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Perspectives on Columbia MA


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Anyone have any thoughts on the MA program at Columbia? Is it considered as big of a cash cow as the program at IFA? It seems like it is a much smaller program compared with NYU(the Graduate Director said 8-12 students enter each year).


Obviously, this is a huge financial investment, so I'm weighing my options carefully.  I'm currently considering MA offers from Columbia, NYU-IFA and UNC-Chapel Hill. Any advice would be appreciated!

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This is probably a really, really unpopular opinion (and you all are welcome to ream me in the replies..) but I think that admission to Columbia/IFA MA should be thought of as a rejection. The programs, while attached to prestigious departments, are not themselves prestigious. I've never personally seen the admissions numbers, but they have to be somewhere around or even above 75%. Correct me if I'm wrong, but has anyone actually even seen or heard of someone getting rejected to IFA or Columbia MA? The reason the program is so small is because no one wants to spend that kind of money on what is essentially an academic door prize. My undergrad advisor got his PhD at Columbia in the early 90s, and he remembers even back then there were two classes of students at the program - the PhD students who were dotted on by faculty and staff, and the underclass of MA students who were put up with for the simple fact that they were basically funding the PhD students' tuition. If you* want to be a 2nd class citizen with six figures of debt, no one is stopping you, but I would hope you would think about the longterm and not let yourself get swept up in the name (*general "you," not OP in particular)


Some schools with underrated, but generously funded MA programs are SMU, UC Riverside and Syracuse. Where you got your MA matters less than the contacts you develop while there and the content of your thesis. If you are constantly stressed about money or working a full time job to pay your bills, you will not have the time or means necessary to make the most out of your experience.


*** Edit to Add: None of this is to say you should not feel proud of your accomplishment of getting accepted to 3 programs with only a BA! PhD admissions are SO SO competitive, and while certain exemplary students are sometimes admitted straight to the PhD, I think undergrads greatly misunderstand the disadvantages they are up against in applying alongside applicants who have one or more MAs. 

Edited by Joan Callamezzo
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For what it's worth, I've met people with MAs from both Columbia and IFA who got into top PhD programs. I've also met people from both MA programs who had difficulty getting into PhD programs. I think you can be successful at either if you put in the work and focus on making connections, but also be aware of the debt to projected income ratio and do your research on loan repayment options and what that will look like for your financial situation. 


@Joan, I got into a top PhD program with only a BA & museum experience behind me. When I went to the open house for my program, about half the admitted students only had BAs. My understanding is that you'll be judged by a different rubric depending on what your highest degree is, but you'll either need to be "exemplary" coming out of undergrad or coming out of your MA. Of course I'm sure the preference varies by school - I've met some professors who prefer (even to the extent of having an unofficial policy) taking students with only BAs, and some with the opposite preference. 

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I have registered just to make sure that prospective MA students won't be misinformed by biased and highly subjective posts.


As of Fall 2013, admission to Columbia MA MODA program was at 27%; 30% for the regular MA program. (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/arthistory/graduate/)


According to CAA guide, 390 students applied to NYU IFA last year (including PhD, MA, and Conservation) and 109 were admitted. Although admission process is different for each of their programs, the overall acceptance rate is, inevitably, at 27%.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm not sure what your sub-field is, but everyone I know in the art world (especially archaeology) knows UNC Chapel Hill.  It didn't quite fit my needs this year so I didn't apply, but I've only ever heard really good things about it.  


I know this isn't a very helpful or specific answer.  Just wanted to throw out there when I read it, I consider it also in tiers just as good as Columbia and probably even NYU.  They produce great work there!!  

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