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Applying to PhD during MA


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I am wondering if anyone here applied for PhD programs after only one year in an MA program? Otherwise you have to take a year off in between, which I am not against doing myself, I am just looking for those who did an MA before PhD programs to share their experience.


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I did both ways. :)

it is a bit insane to apply to a PhD program while in the MA. But I would say that this is field dependent. My field is pretty tough- it requires reading knowledge of several languages (one of them isn't easy at all) and a grounded, broad understanding of its history. And there aren't many spots for it. Given the difficulty of PhD admissions, it's worth taking time to truly polish the application while working on languages after the MA. But I assume that you're already fluent in Spanish or Portuguese, so that's nothing to worry about it.

But my thinking is that you're trying to write your thesis, which *should* be your writing sample for PhD programs (as they demonstrate your ability to conduct original research, write well, and analyze). I managed to submit 2 chapters of my thesis (I was very fortunate, being a big planner and having done so much of my research over the summer that all I had to do was to write). They were fine but not the best pieces of my writing. PhD programs do look very carefully at your writing and how you use sources in your field language(s). I didn't get in anywhere- my application just wasn't as *shiny* as my adviser's (already graduated) MA student.

I tried again the following year with fairly similar application, just more polished but it was simply a bad year for my field. This year, with one of these chapters converted to an article for peer-reviewed journal (with some foreign language primary materials), another language, etc, and a bit of luck, I was accepted with 2 amazing offers.

I have to say that one of the offers was from a school I hadn't applied to before and it would seem like no-brainer for me to apply there, but I didn't for funding reasons. One of my professors and I were just saying that though I'm sure this POI probably knew I had applied before and wondered why I didn't apply to him but she thinks that he's quite glad that I waited because I've matured over time as a scholar and he appreciated my experiences in my "gap" years. The other POI, whom I've applied before, acknowledged how much she appreciated the transformation in my application and intellectual thinking over the past year. That was just really heartening to hear given how miserable the last 2 years were in terms of trying to get into PhD programs and figure out how to stay productive and connected to my field.

I do think it's really worthwhile taking a year or two off after the MA so as long as you're doing things relating to your field like travel, language study, publishing (if it's good enough!), teaching, etc. You'll be a much better scholar for it.

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I applied to PhD programs after the first year of my graduate studies. There are certain things that need to be remembered when going through the cycle.

First, assume that most apps are due between December and January - will any of your profs get to know you at the graduate level well enough to write you a letter of recommendation, a good one that is, by that point? I was lucky and took courses with my advisor since I started so I could have one letter from a graduate level prof.

Also, with those deadlines, can you juggle writing up all your SOPs and the normal course load for the semester? Same with the writing sample - I made the mistake (or blessing) of using a writing sample from the fall semester - annoyingly editing it severely after the app cycle had finished for the class. I used that one over others because it was stronger overall and showed that I can use not only French but more importantly Arabic sources. If you have a paper from this year (or tidy one up over this summer), that will remove at least one burden from your applications.

Likewise, when the spring semester rolls around and acceptances, rejections, and waitlistings come out, you will have an opportunity to also see the unis in a more serious light. In my case, I had three programs, 2 which I seriously considered and the visits changed my opinions and made me sure I made the right choice. That being said, you will need to miss time at your current school - so if you have classes, this can be problematic.

In my case, I'm happy I applied as I got into some of my top choices but the process was stressful. Very stressful. December/January were trying times and you need to make sure that you are willing and able to go through the process - the combination of normal course loads, apps, and other things took a heavy toll. (In my case, I took some years off between my undergraduate and graduate studies as was in no mood to repeat that again).

Edited by MidEastApp
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The MAPSS program at UChicago requires (spelled: asks) their students to take a year off in between MAPSS and a PhD if the students in question want a letter of recommendation for PhD apps. The reasoning being this requirement/request is that MAPSS is a 9 month to one year program and the program organizers share MidEastApp's concern that they will not know you well enough by December/January to write you a good letter of recommendation for PhD's.

From your statement it seems that your Masters Degree is a two year program. I know a few students that read for two year MPhil's at Oxford (and the Columbia-LSE dual degree in international history) and applied for American PhD's during the fall of their second year. Some were unsuccessful but that probably has more to do with lack of preparation/bad luck than timing. 'Wait untill you feel that your application package is as good as you can make it and keep trying' are the lessons I've taken from Ticklemepink's experiences.

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