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langcacdell24556

so many questions about Oxbridge MPhil/MSt

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Hello there, so I am applying for Fall 2018 admission to both the MPhil in American History at Cambridge as well as the MSt in US History at Oxford. I come from a Top 5 US institution with a very high GPA, won a thesis prize/departmental honors in history. 

I decided to apply to Oxbridge about a month ago as I have been really on the fence about pursuing a PhD in history (given the uncertainty and the insecurity of the job market for PhD candidates) but thought it would be worthwhile to do a year's worth of graduate study to confirm for myself if I want to pursue further studies. I have a couple of friends who studied history who go to Cambridge now and have been asking for their advice, but so many of them applied at different times and did different things during the application season that I have been very confused on the whole UK admissions process. 

My questions are:

1. Would I be at a significant disadvantage if I am an Americanist from America trying to study American history in the UK? Would they question my motivations? (There are certain professors that I'd like to work with, and surprisingly both courses offer options courses in modern US history, which is what my research focus is.)

2. Was I supposed to have contacted a potential supervisor before submitting my application? How does this work? 

3. I submitted my Cambridge app a few days ago and am planning to submit my Oxford one in a week, at least before the funding deadlines. Was I supposed to have applied way back in October to increase my chances of admission? 

4. Luckily I am privileged enough where I can still attend and pay full tuition/fees if I don't get funding. Should I have indicated that instead of checking the box that says I'm interested in funding to increase my chances?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. This is all so confusing. Thank you so much.

 

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To answer your questions:

1. No, a friend/cohort member received his MPhil from Cambridge. He's an Americanist too.

2. It's a MPhil, not a DPhil. Don't concern yourself with it, just do the damn coursework.

3. Not really, so long as you complete the app, I wouldn't think it matters.

4. The UK is way more expensive than you think it is. Forget the tuition/funding, think about living expenses. Funding is always competitive in the UK, so you're going to fight for it one way or another.

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13 hours ago, langcacdell24556 said:

Luckily I am privileged enough where I can still attend and pay full tuition/fees if I don't get funding. Should I have indicated that instead of checking the box that says I'm interested in funding to increase my chances?

No, but there's a better and cheaper way of seeing if you actually want to go to grad school: go get a job. You don't need any real boost to your application, so just work for a year and see if you still want to apply.

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6 hours ago, telkanuru said:

No, but there's a better and cheaper way of seeing if you actually want to go to grad school: go get a job. You don't need any real boost to your application, so just work for a year and see if you still want to apply.

Hey, thanks for your answer. I actually am working in education policy right now (my first year out of college) but my true passion lies in history. 

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7 hours ago, psstein said:

To answer your questions:

1. No, a friend/cohort member received his MPhil from Cambridge. He's an Americanist too.

2. It's a MPhil, not a DPhil. Don't concern yourself with it, just do the damn coursework.

3. Not really, so long as you complete the app, I wouldn't think it matters.

4. The UK is way more expensive than you think it is. Forget the tuition/funding, think about living expenses. Funding is always competitive in the UK, so you're going to fight for it one way or another.

Thank you for the succinct responses! Yes, I've lived in London for a year and the living expenses were crazy high. I'll keep that in mind. 

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4 minutes ago, langcacdell24556 said:

Hey, thanks for your answer. I actually am working in education policy right now (my first year out of college) but my true passion lies in history. 

So if you're already in the work force and still really want to go back to academia, what is it that you're going to pay Oxbridge $40k for?

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3 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

So if you're already in the work force and still really want to go back to academia, what is it that you're going to pay Oxbridge $40k for?

I guess I'm not really sure what you're trying to insinuate here. 

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13 minutes ago, langcacdell24556 said:

I guess I'm not really sure what you're trying to insinuate here. 

Nothing at all. Let me rephrase: what is your purpose in getting an MPhil? 

Edited by telkanuru

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@telkanuruI've explained above that my true passion lies in history. I never mentioned anything about really wanting to go back to academia. I'm still on the fence about getting a PhD in history and commit to further studies. The MPhil is good because it's only one year of intensive study, I would commit to a more rigorous inquiry of methods, historiography etc that my previous institution did not focus on, and the MPhil would be a good springboard for DPhils or PhD should I decide to go in that direction.

Edited by langcacdell24556

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Ok, that's what I understood. But, if you already really want to go back to something academic (I'm not sure how else to understand "my true passion is history") after a year outside, I'm not sure what exactly a MPhil is supposed to get you. You'd learn methods and historiography in your first year at any US PhD program (which usually grants you an MA anyway), and from your rough sketch of your undergraduate career, you'd already be a competitive candidate for one of those. And why Oxbridge? There are a number of US MA institutions that offer much the same education for a lot less.

To put it a different way, there are basically two reasons to take a terminal MA: to shore up a weak application (refine language skills, improve GPA, change fields from ugrad) or to focus your research agenda. You don't really seem to fit in either category, so what exactly are you looking for, and why do you think the MPhil is your answer?

Edited by telkanuru

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41 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

Ok, that's what I understood. But, if you already really want to go back to something academic (I'm not sure how else to understand "my true passion is history") after a year outside, I'm not sure what exactly a MPhil is supposed to get you. You'd learn methods and historiography in your first year at any US PhD program (which usually grants you an MA anyway), and from your rough sketch of your undergraduate career, you'd already be a competitive candidate for one of those. And why Oxbridge? There are a number of US MA institutions that offer much the same education for a lot less.

To put it a different way, there are basically two reasons to take a terminal MA: to shore up a weak application (refine language skills, improve GPA, change fields from ugrad) or to focus your research agenda. You don't really seem to fit in either category, so what exactly are you looking for, and why do you think the MPhil is your answer?

Do you know if UK programs work like the continent in that you aren’t working on your own project, but working on your advisor’s project? If it is, that may be something else OP wants to consider, but I haven’t looked into UK programs specifically. 

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To follow up on @telkanuru's points to @langcacdell24556

@langcacdell24556, you mentioned that you graduated from top 5 US institutions, which also have excellent history departments and I cannot imagine that its undergraduate majors would not have been through rigorous training.  Having done a thesis, you should know now what it means to do a PhD, which is essentially a research degree.  The MA/MPhil track is quite similar to first year history PhD (and you get paid!).  I assume that you spent a good amount of time exposing yourself to primary/original sources.

@telkanuru's point about working is a hint to the bigger statement of advising potential applicants: "Don't go for the PhD if you can imagine yourself doing something else." Are you finding yourself pondering on questions about the past?  What, exactly, questions are leading to choose Oxbridge for your graduate study?  Who are the people you want to work with who can help you explore the questions you want to answer? 

You've already been to/lived in the UK, which makes me wonder why go back for graduate study in American history? The only thing i can think of is if you are interested in obtaining British perspective on US history (i.e. How did the British public perceive the US' efforts to fight the Nazis?)

I did hear from a colleague doing his PhD at Oxford that Oxbridge tends to lose a lot of excellent applicants to US institutions because of differences in funding timelines, so you may or may not be able to get funding  (the trickle-down effect).  Americans don't go to the UK unless there are very specific programs and professors they wish to be part of and are willing to deal with the different timeline, or like another friend of mine, didn't get in any US programs and Cambridge came through later with funding (it happened to have an excellent program for her field of historical study anyway).  I know she's sorry that she didn't get into any US programs because she's had to cope with the British system of finishing much earlier and dealing with different ways of finding funds.

Finally, what have your professors thought about your schemes?

 

 

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@telkanuru worded my thoughts. I second his and @TMP questions completely. 

I want to draw your attention, @langcacdell24556, to the phrase "passion for history". In general, we in the upper years of a PhD refrain from this phrase not because we aren't passionate but because it is irrelevant for job/grant applications. You are correct in arguing that being passionate about something is a good reason to pursue that thing. However, it doesn't mean that your career will revolve around that. I am passionate about coffee, but I do not own a coffee plantation or coffee shop. 

So, to paraphrase the questions, why do you want to spend money in an Oxbridge MPhil? What is the professional yield of this? What do you see yourself doing? Just to be clear, no one is challenging your ability to go there or to be successful there. The question that we are inviting you to think about is about your career goals. 

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@TMP, @AP, @telkanuru - thanks all for your concerns. Happy new Year! I am still trying to figure out if I want to pursue a PhD or not. I would love to continue doing research on the fields that interest me (in particular urban history) and contribute scholarship, teach students, etc. I am very influenced by these two professors that I had in college and would love to inspire students to think critically about urban history as a legitimate field of inquiry. But I am aware that academic jobs are hard to come by. That's why I think getting a one-year Master's would be a good way for me to confirm whether I want to move forward with a PhD?

Obviously I see that you are already attending history programs so I'd love to get your feedback. 

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Happy New Year @langcacdell24556!  You still haven't answered most of my questions.  I realize that they are tough ones and that is the intention: to make you think whether or not you want to do the PhD.  And I don't quite think a one year master's is enough unless it's very research focused.

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4 hours ago, langcacdell24556 said:

@TMP, @AP, @telkanuru - thanks all for your concerns. Happy new Year! I am still trying to figure out if I want to pursue a PhD or not. I would love to continue doing research on the fields that interest me (in particular urban history) and contribute scholarship, teach students, etc. I am very influenced by these two professors that I had in college and would love to inspire students to think critically about urban history as a legitimate field of inquiry. But I am aware that academic jobs are hard to come by. That's why I think getting a one-year Master's would be a good way for me to confirm whether I want to move forward with a PhD?

Obviously I see that you are already attending history programs so I'd love to get your feedback. 

Alas that I don't have answers, just more questions. What would a successful (or failed) outcome look like? That is, what do you imagine you learning about yourself at the end of a MA program that would let you know what to do next? What do you think a MA program will do that you won't encounter in the first year of a PhD program? Are you afraid you'll continue even if you don't like it without the need to reapply?

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@langcacdell24556

I did a master's degree in art history at Oxford Uni. Nearly half of the students in our cohort came from America, and a number of them focused on American art history. It's not uncommon to have Americans studying American history, at least at Oxford.  

Living expenses in Oxford and Cambridge are relatively cheaper in comparison with London. It cost me about GBP600-700 a month, including rent, and you can have your own room (no roommates)! You can get really cheap and nice food in your college, and it could be a huge money-saver. 

Seriously, just do it if you can afford the tuition and want to do it. Worry about your future, doctoral applications, career path etc. later.  People in my program were all quite unsure about our future when we started, but we all ended up fine and well after we graduated. Some stayed in academia, and others got a job. Money wise, there are many funding opportunities at Oxford. I did not receive a tuition waiver, but I got 3 awards & travel grants. 

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On 12/27/2017 at 11:15 AM, langcacdell24556 said:

 

1. Would I be at a significant disadvantage if I am an Americanist from America trying to study American history in the UK? Would they question my motivations? (There are certain professors that I'd like to work with, and surprisingly both courses offer options courses in modern US history, which is what my research focus is.)

 

 

Absolutely not, don't worry about being an American studying American History! All Oxford and Cambridge care about is your academic ability and potential to gain from studying at Oxford or Cambridge. Oxford is bigger than Cambridge but apart from that you will get the same wonderful experience at both.

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On 1/2/2018 at 3:06 PM, telkanuru said:

Alas that I don't have answers, just more questions. What would a successful (or failed) outcome look like? That is, what do you imagine you learning about yourself at the end of a MA program that would let you know what to do next? What do you think a MA program will do that you won't encounter in the first year of a PhD program? Are you afraid you'll continue even if you don't like it without the need to reapply?

When I go to Cambridge in September I will be taking my third history masters degree, I ready Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at Imperial College London / University College London, History of Design and Oxford and I will be reading British local history at Cambridge,. Why do I do it? because I love history, surely that is all that is required?

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