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Grad school!

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Lanie, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    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 :shuffle: ). 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...
  2. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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

    Allen Glad to be back!

    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.
  4. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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!!!
  6. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    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. :yikes:

    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.
  7. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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?
  8. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

  10. reckless

    reckless Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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

    DickButtonFan New Member

    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.
  13. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    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. :)
  14. Prancer

    Prancer Cursed for all time Staff Member

    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.
  15. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    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: Apr 15, 2011
  16. nlyoung

    nlyoung Active Member

    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 :)
  17. rfisher

    rfisher Will you rise like a phoenix or be a burnt chicken

    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. :lol:
  18. El Rey

    El Rey Well-Known Member

    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!
  19. Aimless

    Aimless Active Member

    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: Apr 15, 2011
  20. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    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.
  21. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    What others are saying about the job market for history in academia is right. Although an MA is what's required to teach history at a community college, there is such a glut of PhDs in this field that in general, you won't get a job as a full time history teacher at a community college without a PhD. And depending on what's going on in your region re: available labor, you may also not be hired as an adjunct with just an MA.

    Getting a tenure track job with a PhD in history at a university is not promising. You need to make this choice with your eyes open to the reality of this job market. And it wasn't good even before the recession - now it's awful.

    Others have mentioned the specific classes you can take to get yourself a reading level of French or German. Seriously, do not discount this idea, if it means you can apply to more programs. Here is one example of such a graduate reading course, so you know what you're looking for:

    Again, you are not looking to become fluent in the language. You are looking to pass the reading exam. You say you already speak some French, so I bet you could perhaps try to get the appropriate reading level in that language, and get there fairly quickly. Check the unis around you to see if any offer such a class - a graduate reading course in French.

    Get a GRE prep book and work through it. Try to boost your GRE as much as possible.
  22. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member


    I am currently pursuing a master's in history through an online program. My intent is to teach at the community college level.

    In my area, community college academic transfer programs are growing faster than the schools can staff them. I am in my second semester and there has not been a day that the nearest community college is not advertising for adjuncts in history and the humanities. It is not a dire prospect everywhere. As to all the naysayers about being an adjunct...I was previously a high school teacher. I can make more as an adjunct right now at the local community college if I taught just three classes. They have four campuses within 30 minutes of where I live and one is only ten minutes away.

    The downside of being an adjunct is that you do not get benefits. In my case, my husband's job has excellent benefits for both insurance and retirement and the higher wages for me would mean we can contribute more to that retirement program or to my own IRA.

    Another thing to consider is getting a secondary teaching certificate along with your masters. This would set you up to teach high school AP or IB coursework on the high school level or to teach dual credit courses at a community college or in a high school. A sub teacher I met recently has a master's in history. He is semi-retired now and just teaches a dual credit course at the local high school. Before that, he taught three community college classes as an adjunct and the dual credit course and made substantially more than teaching high school full time and said he had about 250% less stress.
  23. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    The question I would have for Lanie is whether she is willing to move to teach. If she wants to remain in SoCal, the job prospects in her area are extraordinarily dim.

    Because of the budget crisis in CA, public colleges/universities in CA are facing unprecedented cutbacks. This means entire departments are being eliminated, discipline-wide hiring freezes, salary freezes, etc. I can't emphasize enough how difficult the job market in academia is in CA at the moment. I know quite a few faculty members teaching in various liberal arts departments at every level of higher education in CA, and they say the changes they are seeing in the job market are only a taste of what is to come, and they will likely be permanent.

    Now if Lanie is willing to relocate to places like ND, MT, and NE, then the picture isn't quite so bleak. But in SoCal? Bad, bad, bad.

    I would even say not only is a permanent faculty position in history near impossible at even the community college level, it would be close to impossible at even the high school level. Cutbacks in education mean you have PhDs in the liberal arts/social sciences applying for high school teaching jobs--and not getting them. At least with a PhD, you would be five years out or so before hitting the job market. That would give some time for the economy to recover. But in a couple years? Very bad timing.

    As far as adjuncting goes, typical pay is between $1500-$3000 per course. Some places pay only $500/course (not per/hour, but per course). I haven't heard of someone being able to adjunct more than 4 courses/term at any given institution, so you'd be looking at an annual salary of about $24,000 max (unless you found work at more than one institution).

    Because of new rules being implemented with higher education accreditation bodies, there are limits to how many hours can be taught online before accreditation becomes jeopardized. In order to get around that, many schools offer hybrid courses where part of the course is online, and part is in-person. That means, though, you have to be located nearby where you teach online. So again, location becomes an issue.

    Anyhow, I don't mean to discourage at all, but I think it's also important to go into things with eyes wide open :)
  24. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    I think that would depend mostly on whether Mr. Lanie will be able to transfer somewhere else for his job. :) It's certainly not impossible - a friend and her husband are in the process of moving from SoCal to Kansas City, but they were sick of the sky-high rent and the fact they would never be able to save with their student loans and the salaries they'd be able to get in their current fields.

    You have to sacrifice much for the nice weather. :eek:

    A grad student in my lab is graduating and is having a REALLY hard time finding a postdoc lab in the Bay Area where her husband is going to work. Luckily the job he's likely to get pays well, so if worse comes to worse she joked she'd be a housewife with a PhD. :eek:
  25. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    Community colleges here are on a quarter system. So there is a possibility of teaching four terms in a year, not two. And I would assume that even those on a semester schedule have summer terms upping the max number of courses an adjunct could get in a year.

    They are also heavily emphasizing/pushing dual credit enrollment opportunities for local high schools and the state department of ed requires a certified secondary teacher for those courses to be allowed for high school credit. The mix of a masters in history and a teaching certificate will make me among very few people qualified to teach that coursework. That is why I suggested that Lanie look into the possibilities that adding a secondary teaching certificate might open up.

    If money is not an issue for her to go back to school, then she is probably not dependent on whatever income will be available when she is finished, either. So why not pursue something you will enjoy even if it isn't a great financial windfall? Money is not everything. We are much happier now that I am not working a high stress job from hell even though my monthly income dropped by about 80% and we have to mind every penny now.
  26. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    IME, schools on the quarter system adjust for that in teaching load, so maximum course load would be three courses per term instead of four. Usually summer enrollment is far less, so I've never heard of someone teaching a full load over the summer--be it quarter or semester.
    That may be true in NE, but not in CA. And Lanie lives in SoCal.
    True, but Lanie did say at the very beginning:
    If that's someone's stated goal, and they don't want to move (I don't know if that's the case, but if Lanie doesn't want to move for a grad program, I'm not sure how likely she will want to move to work in academia), then I think it's appropriate to point out the employment realities of where she now lives.
  27. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    This is kind of my way of thinking, but I don't have a hubby to bring in money. So, I'm thinking that I'd rather move someplace else than have a job I hate. Which state do you live in? And which other parts of the country is it more realistic to think that a teaching job is a possibility? (Agilsgv is right; the economy, the state budge, and the prospects for teaching are horrible here in California, while the cost of living is astronomical). One idea I've had in the back of my mind is to get a master's in history and a teaching certificate, but I'm guessing I'd need to get the teaching certificate in the state where I was going to teach? Is that right?

    I'm pretty sure I'd really like being in a master's program and I don't mind having to mind my pennies, but what I don't want to do is end up in a situation where I've spent most of my money getting a degree and I wouldn't be able to find a job afterwards.
  28. rfisher

    rfisher Will you rise like a phoenix or be a burnt chicken

    I'd say the odds are greater than 50% that is exactly what could happen. Sorry, but that's a fact. Graduate school in the social sciences, humanities or even some hard sciences is becoming the provence of those who don't have to use student loans to go to school and don't plan on having to support themselves. Some fields are better than others, but overall, this is not a really good time to look toward jobs in academia. A small percentage of people will of course get jobs, but they will have attended prestige universities, published like crazy and met the right people. Or get lucky. And if you are one of those lucky few, you might be appalled at how low your salary will be or where you might end up having to move for the job.

    I'm fortunate that my paycheck does not come from the University our program is affiliated with as the faculty hasn't had a raise in four years. They aren't happy about it, but they also know there are 3-4 people who would happily take their job if they left.
  29. kia_4EverOnIce

    kia_4EverOnIce Active Member

    sorry for the OT, but having just been accepted for a PhD in the Humanities (in the U.K.), it's quite depressing reading that... :( just for curiosity, one of my lecturers told me nowadays for Humanities research Canada is the country with more opportunities: what do you think?
  30. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    My boss, if asked to answer honestly by a prospective grad student, would say not to go for a PhD and to go for an MD because at least people will pay you. He would never recommend anyone be a PhD if their goal is to get a job. :eek: There are NO jobs for science PhDs even here, and the postdoc moved from Paris because it's even more dire over in France. :lol:

    The NIH budget is being cut drastically so there's a real possibility that our lab will be disbanded in a year if we can't find any more money. :eek: This is when my decision to make a career change is looking better and better! (That and the fact I'm a natural-born saver!)