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The Great Dilemma


lelick1234

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Hello Folks!!

 

I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in history in 2011.  My GPA was 3.89 and I scored within the 90 percentile in the verbal section and 4.5 on the essay section of the GRE.  Don't ask about the quantitative section.  I think I scored within the the 20 percentile because I rushed through it, all the time telling myself that it was not a big deal if I didn't go to graduate school because I could always join the Coast Guard.  

Anyways it turned out to be a moot issue because I married the Arabic Fulbright TA at my university and moved to Alexandria, Egypt.  I have been teaching high school social studies at an American school for the past three years.  As I am sure you all know, Egypt is not exactly the most stable country to live in.  And as I am sure you would expect, my wife got pregnant, making living in Egypt a seemingly a selfish decision.  

Suffice it is to say, I will be returning to California sometime during the fall, and I have no idea what I am going to do. 
The following are my general concerns about graduate school:

*My Prospective Programs (UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSB, University of Michigan--Ann Arbor, and Columbia.)   

1) Are my quantitative statistics from my undergraduate years  (GPA, GRE scores) a liability when applying to Phd programs?
2) I need to improve my Arabic skills before applying to these schools.  Where does one take advanced Arabic courses if one is not currently attending a graduate program? Remember:  I am moving back to California with my family.  It would be a hard sell to them to say that I am going to spend thousand of dollars at a summer session thousands of miles away from California to the East Coast. 
3) If I do get accepted into a PhD program, how should I explain to my wife why it is necessary for me to not have a steady job and to continue my studies even if the opportunities to find academic jobs are very weak after 6 years of work?  How should I explain that it is possible to raise children while attending PhD programs? 
4) What if I applied to a Master's program in history at San Fransisco State, which has a decent Arabic program?  How would I survive earning my Master's degree while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world with a family?  Would I need to secure a job before I apply?  Or should I just take out student loans and just hope after I complete my degree that I score a jack-pot with full-funding from a top-10 graduate school?  
5)  Would it just be more responsible to earn my teaching credential and attempt to find a job a job at local high school, maybe earning my Master's degree at the nearest state school at some undetermined future date, and cast the PhD dream to the waste-basket? 

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Quick note: check out Middlebury's summer intensive Arabic program. While the cost is seemingly substantial most students get 50%+ off tuition (I got 50% my first year and 100% off my second, though not studying Arabic). Middlebury also just got a 4.5 mil donation specifically for the language schools. So I suspect this money will begin to be used next summer (I assume this means more free funds for students). 

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You met your wife in college which suggests to me that she knows an awful lot about what being a student means. I'm sure you've talked to her about all this but maybe you should begin discussing these financial questions with her more seriously. I would recommend taking out as few loans as possible. I have a few out and it's like having a second car payment every month.

Several things I think you should consider

1: expand your list of schools. It looks like you have chosen only the top schools. You might find a smaller, but just as good, program elsewhere. Take a look at the directory in the AHA website. They list every program in the country and what those places offer.

2: don't be TOO concerned about your language skills. Places that offer grad programs in Arabic studies probably have language training over the summer. Or you could take undergrad courses during the year. A professor from my MA program told me he knew very little Arabic when he entered his PhD program but through summer courses he learned it and an African language that I forget which one it is.

3: consider living outside one of these big expensive cities and commute in. That should save money.

4: your credentials, gpa gre, in my opinion will make you competitive at one of these top schools you have listed but also make you look like a potential top choice at a smaller program. I wouldn't worry about the quantitative sections. . Did any of us in the humanities really do well with that section?

Good luck friend

Edited by DCguy
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Hello Folks!!

 

I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in history in 2011.  My GPA was 3.89 and I scored within the 90 percentile in the verbal section and 4.5 on the essay section of the GRE.  Don't ask about the quantitative section.  I think I scored within the the 20 percentile because I rushed through it, all the time telling myself that it was not a big deal if I didn't go to graduate school because I could always join the Coast Guard.  

Anyways it turned out to be a moot issue because I married the Arabic Fulbright TA at my university and moved to Alexandria, Egypt.  I have been teaching high school social studies at an American school for the past three years.  As I am sure you all know, Egypt is not exactly the most stable country to live in.  And as I am sure you would expect, my wife got pregnant, making living in Egypt a seemingly a selfish decision.  

Suffice it is to say, I will be returning to California sometime during the fall, and I have no idea what I am going to do. 

The following are my general concerns about graduate school:

*My Prospective Programs (UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSB, University of Michigan--Ann Arbor, and Columbia.)   

1) Are my quantitative statistics from my undergraduate years  (GPA, GRE scores) a liability when applying to Phd programs?

2) I need to improve my Arabic skills before applying to these schools.  Where does one take advanced Arabic courses if one is not currently attending a graduate program? Remember:  I am moving back to California with my family.  It would be a hard sell to them to say that I am going to spend thousand of dollars at a summer session thousands of miles away from California to the East Coast. 

3) If I do get accepted into a PhD program, how should I explain to my wife why it is necessary for me to not have a steady job and to continue my studies even if the opportunities to find academic jobs are very weak after 6 years of work?  How should I explain that it is possible to raise children while attending PhD programs? 

4) What if I applied to a Master's program in history at San Fransisco State, which has a decent Arabic program?  How would I survive earning my Master's degree while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world with a family?  Would I need to secure a job before I apply?  Or should I just take out student loans and just hope after I complete my degree that I score a jack-pot with full-funding from a top-10 graduate school?  

5)  Would it just be more responsible to earn my teaching credential and attempt to find a job a job at local high school, maybe earning my Master's degree at the nearest state school at some undetermined future date, and cast the PhD dream to the waste-basket? 

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1. They can be. Normally, quantitative scores are irrelevant at all but the most neurotically competitive humanities programs, but I suspect 20th percentile is low enough to catch anybody's attention.

2. Do you already know any Arabic? Assuming that you took a few introductory courses in college and continued using Arabic in Egypt, that might be enough to get you into a graduate program. If you find that your Arabic still needs brushing up, you can pursue undergrad courses during the year or summer language study, but after you've been admitted to a program.

3. Not qualified to comment on this.

4. I'd urge you not to take out loans, especially for a graduate degree.

5. While I'm sure that having children alters plans a bit, it IS possible to simultaneously pursue a PhD and raise a child. Alternatively, plenty of PhD students were high school teachers in previous lives; perhaps you could briefly put the PhD dream on back-burner while you figure things out, and pick up a teaching job while figuring things out and/or saving money.

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One thing you should be very, very aware is that many, many fellowship programs do not give additional support for dependents to travel with the grantee.  When you apply for funds to travel/study language/whatever, your wife and child do not factor in.

 

You'll want to reach out to married students in the humanities/social sciences and find out what it's like to be a Ph.D. student with a family (especially young children).  it's not impossible but takes plenty of logistics, understanding, and patience to make it work.  (I'm at a PhD program where a good number of students came to the program married and sometimes with very young children so I hear a lot of those issues).

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I think people gave great advice, but I wanted to comment on #5.

 

A teaching job in California in the social sciences is a bad idea. There is a huge surplus of unemployed, credentialed social science teachers. The tuition/fees for a credential will run you the same as a master's, and there's no funding for it. It takes one year to get coursework done, and one year to student-teach (which carries NO pay and you still have to pay fees for, except you don't have time to work on top of that).

 

One thing you COULD do is substitute teach while pursuing a MA at SF State. Most districts pay $100/day for day-to-day subbing (no benefits though, unless you get a long-term sub position), and your MA classes are likely to be in the evenings. The program there is fantastic and feeds into many great history programs. 

 

Also, to attend SF State you don't need to live IN SF. There are affordable places one you leave The City.

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Also, to attend SF State you don't need to live IN SF. There are affordable places one you leave The City.

 

The commute to/from SF will cost a lot of time and energy. IMO, that "price" should be factored into the calculation of living off campus.

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Hi there! I'm in English, not History, but I can speak a bit to your third question. I just wrapped up my first year as a PhD student (hurray!), and my husband and I are expecting our first child in December. We're thrilled! But honestly, a huge part of our peace of mind is that my partner has a steady job with a good salary, we have savings, and we bought our house last year. So, my question is, would your wife be working full-time while you're in school? 

 

ETA: One more thing about your third question. You ask how to explain to your wife the advantages of attending a PhD program. Now, every relationship is different, so I won't tell you what yours needs. But I will say that me returning to grad school was a partnership decision. We talked about my thoughts and his thoughts every step of the way. He had veto power when I was choosing schools, and he only vetoed one (in his defense, I wanted to apply to U of Hawaii because I was looking at pictures of Hawaii, and he realized I was in a temporary state of fancy). Basically, I had no explaining to do, ever, because we were together every step of the way. It made making decisions about programs, money, and moving much easier because we were doing this together. So I'd humbly suggest a similar strategy to you: include her in the process, hear her worries and face them together from start to finish. 

Edited by proflorax
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The commute to/from SF will cost a lot of time and energy. IMO, that "price" should be factored into the calculation of living off campus.

 

I grew up in the SF area, and can attest that commute via car from the surrounding areas is very plausible, especially in comparison to the commute to/from other major cities.

 

Not to suggest that it won't be an inconvenience at all, but pointing out that commuting around the Bay Area isn't awful.

Edited by thedig13
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I grew up in the SF area, and can attest that commute via car from the surrounding areas is very plausible, especially in comparison to the commute to/from other major cities.

Not to suggest that it won't be an inconvenience at all, but pointing out that commuting around the Bay Area isn't awful.

I am referring to the OP's specific circumstances: married dad with young child and attending graduate school.
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Fellow Grads, 

I greatly appreciate all of your responses.   I think I have made some progress towards developing a more sophisticated plan.  I have definitely decided to put off applying to PhD programs for at least three years.  I will probably substitute teach for a year while I am establishing my Californian residency.  Then I will move somewhere close to Cal State San Bernardino, which seems to have a rather impressive and inexpensive Arabic summer program ($1000-5000$).  I am assuming that if I am already living in the area, my tuition costs will be closer to $1000 than $5000. Moreover, since the Imperial Valley is the arm-pit of California, the cost of living will be cheap.  

 Since my wife is Egyptian and her bachelors degree is from an unaccredited Egyptian university, she will have to get her Master's degree so that she can find work in the future.  She will complete degree at CSSB while I substitute teach for income during the school year. During the summer I will attend my Arabic courses.  I will also take the GRE again.  I am assuming I should probably raise my verbal score from the 89-90 percentile to the 93-96 percentile, and at least attempt to get into the 50 percentile in the math section.  I believe that this is possible because when I first took the test, I just guessed on the math section.  I sure a more concerted effort would yield better results. 

Hopefully, after two summers of studying, which would equate to two years of Arabic study, I will apply to San Francisco State University. Since I would have already completed Arabic, I should be able to start studying Farsi.  Moreover, I will probably try choose Master's thesis topic that would allow me to show off my abilities to read Arabic sources.  If this all goes to plan, I will have written a Master's thesis using Arabic sources, made significant progress on my second Middle Eastern language, and raised my GRE scores to more competitive levels.  I would then only apply to top-20 graduate schools.  If I am rejected by America's academic elite, I will respectfully bow out of the scene and  see if I can afford a teaching certificate to teach high school social studies.  I am sure my credentials and Master degree will make me more than competitive in the secondary teaching field.  
 

Do you guys think that this is realistic? 

 

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I grew up in the SF area, and can attest that commute via car from the surrounding areas is very plausible, especially in comparison to the commute to/from other major cities.

 

Not to suggest that it won't be an inconvenience at all, but pointing out that commuting around the Bay Area isn't awful.

 

Exactly. Plus, many people go to SF State and live in Oakland or Berkeley. You just take BART into SF and then use buses to get around. I wish there had been options like that when I was an undergrad in LA.

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Fellow Grads, 

I greatly appreciate all of your responses.   I think I have made some progress towards developing a more sophisticated plan.  I have definitely decided to put off applying to PhD programs for at least three years.  I will probably substitute teach for a year while I am establishing my Californian residency.  Then I will move somewhere close to Cal State San Bernardino, which seems to have a rather impressive and inexpensive Arabic summer program ($1000-5000$).  I am assuming that if I am already living in the area, my tuition costs will be closer to $1000 than $5000. Moreover, since the Imperial Valley is the arm-pit of California, the cost of living will be cheap.  

 Since my wife is Egyptian and her bachelors degree is from an unaccredited Egyptian university, she will have to get her Master's degree so that she can find work in the future.  She will complete degree at CSSB while I substitute teach for income during the school year. During the summer I will attend my Arabic courses.  I will also take the GRE again.  I am assuming I should probably raise my verbal score from the 89-90 percentile to the 93-96 percentile, and at least attempt to get into the 50 percentile in the math section.  I believe that this is possible because when I first took the test, I just guessed on the math section.  I sure a more concerted effort would yield better results. 

Hopefully, after two summers of studying, which would equate to two years of Arabic study, I will apply to San Francisco State University. Since I would have already completed Arabic, I should be able to start studying Farsi.  Moreover, I will probably try choose Master's thesis topic that would allow me to show off my abilities to read Arabic sources.  If this all goes to plan, I will have written a Master's thesis using Arabic sources, made significant progress on my second Middle Eastern language, and raised my GRE scores to more competitive levels.  I would then only apply to top-20 graduate schools.  If I am rejected by America's academic elite, I will respectfully bow out of the scene and  see if I can afford a teaching certificate to teach high school social studies.  I am sure my credentials and Master degree will make me more than competitive in the secondary teaching field.  

 

Do you guys think that this is realistic? 

 

Your wife's degree will be really expensive and she likely won't be eligible for loans. How are you going to finance her education? Subbing won't be enough for that. It's a good way to supplement income but not to support a family on.. even if SB is the "armpit" of SoCal, it's expensive to live, and subbing may not pay as well.

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