θωερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψ υιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψυιοπασδ φγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζ Applying to Graduate School: ξχϖβνµθωερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµ A Guide and Timeline θωερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψ υιοπασδφγηϕκτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβν

µθωερτψυιοπασδφγη
                                                                                           

ϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχ ϖβνµθωερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθω ερτψυιοπασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψυιο πασδφγηϕκλζξχϖβνµθωερτψυιοπασδφγη
     

 

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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

  INTRODUCTION  

Table  of  Contents  
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                   MATERIALS  YOU  WILL  NEED  TO  APPLY    

  WHAT  IS  GRADUATE  SCHOOL?     APPLICATION  PROCESS  TIMELINE  
                   SOPHOMORE  YEAR                      JUNIOR  YEAR  –  FALL                      JUNIOR  YEAR  –  SPRING                      SUMMER  BEFORE  SENIOR  YEAR                      SENIOR  YEAR  –  FALL  
                                                 SEPTEMBER                                                    OCTOBER                                                    NOVEMBER/DECEMBER  

3   4  
4   4   5   6   8  
8   9   10  

                     

 

THE  DECISION  PROCESS  
                   POSSIBLE  DECISIONS  

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  RESOURCES     SAMPLE  MATERIALS  
                   INITIAL  EMAIL  TO  POI                      CURRICULUM  VITAE  
                                                 SAMPLE  CV                                                    CV  TIPS  

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13   13  
14   14  

                   SAMPLE  FIT  PARAGRAPH  

  GRADUATE  APPLICATION  CHECKLIST  
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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

  pplying   to   graduate   school   for   history   (or   any   discipline)   is   a   long   and,   sometimes,   complicated   process.   This   timeline   is   designed   to   not   only   tell   you   when  you  should  be   doing   something   related   to   the   application   process,   but   also   why   and   how   you   should   be   doing  it.  Whether  pursuing  an  advanced  degree  in  history  makes  sense  is  up  to  you,  but  you   should   pay   close   attention   to   the   thoughts   and   opinions   of   your   mentor/advisor   on   this   subject.   After   all,   they   know   what   is   required   to   earn   a   doctoral   degree   and   they   also   know   your   work.   However,   if   you   have   made   an   informed   decision   regarding   graduate   school,   this   timeline   will,   hopefully,   make   the   application   process,   and   all   its   little   quirks,   a   bit  less   mysterious  while  also  giving  you  enough  direction  to  not  feel  overwhelmed  from  the  start.   The   keys   to   the   process   are   organization   and   preparation.   The   earlier   you   start,   the   better.   Throughout,  I  also  give  tips  on  organizing  your  process.  I  cannot  stress  enough  how  much   easier   the   process   will   be   if   you   develop   a   way   to   see   at-­‐a-­‐glance   information   about   prospective   schools,   their   application   requirements,   and,   while   you’re   applying,   what   materials   have   been   requested,   sent,   and   received.   In   addition   to   the   timeline,   I   have   included  a  page  of  internet  resources  followed  by  some  sample  materials.        

Introduction  

A

Materials  You  Will  Need  to  Apply:  
Statement  of  Purpose  

 A  500-­‐1000  word  essay  about  your  academic  interests,     previous  research  experience,  specific  topic  of  interest,  and  fit  with     each  specific  department  to  which  you  are  applying.   Generally,  a  15  to  25-­‐page  research  essay  based  on  primary  sources  and  engaged     with  secondary  sources.   Three  letters  written  by  the  professors  most  familiar  with  your  work.  

Writing  Sample  

Letters  of  Recommendation   GRE  Scores  

The  standard  graduate  school  entrance  test  administered  by  ETS.  It  is  not     the  most  important  aspect  of  your  application,  but  not  doing  well  can  preclude     you  from  fellowships  and  other  sources  of  internal  funding.   Most  applications  will  require  transcripts  from  every  post-­‐secondary     institution  you  have  attended.   Basically,  a  resume  of  your  academic  achievements.  

Undergraduate  Transcripts  

Curriculum  Vitae  

   
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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

H  

ow  does  graduate  school  differ  from  the  average  undergraduate  experience?  Well,  for   starters,   classes   generally   meet   once   a   week   for   anywhere   from   one-­‐hour   and   forty-­‐ five  minutes  to  three  hours.  The  two  main  types  of  graduate  courses  are  reading  seminars   and  research  seminars.  The  average  reading  load  for  a  reading  seminar,  the  most  common   graduate   course,   is   one   book   per   week   sometimes   accompanied   by   a   journal   article   or   two.   Most   graduate   programs   require   students   to   take   at   least   three,   if   not   four,   classes   per   semester.   This   means   that   you   will   be   expected   to   read   three   to   four   books   per   week   along   with  a  similar  number  of  journal  articles  and  to  discuss  them  intelligently  for  two  or  more   hours   each   per   week.   You   will   also   likely   be   required   to   produce   a   number   of   scholarly   book   reviews   throughout   the   semester.   In   most   seminars,   a   historiographical   essay   of   around  twenty  pages  is  also  required.  A  research  seminar  has  a  similar  reading  load,  which   usually   lightens   a   bit   as   the   semester   goes   on   because   you   will   be   required   to   produce   a   research   paper   of   publishable   quality   by   the   end   of   the   semester.   If   this   sounds   like   an   impossible   workload   to   you,   perhaps   you   need   to   speak   to   your   mentor   about   your   expectations  concerning  graduate  study.  This  type  of  coursework  can  last  anywhere  from   two  to  three  years  in  most  programs.     After   you   have   completed   your   course   requirements,   you   will   also   be   expected   to   pass   the   required   language   exams.   Usually   these   usually   consist   of   a   one   or   two-­‐page   selection   that   must   be   translated   in   a   specified   amount   of   time   with   the   aid   of   a   dictionary.   Then,  you  are  ready  to  prepare  for  your  exams  or  comps.  The  format  differs  from  school  to   school.   Some   have   an   oral   examination   administered   by   a   committee   (usually,   three   professors)  and  lasting  around  two  hours.  Some  have  a  written  exam.  Some  have  both.  In   order   to   prepare,   a   list   of   books   is   drawn   up   in   consultation   with   your   committee,   which   can   be   anywhere   from   fifty   to   over   one   hundred   books.   You   will   then   have   a   specific   number  of  months  to  cover  this  material  on  your  own.  The  exams  usually  test  your  primary   field   and   either   one   or   two   other   secondary   fields.   Once   you   have   completed   this   rite   of   passage,   you   will   be   advanced   to   candidacy   or   A.B.D.   (all   but   the   dissertation)   status.   From   there  on  out,  your  main  task  will  be  to  complete  your  dissertation.  How  long  this  takes  you   will   be   determined   by   any   number   of   factors,   e.g.   how   much   funding   do   you   have?   How   many  research  trips  will  you  need  to  take?  How  many  courses  are  you  teaching?  If  you  do   finish  the  dissertation,  you  will  be  expected  to  defend  it  before  your  dissertation  committee   before  receiving  your  degree.     Graduate   school   is   unlike   your   undergraduate   experience   in   many   ways.   Your   workload  will  be  heavier.  You  will  be  solely  responsible  for  your  own  progress  and  work.   Your   relationships   with   your   professors   will   be   different   than   they   were   during   your   undergraduate  days.  Faculty  will  treat  you  like  a  junior  colleague,  but,  in  return,  they  will   expect   you   to   behave   and   produce   like   a   junior   colleague.   If   much   of   what   I   have   written   of   here  was  unfamiliar  to  you,  I  suggest  you  talk  about  these  things  with  your  advisor/mentor   and  your  other  professors.    

What  is  Graduate  School?    

   
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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

Application  Process  Timeline  
 

Sophomore  Year    
1.  Develop  relationships  with  professors.   • Try  to  take  multiple  classes  with  the  same  professors.  You  will  need  3              letters  of  recommendation  and  the  better  a  professor  knows  you,  the                better  letter  they  can  write.   • Go  to  their  office  hours  a  few  times  during  the  semester  to  talk  about  your                    interests  and  the  possibility  of  applying  to  graduate  school.  Let  them  know              you’re  available  if  they  or  someone  they  know  needs  a  research  assistant.   2.  If  you  have  not  already,  begin  language  study  as  soon  as  possible.   • If  you  plan  to  apply  for  a  field  outside  of  American  history,  your  language     preparation  will  be  a  significant  factor  in  your  application.    For  example,  if           you  are  planning  to  study  French  history,  you  should  be  able  to  read     French  easily  before  applying.  Medievalists  will  be  expected  to  have  two     ready  languages  at  least  upon  applying  out  of  the  required  French,     German,  Latin,  and  Ancient  Greek.  Ancient  historians,  like  classicists,  will     be  expected  to  have  more  than  2  years  of  both  Latin  and  Ancient  Greek.     The  top  programs  will  expect  at  least  one,  if  not  two,  languages  even  for     Americanists.  

 

Junior  Year  –  Fall    
1.  Talk  to  your  mentor/advisor  about  doing  a  primary  source-­‐based  research              paper  in  the  spring.   • As  a  history  applicant,  your  writing  sample  is  quite  possibly  the  single              most  important  part  of  your  application.  Most  schools  have  senior  history              majors  do  research  papers,  but  that  will  be  too  late  to  use  it  as  an                application  writing  sample.  Producing  a  paper  in  your  junior  year  will  also              allow  you  ample  revision  time  over  the  summer  and  fall  of  your  senior              year.   • Think  about  possible  essay  topics  that  interest  you  either  on  your  own  or                from  a  class  you’ve  taken  and  run  them  by  your  advisor.  If  your              department  does  not  have  a  research,  honors,  or  similar  course,  ask              your  mentor/advisor  if  you  can  do  it  as  an  independent  study.   • Make  sure  you  let  the  professor  know  that  you  hope  to  use  the  paper  as              your  application's  writing  sample.         -­‐    4    -­‐        

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

  1.  Talk  to  your  mentor/advisor  about  possible  graduate  programs.   • Your  professors  will  know  the  reputations  of  programs  and  likely  will  have            had  personal  and/or  professional  interaction  with  historians  at  other              programs.   • Generally,  it  is  not  considered  a  good  idea  to  pursue  a  graduate  degree  at              the  same  school  at  which  you  received  your  undergraduate  degree.  Don’t              ask  why  .  .  .  That’s  just  how  it  is.   2.  Write  a  research  paper  that  can  be  used  as  a  writing  sample.     • Remember  to  pick  a  manageable  topic.  This  includes  a  topic  for  which  you            will  have  access  to  sources  and  won’t  require  more  time  than  you  will  have              to  complete  the  essay.  Check  your  library’s  archives  and  manuscript                division  to  see  what  kind  of  primary  sources  are  easily  available.  If  you  live              in  a  metropolitan  area,  check  the  large  public  libraries  nearby  to  see  what              they  have  in  their  collections.   3.  Begin  researching  possible  schools  to  which  you  might  apply.   • “Fit”  cannot  be  underestimated.  The  schools  you  choose  should  be  based,              in  large  part,  on  their  faculty.  No  program  will  admit  even  the  best  student              if  no  one  on  the  faculty  has  similar  interests.  Your  choice  of  schools  should              be  a  combination  of  fit,  rank,  and  personal  preference,  in  that  order.   Ø Limiting  your  search  geographically  will  seriously  hamper  your   chances.  The  life  of  a  professor  can  be  a  nomadic  one  and  the  state  of  the   job  market  requires  professors  to  be  geographically  mobile.  Similarly,  in   choosing  a  graduate  program,  you  must  be  willing  to  go  to  the  best   program  to  which  you  are  accepted  in  order  to  maximize  your  future   employability.  This  is  definitely  something  worth  discussing  with  your   mentor/advisor.   • You  should  begin  browsing  the  department  websites  at  schools  you  might              consider.  You  can  start  by  browsing  through  them  to  get  a  feel  for  the              department.  Read  their  “mission”  statements,  look  at  current  and  previous              graduate  courses,  look  at  their  requirements  for  earning  the  degree  (download              their  graduate  student  handbook,  if  available),  and,  most  importantly,  read  the                              faculty  bios  and  CVs.   • You  would  likely  be  surprised  at  the  number  of  people  who  apply  to  schools                without  even  having  browsed  through  the  departments’  websites  in  a                      thorough  manner.  You  should  not  only  look  at  the  department’s  website,  but                      also  that  of  the  graduate  school  as  well.  Pay  special  attention  to  the  degree                      structure,  i.e.,  How  many  courses  does  one  need  to  take  before  exams?  Are                                          there  tutorial  courses  for  exams  and/or  dissertation  prospectuses?  When                                  does  the  program  expect  students  to  take  their  exams?  Are  the  exams  oral,                                  written,  or  both?  By  when  must  language  exams  be  passed?  

Junior  Year  –  Spring  

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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline   4.  Schedule  an  appointment  to  take  the  GRE  for  sometime  in  the  summer.     • The  GRE  can  be  taken  only  once  each  calendar  month.  It  is  not  uncommon              to  take  the  test  twice,  so  try  to  schedule  it  toward  the  end  of  July,  if              possible.  This  way,  if  you  do  not  do  as  well  as  you  hoped,  you  can  take  it              again  in  a  few  weeks  before  your  senior  year  begins.   • Remember,  you  are  advised  to  take  the  test  no  later  than  October  to              ensure  your  scores  arrive  in  time.  

 

Summer  before  Senior  Year    
1.  Study  for  the  GRE.   • Get  a  new  prep  book  since  the  GRE  changed  in  the  summer  of  2011.  Pay              special  attention  to  strategies  for  the  Verbal  section.  The  Verbal  section  is              by  far  the  most  important  part  of  the  test  for  history  applicants.   • Study  the  most  common  GRE  word  lists  that  come  with  the  book  (or  look              them  up  online).  Make  flashcards  or  use  a  flashcard  application.   • For  a  history  applicant,  the  Quantitative  section  is  largely  irrelevant  unless              you  plan  to  focus  on  economic  or  demographic  history.  Therefore,  if  you              are  short  on  time,  don’t  waste  time  studying  for  the  Quantitative  section  at                the  expense  of  the  Verbal  section.   • All  the  prep  books  show  you  the  exact  format  which  ETS  expects  in  the              Analytical  Writing  section.  Familiarize  yourself  with  their  expectations.   2.  Throughout  the  summer,  you  should  be  narrowing  down  your  list  of              schools.   • How  many  schools  you  apply  to  is  up  to  you.  On  average,  it  costs  about              $100  per  school.  Ideally,  you  should  apply  as  widely  as  possible,  i.e.  to  a              few  top  programs,  a  few  top  20-­‐50,  and  a  few  others,  as  well.  Generally,              you  should  be  applying  to  anywhere  from  6-­‐12  schools  to  give  yourself  the              best  chance  of  getting  an  acceptance  and  funding.  Be  sure  to  discuss  this              important  decision  with  your  mentor/advisor.   • Also,  share  your  potential  list  of  schools  with  your  mentor/advisor  and                        ask  for  feedback.   • Make  a  spreadsheet  in  which  you  can  list  potential  programs  and  all              relevant  information  such  as  school,  application  fee,  language              requirements,  number  of  letters  of  recommendation,  required  possible  advisors,              personal  statement  instructions,  etc.   • As  you  begin  selecting  schools,  try  to  familiarize  yourself  with  the  work  of              the  faculty  member  with  whom  you  would  most  like  to  work  so  you  can              write  intelligently  about  it  in  your  personal  statement.   4.  Take  the  GRE.   • Before  you  take  the  test,  try  to  have  at  least  4  of  the  schools  to  which  you     -­‐    6    -­‐        

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline            will  apply  nailed  down,  since  they  let  you  specify  4  schools  to  send  the              results  to  at  no  charge.  After  those  four,  each  one  costs  an  additional  fee              ($23  as  of  December  31,  2010).   5.  Begin  drafting  your  personal  statement  or  statement  of  purpose  (or  “SOP”).   • It  is  extremely  important  that  you  do  not  put  this  off  until  the  last  minute.              It  is  the  norm  for  even  the  best  writers  to  go  through  many,  many  drafts              before  the  statement  is  ready.   • Remember,  this  is  not  like  an  undergraduate  admissions  essay.  Most              schools  will  have  specific  things  they  would  like  you  to  address,  but,  in              general,  you  will  be  expected  to  be  specific  about   your  field  of  interest,                   why  you  are  interested  in  that  field,     what  issues  within  the  field  you  are  most  interested  in,     your  previous  research  experience,     and  why  you  think  you  fit  well  with  the  department.   • To  begin,  just  get  a  draft  down  on  paper.  You  might  want  to  treat  each              individual  aspect  above  separately  at  first  just  to  get  your  ideas  down  on              paper.     • Do  not  write  anything  like,  “Ever  since  I  was  a  little  kid,  I  have  always                loved  history...”   • Ask  your  mentor/advisor  and  another  professor  who  is  familiar  with  your              work  if  they  would  be  willing  to  read  your  drafts  and  give  feedback.     • The  key  to  a  good  personal  statement  is  that  it  is  written  clearly  and              concisely.  Most  schools  will  give  you  no  more  than  1000  words  (or  around  4              double-­‐spaced  pages)  and  some  will  limit  you  to  less  than  500.     • If  you  are  applying  to  10  programs,  you  likely  do  not  need  to  write  10              different  statements.  However,  at  the  very  least,  you  should  have  a  “fit              paragraph”  which  addresses  how  your  interests  fit  with  the  department  and              faculty  for  each  school.   Ø For  the  “fit  paragraph  (see  Sample  Materials),”  mention  specific       professors  whose  interests  are  similar  to  your  own.  Do  the  school’s   libraries  have  specific  archival  collections  related  to  your  field?  If  so,   mention  that.  Does  the  department  have  colloquia,  seminars,  or  centers   related  to  your  field?  Mention  them.  Are  there  are  other  large  archival   repositories  or  professional  organizations  relevant  to  your  field  located   nearby?  Mention  them.  You  want  to  show  the  department,  if  possible,  that   the  University’s  resources  will  prove  useful  to  you.  Also,  look  at  the  way   the  degree  is  structured.  Does  anything  about  it  strike  you?  If  so,  include   that.  You  can  also  mention  opportunities  for  teaching,  if  you  are     interested  in  pursuing  an  academic  career.     6.  Polish  your  writing  sample.   • Many  programs  will  have  a  maximum  of  25-­‐30  pages.  So  if  your  research              paper  goes  over  that,  you  will  need  to  edit  it  down  to  an  acceptable  length.  

-­‐    7    -­‐        

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline   • Some  programs  will  have  even  smaller  page  limits,  such  as  10  or  15  pages.              So  you  many  need  to  prepare  2-­‐3  different  length  writing  samples.   • It  is  important  that  your  writing  sample  is  formatted  correctly  in  Chicago                  style.  If  you  are  not  already  familiar  with  this  formatting  style,  get  a  copy              of  A  Manual  for  Writers  of  Research  Papers,  Theses,  and  Dissertations  by              Kate  Turabian.  Formatting  your  paper  and  citations  correctly  shows  that              you  are  conscientious,  pay  attention  to  small  details,  and  are  aware  of  the              standards  of  the  field.  Simply  put,  it  makes  you  look  more  professional.   7.  Begin  preparing  a  Curriculum  Vitae  (or  “CV”).   • A  CV  (see  “Sample  Materials”)  is  your  academic  resume.     • Include  sections  for  academic-­‐related  employment  only,  schooling/degrees,            Honors/Awards,  Research  Interests,  and  References.  Also  include              publications  or  conference  presentations,  if  any.   8.  Have  your  working  list  of  schools.   • Before  the  summer  is  over,  you  should  pretty  much  have  your  list  of              schools.  It  may  not  be  the  absolute  final  list,  but  you  should  start                    bookmarking  the  sites  of  the  departments  to  which  you  will  be  applying.   • Also  bookmark  their  application  pages,  since  you  will  refer  to  them  often.   • It  is  best  to  get  this  out  of  the  way  before  the  fall  semester  begins.   • Once  again,  ask  your  mentor/advisor  if  they  will  look  at  your  writing              sample  and  give  you  feedback.  

 

Senior  Year  –  Fall  
September  
1.  Ask  for  letters  of  recommendation  (or  “LORs”)  in  early  September.     • By  now,  your  advisor/mentor  and  possibly  another  professor  know  you              are  applying  to  graduate  school.  Ask  them  if  they  will  write  you  a  letter  of              recommendation.  Also,  immediately  upon  your  return  begin  looking  for  a              third  letter-­‐writer,  if  you  do  not  yet  have  one.   • Generally,  it  is  best  to  ask  in  person  rather  than  through  email.  Go  to  their              office  hours  and  ask  if  they  would  be  willing  to  write  you  a  letter  of              recommendation.   • You  want  to  ask  professors  with  whom  you  have  taken  more  than  one              class,  so  they  are  familiar  enough  with  your  work  to  write  a  detailed  letter.   • Be  prepared  to  give  any  professor  you  ask  for  an  LOR  a  copy  of  your  most-­‐            recent  SOP  draft,  graded  copies  of  your  best  work  in  their  classes,  and,              perhaps,  a  copy  of  your  CV.  The  more  information  a  professor  has,  the              better  the  LOR  will  be.     • If  a  professor  does  not  seem  very  enthusiastic  about  writing  for  you  or              appears  to  hedge  or  be  hesitant,  find  someone  else.  A  brief,  terse,  unenthusiastic    

-­‐    8    -­‐        

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline            letter  will  actually  harm  your  application.  This  is  why  it  is  important  to  develop              relationships  with  professors  starting  as  early  as  possible.   2.  Begin  contacting  potential  advisors  (or  POIs,  “persons  of  interest)  in  early              September.           Send  a  very  brief  email  (see  “Sample  Materials”)  in  which  you:       introduce  yourself,  school,  and  advisor  in  one  sentence,         mention  your  research  interest  in  one  sentence,                                inquire  as  to  whether  they  will  be  accepting  new  students,       describe  your  research  paper  thesis  in  one  sentence,       and  reference  work  of  theirs  that  is  similar  to  yours.   • The  pretense  of  your  email  will  be  to  ask  if  they  are  accepting  new                students,  though  it  does  not  hurt  to  get  your  name  in  front  of  them.   Ø Though  this  may  seem  a  bit  forward  to  some,  it  really  has  become   standard  practice.  Not  everyone  does  it,  but  most  do.  Of  course,  it  is   important  to  not  overdo  it.     • Emailing  potential  advisors  is  the  final  step  in  finalizing  your  list  of              schools.  Some  may  already  have  too  many  students.  Some  may  be  retiring              soon  and  unable  to  take  on  new  students.     • DO  NOT  attach  anything  to  the  email  such  as  your  writing  sample  or  CV.              Like  most  people,  professors  will  not  open  emails  with  attachments  from              unknown  senders.  Simply  use  “re:  Prospective  Student”  as  your  subject              line.   • Some  professors  may  ask  if  you’d  like  to  speak  over  the  phone.  Others              will  ask  you  for  more  information  or  if  you  have  any  questions.  DO  NOT  ask              professors  general  questions  the  answers  to  which  can  be  found  on  the  website.   •

 

October  
3.  Begin  filling  out  the  online  applications  as  soon  as  they  become  available,              usually  in  early  October.   • Make  sure  to  start  early  since  the  online  applications  will  ask  you  to              submit  your  recommenders’  email  addresses  and  you  want  to  give  them  as              much  time  as  possible.  Most  systems  will  send  them  an  email  with              instructions  for  logging  in  and  uploading  the  letter.  Most  will  also  send  you              an  email  to  let  you  know  that  a  letter  has  been  uploaded  by  your              recommender.   • Even  if  your  personal  statement  and  writing  sample  are  not  done  yet,              begin  filling  out  all  your  personal  information  for  all  the  applications.   • Keep  a  spreadsheet  so  you  can  see  what  you  have  submitted  for  each            application.  Make  columns  for  School,  Application  Fee,  GRE,  LORs,  SOP.   4.  Order  transcripts  from  your  Registrar’s  office.     • Pay  attention  to  instructions  on  both  the  graduate  school  and  individual    

-­‐    9    -­‐        

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline            departments’  websites.  Some  will  ask  that  you  have  two  copies  sent,  one  to              the  Graduate  School  and  one  to  the  department.  Also,  some  may  not              require  that  they  be  official  transcripts.   • Remember  that  you  will  be  required  to  send  transcripts  from  each  post-­‐            secondary  school  you  have  attended  so  factor  that  into  your  cost  and  time              preparations.   • Also,  remember  that  receipt  of  the  transcripts  is  your  responsibility,  NOT              that  of  your  college’s  Registrar.  Always  get  a  receipt  and  mark  down  the              day  you  requested  the  transcripts.  Follow  up  by  checking  your  online              application  status  to  make  sure  they  have  been  received.  

  November/December  
5.  Finish  applications.   • Upload  your  SOPs  and  writing  samples  carefully  naming  each  file  with  the              proper  school  name.  Double-­‐check  this,  then  double-­‐check  it  again.   • Pay  your  application  fees.  Many  schools  offer  fee  waivers  requiring  either                your  most  recent  tax  return  or  a  letter  from  your  school’s  Financial  Aid              Office.  Be  sure  to  search  websites  carefully  for  this  information  since  many              do  not  make  it  easy  to  find.   • Throughout  December  and  into  January  you  should  be  checking  the  online              applications  regularly  to  make  sure  they  received  your  GRE  scores  and              transcripts,  and  that  your  professors  have  uploaded  all  your  LORs.   Ø If  the  end  of  November  is  coming  and  one  of  your  professors  has     not  uploaded  their  letter  yet,  send  them  a  very  polite  email  or  stop  by  their   office  to  remind  them  about  the  letter  and  offer  to  have  the  online   application  send  them  another  email  (since  they  do  so  sometimes  get     caught  by  spam/junk  filters).   6.  Submit  applications.   • For  most  schools,  you  do  not  have  to  wait  for  all  your  materials  to  arrive              before  actually  submitting  your  application.  LORs,  transcripts,  and  GRE              scores  can  arrive  after  the  application  has  been  officially  submitted.   • As  soon  as  you  have  completed  the  application  and  uploaded  your  own              supplementary  materials,  you  may  press  “SUBMIT.”  However,  double-­‐            check  and  triple-­‐check  the  application  and  your  supplementary  materials,              because  these  will  be  unchangeable  after  you  press,  “SUBMIT.”   • Depending  on  the  tone  of  your  email  conversations  with  specific              professors,  you  may  want  to  send  them  a  very  brief  email  just  after  the              deadline  to  say  that  you  have  submitted  your  application  and  thank  them              for  their  assistance.   7.  Continue  checking  your  application  status  at  each  school  through  the  winter              break.  

-­‐  10  -­‐            

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

The  Decision  Process  

A

s  a  potential  applicant,  the  decision  process  can  seem  a  bit  mysterious.  In  fact,  many   schools   and   their   admission   committees   go   about   different   parts   of   the   process   in   different   ways.   However,   the   process,   in   general,   is   pretty   standard.   Many   of   the   top   programs   will   receive   upwards   of   400   applications   and   even   the   biggest   of   these   admits   only   around   20   students   in   any   given   year.   Less   prestigious   programs   can   receive   anywhere  from  100  to  300  applications  per  year  and  admit  5  to  15  students.    Remember,   what  follows  is  only  a  generalization  to  give  you  an  idea  of  the  process.   Generally,   many   admissions   committees   have   unwritten   (and,   perhaps,   even   unspoken)  cut-­‐offs  designed  to  cut  the  pile  of  applications  down  to  a  manageable  size.  For   example,  they  may  pull  out  all  applications  with  GRE  Verbal  scores  below  550  and/or  GPAs   under   3.0   (these   numbers   will   vary   according   to   the   reputation   of   the   program).   Not   all   admissions   committees   do   this,   but   many   do.   Once   they   have   a   smaller   pile,   applications   are  divided  among  committee  members  to  be  read.  Many  committees  have  each  application   read  by  more  than  one  member.  At  that  point,  applications  are  flagged  as  either  rejects  or   possible  admits  and  the  latter  are  ranked  in  some  way.  They  may  then  be  sent  to  the  POI   mentioned  in  the  application  for  further  review.  This  is  why  contacting  POIs  in  advance  can   be  beneficial.     The   committees   usually   meet   sometime   in   late   January   and   early   February.   Generally   speaking,   the   committee’s   top   choices   will   be   notified   first.   Then   straight   rejections   are   notified   followed   by   other   admits   and   waitlists.   Some   top   programs   notify   their   top   choices   in   the   second   week   of   February,   but   the   majority   of   applicants   will   be   notified  between  late-­‐February  and  late-­‐March.        
Possible Decisions 1. Admitted with full funding – For PhD programs, this generally means the student is awarded full tuition remission, a living stipend, and, usually, health insurance. Generally, the first year or two is covered by a fellowship while the remaining years are covered by teaching and/or research assistantships. 2. Admitted with partial funding – This type of offer is more common in mid-ranked PhD programs. It usually offers full or partial tuition remission and the possibility of a research or teaching assistantship. 3. Admitted with no funding – Only you can make the choice, but it is usually not a smart financial decision to take out loans for a PhD in the Humanities due to the incredibly tough job market that awaits graduates. Some schools will give you a chance to earn future funding depending on your performance in the first year. However, it is important that you seriously discuss the possibility of accepting an admission with no funding with your mentor/advisor. 4. Waitlisted – You may be admitted later if enough people do not accept offers. 5. Rejected – Because the competition gets increasingly tough with each year, there no shame in not receiving admission offers. Many good candidates have been forced to re-apply the next year. Take that time to strengthen your application by improving your language proficiency or producing a better writing sample.

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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

Resources  

T

his   is   just   a   collection   of   resources   which   I   found   especially   helpful   during   the   application  process.  Of  course,  there  are  hundreds  of  websites  devoted  to  applying  to   graduate   school   from   personal   blogs   to   university   and   department   pages.   It   is   worth   spending  some  time  browsing  through  these  sites  as  well  as  finding  others.       1.  Gregory  Colon  Semenza,  Graduate  Study  in  the  Twenty-­‐First  Century   The  best  book,  by  far,  on  what  it  is  like  to  be  a  graduate  student.  This  book  should  be   required   reading   for   anyone   even   considering   applying   to   graduate   school   in   the   Humanities.  It  has  replaced  the  outdated  but  still  useful,  Getting  What  You  Came  For:   The   Smart   Student’s   Guide   to   Earning   an   MA   or   PhD   by   Robert   Peters.   It   does   not   contain   application   advice.   Rather,   it   lets   you   know   exactly   what   to   expect   as   a   graduate  student  and  even  includes  a  fantastic  appendix  with  samples  of  documents   useful  for  all  graduate  students  like  a  CV,  teaching  statement,  conference  proposal,     etc.   2.  American  Historical  Association  (http://historians.org/grads/index.cfm)   The  AHA  website  has  many  informative  articles  on  all  aspects  of  graduate  education   from   the   application   process   to   writing   a   dissertation.   It   also   collects   information   about   all   the   doctoral   programs   in   history   in   the   country   at:   http://historians.org/projects/cge/PhD/intro.cfm.     3.  The  Grad  Café  (http://thegradcafe.com)   The   Grad   Café   hosts   many   blogs   by   fellow   students   applying   to   graduate   school   and   a   very   helpful   forum   in   which   you   can   find   many   thoughtful   answers   to   any   questions  which  might  arise  during  the  process.  They  also  host  a  “Results”  page  on   which   you   can   see   when   specific   programs   began   notifying   students   in   previous   years   and   keep   track   of   which   programs   are   sending   out   notifications   in   the   current   application  season.     4.  Chronicle  of  Higher  Education  (http://chronicle.com)   CHE  is  the  foremost  magazine  and  news  source  regarding  academia  in  general.  They   also  host  a  forum  populated  by  professors.  There  are  many  interesting  stories  and   threads  about  life  in  academia.     5.  Graduate  School  Tips  (http://www.gradschooltips.com/)     This  is  a  general  site  that  breaks  down  the  process.     6.  Graduate  School  Application  Advice   (http://sites.google.com/site/gradappadvice/home)   A   very   informative   site,   though,   it   is   over   five   years   old.   If   there   is   conflicting   advice   between  this  guide  and  the  website,  I  suggest  you  follow  this  guide.  

 

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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

Sample  Materials  

T

hese   materials   are   just   samples.   Their   purpose   is   to   give   you   an   idea   of   the   proper   forms  for  these  types  of  documents  and  communications.  It  is  not  necessary,  or  even   advisable,  that  you  copy  them  word  for  word.      

1.  Initial  email  to  POI.  
The   goals   of   the   email   are   to   introduce   yourself   to   the   professor,   find   out   if   they   are   accepting   students,   and   show   you   are   familiar   with   their   work   and   conscientious   in   choosing  potential  programs.  Anything  more  than  one  brief  paragraph  will  be  considered   presumptive   on   your   part.   If   the   professor   wants   to   carry   on   the   conversation   and   offer   assistance,   they   will.   If   not,   they   will   not.   Do   not   send   them   multiple   emails   without   a   response.   Do   not   reveal   or   discuss   anything   of   a   personal   nature.   Do   not   send   any   attachments.   And   do   not   use   anything   even   approximating   text-­‐speak,   i.e.,   word   abbreviations,   emoticons,   etc....   Remember,   you   want   to   come   across   as   professional   as   possible.          
Subject: re: Prospective Student Professor Lastname, My name is <your name>. I am a senior at the City College of New York where my advisor is <Firstname Lastname>. I am planning to apply to the doctoral program at <college> and wanted to inquire as to whether you are currently accepting new students. I am primarily interested in <your broad field>, particularly in <your subfield>. My previous research explored <your research paperʼs thesis> in a similar manner to your work on <POIʼs research interest>. Thank you very much for your time. Regards, Firstname Lastname student@college.edu

   

2.  Curriculum  Vitae.  
The   purpose   of   the   CV   is   to   show   your   accomplishments   and   qualifications   in   a   simple   format.  The  most  important  feature  of  a  CV  is  its  readability.  DO   NOT  use  non-­‐standard  or   fancy  fonts  or  layouts.  DO   NOT  use  any  graphics.  The  simplest  is  best.  Also,  DO   NOT  try  to   “pad”  your  CV  if  it  seems  somewhat  bare.  Remember,  you  are  still  an  undergraduate  and  no   program   will   be   expecting   you   to   have   publications,   conference   presentations,   or   a   long   string  of  awards  just  yet.      

 
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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

SAMPLE  CV  
 
Firstname Lastname 123 Main Street Anywhere, NY 10101 Email: student@college.edu Phone: (212) 555-1212 Education Bachelor of Arts in History, City College of New York, June 2011 (expected). Associate of Arts, LaGuardia Community College, June 2009. Employment Research Assistant to Professor Firstname Lastname, City College of New York, Summer 2010. Library Assistant, City College of New York, Summer 2009. Intern, Museum of the City of New York, Summer 2008. Honors Deanʼs List, City College of New York, Fall 2010. Joe Q. Smith Essay Award, History Department, City College of New York, Spring 2009. Deanʼs List, City College of New York, Spring 2009. Phi Alpha Theta, Spring 2009. Deanʼs List, City College of New York, Fall 2008. Phi Theta Kappa, Spring 2008. Research Interests 20th-century American history, political history, social history, World War II, radicalism, gender studies, intellectual history, political culture. References 1. Firstname Lastname, Professor of History, College, professorX@college.edu. 2. Firstname Lastname, Assistant Professor of History, College, professorY@college.edu. 3. Firstname Lastname, Associate Professor of History, College, professorZ@college.edu.

    CV  Tips  
1.  Only  include  academic-­‐related  positions  under  the  Employment  heading.   2.  Generally,  your  research  interests  should  not  be  more  than  two  lines.   3.  Only  include  academic  honors  or  service  under  the  Honors  heading.  For  example,  do  not   include  non-­‐academic  volunteer  positions  or  clubs  of  which  you  were  a  member.  At  your   own  discretion,  you  may  include  your  school’s  history  club  if  you  were  an  officer  and  that   section  is  a  bit  bare.   4.  Your  three  references  are  likely  to  be  the  writers  of  your  LORs.    

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Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

3.  Sample  Fit  Paragraph  

O

f  course,  this  is  just  a  sample  fit  paragraph.  Do  not  copy  it  word  for  word.  This  sample   is  meant  to  give  you  an  idea  of  what  may  be  included  in  a  fit  paragraph  as  well  as  one   possible  way  to  structure  it.  To  write  an  effective  fit  paragraph,  you  must  be  very  familiar   with  the  faculty  in  and  around  your  field  and  their  work.  You  should  also  be  familiar  with   specific   centers   or   seminars   in   and   around   your   field   that   are   sponsored   by   the   department.  Finally,  if  the  school  is  in  or  near  a  big  city,  you  should  be  aware  of  its  available   academic  resources  such  as  large  public  libraries  or  academic  societies  and  their  holdings.   Researching  these  things  and  including  them  in  your  fit  paragraph  is  important  because  it   shows  the  admissions  committee  that  you  have  thoroughly  researched  their  school  and  city   and  that  you  have  taken  your  school  selection  very  seriously.      
I firmly believe the department at [school] would be an excellent fit for me. I have been in contact with [POI], who confirmed the similarity of our interests. Also, while I would plan to work primarily with [POI], the presence of numerous other scholars such as [Firstname Lastname] and [Firstname Lastname] would be highly beneficial as well. [Professor Lastnameʼs Book or Article] influenced my approach to [specific topic], as reflected in my honors essay, and [Professor Lastnameʼs Book or Article] introduced the concept of [specific topic], which I would like to pursue going forward. The Universityʼs location provides the added benefit of access to the many resources of [big city], such as the [society or library] and the [society or library]. Also, I would look forward to taking advantage of the departmentʼs valuable relationships with such external organizations as the [department-affiliated Center]. I am also attracted by the structure of the PhD curriculum, in which courses such as [specific exam or dissertation prospectus course] encourage and provide significant interaction between students and their advisors. I believe [school] has the resources, in both faculty and material, to allow me to achieve my maximum potential.

                        -­‐  15  -­‐            

Graduate Application Checklist  
Sophomore Year ☐ Develop relationships with professors. ☐ Begin language study. Junior Year – Fall ☐ Talk to your mentor about doing a primary source based research paper in the spring. Junior Year – Spring ☐ Talk to your mentor about possible graduate programs. ☐ Write a primary source based research paper that can be used as a writing sample. ☐ Begin researching possible schools to which you might apply. ☐ Schedule an appointment to take the GRE sometime in the summer. Summer before Senior Year ☐ Study for the GRE. ☐ Take the GRE. ☐ Begin drafting your SOP. ☐ Polish your writing sample. ☐ Begin preparing your CV. ☐ Create a working list of schools. Senior Year – Fall September ☐ Ask professors for LORs. ☐ Begin contacting POIs. October ☐ Finalize your list of schools. ☐ Begin filling out online applications. ☐ Order transcripts from your Registrar’s office. November/December ☐ Finish applications. ☐ Submit applications. Senior Year – Spring ☐ Continue checking your application status at each school.
 

 

16  

Applying  to  Graduate  School:  A  Guide  and  Timeline  

 

 

About  the  Author  

  As  of  the  writing  of  this  guide,  I  am  an  entering  first-­‐year  PhD  student  in  History  at   Yale   University.   I   received   my   B.A.   in   History   from   the   CUNY   Baccalaureate   Program   for   Unique  and  Interdisciplinary  Studies  via  The  City  College  of  New  York.  I  began  preparing  to   apply   to   graduate   school   in   my   second   year   by   gathering   as   much   information   as   I   could   about  the  process.  I  read  books  and  dozens  of  websites  and  garnered  a  lot  of  information   from   fellow   students   and   faculty   who   had   recently   gone   through   the   process.   I   also   experienced   a   fair   amount   of   trial-­‐and-­‐error   during   my   own   application   season.   This   guide   is  the  result.  I  hope  this  information  will  prove  as  useful  to  you  as  it  did  to  me.                        

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