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What programs/schools should I be looking at


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I'm currently a freshman at a small liberal arts college in West Virginia and I want to go to graduate school to seek a phd for ether military history, international relations/security studies, or law school with a specialty in international law. Also my current major is history/political science

However, even though I have four years perhaps more to make a decision I'm in a dilemma as to what fields of study I should pursue when I get there, I'm torn between pursuing history, international relations/security studies, or the JD. Factors that are most important to me at this current time are 1) will I be able to find a job at a college or think tank that pays decently?, (2) will there be oppertunites in my field?, and (3) will the research oppertunites be there? I was planning for my area/topic of study to be 20th and 21st century wars and conflict

Also the schools I'm currently considering for grad school mainly for the history and international relations/security studies are,

King's College London

George Mason University

George Washington University

American University

Georgetown University

Ohio State University

Kansas State University

Norwich University(for masters)

My current college GPA is between 3.1-3.6

In terms of extracurriculars I'm currently an associate member of Phi Alpha Theta, and I will be attempting to join Pi Sigma Alpha, and I'm also a member of Sigma Tau Delta. I have also taken 1 upper division poli sci class in which I have received some research experience. Even though I don't have much now because it's still early in my academic career I should have a solid gpa and a good record after the 4 years.

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I would also wait a bit, as it is likely your interests will change. Either way you will need a lot better GPA, at least for some of those schools listed (a min. of a 3.5).

True I have a very long way to go both in experience and grades,however I think I am off to a very good start to both and like I said I should have a very solid gpa at the end of my undergrad career.

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True I have a very long way to go both in experience and grades,however I think I am off to a very good start to both and like I said I should have a very solid gpa at the end of my undergrad career.

Honestly you shouldn't be worrying about picking schools right now, or even about picking fields. You have 3 more years of college ahead of you and though I know it's annoying to hear this said again and again, your interests are likely to change during that time. From surfing the forums here I can tell you that it's that not uncommon for people to change their specialty between applying to schools and hearing back (in 1-2 months, after spending a considerable amount of time thinking about grad school and researching the schools they applied to). At the very least you don't need to worry about the specifics before you're in your junior year.

In the meantime, if you want to be proactive--and it seems you do--concentrate on keeping your grades up; since you know what interests you more-or-less, make informed course choices and try and expose yourself to as many of your potential interests as possible. Make connections with faculty so you'll be able to obtain strong letters of recommendations. Even if you end up getting a letter from a professor who is not exactly in your field--though your interests are related, so it's not like you'll get a letter from a chemistry faculty for a lit phd--what's by far more important is that it's a strong letter that can speak to your abilities as a student and a researcher. Some time in your junior or senior year you can think about taking an advanced seminar and spending considerable time writing a strong paper that could serve as a writing sample with minimal revisions. But seriously, for now all you need to do is find out what you enjoy the most.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I definitely agree with the other posters at this point - although it's great that you are eager and looking ahead, there is still a lot of time before you're going to be starting the application process.

However, there are a few things you CAN do now that will help should you still want to pursue grad school in three years.

1. Keep you GPA up, trust me there are tons of fun things to do at college that aren't academic, but keep you eyes on the prize.

2. Start reading tons of things and exposing yourself to words on the vocab section of the GRE. It's hard to cram in a lot of obscure words over the course of a few months, and if you start reading The Economist and a lot of 18th century literature and whatnot now you'll be in a good place when it comes time to take that test.

3. Forge a few close relationships with professors that you like. Go to their office hours, volunteer to help them, and get to know them well - they will sing your praises in letters of recommendation when the time comes. These relationships will continue throughout your academic and professional career - seek out these mentors, impress them, and befriend them. Give them a reason to have a vested interest in your success.

4. Take foreign languages. Look into the schools you're interested in studying at and figure out if there are any required languages. I'm assuming that German and French would be important depending on what type of military history you want. Even if you are up against a candidate that has better grades and test scores with you, if you have language proficiency in your specialty from undergrad, it will set you ahead.

5. Study abroad - especially if you're interested in international relations. Try to find summer programs so you won't have to worry about falling behind. It's a valuable experience and will help pad your application.

Best of luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I definitely agree with the other posters at this point - although it's great that you are eager and looking ahead, there is still a lot of time before you're going to be starting the application process.

However, there are a few things you CAN do now that will help should you still want to pursue grad school in three years.

1. Keep you GPA up, trust me there are tons of fun things to do at college that aren't academic, but keep you eyes on the prize.

2. Start reading tons of things and exposing yourself to words on the vocab section of the GRE. It's hard to cram in a lot of obscure words over the course of a few months, and if you start reading The Economist and a lot of 18th century literature and whatnot now you'll be in a good place when it comes time to take that test.

3. Forge a few close relationships with professors that you like. Go to their office hours, volunteer to help them, and get to know them well - they will sing your praises in letters of recommendation when the time comes. These relationships will continue throughout your academic and professional career - seek out these mentors, impress them, and befriend them. Give them a reason to have a vested interest in your success.

4. Take foreign languages. Look into the schools you're interested in studying at and figure out if there are any required languages. I'm assuming that German and French would be important depending on what type of military history you want. Even if you are up against a candidate that has better grades and test scores with you, if you have language proficiency in your specialty from undergrad, it will set you ahead.

5. Study abroad - especially if you're interested in international relations. Try to find summer programs so you won't have to worry about falling behind. It's a valuable experience and will help pad your application.

Best of luck!

lily's fantastic list cannot be stressed enough. I was lucky enough to be a bit older when I became an undergrad and knew already that I wanted to go to graduate school and for which field. Early on, I identified the three faculty members I wanted LoRs from. So, I took multiple classes with them and, luckily, hit it off with all three. Developing relationships with professors IN YOUR FIELD is crucial. Also, don't make the same mistake I did with languages. Having 2 languages will help you alot-more in some fields than others. And, finally, simply because of my interest in my field, I spent hours and hours going through the "classics" in my field as well as journal articles through my school library's databases. When you can converse with a professor in your field, and they don't have to regularly ask "Have you read xxxxx," because they know you have (or at least know what it argued), you will stand out, they will know you are serious about the field, and they will go that much further to help you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I definitely agree with the other posters at this point - although it's great that you are eager and looking ahead, there is still a lot of time before you're going to be starting the application process.

However, there are a few things you CAN do now that will help should you still want to pursue grad school in three years.

1. Keep you GPA up, trust me there are tons of fun things to do at college that aren't academic, but keep you eyes on the prize.

2. Start reading tons of things and exposing yourself to words on the vocab section of the GRE. It's hard to cram in a lot of obscure words over the course of a few months, and if you start reading The Economist and a lot of 18th century literature and whatnot now you'll be in a good place when it comes time to take that test.

3. Forge a few close relationships with professors that you like. Go to their office hours, volunteer to help them, and get to know them well - they will sing your praises in letters of recommendation when the time comes. These relationships will continue throughout your academic and professional career - seek out these mentors, impress them, and befriend them. Give them a reason to have a vested interest in your success.

4. Take foreign languages. Look into the schools you're interested in studying at and figure out if there are any required languages. I'm assuming that German and French would be important depending on what type of military history you want. Even if you are up against a candidate that has better grades and test scores with you, if you have language proficiency in your specialty from undergrad, it will set you ahead.

5. Study abroad - especially if you're interested in international relations. Try to find summer programs so you won't have to worry about falling behind. It's a valuable experience and will help pad your application.

Best of luck!

Hi again sorry to check back on this thread so late,

As I have i transferred schools for a number of personal and academic reasons so next semester I will be going to George Mason University in Fairfax VA, which I forgot to mention earlier

Also addressing the points you have raised

1, Even though I have transferred institutions and started on somewhat of a new slate, I'm fairly confident I can obtain an even higher GPA then the two previous semesters.

2, I am worried about the GRE and LSAT(should I decide to go to law school), however during my freshman year I took many literature intensive courses and a couple of English courses that stressed older works of literature and their interpretations.

3, I was in the process of making some strong relations with a few of my professors at my old school and this is something I worry about doing at my new school which is a large, prominent, research university, but perhaps I can forge some ties since many fo the faculty who will be lecturing me are fairly open to their students as well as getting to know them.

4, In terms of foreign languages I had in fact finished a year of French at my old university, which my new institution of George Mason has also given me some language credit for. However, going into George Mason I'm not taking any languages this semester due to the fact I'm unsure what I want to take now, and my academic advisors at orientation told me I have a while to decide. Although I feel it's critical I choose soon since both of my majors History and Global Affairs require me to take a language extensively even though I have received credit for French like I said. Of the languages I'm considering taking, I'm thinking about preceding again with French, or another western language like German( as suggested), or taking a non-western one like Arabic, Farsi, or Russian both due to the fact that my area of study/topic of interest also deals extensively with these regions. In addition, I also have to choose an area concentration for my other major global affairs eventually.

5, About studying abroad, both my old and current institution strongly encouraged such and I was planning on going on at trip for academic credit that was a joint venture with the political science/business department to Russia during spring break of 2011, however I got into George Mason as a transfer instead. Although I will probably be attempting study aboard over the lengthy winter break or next summer, especially since my current school offers a wide variety of destinations that would be valuable to my area of interests.

Lastly thanks for the advice. I had another important question to ask also in which I will post it later should I remember it again.

Edited by Kevin1990
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