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Thread: Grad school!

  1. #1
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    Grad school!

    So after waffling and wondering, I've decided to get off my butt and apply to graduate school to get a MA and perhaps later a PhD in History. Yeah! Eventually, I would love to teach, preferably junior college--or if I get a PhD, at a university.

    Now, of course, I'm lost. I just sent off an email to the dean of the history department at the university I am applying to after a suggestion from the admissions director I spoke to.

    So, will it kill me that my GPA is a B- average? I went to junior college and that's why my GPA is really blah; I hated it and really didn't do well. I transferred to a four year university and did much better. I got fantastic grades in my major and my minor, just mediocre in my other classes (except a gen ed liberal arts math class everyone almost flunked and then the prof got fired ). I know I will have awesome recommendations, and I know I wrote some fantastic papers. I'm taking the GRE in August once they change it. Now that they have calculators I'm not anxious at all about it, as I've always done well on those sorts of tests (I expect a mediocre score in math, but whatever, I hate math). My history professors seem to think I will get in without a problem due to my papers and grades in their classes, but I'm not so sure thanks to my overall GPA.

    Anyway, I'm just terribly anxious and I am not entirely sure what to do at this point. I am also pondering sending an email to one of the professors who is a specialist in the area of history I want to study but, God, what do I say?! I also don't have many options as to where I can apply, as many schools are requiring fluency in a foreign language and Latin as admission requirements, so I'm only applying to one school as I'm stuck here in California. Help me, O Amazing FSUers, who have seen me through high school and college! (Scary.)

    This would have been easier if I did it when I was an undergrad and could waltz on into my history dean's office, but he's kind of an hour away...

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    Where would you like to attend, and is money a factor?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanie View Post
    o.

    So, will it kill me that my GPA is a B- average? I went to junior college and that's why my GPA is really blah; I hated it and really didn't do well. I transferred to a four year university and did much better. I got fantastic grades in my major and my minor, just mediocre in my other classes (except a gen ed liberal arts math class everyone almost flunked and then the prof got fired ). I know I will have awesome recommendations, and I know I wrote some fantastic papers. I'm taking the GRE in August once they change it. Now that they have calculators I'm not anxious at all about it, as I've always done well on those sorts of tests (I expect a mediocre score in math, but whatever, I hate math). My history professors seem to think I will get in without a problem due to my papers and grades in their classes, but I'm not so sure thanks to my overall GPA.

    Anyway, I'm just terribly anxious and I am not entirely sure what to do at this point. I am also pondering sending an email to one of the professors who is a specialist in the area of history I want to study but, God, what do I say?! I also don't have many options as to where I can apply, as many schools are requiring fluency in a foreign language and Latin as admission requirements, so I'm only applying to one school as I'm stuck here in California.

    .
    I don't think your GPA will "kill" you, but I think applying to only once school isn't the best idea. I understand the reasons you gave, but I would still rethink that notion. To get my PhD in English, I had to have read proficiency in two different languages. So, my suggestion to you is either take a summer class in a language or get Rosetta Stone quickly. I was really agressive when applying for my PhD and I emailed the professors with whom I wanted to work. That definitely changed my opinion on the schools I planned on applying. There were a couple professors that acted like I was bothering them and a couple others that just didn't reply, so I didn't apply to those schools. I also went to a couple conferences and listened to the talks of a professor I wanted to work with and then arranged to have coffee with her.

    Since your GPA is average, I would study hard for the GRE and really work on fine tuning your writing sample and statement of purpose. I had the director of graduate studies at my undergrad institution look over my admission materials. That ended up being very helpful as there were a lot of little things that never occurred to me.
    Logic is in the eye of the logician --Gloria Steinem

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    Where would you like to attend, and is money a factor?
    Claremont Graduate University, and no, not really.

    re: only one school, I just can't go anywhere else because Mr Lanie is the one working, and though I'd be willing to drive (that's an hour away), I have nowhere else I can realistically apply to. I don't want to waste my time with USC or UCLA as I am pretty darn sure I'd have no chance of getting in and while I know enough French to get around, I'm nowhere near fluent. The only university that is near me is Cal State Northridge and they don't have many history courses I'd be interested in; mostly American history. I looked into UC Irvine, but my GPA doesn't meet their requirements and the admissions person I spoke to acted like I wasn't worth their time.

    Allen, thanks for the advice! Once I get my statement of purpose written I am sending it out to my history professor who's the dean of the department at my alma mater who will check it over for me. I also plan on doing some editing to whatever papers I'm going to send them.

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    Generally graduate schools make their money off of masters students in order to subsidize doctoral students. Because of that, masters programs will be more willing to accept a lower GPA than a doctoral program. Also, masters programs don't offer the same funding packages as doctoral programs. So if funding isn't an issue, you may have better luck applying for your masters.

    That said, it's not typical in history to get a masters independent from a PhD. You might want to check with CGU about that.

    Just being realistic with you, a 2.7 isn't a strong GPA for graduate work, and CGU is a pretty good school. To give some perspective, in many schools grad students are required to maintain a 3.5 to remain in the program. Applying with anything less than that often will preclude an admission offer. Hence, I think you might have a difficult time getting admitted into their doctoral program with that GPA even if you have very strong GRE scores (well over 700). So you might want to consider broadening your school choices.

    All that said, making contacts with programs you apply to is very important for the admissions process, so do follow-up on that.

    Best of luck!!!

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    One reason I'm looking at CGU is two of my professors are alumni and told me I should check it out. They know my GPA wasn't fantastic. I was told that graduate schools will really be focusing on my history grades which were as a rule A's. The last two years of school where I was at a four year school my GPA was a 3.2; it was 2.3 in junior college.

    I can either check out the MA-only program, or apply to both. I'm not too sure what I want to do. I know most schools don't do terminal MAs for history.

    I just don't know where else to apply. If anyone has any ideas, shoot!

    Worst case scenario I'd just go to CSUN, but their MA program doesn't look very good at all, though I know I'd get in.

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    What about Cal State Long Beach?

    BTW, I didn't quite understand before--did you say you're mostly interested in American history, or that's the area you're least interested in?

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    What about Cal State Long Beach?

    BTW, I didn't quite understand before--did you say you're mostly interested in American history, or that's the area you're least interested in?
    I want to study early modern European history.

    I'd be willing to drive to Long Beach. I'll check it out. I don't think I'd have a hard time at all of getting into a Cal State, but professors have been telling me to use those as a last resort, but considering my GPA is mediocre, I guess that's all I can do.

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    Ah, okay. I was going to say if you like US history, you could also consider American studies programs in addition to history, but I guess that wouldn't work for you.

    Might these be of interest to you?
    http://www.msmc.la.edu/graduate-programs/humanities.asp
    http://wcgrad.ucmerced.edu/
    http://www.history.ucr.edu/Graduate/index.html

    BTW, I don't mean to discourage you from applying to CGU--definitely pursue that. I was just thinking of additional schools you might want to look at.

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    My question is to ask whether the schools you are considering are likely to lead to teaching jobs. There are a lot of PhDs out there with degrees from top universities and excellent grades competing for very few jobs as college professors. If you spend the time and money to get a MA in history, will that really open the doors for you to teach? Or will you have spent a lot of money for a degree that leaves you in the same place career-wise as you are now? Look at places where you might want to teach and check out the qualifications of their professors, even their part-time professors. I think you'll find that even junior colleges have ample PhD candidates to fill their departments, so an MA might not get you very far. (Actually, most of the history teachers at my private high school in Los Angeles had PhDs.)

    Knowing CSUN, I think you would be wasting your time and money to get a degree in history there. I just don't think that program is well-respected (though it does have some departments that are). You might be better off investigating some of the other UC's -- Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and San Diego -- which have better-respected history departments. With your grades, you have to figure it's a crap-shoot, though how you perform on the GRE may make a difference and making an effort to make contact with the professors at the school could also help.

    Also, where did you graduate from undergrad? A B- average at some schools won't look as bad as at others.

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    Lanie can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe she went to Pepperdine.

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    Maybe try to take some classes over to raise your GPA if it's an issue. I know plenty of people though who have gotten into grad school with that GPA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reckless View Post
    My question is to ask whether the schools you are considering are likely to lead to teaching jobs. There are a lot of PhDs out there with degrees from top universities and excellent grades competing for very few jobs as college professors. If you spend the time and money to get a MA in history, will that really open the doors for you to teach? Or will you have spent a lot of money for a degree that leaves you in the same place career-wise as you are now? Look at places where you might want to teach and check out the qualifications of their professors, even their part-time professors. I think you'll find that even junior colleges have ample PhD candidates to fill their departments, so an MA might not get you very far. (Actually, most of the history teachers at my private high school in Los Angeles had PhDs.)

    Knowing CSUN, I think you would be wasting your time and money to get a degree in history there. I just don't think that program is well-respected (though it does have some departments that are). You might be better off investigating some of the other UC's -- Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and San Diego -- which have better-respected history departments. With your grades, you have to figure it's a crap-shoot, though how you perform on the GRE may make a difference and making an effort to make contact with the professors at the school could also help.

    Also, where did you graduate from undergrad? A B- average at some schools won't look as bad as at others.
    Yeah, that's my opinion of CSUN. I was poking around UCSB and UCSD and it looks like I could have a good chance at those schools. My upper division history GPA is a 4.0, if they're looking at the 300-400 level courses I took (my poli sci classes could also be included there as they were cross-listed history/political science as they were very history-oriented and I got all A's in those too). The only history classes I didn't get A's in were Western Civ in junior college, which was a C; Ancient Greece and Rome and Latin American Civ where I got a B+ and a C+; and Mythology, Theology, and Philosophy, and I got a B in that one because I bombed the midterm. Whoops.

    I just hope I didn't screw myself over in junior college. I loved my history classes, loved reading, loved writing. Just loved it. I want to go back to school because a) I want more! and b) I doubt I'll get a job, so why not go back to school and do something I love?

    I was thinking of taking a fall class at the junior college I went to like Linguistic Anthropology, something random I'm interested in, but that would be on my official transcript because I think I'd need to send my junior college transcript too. I also was planning on taking more French classes there this fall anyway.

    Oh, I went to Concordia, which is next to UCI. Like Pepperdine but cheaper. I've been told the history program is becoming fairly well-respected as they did a big overhaul and we read a lot and wrote a lot. They're really focusing a lot on primary source readings through-out the university now with the Good Books Curriculum which I think is awesome.

    Again, thanks so much for all the advice. I love FSU.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reckless View Post
    If you spend the time and money to get a MA in history, will that really open the doors for you to teach?
    It depends on what you mean by "teach." If you want a full-time tenure-track position, then probably not. If you are willing to adjunct, maybe so.

    Being an adjunct sucks mightily in just about every possible way, but junior colleges are always looking for more cannon fodder adjunct instructors. If you are in an area where there are a lot of universities, it is very likely that you will be competing for even adjunct positions at junior colleges with Ph.Ds, given your field. There are far more people with history degrees than there are full-time jobs available.

    The academic job market is terrible.
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

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    I haven't applied to a program in quite a while, but it was customary in my day to list two separate GPAs. If you got the AA, it goes on one line, and you BA goes on another. You might want to consider this approach. Even if you didn't get the AA, you might be able to separate the transfer credits from the uni credits.
    Last edited by Aceon6; 04-15-2011 at 01:06 PM.
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    As a history professor myself at a major university, I can tell you that the language requirements are often a stumbling block for students. We won't even look at prospective students coming in without at least one language other than English, but remember we are talking here about "reading" knowledge of the language sufficient to allow you to read and understand primary source documents.

    "Early Modern Europe" at my university would require more than one language depending upon the area of study. I would also suggest that you contact anyone you would like to work with. I know it's less important for a masters degree, but you will still need to have a supervising professor who wants to work with you (or at least agrees to do so), and they will have a say in whether or not you are accepted to the program.

    Good Luck

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    A number of universities offer reading comprehensive courses just for graduate or future graduate students. I took one in French over a summer. And then my program decided to drop the language requirement.
    Those who never succeed themselves are always the first to tell you how.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanie View Post
    One reason I'm looking at CGU is two of my professors are alumni and told me I should check it out. They know my GPA wasn't fantastic. I was told that graduate schools will really be focusing on my history grades which were as a rule A's. The last two years of school where I was at a four year school my GPA was a 3.2; it was 2.3 in junior college.
    Here in Texas, at least at my University, they only looked at my junior college GPA for admission purposes. Once I was accepted, I had a clean slate and only the classes taken at the university were calculated into my GPA. Worked to my advantage!

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    When I took the GRE, back around 1989, I bought a cheap study book to improve my very weak math skills and get familiar with the test format. Was that a good idea! Maybe there are online facilities for this now.

    Didn't bother with an expensive test prep course. Right off the bat, i just took one practice test from the book, then studied a couple weeks, then another practice test, and more study before the real GRE. With each test my scores really bounced up. I picked up nearly 200 points on math and more than 150 on language where i'm already fairly strong. I was proud of myself and it was gratifying as hell.
    Last edited by Aimless; 04-15-2011 at 08:00 PM.

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    I don't want to hijack this thread, but I have some history grad school questions, too.

    Do all the Cal State history departments suck, or just CSUN? I've been thinking that I'd like to take a history class, but don't want to spend a ton of money, so I was thinking of SFSU. It would mostly just be for fun, though I sometimes play around with the idea of becoming a grad student, and I figure taking a course might help me decide if I really want to do that. Also, do grad schools only let grad students take their grad courses? I already have a B.A. in history.

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