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PhD Musicology (Fall 2013 applicants)


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Hey there everyone. First time posting after lurking this forum for almost two years:

A part of my independent study this summer is researching PhD musicology programs. I plan on applying this fall semester so I am receiving graduate credit to do what I should be doing this summer in the first place. Sounds like a great deal, right?

A little background information on myself -- I will be a second year MM Musicology student at the University of Akron. I hold an assistantship through the department, but maintain my musical chops through school ensembles and teach a studio in the Cleveland area, but I do not take lessons (I don't have the time).

My research interests include 19th- and 20th-century German and Russian music (Wagner, Mahler; Shostakovich, Musorgsky); film music, and opera.


Anyway, on to the questioning: I have researched every program listed on the AMS website and I am down to fifteen (CWRU, CUNY Graduate Center, Columbia, Harvard, Indiana, McGill, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cambridge, Hawaii, Illinois, Oxford, Washington U in St. Louis). However, I feel that fifteen is an absurd number. The number would be higher, but I am aiming for schools that have faculty members who specialize in two or more of the areas I wish to specialize in. I could narrow the list down to schools that guarantee financial assistance/assistantship/fellowship/etc. to all admitted students, but I would rather go to a school that does not offer within the first year (wild scenario) than not enroll in a PhD program because I applied only to schools that guarantee tuition waivers.

Doctoral students, when you were applying for your terminal degree, did you pull out all the stops and applied to as many as you can? I know applying takes a boatload of money, time from your own schedule and from your recommenders' schedules, but did you feel like it was worth it?

Regarding the GRE, do spectacular scores really matter? I took the GRE a couple months ago and scored averagely. I didn't need to take the GRE for my MM application to UA, but isn't the purpose of the GRE to prove that the student can handle graduate level work?

Any advise is welcomed! If you want to know more about me to help answer questions you may have, please send me a PM. I am not the kind of person who comes on here to strut my credentials so that's why I have minimal information about myself in this thread.

Much obliged,

Mocha bear

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nice snark. Perhaps the people who viewed didn't have the answers you were looking for?

Anyway, running through your questions:

1. Knock 5 off the list and apply to those. The important things to look at are research strengths in your chosen specialization, job placement rates, financial assistance, and if you're willing to live where the school's located. I can see 5 on your list that would quickly be removed from my own, but it's important to find the program that's right for you, which may be different from me.

2. The GRE seems to not matter too much unless you have a poor score. If it's decent, then you should be fine. However, given how competitve some of the programs you mentioned are, there's a chance your GRE score COULD be the deciding factor. However, I've spoken to plenty of PhD students who had unremarkable scores.

3. Know what you're interested in, and be specific. I'm sure you have well developed research goals, but a huge number of applicants mention an interest in film music. You should indicate in your personal statements/applications that you have ideas that extend beyond a bullet point list of generic "interests".

4. You will get rejected from some schools, probably some schools that you thought you were a perfect fit for, and it feels awful. This is a terrible, stressful time, and I wish you the best of luck.

5. Don't make a decision too early! You never know what will happen.

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It is still rather early in the new admissions season for applicants to find their way here and to start contributing. Eventually, the thread will get going, promise. Last year saw the music forum's most active community yet, but even that didn't take off until well into the fall. I would be cautious of discouraging potential contributors with comments like those so early in the timeframe. Also, Just about all of the items you ask about were stuff that ample discussion has been focused on in past threads. A quick glance at some of them will illuminate what others have already posted re: the same issues you bring up, such as number of schools to apply to and opinions on the weight of GRe scores. Most of the 102 hits were probably not even from 2012/13 music applicants anyway, but from random GradCafe viewers. This part of the year is typically a relative dead time in the academic community.

As for the actual topic at hand, I'd definitely apply to as much as I sanely can, and afford. PhD apps are getting more and more competitive each year; most schools offer no more than 2-3 spots in each field, and the top programs typically receive applications in thr hundreds. I applied to over 10 schools this past year, all to programs that I thought would be a super fit for me. Predictably, I was rejected from most of them, but luckily did receive a few options. Because I had done good research, like you, into the programs beforehand, all of my admits were tempting options, and I had the good problem of having to make a difficult decision.

On funding, most PhD programs generally fully fund their students (most programs can only admit to the capacity that they can fund) but of course, this is changing as departments get strapped and more are not always able to fund each admit. However, I don't want to discourage somebody from not applying to what otherwise would be a perfect program just because they don't officially and explicitly state full funding. You never know what is available andwhere, and only a small portion of schools list a statement of some sort on their website promising guaranteed funding. The reality is, most PhD students are still fully funded today despite thr economy of hugher ed. It is best to give a department a email inquiring about funding prospects for the upcoming year rather than discounting them simply because one doesn't read an official statement of guarantee on their application site.

Good luck. It is a tough and soul searching process that can be pretty fun and rewarding.

Edited by comp12
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