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Some questions about PhD program in History.


SK903
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1.Would it be better to raise your GPA to 2.8 from 2.65 by attending school for one more semester? Or would it be better to go to a low Masters program then excel to have a chance at high PhD?

2. If you go to low PhD but then get out with a Masters can you use that to go to a high PhD? (I heard some people don't complete the PhD but get a Masters out of it, so essentially getting the Masters without paying for it like you normally have to)

3. I've seen some people working on their PhD (PhD candidate) but don't live at campus and have a job somewhere else. How can you do this? I guess one disadvantage pointed out at PhD track is that you don't earn much money, but if you can have a job and not live on campus then I guess it's something I would like to do.

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As a caveat, I'm not in your field. However, I think some of these questions are fairly broad.

1. I'd try to raise your GPA above a 3.0. A MA GPA doesn't erase your undergraduate record, and some schools have set-in-stone minimum GPA requirements, usually at a 3.0. And you can definitely find cases here of students who had departments fighting for them but could not get the school to grant an exception, even with a 4.0 from a MA.

2. It's generally considered unethical to enter a PhD program with the intent of leaving with a MA. It happens, but you run the risk of burning bridges you'll need for recommendations. Additionally, it's more common for people to get a consolation MA, and if you started in a PhD program you'll have to explain why you got your MA rather than sticking it out.

3. For humanities, this is likely after they've completed their coursework, and are working on their dissertation. At that point, there is no need to be physically on campus, and no prohibition towards other work.

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I highly doubt a PhD program would take someone with a consolation masters from another PhD program. They are usually granted to people who are considered unsuitable for a PhD. Many underfunded PhD programs only fund students through their course work, so when they have finished comps and are writing their dissertation they have to work as adjuncts. It's a sure way to delay your dissertation because teaching and writing a dissertation is difficult.

ETA: I should add, I know someone with a consolation masters and a PhD. Their consolation masters is in a hard science and their PhD is in a humanities subject. So if you are planning on a radical change of field that is different than what I think you are describing.

I'm also seriously skeptical in this environment that you could get into any serious PhD program with a below 3.0 GPA. Or many of the fine masters programs that are used as a launching pad to a good PhD program. I know of places that take just about anyone who applies who would reject that GPA.

Nothing about your post suggests to me that you would have any chance of getting a PhD in history. Perhaps another life choice is in order.

Edited by New England Nat
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I have to agree with NEN. Graduate Schools make the absolute final decision and they look to make sure that you meet the minimum. A B is considered as a C in a PhD program and a C+/B- would be considered as a D. So if you can't muster a 3.0 in undergraduate work, can you really do it in a graduate program?

If your GPA was primarily based on, say, science courses, and you're making a change, there might be a small chance providing that you take some graduate work in history as a non-degree student.

This would be a very serious uphill battle.

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I don't agree with people telling you that you need to consider a different life choice, but i do think you can kiss going directly into any PhD program goodbye. You might have to go to a second rate M.A. and then fight to get into a pretty good PhD program, but that is the road that is at least somewhat viable in front of you for history. I think option 2 is probably not possible given your undergrad situation. Getting into any PhD program is competitive, and I don't really think you have a shot going straight from undergrad. If you want to do it you can, but it would require some seriously hard work in the next couple of years.

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Is the GPA you mention overall, or within your major?

I ask because a 3.0 overall is a base requirement for every decent Ph.D. program, and a 3.0 within your major would keep you out of any decent Ph.D. program.

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After looking through this thread, I would start by asking how far-removed you are from your undergrad studies (from the way your post is worded, it seems like you're set to graduate soon), why you're interested in pursuing a PhD, and if there's any sort of reason for your lower GPA (i.e.: death in the family, medical illness).

As some have already pointed out, graduate study is dramatically more intensive than undergraduate work, and a student who can't scrape together a 3.0 GPA in History seems unlikely to survive at the graduate level. Most students who have the sort of academic interest, focus, and experience to do well in a graduate program could probably earn a 3.0+ in an undergraduate program with relatively minimal effort. Thus, unless there were some major extraneous circumstances which affected your performance, I'd agree with the other posters here who say that your chances of admission are slim-at-best.

I haven't even been through my first application cycle yet, so take this advice with a massive block of salt: I would start by taking a few years off from my education in general. Some people start thinking about graduate school for the wrong reasons, and need a few years to themselves to evaluate whether or not they're genuinely interested-enough to commit themselves to the field. Given your low GPA, I'm tempted to conclude that, at this moment, your interest/focus in History may not be where it needs to be. If nothing else, having some time to yourself might be what you need to really re-evaluate your goals and decide if this path (some would call it a "lifestyle") is the right one for you. If so, perhaps you'll be instilled with the vigor and focus necessary to overcome your shaky academic background and succeed at a high level. If not, at least you won't be wasting valuable time and money trying to get an education that wasn't right for you anyways.

If, indeed, you do decide that graduate school is right for you, I'd agree with RiotBeard -- a less-prestigious MA program might be a good gateway to a decent PhD program. Alternatively, some schools accept students for a Second Bachelor's degree, and this might be a good chance to demonstrate that you've pulled yourself together and are ready to take on graduate school.

Also, I'm going to agree with Eigen and discourage you from entering a PhD program with the intention of dropping out. A PhD program that admits you is placing a great deal of faith in your abilities -- as evidenced by the time, money, and effort that the program is committing to you. It would be unfair to the department, your professors within it, to yourself, and to all of the other students who could've been admitted in your stead if you simply half-assed your way through the first few years of the program with the intention of jumping ship as soon as you got an MA.

Edited by thedig13
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The thing about going into a PhD program and then dropping out with an MA is that you will frequently lose your funding.

For example - I know someone who went into a PhD poli sci program with every intention in her heart and her SOP to teach at the collegiate level. She wanted that PhD. After a year and a half with lots of students who were apathetic and didn't care about her passion, she dropped down to just a Masters. In essence the university said "You aren't worth the investment anymore. Find funding for your last year on your own."

I think if you go into a PhD program with your heart set on teaching and then it changes, then that's one thing. But to go into a PhD program only to get a Master's because you want to switch programs? That sounds really iffy to me.

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We've all been dancing around it. It's not iffy. It's fraud. One should not commit fraud and expect another institution to want anything to do with you. If you have a consoluation masters you can guarrentee people will contact that old department. Unless you had outside reasons for leaving the program they will be suspicious.

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You might have to go to a second rate M.A. and then fight to get into a pretty good PhD program, but that is the road that is at least somewhat viable in front of you for history.

Would it be better to raise the GPA above 3.0 in two semesters and then apply for PhD program? (And in the process getting independent studies to show my interest) That way I might save a year and also not pay for the massive MA tuition for 2 years...

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Getting into a Ph.D. program is very difficult, even with a 3.0. A 3.0 is a bare minimum requirement... how are your grades in History? Do you have a thesis planned? Will you have strong letters from faculty?

it's very tough to gauge some of these things from reading a message board but I don't get a sense that you appreciate how hard people have to work to make it into A program, let alone a top program. It's not about a minimum GPA. A 3.0 by itself is not going to cut it, even for a middle-of-the-road Master's. Your grades in HISTORY need to be stellar (think 3.5 and up), and you have to be able to show that you have drive and a strong passion for whatever field of knowledge you plan to pursue. That comes from doing a research project, such as a thesis. Once you've got the basics covered, You need to find faculty who are passionate about the same questions you are asking, and who are willing to mentor you. You need to write your tail off. And on TOP of all of that, you need a lot of luck. LOTS of luck...

This is not to discourage you, but to get you to think about all of these different factors, rather than fixating so much on your GPA. Sure, you could take a bunch of BS classes and raise your GPA above a 3.0 but that's not going to count for much. You have to show you are an outstanding HISTORY student before any program (including a MA, and even without funding) will want to consider you.

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If you create a blog or website with contents about the topics of your interest that catches the eyes of certain professor could that trump bad GPA and make possible getting into a good PhD program with low GPA? Even if you do have a bad GPA could they might see passion and ingenuity on your blog?

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If you create a blog or website with contents about the topics of your interest that catches the eyes of certain professor could that trump bad GPA and make possible getting into a good PhD program with low GPA? Even if you do have a bad GPA could they might see passion and ingenuity on your blog?

Professors generally don't have lots of free time to surf the web reading blogs, on the prowl for potential grad students. And while it depends on the department and perhaps the subfield, some professors still consider blogs para-academic and not an appropriate training ground for academic work. There are some good academic blogs, but by and large they're run by current PhD students or early career scholars, and often anonymously.

You would be better off writing a strong conference paper and presenting it at a conference where you might be able to network. But, with all due respect, your small samples of writing here haven't demonstrated any great aptitude. I don't doubt your passion and love for history, but you might want to start thinking creatively as to how you could utilize that passion in a career that doesn't require a PhD. You might be well suited to a job in museum education at a history museum, for example. I have friends in similar positions who only hold a B.A. That kind of job experience would also be helpful for getting into an MA program further down the line.

Edited by runaway
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If you create a blog or website with contents about the topics of your interest that catches the eyes of certain professor could that trump bad GPA and make possible getting into a good PhD program with low GPA? Even if you do have a bad GPA could they might see passion and ingenuity on your blog?

Are you serious?

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SK903 --

To be frank, given the sorts of questions and responses you've posted on this thread so far, it seems as though you're not especially familiar with what graduate school is all about and what people do at the graduate level.

Outside of your GPA and your academic year, you've given us very little information about your strengths and weaknesses as an academic prospect. We can only give you good advice if you give us a good idea of what else you bring to the table, but questions intended to give us a better picture of who you are (i.e.: your GPA within History, why you have such a low GPA, whether or not you have a Thesis project lined up) have gone largely unanswered; instead, your responses have been unhelpful inquiries about online blogs and how you can avoid getting the Master's degree that your application seems to desperately need.

As much as I hate to be rude or presumptuous, given how bad your History GPA is and the nature of your responses, I'm going to have to conclude that you just didn't give a lot of serious effort throughout your undergraduate education, but now, as you finish out your last few academic semesters, faced with questions about what your job prospects are post-college, you assume that a fully-funded graduate program is a convenient solution to all of your problems and concerns. If you're serious about graduate school, you should start by reflecting on why your academic career has been so dreadful up to this point, networking with professors and learning more about what they do professionally, and working to make yourself better-informed as to what graduate school is all about.

If you create a blog or website with contents about the topics of your interest that catches the eyes of certain professor could that trump bad GPA and make possible getting into a good PhD program with low GPA? Even if you do have a bad GPA could they might see passion and ingenuity on your blog?

Take this comment, for instance. An overwhelming majority of serious applicants to a History PhD program will have a 20-page primary-source-based research paper ready by application-season, and, among these, many will have even published articles in academic journals. With a 3.0 GPA and an amateur online blog, how do you intend to stack up against a student with a 3.75 GPA and multiple articles in proper academic publications? It's like bringing a thumb-tack to a sword-fight. That's not to mention the importance of foreign-language training, networking with professors at your institution, networking with professors at other schools, and developing refined, in-depth interests focusing on one or two distinct fields of history.

Edited by thedig13
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As much as I hate to be rude or presumptuous, given how bad your History GPA is and the nature of your responses, I'm going to have to conclude that you just didn't give a lot of serious effort throughout your undergraduate education, but now, as you finish out your last few academic semesters, faced with questions about what your job prospects are post-college, you assume that a fully-funded graduate program is a convenient solution to all of your problems and concerns. If you're serious about graduate school, you should start by reflecting on why your academic career has been so dreadful up to this point, networking with professors and learning more about what they do professionally, and working to make yourself better-informed as to what graduate school is all about.

Bingo!

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1. I think I've heard of people get into PhD programs with less than 3.0 GPA like 2.8, is that just really really rare? Would it be worth it to stick out one more semester to see if I can get into any PhD with 2.8 (provided I do some independent studies in the field I want to go into).

2. For humanities fields that are less popular than history (but kind of related), would getting in with 2.8 be more viable?

3. What is the average stipend for history PhDs and other humanities PhDs at top universities? (I think I read it was something like 16k-20k?)

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1. I think I've heard of people get into PhD programs with less than 3.0 GPA like 2.8, is that just really really rare? Would it be worth it to stick out one more semester to see if I can get into any PhD with 2.8 (provided I do some independent studies in the field I want to go into).

2. For humanities fields that are less popular than history (but kind of related), would getting in with 2.8 be more viable?

3. What is the average stipend for history PhDs and other humanities PhDs at top universities? (I think I read it was something like 16k-20k?)

People have tried to explain this to you, but you seem to refuse to get it. I'll give it one more go, but it looks hopeless. Anyway, taking your questions one at a time:

1. NO LEGITIMATE PHD PROGRAM WILL ACCEPT YOU WITH A 2.8 GPA. It does not matter if you "do some independent studies in the field," as people with good GPAs who want to go to PhD programs have also done independent research; it's required, not an extra perk.

2. NO LEGITIMATE PHD PROGRAM IN ANY FIELD WILL ACCEPT YOU WITH A 2.8 GPA. It's possibile that you can find a PhD program in some field that will accept you, but it will probably be unaccredited, an online degree program, or both. And in that case, it's not worth your time.

3. IT DOESN'T MATTER, BECAUSE NO TOP UNIVERSITY WILL EVEN CONSIDER ADMITTING YOU. Why would any university want to spend over $100,000 on stipend money (never mind the free tuition) on someone who couldn't even manage a B average as an undergrad?

Takeaway message: it's vaguely conceivable that if you really want to do a PhD, and are committed to entirely revamping the approach to your studies that you've taken so far, that it could be worthwhile for you to try to get in to a Master's program (to even do that, you'll need to do seriously good work for the rest of this year, and impress your recommenders enough that they will be willing to stand up for you despite your poor academic record). If you do very well there, you could then be admitted to a PhD program. But as everyone has been telling you, at the moment, given your current record, you have absolutely no chance at admission to a legitimate, respectable, PhD program, even a lower-tier one.

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I'm also seriously skeptical in this environment that you could get into any serious PhD program with a below 3.0 GPA. Or many of the fine masters programs that are used as a launching pad to a good PhD program. I know of places that take just about anyone who applies who would reject that GPA.

What are those places that would take just about anyone but who would reject that GPA?

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@pudewen

1. ok. Thanks.

2. Actually I actually heard an actual case where a 2.8 or i'm not sure if it was 2.9 but he got in to some PhD program in some non-humanities field. Forgot what major he was. I thought if you have really good letters of recommendation and your essays are exceptional, it's possible. Also I read about someone getting into grad school with a low GPA (I'm pretty sure it was in the high 2.0s) and his essay was so good that he was on the waiting list or something and he eventually got accepted into another university but then decided it was not worth the time and went to Law School instead with his essay skills.

3. It's still nice to know how much they would pay. For example how much do humanities PhD get paid in somewhere like Berkeley and how much do they get paid in somewhere like OSU or Texas A&M.

4. Could go to the absolute cheapest Master I could find and still somehow make it to a good PhD program if I did a lot of good publishing? Is it possible for ground breaking theories to come out of podunk Masters? Has it happened before?

5. I see you go to Harvard. I read somewhere that since Harvard undergrad history majors can get into Wall Street, it is the same for PhDs as well. Is that true?

6. Somebody mentioned that many competitive undergrad applicants would already have articles published in journals when applying for PhD. Could you somehow publish articles in journals after graduation without attending a Masters and then with that experience somehow get accepted to a PhD program?

7. I heard that if you do something very exceptional like publishing a book related to your field, that can override your GPA?

Edited by SK904
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Many unfunded masters programs at second or third tier universities take most of the people who apply, but they reject some people out of the self worth of the people teaching in those programs.

What if you come from a first tier university but have low GPA?

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