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Help me Make a Decision


thedig13
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So, I'm thinking about going to grad school. I'm currently a double-major in History and Creative Writing at UC Riverside, second year. I have a 3.9 GPA (although I'm not 100% sure I can keep up this level of performance), some decent work experience at a historical research center, and I've gotten a few honors and awards.

If I go to grad school, I'm probably going to try to get a Master's in History and eventually become a history professor or a teacher at an elite-level secondary school at some point.

I've been looking around, and some of the schools that've piqued my interest are Oxford University, Columbia University, NYU, BU, UC Irvine, UPenn and University of Toronto.

Am I shooting too high in terms of where I'm applying? Am I screwing myself over by even considering a Master's at all? Should I be studying something other than history? What can I do to improve my chances of getting in? Any advice on applying to grad schools? What kinds of GPAs and GRE scores and work experience do typical successful applicants to these schools have? What kind of internships should I look up?

Any input, insight, advice, tips, information, pearls of wisdom, etc. could be appreciated. Thanks.

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sounds good so far. nothing wrong with keeping aims high.

good choices of schools. There are issues with British universities, though, as I understand it - you pay your own way, and given the lack of courses/comps etc, PhDs aren't always taken as equals to North American degrees; they tend to be all thesis.

If you're definitely going toward grad school and professorship, it isn't too early to really gear yourself that way. Approach a prof to work with, and inquire about doing reading courses, conference presentations (even undergrad conferences. gotta start somewhere) and even take a stab at getting published. Even though some of these might not be possible right away, it is not too soon to start working toward these.

with grades and work experience, you're already on your way to being a strong candidate; test scores will probably not be a barrier to you. Ypu're likely going to meet the bar; look for ways to exceed it.

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as an international applicant being admitted to my top choice, i wanted to write something that seemed important to me. i thought a bit what i was doing when i was a sophomore. i was really confused, looking for a way to escape from economics which was my major. i could not find anything since i asked this question to myself: "what interest me the most?" i was spending my whole time reading history books. so the answer was simple :) i mean it is really good for you to start early.

making this decision is not that simple, of course. after this basic one, you need to ask some other questions as well. your undergraduate GPA shows that you've shown a certain level of success... is it enough for you to go on? do you like to go out? would you be satisfied with a lesser income just for some intellectual reasons? reading books? hanging out with friends? classes? night life? :)

not that bad of course, i was just exeggarating :)

when it comes to your questions, considering your gpa is an excellent one and you will be graduating from a good school, there is no reason not to be accepted if you keep being that successful. in my case, my low undergrad gpa was not so critical because i had an MA degree and my major was not in history. even though i don't think alarm bells will start to ring unless your gpa goes down below 3.5, keeping your performance at the same level undoubtedly will increase your chance of being admitted.

doing an MA is a great experience. but you have time for anything. -two summers at least. if you decide where you must be applying to, you will get to know what materials they want, whether they have cutoffs. You'll have time to request profs check your papers. Do find the answers for these questions: what kind of history? social, economic, cultural, intellectual? which period? modern? early modern? colonial? who wrote the best books in your area? contact them if possible :) read those books. try to establish good relations with your profs who are well-known in the area you want to work. you'll need their letters in future :). don't forget that your papers will be more important than your scores. -and of course just by learning languages, you'll step ahead of others who don't know any. do have a good piece of paper (about 20-25 pages) until the time is right for you.

you are not shooting too high in case you do the things above :) if you do, you don't have to do an MA, and go straight from BA.

bread

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Thanks for all of this help. I would say that I'm particularly interested in decolonization, Cold War politics (both foreign and domestic), and modern American consumer culture, which all ties into the broad theme of 20th century globalism.

I had a professor I was interested in, but he passed away about a year ago (Howard Zinn, BU). So right now, I'm not sure who I'd ask.

Also, with respect to maintaining high GPAs, I'm not sure it'll be that hard. I imagine it'll get harder during my junior and senior years, but, at the moment, I'm balancing my free time and my homework time pretty well. Money isn't an issue for me. I don't mind, as long as I can keep food on the table for myself, and I can afford little pleasures in life. Paying for college isn't really an issue either, as my parents are M.D.s.

But yeah. Do you guys know any professors who might be interested in working with me? (Again, my interests are globalism, decolonization, Cold War politics (both foreign and domestic), and consumer culture.)

Thanks for all of your help.

Edited by thedig13
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1) You're only just starting your history major. Have you taken classes in other geographical areas and time period? Have you taken any foreign languages yet?

Like you, I realized that I wanted to go to graduate school for history when I finished my sophomore year (had pretty awesome professors). My geographical focus, at the time, was in Eastern European/Russian history. Then I shifted to American history in my senior year and wrote a thesis relating to the Great Depression/WWII in America. I thought I would stick with this when I went for my interdisciplinary MA. I had a balance of coursework both on the US and Europe. For my MA thesis, I stuck with American history (after all, my MA thesis adviser was the reason why I went to this program and she's an Americanist.). But as I did my research, it took me ALL over the world. Because I was studying a refugee group, I had to do some reading in American, European, and Asian history (no joke!). I've done some Latin American for comparative study in order to make my analysis stronger.

As a result? I've gone transnational. There were times that I was tempted to go back to European history but I realized that it's not really for me. Neither is American history although I'd be willing to take the bait. Despite "traveling" all over, my time period remains in 20th century.

Keep an open mind as you go through your courses and get out of your comfort zone a little if you have an open topic for your papers. You'll learn so much more. You may not have such depth as your classmates (or future cohort) but your breadth will serve extremely well as you begin to narrow your focus in graduate school (because you know what's out there that needs to be studied) and choosing programs based on their strengths. I've actually been asked if I'm interested in becoming Latin Americanist because I've taken some courses in it, written papers relating to Argentina, and can read Spanish.

As for foreign language, just get started if you can. If you're looking ahead to American history, try to choose French, German, or Spanish (although right now, you may be well served with German because of US occupation in Germany, unless you want to read Soviet documents). You'll save yourself some headaches down the road. Foreign languages trump GRE scores. It's an unspoken fact.

2) Consider taking some time off between undergrad and grad if you haven't thought of it. It's something that I wish I did before I went for my MA but am now as I await for another chance to apply for PhD and it's been SO rewarding.

3) You'll pretty much need a PhD if you really want to go for those jobs. There are SO many history PhDs out there who can't find tenure-track jobs so they go to private schools and community colleges. You'll most likely be competing with those people. Who do you think the department and private schools will really hire?

4) Funding. If you want to become a high school history teacher, consider focusing on getting some teaching experiences and certified in the state you want to teach first just to get hired. Then, depending on the distract and state, you may be able to get them to pay for your MA instead of you paying for it. There are also funded MA programs out there- the easiest way would be to look for MA-granting institutions, not doctoral. You'll get to TA and get paid for it.

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