you learn a whole lot in the process. If it were up to me, MAPH would be completely funded – it is so shitty that MA programs tend not to be, especially in an admissions environment where it seems that having an MA gives you a leg up in your PhD applications.

tldr; MAPH is expensive, but the quality of education you get is excellent; you get what you paid for, if you work hard for it, just like anywhere else. Academia is fundamentally elitist and exclusionary, but if you're trying to be in it, UChicago opens up doors. 

ok, that was more like 7 cents. Feel free to DM me if you have any questions! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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