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Comparing Programs - Near Eastern & Egyptian Art, Masters


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I have been accepted into a variety of programs, including a PhD program which I have since ruled out.  


I have it narrowed down to what appears to be the best two overall - faculty, research, funding, personal like, etc.  I'm about 80% certain I'll apply again for my PhD at a few more specific programs when I am done. 


My question is, WHAT are your priorities when picking the final program and sending in your acceptance? 


Does it always come down to money? 

How much does program play a part?  

Do you just go with you instinct on it sometimes? 


Everyone has really encouraged me to take the fully funded offer I got, which I probably will do, but I am still feeling a bit torn because the program at another school is also very good.  I wanted to put my two comparisons out there, and see what others have to say.  Either from personal experience, or from the information I'm sharing. 



School #1


- higher ranking in US overall 

- friendly staff who seem to genuinely really want me there

- close to my fav. museum with near eastern focus (very likely i could intern here, this is also my dream PhD school nearby) 

- seem to have slightly more requirements / structure as far as grades and languages go 

- FULL RIDE, no tuition fees, and a job offered with the department 

- still waiting to hear on another even larger award they nominated me for 



- not as much specialization in coursework 

- broader course requirements (though, this could also be seen as a pro) 

- no Egyptian focus courses 


School #2


- very nice staff and has produced many famous faculty/researchers in my field (near eastern) 

- very specialized course work in topics (Egypt/near east) i have more background in (and what i want to do for my PhD) 



- specializing too soon could potentially be a drawback for jobs, ? 

- offered stipend, which is very small and only covers tuition (barely) 

- would need a lot of loans to live off of 

- i already have undergraduate loans 

- strong art department, but school is Tier 2 



Honestly, there is nothing "negative" about either the staff or even the program itself at all at either school. Both are fantastic and I have felt honored to be admitted and would probably do very well at either one.  BOTH of these programs were in my Top 3 when I applied.  (I was rejected from my very top choice, which is where I could still intern at school #1).  

Has anyone been in a similar situation?  

How much do you recommend or foresee specializing as a Masters student? 

Would doing a more broad MA program be a drawback in applying to PhD programs? 


THANK YOU everyone!  Good luck to all of those still deciding!  



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Hi arthistorian90,


Looking over your pros and cons lists, it really seems like School #1 is your best choice. But I do understand your hesitation -- being able to take classes and work with professors in your area of interest would be great. However, that seems like the only pro to School #2, and like you said yourself, specializing too early in your Masters may not actually be a good thing.


Before you commit to School #1 these are a couple things I would look into if I were you:


-Since you want to do your PhD in near Eastern/Egyptian art you probably need to write your Master's thesis on that topic. Have you asked to make sure there is someone at School #1 who will be okay advising you in that subject? I would think it would be totally fine, but you should make sure.


-Is it possible for you to do an independent study at School #1 in near Eastern/Egyptian art with a professor who has a tangentially related specialty? That way you could still get some coursework in your area.


-Have you talked to professors on how they feel about you tailoring your research papers in their classes towards your area of interest? I've found you can get pretty creative with doing this, and then you still are able to do research in the area you are interested.


-I also think the possibility of the museum internship in your area could be a great opportunity and could end up just as valuable (if not more so) for PhD applications than coursework in your area. Have you asked if School #1 supports internships - either for credit or even with grants? (My Master's program had competitive grants that would support summer unpaid internships.)


Overall, it seems like you are leaning towards School #1 and you know why most people are suggesting it to you as well. I went into my Master's program thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to specialize in, but after only half a year I was drawn into another (although somewhat related) area, which I'm now I'm going to study in my PhD. Not saying that will happen to you, but I think a Master's program is a great place to explore a wide range of interests -- not so much because you might change directions completely, but because being exposed to other areas of art can really inform and expand your own interests.


Good luck! 

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I would personally go with school #1. I never took a single "class" or seminar in my field during my MA. Instead, I took 4 independent studies with my advisor. As long as you have an accessible advisor who is in your field you will be fine. I got way more out of my independent studies than I would have out of seminars. I was able to choose exactly what I wanted the course to be on, and I got to work one-on-one with my rockstar advisor. I really think that the MA should be about writing an amazing thesis and working on languages (If you're doing Near East, languages are obviously going to be a *major* undertaking..). Maybe I am just biased by my own experience, but I don't think you should be worried about the availability of coursework in your field - it's great if you can get it, but you can still produce great (and even better!) work on your own. If you don't have someone you would want to work closely with, or if you prefer a more structured program (as opposed to self-directed indep. study) you should go with #2. 

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Dear Joan and PoetNobleLandMermaid, 


Thank you both so much for your feedback!  I feel I have a bit more solid ground to go from now.  I think it really makes a difference to know that others feel the same way and can also contribute new ideas based off of experience.  So much better to know that others have been there, done that.  


My advisor is fantastic, though focuses on Greek and Roman (but has worked in Egypt and is generally interested in Near Eastern topics).  He is aware of and seems supportive of my focus for thesis work.  


I'm not sure how much flexibility there is in scheduling here, but I suspect I'd be able to build at least a couple of independent studies in topics I'm passionate about.  Thanks for this tip!  I will inquire about this during my next phone conversation with my advisor and the department head.  This school also has a strong religion department (with some related researchers and topics) who perhaps I could also do an independent study with?  I know that I can tailor some of my papers into areas I'm interested in, another very good point.  


As for internships, although nothing was said on paper, the program said I could do what I wanted and they'd find a way to fund it.  There was already talk of abroad work in Egypt and Jerusalem.  


Thank you both! It was very reassuring to read your responses.  Thank you! 

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School 1 sounds like a no-brainer to me. I'd go where the money is - and in this case, that's also a school with a stronger reputation, more rigorous coursework, and proximity to a museum where you could gain experience in your field. As others have said, I don't think coursework in your subject will be the biggest factor in your PhD applications. Coming from a strong program, showing ability in art history coursework in a range of fields, building language skills, and having museum experience in your field, on the other hand, would all be big advantages.  I don't know your field, though, so if you feel like School 2 has a significantly stronger reputation in Near Eastern/Egyptian and/or a stronger PhD placement record, that would be something to consider. 

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Thank you everyone for your input!  


I ended up getting a third offer at the last minute, from a good school and a larger stipend.  I considered all three schools very carefully and I am so glad that I did due diligence on this. It was a difficult decision! 


But I am glad that I went with the original program I was leaning towards!  Thank you!  

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