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Parnassus

How did you find your advisor and department?

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First some history: I took the GRE in October 2013.  I've been out of undergrad for about a year or so. (dec '13) I'm interested in an MA in the  ancient world (at this very moment Racism and Slavery) AND I worry about getting to grad school and changing my topic.

 

My  question is: how did you come to the conclusion to study with who and at which department? Was it which school offered the best aid, the location, or just luck of the draw or a combination of those factors? Because I think that's what I'm struggling with the most: trying to find a advisor who matches my own interests. I worry about getting in and then having a "bad" advisor (this is counter productive, of course.) So I think I'm just looking for a way to competently (re)start my search. Any suggestions?

Edited by Parnassus

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I pored over faculty lists and picked out names, looked at journals in my field and checked on who was publishing in them, tried to get hold of articles or books faculty had written, to get a feel for their work, contacted them to see if they thought there was a match between their research interests and mine, and asked the only graduate student I know who is in a program I am interested in and works in the area I am interested in (I had already shortlisted departments to apply to and it turned out he'd applied to the same places, more or less). Contact with PoIs was revelatory -- I realized all that work I'd put into the process of figuring out who I was interested in working in had been smart, because with the exception of one person, they were all very enthusiastic as they could see a match. 

 

Now, after having sent out all my apps, I do feel there were a couple of people I entirely missed who might have been good fits. But not worrying about that too much now. 

 

Disclaimer: I have no formal training in history and no network of seniors to consult, so apart from a couple of the big names, I didn't actually know who was active in my field until I did all of this research. I hadn't read their work as a student or anything. I had to work from the ground up. It took several months but I think it was worth it. 

 

One PoI kindly put me in touch with two graduate students in his department, so I asked them a few questions about the PoI and the department culture. I am hoping to do this for any program that makes an offer. They were able to tell me how he relates to his students. beyond this, I don't know what else I could do to find out whether we'd be a good "match." There are lots of intangibles involved. Stuff nobody will put on their website! 

 

Hope this helps! It's very daunting when you first get started researching programs, but you'll be fine once you get into the swing of it. 

Edited by bombilfry

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I'm trying to separate the Phd and MA advice right now. (There would of course, be overlap) I'm looking for a program that would help with language accusation. Right now I'm independently studying German (using Wilson's "German Quickly") I thought about CLEP-ing, but maybe that's not the wisest choice?

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I wanted to work with a professor whose work had greatly influenced my own research as well as my perspective on history and who was an Americanist with a focus in the 1870-1930 period. Using that criteria, it came down to four professors: Eric Rauchway at UC Davis (blessed among nations: how the world made America), James Livingston at Rutgers (Origins of the Federal Reserve System: Money, Class, and Corporate Capitalism, 1890-1913), David Wrobel at the University of Oklahoma (The End of American Exceptionalism: Frontier Anxiety from the Old West to the New Deal), and Michael O'Malley at George Mason (Face Value: The Entwined Histories of Money and Race in America).

Edited by spellbanisher

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I'm trying to separate the Phd and MA advice right now. (There would of course, be overlap) I'm looking for a program that would help with language accusation. Right now I'm independently studying German (using Wilson's "German Quickly") I thought about CLEP-ing, but maybe that's not the wisest choice?

Looking back, if I were to to apply for MAs again for ancient history, I would look at schools where the History, Near Eastern Studies, and Classics departments have a good degree of interdepartmental communication.  Ancient history is tricky, since the best language acquisition is often gained from the classics and Near Eastern/Religious studies depts., while historical research methods are often best learned in History departments.  For MA work, I would not only look to one core faculty advisor but also that the school will have two other professors of note from whom I can take classes and receive LORs.  Schools like Michigan, Univ. of Chicago, and UCLA fit this profile.    

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Honestly? I asked my undergraduate advisor. Prior to meeting with him to discuss programs, I did some research myself- I looked at who was writing the work I was most interested in, where they were teaching, etc. My advisor helped me narrow down my list, and ultimately offered an alternative suggestion which ended up being my MA institution. By the time I applied for PhDs, I had a fairly good idea of which programs would be good before even sitting down with my MA advisor to hash out details, but this came from working for another year or so in my field. (I should note- my field is very specialized, so I really did have a smaller number of places to look at anyway.)

 

The real challenge comes once you've been accepted and need to figure out which is really the best program for you. In my case, for MA it was easy- I was accepted to two institutions, one which was fully funded with my dream advisor, the other no-funding but at a bigger named institution. I went to the first, even though location was not ideal. For PhD, both programs I was accepted to had great advisors and programs. In the end it came down to funding, resources, and location. Good luck!

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