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Just another "am I competitive?" thread.


AbbeyRoad
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Long time lurker and occasional poster, I have found a ton of wisdom on here so I thought I would try and tap into it.

 

So, I am looking to do a PhD in medieval history. My research has primarily looked at the High Middle Ages, Christian history, gender, monasticism, and Cistercians. I just completed a MTS in church history from a well respected school, GPA 3.75. I did my undergrad at a large state school and majored in history and anthropology with a minor in religious studies. GPA for undergrad was 3.25 overall, 3.4 for my history major, 4.0 for my anthropology major. I have presented 3 papers and published a book review. Also, I serve as the editor-in-chief of our theological journal. GRE scores were 630 V, and a 5 on the writing (I think, I haven't looked at them in a while). As far as languages, I am fairly confident in my Latin (I've had 3 years and I did a directed reading last semester in which I translated the primary source of my thesis.) I also did German as an undergrad, but it is a bit rusty (I'll be doing some refreshing on that starting asap). I want to study at a place that has an interdisciplinary bent. I am looking at Northwestern, UT Austin, Notre Dame, NYU, Ohio State, UC Boulder, BC, Catholic, and SLU. I am wondering if I am competitive enough to get into these. Am I aiming too high or too low? Thoughts? Are there other schools that are strong that I haven't though of? Should I retake the GRE? Thank you all!

 

Cheers!

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Just a few thoughts.

 

Retaking the GRE would not be a bad idea, since 630 is definitely on the low end.

 

You may need to have some French in addition to your German.

 

I think it might be worth looking at specific people you'd want to work with rather than just focusing on the name/reputation of the school.

 

Good luck!

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I would email professors whose work interests you and discuss your goals, interests, and any current endeavors.  Generally speaking, if you're polite, to the point, and specific, most professors will respond with kindness, interest (which may or may not be feigned), and honesty.  Don't ask "Will I be admitted to your program?"  But you could ask if professors think that you would "fit" in their programs, if you are prepared for the program and if you could grow to meet your goals through the program.  This will, of course, not tell you if you're going to get in.  Admissions decisions are based on countless factors, including current funding, current student numbers and interests, the overall quality and number of applicants, the quality of applications throughout an entire graduate school (large state and less wealthy private schools generally divide funding at the graduate school level, so applicants who are competitive within a department may not be competitive enough to gain access to school-wide funding, which will influence admissions decisions), the interests, thoughts, feelings, moods, etc. of the individual members of admissions committees, writing samples, interviews, etc.  Numerical stats are too vague to be of much use in the humanities.  My GRE Verbal was roughly the same as yours and I was admitted to several highly respected schools and rejected by several "safety" schools.  As an applicant, your goal is to convey your interest in and ability to produce thoughtful, original research.  Personality is, actually, becoming ever more important, and many history programs now do interviews and visitations before granting offers of admission.  

I do apologize if I've simply "explained the obvious" to you, but I know that my undergraduate professors (who were not members of graduate school admissions committees) did a terrible job of explaining the intricacies of graduate admissions in the humanities.  So I thought that I would share what I learned the hard way.

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I haven't taken the GRE in over 5 years, but I thought a 630 V on your GRE was a pretty decent score, but I could be wrong.

 

Scores are not valid for more than 5 years, so you would have to retake it anyway.

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CageFree, I'm already in a Ph.D. program, what I was saying thought I thought a 630 on the verbal at least some years back was an above average score, but I could be wrong.  My understanding is that they changed how the GRE is scored now.

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CageFree, I'm already in a Ph.D. program, what I was saying thought I thought a 630 on the verbal at least some years back was an above average score, but I could be wrong.  My understanding is that they changed how the GRE is scored now.

 

Oops, I got you confused with the OP. :) 

 

A 630 would have been around 90th percentile at the time, which is indeed very good. I think Is saw the qualitative scores when I was looking that up (about 53 percentile). My mistake.

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I would suggest looking at Tennessee as well.

 

My undergrad adviser did his degree in Medieval History and he needed to know Latin and German fluently and French pretty well just to get into the program. From there he had to pick up Italian as well. Thankfully, French and Italian have Latin roots so that shouldn't be too, too hard to get down.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would agree with the above comments about fit.  Reach out to the people you are curious about working with, and give them an idea of what you want to do.  I sent a writing sample out with my letters of inquiry.  I got a mixed, but generally honest, batch of replies.  Most of the people you will be writing to are busy folk, and they won't take the time to give you a long, considered response if they aren't serious.  One of the things that i asked in my letter was, if the person was unable or unwilling to work with me, who they could recommend for me to talk to in the field.

 

Your language levels seem about on par with mine -- recent Latin and old, rust German -- and no one I spoke to really had an issue about it.  The people in the medieval studies program at Cornell, where I am starting in the fall, told me that an appropriate way to come at the language question is not to ask, "Where do I want to be with languages in 3 years," but rather, "Where do I want to be with languages in 10 years?  15 years?"  

 

You might also consider looking into medieval studies programs, in addition to straight history programs.  I am a historian by inclination and by training, but my work and my proposed project couldn't find a home in traditional history programs.  I want to look at medieval maps and map usage, using methodologies primarily applied to studies of 19th and 20th century mapmaking.  Most history departments to whom I spoke were unable to bridge those two fixed planes of academic work.  The medieval studies program at Cornell, though, will let me include in my committee both medieval scholars and the fellow in the history department who works with cartographic and spatial history -- and he is a Mexicanist.  I need to make sure that I come out of the other side of the program looking like a historian, rather than a medievalist...thats a real concern in terms of projected hiring.  But the format of the program will -- by its very nature -- allow for a much more flexible approach to study and research.  So its worth considering.

 

Best of luck.

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  • 1 month later...

Thank you all for the responses! It will help tremendously as I sit down to the applications. Also, I just recently got back into the country after a month of travel and I haven't had the opportunity to reach out to POIs. Is it too late to do that now? Thank you all.

 

Cheers!

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