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Am I ready for a PhD? What should I do in gap year?


lhuy
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Hi all! A senior in undergrad looking for some advice here!

Some background:

  • I am an art history major in a liberal arts college, currently working on a thesis (with funded summer research), and have a 3.87 major gpa
  • I have internship experiences in museums and a commercial gallery
  • I am hoping to eventually get a PhD, focusing on 20th century Chinese art/the Chinese diaspora; and I am hoping to take a year off after graduating, then apply at the end of 2022
  • My recommendation letters will be from professors that I've worked closely with
  • I am fluent in Chinese, with 2 years of Italian

Would love to get your thoughts on 1) what I can do during my year off to make me a more competitive applicant? 2)what are my chances of getting into phd programs instead of stand alone MAs? 3)programs that you would recommend?

If there's anyone with a similar interest/background, would totally love to connect too! Thanks in advance!

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I'm applying for Fall 2023 as well (junior this year with a 4.0 GPA). I've had numerous friends get in within the last two/three years with GPAs in and around where yours is!

Here's some advice my professors have given me that I should do over this year/the summer, as I'm not taking a gap (which means you could do that in your gap year):

  • Take your GRE asap so that if you bomb hard you have a chance to redeem yourself and if you do well, it's out of the way.
  • Good opportunity to go to archives and get a jumpstart on that. 
  • See if there are any summer institutes relevant to your topic and apply
  • Start presenting at graduate conferences

I'd also advise you to take a look at the language requirements for specific programs. A lot of them will want German and while I know that you have Italian, it's not a bad thing to take an online first year German class.

My area of specialty is early modern, so I don't know who the great names are in your specialty, but I'll give you some advice as a person who goes to a school with a really strong East Asian Studies program: Don't limit yourself to looking at Art History programs... a lot of times East Asian Studies departments will have several people looking at art historical topics and they won't be cross-listed with the Department of Art History. I'm at a school where that's the case and sometimes there are fellowships and endowments available for grad study that won't be available in an Art History department. 

Edited by botticelli
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7 hours ago, botticelli said:

I'm applying for Fall 2023 as well (junior this year with a 4.0 GPA). I've had numerous friends get in within the last two/three years with GPAs in and around where yours is!

@botticelliThank you so much for your advice! I am definitely looking into East Asian Studies programs and trying to find professors with focus on Art History as well.

Hope your application next year goes well and let's stay in touch!

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On 10/5/2021 at 2:59 PM, lhuy said:

Hi all! A senior in undergrad looking for some advice here!

Some background:

  • I am an art history major in a liberal arts college, currently working on a thesis (with funded summer research), and have a 3.87 major gpa
  • I have internship experiences in museums and a commercial gallery
  • I am hoping to eventually get a PhD, focusing on 20th century Chinese art/the Chinese diaspora; and I am hoping to take a year off after graduating, then apply at the end of 2022
  • My recommendation letters will be from professors that I've worked closely with
  • I am fluent in Chinese, with 2 years of Italian

Would love to get your thoughts on 1) what I can do during my year off to make me a more competitive applicant? 2)what are my chances of getting into phd programs instead of stand alone MAs? 3)programs that you would recommend?

If there's anyone with a similar interest/background, would totally love to connect too! Thanks in advance!

You seem to be in a good place. Contrary to what the person below you has said, conferences, archival research, summer institutes etc. don't really matter at this point. The best thing you can do is have a strong and focused statement of purpose that displays knowledge of what's happening in your subfield and a solid writing sample. Use the year to attend talks in your field, read recent scholarship, and tighten your thesis into a writing sample. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

To chime in with @botticelli and @jbc568 this added time to work on your writing sample and statement of purpose will be a big benefit to you. The more time you have to step away and return to those parts of your application with fresh eyes and a deeper understanding of the field, the better off you'll be. As for conferences, I'd say attending them to get that deeper understanding is better at this point than presenting, and thanks to the move to Zoom, it's easier than ever to listen in and learn about the latest scholarship. If you haven't already, check out and subscribe to https://arthist.net/ to find out about upcoming conferences as well as read calls for papers, which gives a good idea of the kinds of conversations going on now in art history. I'd also keep in contact with your current professors. You can ask them these kinds of questions, and they will have you on their radar when you need letters of recommendation next year.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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