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I had always planned on getting an MA in Education, but recently decided to get an MA in History as I am graduating with a Bachelor's in Secondary Education (and an MA in Education would quite frankly be overkill and not do much for me the same way an MA in History would). Before, I was pretty much guaranteed to get into some education programs as they are not very competitive and tend to focus on GPA, and I have maintained a 3.7 throughout my entire undergraduate career. 

Unfortunately, I know that History programs are waaaaaaay more competitive, and I am looking to go out of state (but I am not opposed to staying in my state since I am sure my chances are much higher because I am close with multiple history professors here). The main schools I am looking at for out of state are NYU/Columbia -- my dad will most likely move to NYC so I hope to go with him if I can get in to these schools -- Indiana University Bloomington, and University of North Carolina, Charlotte. I hope to have two LORs from some of the university's best history professors and who I have worked with a large amount and have gotten great grades from. I am also part of the honor society Phi Alpha Theta, and another school organization that focuses mainly on volunteering. Also, I am taking the GRE in a month (good luck to me) and hope to do well, but I plan on retaking it if need be.

However, that's pretty much it. Some people tell me that GPA and GRE scores do not really matter, some say they are all that matter. Some say that the writing samples, LORs, and personal statement are all admission officers care about, and others say that they tend to be completely overlooked.

Any help/advice on this matter is greatly appreciated. I am at a little bit of a loss on what to focus on as it is hard to find out what is more important for different schools. Luckily, I still have some time to get a really solid application, but I am just afraid that I am way in over my head, especially if the schools I want to get into focus more on PhD students compared to Master's students.

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Columbia has a tiny masters program. NYU has some options for students wishing to pursue an MA in history. (Unfortunately, I'm having issues accessing the NYU site at the moment and can't link you.) In either case, you will be spending a LOT of money to get a degree at a big-name school without any kind of job security at the end of it. As you probably know, you won't be able to go into academia with only a masters, but maybe that's not your goal. If you want to get an MA in history, I'd suggest applying to less pricey schools or to funded masters programs. Otherwise it's just not worth it.

As for the endless grades/GPA question: a good GPA and a good verbal GRE score (exactly no one cares about your math score when you're applying to history programs) will get you in the door, but they won't keep you in the room. The word on the street is that the writing sample makes or breaks an application. Columbia even says so: "We are often asked what we consider important in reviewing applications. First and foremost, we are looking for evidence of scholarly talent and achievement. Grades and GRE scores are, of course, helpful in locating such evidence, but they are not the only things we consider. What you say in your personal statement can be very important, and your writing sample is often the decisive factor in our decision."

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What about public history MA programs? A lot of them, including NYU's, are really open to educators and they're also much better in terms of setting you up to make public history connections etc--i.e. they're better at opening up pathways to jobs. There is a great program at American University and like a full list of programs over here: http://ncph.org/program-guide/

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On 5/3/2017 at 10:40 AM, laleph said:

Columbia has a tiny masters program. NYU has some options for students wishing to pursue an MA in history. (Unfortunately, I'm having issues accessing the NYU site at the moment and can't link you.) In either case, you will be spending a LOT of money to get a degree at a big-name school without any kind of job security at the end of it. As you probably know, you won't be able to go into academia with only a masters, but maybe that's not your goal. If you want to get an MA in history, I'd suggest applying to less pricey schools or to funded masters programs. Otherwise it's just not worth it.

This. There are quite a few posters on here who got fully funded or well funded positions on MA programs from non-Ivy schools. Some are in great PhD programs now. 

Do you know what type of history you want to study?

The history programs for some of those schools are just different, too -- for instance, Columbia's MA in history is World History. So is NYU's. I applied to the PhD program at Columbia and was rejected (not surprising, but why not apply?) and I made sure to select no on my application when asked if I wanted to be considered for the MA program if I did not get into the PhD program.

I received an email from Columbia back in March asking me if I would allow them to consider my application for the MA program. At the bottom of the message there was some fine print mentioning that the tuition fees were $56K/year not including housing. This begs me to ask the question -- were they looking for some MA students to pay for their PhD students? 

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On 5/3/2017 at 7:23 PM, OHSP said:

What about public history MA programs? A lot of them, including NYU's, are really open to educators and they're also much better in terms of setting you up to make public history connections etc--i.e. they're better at opening up pathways to jobs. There is a great program at American University and like a full list of programs over here: http://ncph.org/program-guide/

What is the difference between a degree in public history and a regular history MA? The reason I wanted to focus more on like regular history is because I know it'll expand my content knowledge for teaching, and I know that many school districts will accept a regular history degree compared to one of the smaller ones.

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On 5/4/2017 at 11:59 AM, etoile89 said:

Do you know what type of history you want to study?

I would love to focus on American History, or women's/gender history. Luckily, many schools offer concentrations in these fields. I did consider world history because it is my weakest subject but I also figured that it might be extremely difficult if I do not have as much of a passion for it....

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1 hour ago, jaaaayciee said:

What is the difference between a degree in public history and a regular history MA? The reason I wanted to focus more on like regular history is because I know it'll expand my content knowledge for teaching, and I know that many school districts will accept a regular history degree compared to one of the smaller ones.

Public history MAs are geared towards careers in archival work, museums, record-keeping, cultural resources preservation, and so on. Usually classes for a public history MA (in addition to some history classes) will train the student in general theories of history and historical preservation. They don't tend to be as specialized as regular history MAs, which of course are centered around traditional academia. Naturally, neither is better than the other, it's just a matter of what you want to accomplish or have access to with your degree. At least at the school I go to, both have a thesis requirement. 

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18 hours ago, jaaaayciee said:

I also figured that it might be extremely difficult if I do not have as much of a passion for it....

Yeah, don't pick a topic just to get into a fancy program, or because it's trendy. You'll be dragging your feet to the archives/class/your advisor's office. Find a knot you can't wait to untie, then find a program that will support you in your effort to untie it.

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Do you intend on having a career in secondary education? If so, you may find that a more specialized MA in education leadership, curriculum writing, special education, etc might open more doors. For example, I know that in the state of New York there is a list of "approved areas" to be eligible for certain kinds of promotions and opportunities. There's also the question of networking: a professional master's program is a way to meet people in your field and make the right connections. If your intention is to enter public education, you will likely get more of that as an alumni of, say, Teachers College than a history MA  program at NYU. Just a thought.

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You had posted on the Education board about the Master of Arts in Teaching, and it seems from this thread that you decided to focus on the content master's in history. If you are planning to remain as a classroom teacher I would strongly urge you to find a history MA program that is affordable. Prestige may matter a bit more if you are planning on a career in academia, and will give you the valuable research skills to eventually get a PhD. But from this post and the ones on the Education board, it seems that you're more looking for intellectual growth and also the salary scale/lane changes that come in school districts as you accumulate more credits. For those purposes, your local state school is more than adequate. Very often, school districts partner with local universities for reduced cost cohort programs, so once you get a teaching job you may want to look into one of those.

As someone who watched my colleagues pursue content degrees at prestigious and expensive schools (I taught in the Baltimore region, so Johns Hopkins was a popular option) those teachers accumulated a large amount of debt for a relatively minor salary lane change. While that could potentially be worth it (I am sure that their classes and instructors were top notch, and I am not trying to discount the importance of intellectual endeavors!), a place like NYU or Columbia certainly comes with some very real costs to incur in the form of loans, and for a school teacher I really wonder if the expense is worth it. Especially in a field like education where salaries at their best grow very slowly, and at worst are frozen.

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It might be worthwhile to look specifically for funded masters. For example, Miami University in Ohio funds their history masters students. That way you avoid taking on the debt you'd be stuck with going to a bigger name school and in the case of Miami University, they don't have a history PhD, so you don't have to worry about competing with PhD students for professors' time and attention. Some schools look at their masters program as a cash cow, intended to bring in money to help them fund their PhD program. While this doesn't necessarily mean instruction suffers at the MA level, I'd be wary of putting myself in that situation and if possible, I'd try to avoid it. I'd recommend doing some research and seeing if you can find at least a couple schools that only have a masters so you're more likely to get funding and won't have as much competition for your university's resources.

As far as preparing the application, I would focus on your writing sample. There will be a ton of applicants with high GPAs and GRE scores. While they may help admissions committees narrow down the pile initially, it's highly unlikely they'll be a deciding factor. Your writing sample, on the other hand, could be a big deciding factor. The way a professor at one school I visited explained it was that your professors want to teach you to be a historian. They don't want to spend a significant amount of time teaching you the basics of how to write. Therefore, if your writing sample shows that you're already a solid writer, it helps them make a case to offer you admission. If your writing is problematic, it's a red flag and makes them question whether you're a good candidate for their program. Basically, a good writing sample shows them that there's something already there that they can work with.

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Funding, funding, funding.  Don't get into debt for a master's level, especially if your end salary won't be high.  If you're willing to do a MA program that offers funding (like Miami University's), you'll be able to continue some teaching (this is where your educational degree/experience will come in handy).  If content matters to you more than understanding the historiographical/scholarly questions, you may be best off reading more books and searching for graduate syllabus and read on your own.  You'll want to attend a stand alone MA program if possible; you do not want to be in competition with PhD students.  You won't get the same quality of attention from professors towards your work and career interests.

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