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Please excuse my ignorance of the admissions process. I only just started reconsidering graduate school and I'm trying to locate a program that will fit me, but I'm rather worried that some particularities of my academic career will work against me.

I recently graduated from a low-ranked SUNY school with a 3.4 GPA. While I have two 4.0 semesters, my GPA was destroyed due to a very disastrous fall semester and a failed online winter course (my mother was diagnosed with cancer in September and passed away in November, and I ended up dropping the ball academically) However, my major GPA is 3.87 and I'm a member of Phi Alpha Theta. I have not taken the GRE yet, but I'm going to attempt to take it before August.

I'm also worried that my status as a transfer student will have some effect on the admissions process. I spent three years in community college in an attempt to save money and pinpoint my academic interests. My GPA was fairly low (3.3?) due to an ill-fated stint as a math major.

So, what I'm looking at - first and foremost- is a university that would accept me. I have quite a few friends that have been accepted into history programs, but they all had 3.8+ GPA's and went to Columbia/NYU/not SUNY Oswego. One of my friends, a 3.8 student from NYU, was rejected from SUNY Albany- the school I figured I could use as a safety. I'm now immensely worried that I will never get into a MA or PhD. program.

Beyond allowing me to register for courses, I want a school that..:

+ Offers terrific financial aid, especially if the program offers fellowships.

+ I'm looking to specialize in Russian History. While my undergrad program did not have a Russian History concentration, per se, my adviser helped me construct a Russian specialization and allowed me to take an Independent study seminar on the fall of the Soviet Union. However, I know there's a limited amount of universities that offer this specialization and many of these are impossible reaches. In addition, my interest in Russia really focuses on the post-Soviet state, a topic that hasn't really been examined by historians. Therefore, I would be equally satisfied studying general European or American history.

+ Offers either a M.A. or PhD. Ideally, I'd love to jump straight into a PhD. program, but realistically I'll likely have to complete a terminal M.A. before I'd stand any chance at becoming a doctoral candidate.

+ I would prefer a school in the Northeast or Midwest, but I am definitely open to any university.

+ I received a 178 on the LSAT, but this was a major fluke and I can never hope for a decent score on the GRE (my practice tests have been.. not good); So finding a school that will accept the LSAT in lieu of the GRE would be incredible. I know of ONE school that allows this, but this particular university doesn't fit my interests in the least.

Thanks in advance! I apologize if any of this is convoluted or redundant.

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Hey there!

As a central/eastern European history lover who just got accepted into an MA program, I have some tips for you. Firstly, Family tragedy is something that should never be exploited, however, I think if you explain in your statement of purpose within a sentence or two why your grades were so bad that semester(s), it might go a long way to helping you.

Also, I would try to stop thinking along the lines of "who will accept me?" and more along the lines of "where do I want to be?" Specifically, look at programs in Russian history that have professors that you KNOW you'd like to work with. You like their area of interest, maybe you've even read one of their books, etc. What particular part of Russian history interests you? I know it may seem a little early to get too narrow, but ideally you're going to want to shape your MA courses and your MA thesis around what could possibly be what you're focusing on for Ph.d. It's at least something to think about and should help you narrow your focus.

There's nothing wrong to apply to some easy schools too. But try to aim high also! You never know! As for "easy" schools to get into, talk to your former advisor. Indeed, you might even want to schedule a meeting with him. You're going to need a letter of recommendation from him and probably 2 or 3 other faculty members at your school.

Also, unfortunately, MA financial aid, to my knowledge, is severely limited. I was very fortunate to be accepted into a program that offers me an MA in History, an MA in international Relations, a year spent between living in Poland and Estonia, and getting a full tuition waiver plus $12,000 to live in Europe! So these things ARE out there, but my impression is that institutions that offer them are rare (not necessarilly "better", I'll be attending an at best middle-tier school) and they're very competitive. So if your GPA is iffy, make sure your statement of purpose and your writing sample are beautiful.

Another thing is language preparation. What languages do you have under your belt? You don't need to be fluent, but, personally, I think having 2 years of German and 2 years of French (even though I don't remember a lick of it) and the fact that I was informally teaching myself some Russian, made me more competitive as a prospective. If you've got some Russian, preferably a lot, I have a feeling that will look really good and it's definitely something you want to mention in your Statement of purpose.

I hope some of this helped!!

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I'm a SUNY Plattsburgh grad who also had a low Comm College GPA. I did a lot better at Plattsburgh. I'm told ad-comms would rather see improvement in your upper years. Going from a lower CC to higher 4Y GPA actually looks good.

there are a few snobs out there who do look down on CCs, but they aren't the majority, it seems to me. And if you did better at Oswego than CC, all the better for you! The reverse looks bad; improving does not. I agree with Derfasciti on a short explanation for the family situation, but the CC needs no explanation at all.

plenty of ad-comms in History (unless you're going Ivy League, U of M or other top-tier schools) will not worry too much about GREs or fluke semesters if your writing samples/proposals are excellent.

If you really want to do an MA first,you may want to look North. Canadian Unis fund MAs much batter than in the US. Even as a Yank, I got a quite generous offer at Trent, and only had to borrow a little bit (that said, Trent is backing out of the US loan program. Don't apply to Trent if you may need a US govt loan!). U of Toronto has a good Russian prog, I understand. Moreover, Cdn schools do not ask for GREs for History.

I too have gone the MA route 1st. I think it does make a stronger PhD applicant, especially with a good superviso who can open doors, and maybe even a journal publication or two (even a book review) if you can manage. But even doing conferences as an MA student lets you make connections.

I have been told to avoid SUNY for grad History programs (except Binghamton and Stony Brook) - a lot of History grads wind up getting no job placements.

hope that helps. good luck!

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I am in a relatively similar situation, and I have asked literally dozens of ppl (including ppl on this board) for advice. I'll pass on to you what I have learned:

1) how much Russian language do you have? if you have none (or less than 2yrs) then you either need to have a 4.0, 1600 GRE, 3 of the greatest letters in the history of the Earth, a published article, and so forth to get into a straight to PhD program. (This is what I have learned from emailing department directors over the last year or so.) On the other hand, if you have several years of language (4+) then you could have a 3.3 and a 550/500 GRE, good letters, a good sample, etc. and you've got a real shot. (I know someone whose application is not even close to what mine will be, but he has 4yrs Russian, I have 1. He got into a PhD program. I very likely will not.)

2) This board and everyone I have talked to says the same thing about the GRE "if you don't bomb it, don't worry" or "it's the least important part of the app, but it's still part of the app so do well enough and move on."

3) There are ppl on this board who went to Community Colleges and then got into Ivy League schools. If you have a mediocre cumulative but your last 60hours were 4.0 or something then you should be OK.

4) The statement of purpose cannot say something like "I love Russia" or "I could study Russia...or American...or European" history. If you are that open to different possibilities, then consider looking at different programs for different strengths. You'll have to write a lot more statements, but it sounds like you may not have a choice.

5) If you are set on Russia, but don't have a language background then you need to find Russian History MA programs or Russian Studies programs (yes, they include literature classes, but they also allow for language development). You should start at Indiana and do a lot of googling the letters "REEI."

6) If you are going to delay for another year, all is not lost. Take Russian language classes, do research and improve your writing sample then try to get it published. You're a PAT member, so enroll in post-bac classes at your old U, then present your paper at a conference.

Good luck to you.

I am not an expert by any means. I am applying for fall 2012 myself. If someone wants to correct me about something I said, please do so. I am still learning myself.

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I am going to encourage you to take a year or two off. You'll need this time to brush up your Russian and a secondary language (French or German). To have this time to be able to focus on sharpening your languages will make a difference and adcoms will commend you for your efforts and see that you're serious about your studies. Do Peace Corps or some other overseas program that can get you in Russian-speaking areas for a bit. Russian is mad hard and the archives are, from what I've heard from my Russian history professor and Slavic Lit friend, rather complex to deal with if you're not fluent in Russian.

I don't know if you realize this but I'm not positive how well the study of post-Soviet Union will fly with historians. There is, at least from my professors at a top-tier school, an unwritten rule that there needs to be at least some space of time between the event and now, about a generation, before historians can examine the period objectively. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the 1980s. To discuss 1990s is still too contemporary and if you are really that interested, then I would change your discipline to something else like Sociology or Political Science. My Russian history professor literally wrapped up the post-Soviet years in one lecture because there are still so many issues that cannot be discussed with objectivity. BUT! You can argue that you would like to look at the roots of certain behavior or activity that occurred after the collapse. You could go ahead and e-mail modern Russianists in non-top 10 in the fall and see if your proposal is viable. If someone doesn't agree to work with you, most likely the person isn't ready to examine post-Soviet Union objectively and isn't able to advise you the best s/he can.

I also want you to think more about, if not Russia, what geographical area you would like to be considered for. many PhD history programs are still rigid in their admissions process of categorizing people by their geographical focus. Both 20th century America and Europe are extremely competitive and you will need to be above and beyond to be competitive. For European history, you'll need at least 3-4 years of language and/or demonstration of your proficiency by utilizing primary sources in the original language into your writing sample. For American history, it's purely luck.

A lot of it, once you pass the bar, is crapshoot.

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Please excuse my ignorance of the admissions process. I only just started reconsidering graduate school and I'm trying to locate a program that will fit me, but I'm rather worried that some particularities of my academic career will work against me.

+ I received a 178 on the LSAT, but this was a major fluke and I can never hope for a decent score on the GRE (my practice tests have been.. not good); So finding a school that will accept the LSAT in lieu of the GRE would be incredible. I know of ONE school that allows this, but this particular university doesn't fit my interests in the least.

Thanks in advance! I apologize if any of this is convoluted or redundant.

Have you looked into joint JD/PhD programs that would allow you to pursue your intellectual interests? You have a shot at stellar law programs with that GPA/LSAT combo, and you would have a variety of options upon graduation.


just a thought.

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ticklemepink: you seem very willing to offer advice. I appreciate it, and I know that everyone else does as well. I wonder if you could answer a question for me that possibly could help OP as well, since it seems like she and I are in similar positions.

Provided I can get into a local school's MA program in US Diplomatic History (I will be applying. I want to cover all bases; while it's not even option B, it's more like Option F, I am determined to be doing something with myself in fall 2012) and receive adequate funding (it is possible. I literally know 5 people who have done so) what do you think of this plan? (OP if my idea sounds good, perhaps you should consider it?)

1) Finish a MA at the local U studying US Diplomacy with a minor in European History

2) Continue to take Russian classes at said U and summer intensives each summer while in the MA program

3) Re-apply with the equivalent of 5 full years of Russian language study and a MA.

My only concern is that earning a MA in US history will make it appear that my passion for Russian History is actually fleeting ambivalence.

Thank you.

OP I wish you luck.

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reallyniceguy seems to have hit all the major points.

i'd recommend NOT applying for a US diplomatic history MA if your goal is to do a russian history PhD. apply to a mix of MA and PhD programs, but keep the MAs in the russian history or russian studies fields. in my own program, a student switched from US history for his MA to atlantic history (new york, paris, and buenos aires) for his PhD and his (and my) advisor made him essentially write a second MA paper to 1) prove that he had enough familiarity with the field to adequately work in it as a PhD student, and 2) get some real exposure to the sources he'd be working with before moving onto his dissertation research. his MA and PhD were done in the same school, in a combined MA/PhD program, and switching subfields added at least two years to his time to completion. if you do a terminal US diplomatic history MA and then apply for russian history PhD programs, you may be asked to complete a de facto second MA anyway. you'll also dig yourself a bit of a hole for comps exams preparation, since your US diplomatic history readings will in all likelihood not be on your russian comps lists, so you'll have 2 years to read 150 books rather than 4. as a practical consideration, it's just not the greatest move.

i'd say the concern is much more than making russian history seem like a fleeting interest. it'll add years to your degree and it'll make comps preparation that much more difficult. it's fine for option F, but as you said, shouldn't be option B. or C. you'd probably be better served working a full-time job and taking russian classes in the evenings. having real life experience almost always helps more applicants than it hurts. you can learn quite a bit of wisdom in the real world, and every PhD program realizes this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I know Berkeley supposedly has a good intensive summer Russian program. Also, you may want to look into going to the Summer Workshop in Southeastern European and Slavic languages at Indiana next summer (Indiana would be a good place to apply; Russian history was my concentration in undergrad and that's where our Russian specialist went). I'm probably going to SWSEEL for Romanian next summer, but the main emphasis of the program is on Russian -- it sounds like Russian language boot camp, which it sounds like you need. Taking a year off probably wouldn't hurt you, especially if you could do one of these things and get some additional Russian training in during the year. It's easier to learn than Arabic or an East Asian language, but it's one of the hardest Indo-European languages to master because of the difficulty of the grammar compared to most of the others, so it'd be quite an investment on your part to become fluent.

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