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History PhD Chances

JTausTXJTausTX Posts: 1Registered User New Member
edited March 2012 in Graduate School
Hello all. New user, but I've been reading a lot of similar threads lately (some from years and years back), and this forum seems to offer a lot of good advice.

So here's my situation. I am a May 2010 graduate looking to get into a history PhD program for the Fall 2013 cycle, so I'll be applying at the end of this year. I am still doing research on professors and schools, but I've found a few programs that seem to have professors who are a good fit for my research interests, though I'll admit to some uncertainty there still. Basically, these are highly-rated programs that are sure to be intensely competitive. I want to know if anyone can give me any insight on my chances with these schools:

Princeton
U Chicago
Harvard
Yale
Stanford
Michigan Ann Arbor
Columbia
NYU

I am looking to study German history, with an emphasis on the development of the Prussian and Imperial states over time. I also have a strong interest in the development of the Holy Roman Empire and in military history.

My details: I was a double major in History and German with a 3.95 overall GPA, major GPAs were 3.9 and 4.0 respectively. GRE is 690 V, 720 Q, 5.5 writing. I have lots of academic honors from my university, am Phi Beta Kappa and a couple of field-specific honor societies, the works. I also have about 2 years of post-graduate work history in totally unrelated fields (marketing and tech writing). I do not have any publications or anything like that, though I do have several research theses. I speak and read German at an "advanced intermediate" level and have a mildly proficient reading knowledge of French (can't speak it to save my life though).

So... that's it! Sorry for the length, and for asking a question that's been asked a thousand times, but I've just started really preparing in earnest and thought that any information from you fine folks would be wonderful. Thanks again!
Post edited by JTausTX on

Replies to: History PhD Chances

  • warblersrulewarblersrule Posts: 8,690Super Moderator Senior Member
    Unfortunately for you, none of us can estimate your chances. History programs are exceedingly selective, with some of the best (e.g. Stanford and Columbia) having 40 or 45 applicants per spot. Too much depends on factors we don't know -- did German/European history admit too many students last year? Is a new hire in African history getting an unusually large crop of students? How dependent is the department on outside funding like FLAS? Is a military history professor retiring or going on leave? A lot depends on things over which you have very little control.

    The best anyone can do is to:
    • Have an awesome writing sample. Edit it until it's perfect and then edit more. Get professors and/or others to help.

    • Have a good language background. It sounds like you've done this.

    • Get a good research background. Independent studies and senior theses are good for this. Your research papers should qualify if they show a reasonable amount of independent thought.

    • Get glowing letters of recommendation, preferably from people well-known in the field.

    • Write an awesome personal statement outlining why you want to go to graduate school, exactly what it is you want to study, and why you want to study it at that particular university.
    Contact relevant professors in those departments, who can give you some idea of whether they will be accepting students in the future. Be polite and brief, and provide them with a short overview of your research interests in the body of the email and a copy of your CV as an attachment.

    You may want to consider some military history programs -- what about OSU, UNC, KSU...? Getting an account on Academia and browsing for faculty with similar interests is one way to find programs; finding interesting/relevant articles and looking up where the scholar works is another way.

    I recommend adding some safer options if you're determined to get into grad school. Non-flagship public universities are usually the best place to look for funded master's programs, which you can use as a springboard to an elite PhD program elsewhere.
  • ticklemepinkticklemepink Posts: 2,764Registered User Senior Member
    I second OSU. There are excellent German historians there as well as military historians.

    If possible, be sure to use primary sources in German in your writing sample to show off your language skills.

    History programs are indeed very, very competitive with the aim of yielding only about 5-10% of the total applications. Even a place like OSU has gotten much more competitive in the last decade, ranking it at the same level as NYU and Wisconsin, just below Stanford and Columbia.

    But do be aware that military history isn't very popular right now and you may be more likely to find a position working for the US military than in academia.
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