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Help Me Make a Decision, Please? Thanks


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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 (not sure if I'll be able to keep this up over the next few years), 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, 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 kinds of internships should I be looking for?

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

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You do have a solid GPA, but that doesn't mean that you will or will not get in. Basically, most schools look at the whole package so you will need to prepare and do a decent job on the GRE and you will need to work hard in order to prepare a statement of purpose. I think that your best bet right now is to identify a couple of faculty members at your current school that you think you would like to have letters of recommendation from, and make appointments to talk to them about it. The reason that I say this is because, at the end of the day, your professors will know better than any of us what your abilities are and what you are capable of.

You aren't shooting too high in terms of where you are applying, as long as you can make a case that you have a proper "fit" with the school. This is something that you will cover when you write your statement of purpose. Basically, to explain why going to that particular school is ideal for you, what scholars you want to work with, and what you feel you can gain from getting your education there. In addition to this, it would be wise to contact in advance a few of these people you have identified that you'd like to work with.

As far as you asking if History is right for you, at the end of the day you are the only one that could answer that. But don't forget that there is nothing stopping you from applying to other programs that interest you, like creative writing programs. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, as long as it is something you feel that you would be comfortable taking coursework in for another 1-3 years and teaching after that.

A Masters program is a good start, so congrats on your desire to pursue higher education.

Edited by SimilarlyDifferent
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All right. So, exactly how should I contact the professors I want to supervise me on my Master's work? Do I just e-mail them, and say "Hey, you're into colonialism and consumer culture, I'm into colonialism and consumer culture, will you help me out?"

[Or a more formal statement to the same effect]

Thanks for the help.

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Perhaps you do know already what you want to do in an MA program, but if you still have two years to go at undergrad, I'd focus on building relationships with 3 profs whom you want to be letter of recommendation writers. There are undergrad conferences and publications; find those, apply, and work to get accepted (if you don't make it the first time). Read broadly in your potential research area so you can start to better define the conversation in your field as it is happening now and what the history (no pun intended ;) of that conversation is. Most people who go the MA route generally don't have a super well-defined subfield/group of interests, but are looking to build a postBA record, hone interests, etc. If you finish undergrad with a very well-defined set of interests, strong credentials, and have contacted potential POIs, then I'd recommend applying to Ph.D. and MA programs. If you are unsure if you want to commit to a Ph.D. program, then definitely also apply to MA programs. Really the key here is to apply quite broadly. As for contacting POIs, like I said, you're a bit too far out to contact them about studying with them, I think, but if someone is doing work on an area really helpful to a paper you're writing (potential BA thesis?), then by all means email that person about their work. Before sending a lengthy list of questions, briefly introduce yourself, your paper topic, identify their work (books/articles) that you've read that are helpful, and say you have some questions about the intersections between their work and yours and ask if it might be okay to send those questions. Some profs will say no but most will say yes. This gives you research materials, and it lays the foundation for future interactions about being a POI for graduate work when you get close to your senior year. Good job thinking so far ahead!

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