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What should be done in undergrad to have a good chance at getting into an Ivy for Graduate Program?

ThomasJacquelineThomasJacqueline Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
Hi there, I'm hoping to apply for my undergrad in Art History soon, though I still am looking at schools, but my end goal is to attend either Brown or Columbia for my masters degree, and it's important to me that my undergrad track hopefully leads me to that path, so I was wondering if anyone could direct me to any advice/reading on what would be needed to do during my undergrad to ensure that I have a good shot at being considered for either of these schools for my masters?

My main concerns are:

- Are there any special schools that I should be looking to apply to (for undergrad) that would give me a better chance?

- Are there any specific things I should be focusing on (e.g: research) during my undergrad?

- Is there anything else I need to consider?

Thank you in advance for any and all advice.

Replies to: What should be done in undergrad to have a good chance at getting into an Ivy for Graduate Program?

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 3,683 Senior Member
    Two things that I noticed way back when I was applying to graduate schools:

    Keep your undergrad GPA up. Try to get all A's.

    Don't go so far into debt for undergrad that you can't afford graduate school. No debt at all for undergrad is preferable if you can do it.
  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 Registered User Posts: 903 Member
    A good level of at least one foreign language is often required for art history grad programs.

    You'll need a strong LOR from art hist profs who have taught you.
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,782 Senior Member
    edited April 14
    @ThomasJacqueline , my son majored in art history and even though he decided follow a different career path, many of his colleagues completed graduate degrees in art history and went on to hold academic or curatorial positions.

    First, I would assure you that many colleges and universities -- both very selective and less so -- have good to excellent art history departments. What you want to look for in your undergraduate experience is a school that has a substantial, well funded department, and faculty with degrees from the types of graduate schools that you are targeting.

    It helps if the school has a close relationship with a museum -- either in a nearby city or the college's own museum -- where you can get hands-on
    to works of art and the process of curating. Then, during your undergraduate years you'll want to volunteer or hold summer jobs and internships at museums. Some colleges are better than others in placement. Develop relationships with the professors who will advise you on your graduate schools choice and write your recommendations.

    Many colleges list on departmental websites where their graduates have ended up. If they don't, you could ask which graduate programs their graduates have been admitted to.

    I would also note that most Art History graduate programs require a competence in reading French or German (or an Asian language if that's your specialty) so plan on acquiring that facility. My son's college offered a class on "reading French/German" especially for that purpose.

    Most importantly, look at art! All kinds of art -- art work in museums and galleries, in places of worship and public places and also architecture and performance art. If you can, study abroad -- again, the place would depend on your area of interest. Become comfortable with articulating artistic concepts.

    It's also a good idea to have a foundation in art studio, even if you don't have innate artistic ability. Familiarity with the process and materials involved in making art will help you talk and write about the art you are studying.

    Lastly remember that it's called art history because it's the study of the place at which art and history intersect. Since all cultures make art, art history is really the study of the whole world. Plan on taking courses that help you understand what was going on when the art was created: for example, history, philosophy, literature, anthropology, psychology. Strive for a wide cultural foundation.

    At this point, it's too early to fixate on Brown, Columbia or any specific graduate school. You may end up at "an ivy" or you may find what you're looking for at a small school like Williams or a public university like the University of Michigan. Right now, focus on getting the best and broadest undergraduate education that you can afford.
  • BooBooBearBooBooBear Registered User Posts: 255 Junior Member
    edited April 14
    Top grades, respectable GRE scores (not very important but not UN-important either), very good recommendations (meaning that you need to really get to know a couple of professors from undergrad, and not just get good grades in their classes), and foreign language proficiency (not just able to read, but you need to be able to converse as well as read at least one of French or German and should be able to read a second language if not converse also).

    If you apply to a graduate program in any sort of field related to international studies (history, art history, economics, philosophy, whatever) you better have one language of French and German down cold and another started. That is the easiest way to differentiate among applicants to graduate school. You can’t study a foreign culture or history if you can’t read the academic scholarship of that country/culture. Top grad programs will expect you to be able to read the top secondary literature from the first semester, and not wait until your third year to read scholarship or sources in a foreign language. If you are interested in medieval art, graduate programs would expect you to be proficient in Latin in addition to French and/or German; if interested in ancient periods, Greek and Latin both plus modern foreign languages. Lay people have no idea just how much academic scholarship is written and available only in French and German.

    Middlebury summer language schools, and similar programs, can be a great friend on this journey. I know many professors who picked up language skills on multiple summers at Middlebury. A seven-plus week program that is the equivalent of nine hours in a foreign language (and really more than that given the intensity of the program) is appx $7-10k, so avoiding debt for your standard undergraduate degree can give you the flexibility to pursue these sorts of programs during either undergraduate or graduate studies.
  • ThomasJacquelineThomasJacqueline Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Thank you so much for the invaluable advice everyone, this is so helpful to me. @momrath Thank you so much for all the first hand info from your son's experience. I'm going to really take all of this into account when applying for and attending my undergrad program. Thanks again!
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 3,404 Senior Member
    The last paragraph of answer #3 is important: don't pick out your grad school before you've even started your undergrad. You will be exposed to so many new things during undergrad, and the world expert in one of your new passions may be researching at a "mere" public university.
  • MassmommMassmomm Registered User Posts: 3,244 Senior Member
    At this stage of your life, you don't know for sure that you will even want to study art history all the way through college, let alone in grad school, so pick a college that allows you to change your major, and be flexible. Once you get to college, keep your GPA up, but don't let fear of a hard class stop you from taking it. Grad schools like to see rigor, even if it's not in your major.

    For Brown or Columbia, I imagine that choosing a top LAC for undergrad would help, but the main thing is to keep your debt low, so if that means attending your state flagship, that is absolutely fine!

    The GRE is important, but for a humanities discipline, don't worry if your math score isn't in the tippy top.
  • privatebankerprivatebanker Registered User Posts: 363 Member
    edited April 14
    Funny you have this track. My sister in law went to NYU undergrad then to Europe to get an art restoration certificate of some sort. Then applied to Brown and got her masters. She had great grades but did interesting art related things. Now she’s in NYC restoring art and advising on art for the big big auction houses and famous museums
  • privatebankerprivatebanker Registered User Posts: 363 Member
    FYI she was not an artist at all. Art history major
  • rosered55rosered55 Registered User Posts: 3,148 Senior Member
    Getting good grades is important for admission to any type of graduate program. Other requirements and recommendations vary, depending on the subject area. For example, my daughter (economics) does not speak a second language. That was not a negative at all for her in graduate school admissions. But having job experience after getting her undergraduate degree was important, and even the specific workplace boosted her chances. She found out the relative importance of various factors while she was in college, by talking to professors and through other methods of research.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,100 Super Moderator
    The language advice was specifically for art history programs, not for grad programs in general. Art history programs generally do want you to have 1-2 other languages (and they are mostly concerned with reading proficiency; the reason is because many historical scholarly texts about art are written in other languages).

    There are no special undergrad schools. You'd obviously want to choose one where you could study art history, or at least study art and history. But there are lots of places you can do that. Getting into graduate school is more about what you do in undergrad and not where you do it at.

    And yes, you'll want to get involved in research. Start talking to professors in your department early about your interests, and seek out independent study and other research opportunities.

    I agree that it's too early to get fixated on any particular graduate programs - you may find that your needs and career goals change considerably. For now focus on tailoring a college list with a variety of schools you can see yourself at.
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