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Finding the right graduate school.

MazzyxMazzyx A Restoration through Revolution.Registered User regular
edited August 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hello H/A. I usually don't post here but I am in a bit of a quandary at the moment. I am looking to go to graduate school this next year. I applied to two programs last year but did not get in. I am not to worried, the programs I applied to were very popular and I must admit I didn't put the time or energy I should of into my application since I was doing it from Japan while teaching at the same time. Right now due to health reasons I have a large amount of free time and want to try my hand at the process again. I know I should also expand my search but find it kind of hard to figure out which programs to look for.

I am going for my MA/PHD in Japanese history with a focus on the Meiji Era. Probably working on the rise of Japanese labor and the industrialization that happened during that time period. Though I have a lot of interest in working with language history, too.

So my main questions are:

What are good resources to do research on different graduate programs?

Should invest in a few of the books about college/graduate programs from like Amazon.com?

What are some are some good resources to compare one program to another so I make sure I am applying to the correct programs?


I am planning on applying to 5 to 6 programs this year since I have both the time and knowledge from my application process last year. I already have my recommendation letter writers and such lined just looking for the schools themselves now. Thank you for any help and advice you guys can give me.

Mazzyx on
meijisig.png

Posts

  • Folken FanelFolken Fanel J.2C When's KoFRegistered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Mazzyx wrote: »
    What are good resources to do research on different graduate programs?

    Most schools have websites. Most of these websites list the research interests of the faculty there. Apply to the school's whose research specialties line up most with your goals.
    Mazzyx wrote:
    Should invest in a few of the books about college/graduate programs from like Amazon.com?

    Probably not. If you buy anything, buy a gre prep book.
    Mazzyx wrote:
    What are some are some good resources to compare one program to another so I make sure I am applying to the correct programs?

    U.S. News and World Report ranks grad programs annually. Not sure if your particular field of study is an included topic in these lists, but its worth checking out anyway.
    Mazzyx wrote:
    I am planning on applying to 5 to 6 programs this year since I have both the time and knowledge from my application process last year. I already have my recommendation letter writers and such lined just looking for the schools themselves now. Thank you for any help and advice you guys can give me.

    FYI, you can never send out too many applications. I've met grad students who have said... yeah I applied to 11 schools, and only got accepted by 2. Now that the economy is in the shitter, everyone wants to go back to school, meaning more competition for you. Keep that in mind.

    EDIT: Once you get accepted, visit those schools. Visiting essentially these schools basically made my decision for me.

    EDIT2: DrFrylock is a phd working in academia who posts here. He gives great advice about [strike]this kind of stuff[/strike] goddamn everything.

  • Pure DinPure Din Rhode Island Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    I applied to 12 schools for PhD programs. It was a huge time commitment. I probably spent at least 10 hours a week from September to January researching schools, studying for GREs, filling out applications, applying for grants, keeping track of paperwork, standing in line at the post office, etc etc. But in February, it was worth it to have the options. Especially with the economy being bad, this year was a bloodbath for admissions. I had a friend who was waitlisted for months at Michigan because they would only offer the exact number of spaces they had open because money was so tight. I had offers from two universities that were rescinded weeks later because of the economy. I don't know if this coming year will be worse, but I would look up at least 15 schools you would seriously consider going to. The way I found schools was by looking up journals and publications in the area I'm interested in and then finding out which schools are doing the kind of research I want. I didn't find the rankings to be very useful.

    I went to my college's career counselor for help writing the first draft of my personal statement, then I had two professors read the second draft that I used as the base for the personal statement. Then for each version I sent to the different schools I had my two English major roommates proofread them before sending them. It took a lot of time, but it really helped seal the deal.

  • CheerfulBearCheerfulBear Registered User
    edited August 2009
    Keep in mind that it's also expensive to apply to many graduate schools at once (twelve, Pure Din??), since you have to pay for 1) the application itself 2) mailing your transcript 3) mailing the GRE scores. At least that's how it was for me. So, in my opinion it's a good idea to look up at least 15 schools, but I definitely would not suggest applying to all of them.

    Edit: You said 5 or 6 in the OP, whooops

    Carry on, then.

  • RecklessReckless Registered User
    edited August 2009
    Have you got any former professors you have a good relationship with in your field? Talk to them and see what schools and programs they recommend.

    Arch wrote: »
    That much sex will make you stay with ANY kind of crazy bitch.
  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Reckless wrote: »
    Have you got any former professors you have a good relationship with in your field? Talk to them and see what schools and programs they recommend.

    This. Find out where they went to school and what they thought of the program and if there is anywhere else they'd suggest. This is what I'm doing in choosing my doctoral program.

  • TinuzTinuz Registered User
    edited August 2009
    Reckless wrote: »
    Have you got any former professors you have a good relationship with in your field? Talk to them and see what schools and programs they recommend.

    This. Find out where they went to school and what they thought of the program and if there is anywhere else they'd suggest. This is what I'm doing in choosing my doctoral program.


    This works well. Investigating the published papers of a potential supervisor is also valuable, as it gives you a feel for the type of researcher they are.

    Comparing different schools based on ranking lists is.....tricky. It really depends on how they devise the scores and even then, it tends to be fairly useless (in my opinion). However, I know that this is slightly different in the US, but make sure your department-to-be is well connected and that you publish several papers before your program is over (a good rule of thumb is 1 every year). This will ensure that, even if your dept. isn't the best of the best, the people are known, their recommendations taken to value and, more importantly, you're that guy (or girl) who researched this really neat thing and published X articles about it.

    The higher you get, the less pedigree makes sense. I have seen some brilliant Post-Docs from no-name universities...and so far my experience with MIT is that they produce idiots. I am sure they don't, but it goes to show that at PhD level pedigree is much less important that what you actually did and who you know.

    Quelreth wrote:
    .....when you made it sound like turning on a blacklight in your room would be like setting off a flashbang.
  • The LandoStanderThe LandoStander Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    I never tried to get into a History program, I went the Psychology route but I found that one of the things that worked for me was actually going to some of the closer universities that I was applying to. It's already been noted that most universities have a website that lists their faculty's interest. So, ignoring the cost issues of applications, travel and GRE scores this is what I'd recommend for programs you're really interested in joining.

    1) Find a few faculty members or just one at a school that interests you who specializes in an area close to what you want to get into. It doesn't have to be an exact match, as much of your graduate work will often center on helping your professor with their research rather than immediately doing your own thing, at least that's how it works in Psych programs.

    2) Email some of the professors about their work. If they've published papers, read some and ask questions about them.

    3) If possible and affordable take a road trip to visit a university or two. Emailing or calling the professors to arrange a meeting can often give you and the professor a better idea of if you'll fit into the program. You'll also catch a glimpse of the town you'll be in. You don't have to have applied completely to meet with professors. At least I wasn't when I talked to some of the professors at the program I wound up getting into at U of L.

    4) Apply to places you feel you have a good shot at getting into. If you've managed to meet or at least exchange E-Mails with a professor then you might have a good idea of your chances. Often times most applicants have good grades and test scores. What really helps set you apart is having a professor in the admissions meeting say "Oh, yeah this kid is pretty bright. I'd certainly like to work with him."

    Maybe someday, they'll see a hero's just a man. Who knows he's free.
  • MazzyxMazzyx A Restoration through Revolution. Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Thanks for the advice. I have my GRE stuff done from last year. Luckily I have kept up with a few of my college professors through email and such since I have lived in Japan for the last three years making face to face contact hard. Sadly travel isn't really possible at the moment, in fact it is the same reason I have so much time at the moment and I am in the United States instead of Japan at the moment.

    I will probably be able to head to my old college in about a week or so if I am feeling better. It's about an hour and a half drive my parents house so I can hopefully see some of my the people who have been helping me in person for the first time in a while.

    The hardest part I have found so far is just getting a list of schools to research. There is a surprisingly large amount of schools out there that where to begin is kind of intimidating. I have two schools at least chosen already so I am down to about 4 to 5 more to find.

    My intent letters go through a couple former professors of mine, a close friend who is doing her PhD work at KU, and my aunt who is a professional editor of college text books. Though I still find this type of writing harder than say a research paper mainly because I haven't done it as much.

    Thanks again for all the advice, and I will keep looking and hopefully with a lot of hard work and little luck I will be entering graduate school this time next year.

    meijisig.png
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