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Graduate School 101 for the Curious History Major

I’ve already written a little about the decision between taking a gap year and jumping straight into graduate school, but once you answer that question you still have to decide where you might want to go after the gap year. I’ll provide a couple of questions that you might want to think about when making this decision for yourself. Everything I am writing here comes almost entirely from Centre professors who have asked me these same questions.

First, do you want to go for a masters or your Ph.D in graduate school?

To start, you have to decide what type of program you are looking for. Do you want to pursue history because you want to work for an NGO, an archive, or a government position? If so, you need to pick a specialized terminal masters program that will give you the specific set of skills you are looking for. Many jobs within the historical discipline only require a masters degree, so this is a viable solution for you if you think you might want to stop at your masters. Keep in mind that when searching for masters programs of this nature many jobs might be tagged as Library Sciences or Archival Studies, so keep in mind sub-disciplines as a possible masters degree option.

If you want to teach and you are certain that you want to get your P.H.D. then you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) get a terminal masters before your P.H.D. program because some programs will make you repeat much of the coursework. P.H.D.’s in history can take anywhere from 5-9 years and are a huge commitment, without a guaranteed job after graduation. Think carefully about whether or not this is something you are willing to commit to for half a decade or more.

Great! You want to go for your Ph.D.? What kind of research do you want to do and where is that research being done?

Okay, so if you know you want to go for your P.H.D. even after you have heard Dr.Tubb’s honest assessment of graduate school talk, you need to think about what type of research you want to do and where that research is being done. Going to a good school is important because it will help get you in the door for job interviews, but according to those I’ve spoken with who have shared their wisdom with me, it is equally (and oftentimes more important) to go somewhere you can find an excellent mentor who is conducting research similar to your interests.

Okay, now that you know who and where, how are you going to get in and pay for it?

When I was assessing graduate schools, I began by looking at regions that had professors I wanted to work with and then I narrowed it down by places I wanted to live. I made a spreadsheet of the individuals who were teaching in that program that might be available as an advisor for my project. My spreadsheet also included the estimated GRE score and average GPA of the program (when such data was available), scholarship and tuition options, research opportunities, and assitanceships (for example, The Latin American Studies program at UT has Ernesto Cardenal’s papers in house). The GRE and GPA information gave me a goal to set for my GPA in school and a target to hit for my GRE score. Many students take the GRE in the summer before they begin applying in the fall, others wait til the fall or spring, depending on if they want to do a gap year or not. These factors can be overwhelming but each can be an important part of your graduate school experience and the faculty at Centre can undoubtedly provide even more information to consider.

This is not meant to be an encompassing guide to the process, but it is a basic outline for beginning the process. If you’re like me, and you had to figure out much of this by asking professors and doing internet searches, I hope this will help get you on track for c

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