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MA (modern/contemporary), need advice!!


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Hi everyone,

I am planning to apply for an MA in Art History for next Fall. I am only looking into MA at the moment since I am not ready for PhD, to be honest.

My focus will be modern/contemporary.

So, here is my almost-finalized list of programs I will apply for:

1. Columbia
2. IFA
3. Penn
4. Courtauld in London
5. UMASS Amherst
6. UT Austin
7. Williams (probably)

and still thinking/researching on Maryland College Park, Rutgers and Tufts.

My main question is, I know when you apply for PhD, you are supposed to contact the faculty in your interest in advance. But, is this also the case for MA applicants? or is it not necessary? (I guess it doesn't hurt to contact them, but just want to know if it is really a necessary thing...)

Also, any opinions about Maryland, Rutgers and Tufts programs? (for modern and contemporary, but I eventually want to focus on Asian modern/contemporary)

Does my list look alright..? 

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I would look into funding situations at the institutions.  Some of the MAs being offered nowadays have turned into "cash cows" for universities. In exchange for your money, the institution may give you a lack of support. I can't give specifics as I went directly into a PhD program. Other programs I have heard of include SMU, Tulane, Wisconsin, and Hunter. Also, I would say e-mail the folks if it makes you feel better or you really do have questions. Some places are quite candid in their answers and may offer you some insight into the admissions process. However, other places seal their lips. 

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I went to one of the programs on your list. I contacted  potential advisers and they sent back polite messages that they had more important issues (PhD students) to deal with. So it's absolutely not a requirement... still, I think it cannot hurt, especially when you have a specific professor in mind and can tell them concretely why you'd love to study with them.

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If you're applying as an MA student in large programs that have doctoral programs, there's no need to contact individual professors. You will not get terribly much face-time with them once you're there; the faculty at Columbia, Penn etc. are extremely busy with their own research and long-term students, and they will figure that if you're not invested in being in their program long-term (for the Ph.D.), then they don't need to be all that invested in you. This is all the more the case for people working in modern/contemporary, where the profs are already overrun with undergrads as well who want to write senior theses in these areas.

For Williams, by contrast, and any others where they *only* offer an MA, then you definitely should contact the individual POI and let them know of your interest and academic background.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Definitely agree about contacting people at programs like Williams where there is not a phd program or where the MA program is funded. I didn't end up applying to Williams (wanted to go into a phd but also considered some MAs), but the faculty member I contacted there was the most helpful and encouraging of any of the faculty I emailed with anywhere. She even suggested other places I should apply that were better fits for my research interests! I'd treat applying to funded MAs the same way as applying to PhDs. For unfunded, I would not bother reaching out to faculty unless you have a specific question that the admin office can't answer. 

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Two quick things:
1. Look into PAYE or "Pay As Your Earn," if you're dead-set on attending an unfunded MA program.

2. It doesn't hurt to contact POIs if you are applying as an MA student, especially if you already have a concentration, or even a thesis, in mind. You'd be surprised how much attention MA students get from professors if they are confident in their research topics and have a fresh perspective.

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