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UNCCH / Duke


bethanygm
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I am just beginning to look into grad school. I want a PhD in History. I will probably be graduating college (from Hawaii Pacific University) with a 3.6-3.7 GPA (due to a bad term when I thought I would major in biochemistry, haha), 4.0 in major classes. I had somewhere between a 3.15-3.5 in community college for my first 30 credits- does this matter? My husband is getting out of the Navy and I will probably want to start Grad School around Fall 2011 (I know.. far away, right?)

I need some guidance on what to do from here.

We would really like to move to North Carolina..My husband is majoring in Computer Science and the Raleigh area is good for what he wants to do, and we both think it is really nice.

I want to apply to Duke and UNCCH, but I know they are highly selective and I don't know how to go about making my application something that stands out. I did really well on the verbal part of my SATs 750 (on old SAT- 2003)... only 500 in Math because I had only taken a little bit of Algebra and basically knew nothing. I have faith in my ability do well on verbal for the GRE.. I will need to really study for the Quantitative part, but I think I can score above a 600.

Do I need to get internship experience? Who usually gets into these schools? I have never done anything very cool.. I haven't traveled outside of the U.S., yet, and I don't have any interesting awards or anything. I feel like I need to join some clubs or something, but I'm not really living the normal college life right now, obviously. I take a lot of my classes online and live on a military base. I also am not attending a prestigious school. I put off college to pursue a singing career and lived in L.A. and everything, singing in a girl group. I really wanted to have a music career and I didn't fall in love with school until I went back to college. (In fact, I really hated school most of my life and felt bored- A really good teacher at my community college made me realize how well it fit with my personality) Then I met my husband, got married, and moved to Hawaii.

For my language, I am studying Spanish, and will probably be fairly advanced when it comes time to apply for grad school.

I don't know if I even stand a chance. :(

If I can't get into those two top schools, would it be bad if I tried to get into the Master's Program in History at North Carolina State University? Then I could get more experience, do well, write more papers, and keep trying to get into the PhD programs at the other two schools. I could also try for Greensboro, I guess...

Am I hoping for too much, here?

Thanks for the advice. ;)

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I guess the first and most important question is -- what kind of history do you want to do? Any particular area/time period you have in mind?

Also, especially in your case, it might make sense to work really hard to get solid recommendations. I don't know how that would work if you're doing distance classes - but I think that will be pretty key. Talk to profs - impress them - convince them that you're a good bet for grad school. Have them ready to rave about you in your recs -- I mean, they need to say something like "she's the best I've seen in years"

I was talking to a bunch of history profs this last year and they all seemed to think that non-traditional candidates add a lot to their applicant pool. And who says you haven't done cool stuff!? Professional musician sounds pretty cool!

I think your biggest challenge will be convincing the committee that you can handle the work and know what you're getting yourself into. You will need a SOLID writing sample. If you can, do a serious research thesis. Lots of primary research, substantive conclusions. You need to show the committee that you're up for the kind of independent work grad school requires -- which is substantively different from taking classes.

And since you're thinking so far ahead -- after you figure out the temporal and spatial elements of your interests, I would suggest dropping an email to a professor doing that kind of work at the universities you're looking at. Get advice. And you will have put your name out there and demonstrated your dedication to it. It might help to read up some of the stuff they've written. You don't want to sound clueless -- I know that sounds obvious, but you need to seem like you've got your eye on the ball and know the lay of the land.

Honestly, I don't know if clubs and stuff will help you. I did a crazy amount of stuff in college and have no idea if that helped. Perhaps I would have done better if I'd just spent that time studying harder. Other people might have better advice on that. What I would do is look at schools that ask for a personal statement ALONG WITH the SOP. That was you can showcase your particular journey to grad school.

In the end, the hardest part for you will probably be getting your foot in the door and getting people to read your application. Once that happens, you've got show them you're serious, academically qualified, and ready for grad school.

best of luck! I know I'm super glad to be done with the application process!

p.s. going for an MA might be an excellent idea. I have a friend who went to a totally no-name college and had DISMAL GRE scores. She just got into Harvard and a couple of other MA programs (not in history, but you get the idea).

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Thanks!

I definitely intend on reading whatever has been published by the faculty members I am thinking of working with. I am probably one of the most forward students my teachers have in their online classes. I had a teacher this term who gave us his phone number, and I made good use of it to throw my ideas around for my final paper and ask his opinion on grad school/careers, etc. He said my research for that paper was more on a graduate level than an undergraduate level. I used Plutarch, Curtius, and Arrian and some other sources to support a thesis that Alexander the Great would likely be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder if he were analyzed today. My teacher thought it was a pretty strong paper. In my other class I wrote my professor often about my thoughts and ideas about the material I was learning, and we recently started e-mailing about Grad School and what my options might be. Most of the professors who teach these online classes are adjuncts, however. I don't know if that matters, but I am not going to get any LORs from any very prestigious published professors, I don't think.

I am going to try to talk with some of the History professors at my college to see if they can guide me in writing a high-quality paper, like you are saying, Graduate level work, so I have something really good to send in with my application package. I will have 2 years to write it, too, haha. Does it matter what I choose?

At the moment, I am interested in the Ancient Mediterranean, Medieval and Early Renaissance Europe, and the Hellenistic Era. I am also somewhat fascinated with the Near East/ Middle East and their relation with the West, because of the myriad conflicts/merging of culture that happened between those two different types of cultures throughout history (Alexander conquering the Persians, The Muslims vs. the Christians - the exchange of ideas between the West and Middle East in terms of ideas- science and other knowledge.)

I haven't narrowed down exactly what I want to concentrate on, but I am sure I will during the rest of the classes I have to take for my major.

Do my interests have any practical application whatsoever - besides becoming a professor of ancient history? I would like to think my PhD can help me get jobs with the government and private sector, but I am not so sure it actually will be able to.

Anyway, that is the short of it.

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You said you know these programs are tough to get into, but be advised that Duke only accepted 8 students out of over 200 applicants this year. You'll really have to make yourself stand out and demonstrate that you fit perfectly with their program.

Chapel Hill has a bigger faculty and more graduate students from what I can tell, but it's still a very competitive program.

One worry I would have about your chances are that you are interested in Ancient Mediterranean/Hellenistic Era, and your foreign language is Spanish. If Duke takes 1, possibly 2, people in your field, why wouldn't they go with an applicant who already knows Greek and Latin? Chapel Hill might take a few more than Duke, so the problem is the same.

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I think the MA is a good way to go, especially for Ancient History. I mean, your husband wants the opportunity to work in NC so let him and you can get your MA at NCSU or UNCCH to polish up your research and language skills. Generally ancient history programs look for at least 3 years of Greek or Latin, along with reading knowledge of French or German. And if you're that interested in Palestine, Biblical Hebrew will be helpful as well.

I know it's not the answer you expect but... that's the reality as I have several friends who are doing Classical period stuff and they're essentially studying the languages over the actual primary sources (they do THAt in their free time).

Also if you're serious about the PhD and your husband is supportive of your dreams, you should look beyond NC.

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I definitely agree with the MA idea. You'll be able to focus your interests a bit more and learn languages while you're at it.

Even if you don't go with the Ancient History option, and instead go the Renaissance Europe route, you're still going to have to know Latin. So that's something you might want to get a start on.

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I know others have mentioned this, but I would examine the requirements for both MA and PhD programs. Take a look at the language requirements in particular. Keep in mind that (for most schools--at least for the ones to which I applied) language exams must be taken by the time you take your comps, so that leaves you about three years into your doc program to take them. I'm not trying to inundate you here with language requirements, but if you have to master Latin, Greek, French or German, and possibly Biblical Hebrew for a program, it will be nearly impossible to do that (if you're starting from scratch for all of them) within three years of starting a PhD program if you are also taking coursework.

I say this because I had a few different areas of history that I wanted to explore/pursue for my PhD following the completion of my MA: Eastern European/Judaic studies, Modern European, and Atlantic World. Once I began looking at the language requirements for EE/J, I realized that it would be pretty impossible for me to develop the reading competancy I would need in Polish, Hebrew, Russian, and German in time for me to take the exams. I nixed that idea pretty quickly and began to focus on my other two since I had pretty much equal desire to explore all three at the time--and my interests meshed well with my language fluency in French and Spanish. I've studied Polish and Russian but it would take quite some time for me to develop the level of reading proficiency I'd need to read archival material, not to mention that I'd have to learn two other new languages as well.

If you begin on an MA, then you could really explore your options and see if Ancient or Renaissance history is the way you want to go. Best of luck to you.

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If you are looking at Chapel Hill, I am relatively certain that they do not admit Terminal MA students.... you must be admitted directly into the PhD program, which as already stated is insanely competitive. I am not sure about Duke, but I believe they may admit a few MA students a year, but most likely unfunded.

If you are spurned by the PhD programs at UNC and Duke, there are several good MA programs in North Carolina that might serve you well. Besides NC State, UNC-Greensboro is no more than 45 min. away from Chapel Hill and they have a MA/PhD program. My only caveat to applying to UNC-G is that although I have heard great things about them, the PhD program is still relatively new, which means its difficult to get a sense for what kind of jobs their PhDs get after graduation.

A little farther away from the Triangle area (roughly 2 hrs.), UNC-Charlotte also has an excellent MA program, and if I'm not mistaken you can pursue your MA part time there. I don't know much about Wake Forest, but I hear their MA program is also very good, and Winston-Salem is only about an hour from the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area.

I wish you the best of luck

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If you are looking at Chapel Hill, I am relatively certain that they do not admit Terminal MA students.... you must be admitted directly into the PhD program, which as already stated is insanely competitive. I am not sure about Duke, but I believe they may admit a few MA students a year, but most likely unfunded.

NC State was the MA program she was talking about, Chapel Hill and Duke the PhDs.

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Thank you for all the awesome replies! After my post in The Lobby, and some more thinking, I might be better served doing something interdisciplinary, or perhaps, anthropology. The discussion about the schools was still helpful, however. I will look into all the schools in the area and get a feel for what is offered. Thanks!! :)

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  • 2 months later...
If you are looking at Chapel Hill, I am relatively certain that they do not admit Terminal MA students.... you must be admitted directly into the PhD program, which as already stated is insanely competitive. I am not sure about Duke, but I believe they may admit a few MA students a year, but most likely unfunded.

If you are spurned by the PhD programs at UNC and Duke, there are several good MA programs in North Carolina that might serve you well. Besides NC State, UNC-Greensboro is no more than 45 min. away from Chapel Hill and they have a MA/PhD program. My only caveat to applying to UNC-G is that although I have heard great things about them, the PhD program is still relatively new, which means its difficult to get a sense for what kind of jobs their PhDs get after graduation.

A little farther away from the Triangle area (roughly 2 hrs.), UNC-Charlotte also has an excellent MA program, and if I'm not mistaken you can pursue your MA part time there. I don't know much about Wake Forest, but I hear their MA program is also very good, and Winston-Salem is only about an hour from the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area.

I wish you the best of luck

Wake Forest doesn't have an MA program anymore.

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  • 2 months later...

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