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What are my chances of getting into a history PhD program?


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Hello All,

I am a recent college graduate from a medium sized catholic college in New York. My stats are:

3.32 Overall gpa (3.82 junior and senior year)
Senior thesis utilized primary sources detailing student and youth movements during Apartheid
language abilities non-existent
I didn't take any honors or 400 level courses in college because law school was my assumed path.
I will be spending the next two or three years as a TFA corps member.
African American male

My interests are in Central/West African history. I am curious to hear where (if anywhere) people think I would have a chance to pursue my research. I am also very receptive to advice and criticism, as I have two to three years to put any advice into action. I am thinking of learning another language and reading deeply into a certain research interest, but I'd like to hear others opinions.
 
 
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Do an M.A. Learn French (at the very least, possibly one or more African languages as well, though that depends on what exactly you're doing, possibly Portuguese, Dutch/Afrikaans, German, etc depending on exactly what countries you want to work on. This could be instead of French, but working on West Africa without French seems unlikely to be feasible). Your background at the moment is unlikely to get you into a PhD program good enough to get you a job post-grad school, but assuming you can afford it/find funding, an M.A. program should be doable and give you the chance to be a strong candidate.

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If you're entering TFA, you will likely have very little free time to prepare for graduate school, and you might find your plans for the future evolving alongside your corps experience. In all likelihood, the most you'll be able to manage while working 60+ hours a week is to study for and take the GREs.

 Are you primarily focused on 20th C history? As pudewen mentioned, French is the "obvious" language, but this will depend on your interests. You might consider applying to do a Fulbright in a West/Central African country after TFA, or look into MA programs to better refine your interests. 

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Your GPA is a bit low. Your lack of language skills and high-level coursework will hurt you. 

The majority of your application hinges on the quality of your letters of rec and your writing sample. Fordham's faculty are well regarded, fortunately, so if you have 3 strong letters in addition to a solid sample, you could do well.

If not, I would look for funded MA options. And definitely spend your time in TFA practicing your language skills.

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23 hours ago, m7orbust said:
I am also very receptive to advice and criticism, as I have two to three years to put any advice into action. I am thinking of learning another language and reading deeply into a certain research interest, but I'd like to hear others opinions.
 
 

Work to improve how you define your interests as a historian. Why history?  ===> Why African history?  ===> Why Central/West African history?  ===> When (period of primary interest)?   ===> How (social, cultural, religious, political)?    ===> "So what?" (what kinds of questions/issues do you see yourself addressing as a graduate student). All of the answers to these questions can/should be provisional.

Start the process of looking at Africanists in every history department in the United States. Pay attention to where Africanists got their graduate degrees--you will likely see patterns.

Once you get some scratch, get a JPASS and start looking at journals related to your field(s). Look for articles that discuss the historiography of African history generally and your area/periods of interest specifically. These articles will help you to define the forest you want to explore and help you to identify scholars whose work you should read. Give thought to developing dossiers on scholars in your field. Include the titans of the old guard (even the apologists), those who overthrew the old ways of thinking, the established generation, and the up and comers. 

Develop a correspondence with historians you worked with as an undergraduate and historians you might want to study under as a graduate student. Do what you can to avoid asking questions that you should answer for yourself. If you get stumped, make sure you communicate what steps you've taken before phrasing the question for help. 

Only use your screen name here on websites related to your education. Do not use it for social media.

(In the past, I made this recommendation in case academic administrators and members of the faculty decided to highlight, right click, search google for evidence of asshattery. Now, it's also about keeping as small of a digital footprint as long as the White House is in MAGA mode.)

If your work for TFA brings you to that organization's office in DTLA, keep in mind that the central branch of the LAPL is a few blocks away.

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In addition to the advice mentioned, you should take any opportunity available to get experience on the ground and begin learning an African language. These are not mandatory (I only did one), but are generally thought to be important.

Regarding MAs, almost all the Africanist graduate students in my department entered with a previous master's.

Edited by AfricanusCrowther
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On July 30, 2017 at 4:03 PM, m7orbust said:
Hello All,

I am a recent college graduate from a medium sized catholic college in New York. My stats are:

3.32 Overall gpa (3.82 junior and senior year)
Senior thesis utilized primary sources detailing student and youth movements during Apartheid
language abilities non-existent
I didn't take any honors or 400 level courses in college because law school was my assumed path.
I will be spending the next two or three years as a TFA corps member.
African American male

My interests are in Central/West African history. I am curious to hear where (if anywhere) people think I would have a chance to pursue my research. I am also very receptive to advice and criticism, as I have two to three years to put any advice into action. I am thinking of learning another language and reading deeply into a certain research interest, but I'd like to hear others opinions.
 
 

If you're interested in African history, I would look at the program at Michigan State. They're currently ranked #1 in African history.

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3 hours ago, polsgoals said:

If you're interested in African history, I would look at the program at Michigan State. They're currently ranked #1 in African history.

By all means apply to MSU - they do indeed have a strong African History department. But please don't use rankings, particularly for subfields. They mean exactly shit, and foster the wrong idea about how postgraduate work actually functions.

Edited by telkanuru
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