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M.A. in Asian Studies at UC Berkeley or USF? M.A. in Asian American Studies at SF State?

FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
I had an underwhelming GPA in a difficult major from a top 10 but underrated public research university. I'm also in my lat 30s - I've been thinking of grad/professional school for a long time, but I know it will be very challenging, and probably not worth it.

For a while now, I'm been thinking of applying to the MA program in Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, with maybe USF as my safety school. I'd much prefer Asian American Studies, but very few schools offer in MA in that - the closest one seems to be UCLA, and I'd like to stay local and commute to school. There's an MA in Asian American Studies at SF State, but I know that SFSU doesn't have anywhere near the name recognition of UCB.

Any thoughts on the MA in Asian Studies at Berkeley or USF, or the MA in Asian American Studies at SFSU? Has anyone gone through those programs, or know people who have completed those programs?

How hard is it to get into those 3 programs? Any other school/programs you can recommend to me that are in the Bay Area, close to San Francisco? I'm open to online programs, but there are hardly any offered in these areas, and they're from no-name and questionable schools.

My goals for those programs is to write, get published, be a "thought leader" in those areas (sorry if it sounds arrogant; it's not meant to be), possibly lecture, and possibly teach in some capacity. My main goal would be to be a published author, whether through books, articles, journal papers, etc. I just think of these programs as giving me a jumping point into what I want to do. I'd also love to go through the grad school experience - it would probably be very personally enriching. Also, I've always thought I would go to grad school, and like many people, it would be great to go to grad school at a top university.

Replies to: M.A. in Asian Studies at UC Berkeley or USF? M.A. in Asian American Studies at SF State?

  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Any responses would be appreciated, thanks!
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,529 Forum Champion
    @FrBlue - Welcome to the Forum! By limiting yourself to the area around San Francisco, you are severely limiting your options. If you are totally convinced that you want to get an MA, then you should apply to all the programs that meet your commuting requirements. You cannot be too choosy.

    However, from your first paragraph, it sounds like you are not totally convinced that you should be in an MA program. I presume that you have been working for a while because you say that you have been considering graduate school for a long time. If that is the case, ask yourself what the MA can add to your career objectives or whether it can permit you to change careers.
  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    @xraymancs

    I wrote about my goals in the last part of my post:

    "My goals for those programs is to write, get published, be a "thought leader" (sorry if it sounds arrogant; it's not meant to be) in Asian or Asian American Studies, maybe lecture, and possibly teach in some capacity. My main goal would be to be a published author, whether through books, articles, journal papers, online digital content, etc. I just think of these master's programs as giving me a jumping point into what I want to do.

    I'd also love to go through the grad school experience - it would probably be very personally enriching. Also, like many people, I've always thought I would go to grad school, and it would be great to go to grad school at a top university."

    *****
    I am not currently working, so an MA would not really be to advance my career. I am interested in making a difference, contribute to public discourse, be a catalyst for social change, and contribute new, insightful, and important information on Asians and Asian American issues.

    I really cannot move to a different area to pursue graduate studies; I can only commute. I'm interested in learning about additional programs that might meet my needs - whether it's ethnic studies, sociology, history, or something else. Any suggestions for universities or programs that might work for me to broaden the number of programs I can apply to? Are the 3 programs I wrote about too few to apply to? Are they hard to get into?

    Again, my goal is to be a published author, content creator, or lecturer/instructor for Asian or Asian American issues.
  • dazedandbemuseddazedandbemused Registered User Posts: 76 Junior Member
    edited September 29
    What was your undergraduate major? What activities have you been involved in that illustrate your interest/commitment to Asian or Asian-American issues? When you write your personal statement explaining why you are applying to the program, what experience can you cite as evidence to back up your motivations? I don't know how competitive are your specific target programs, but since you have been thinking about this for a while - have you prepared yourself to be a competitive applicant? If so, don't let uncertainty about the competitiveness of your target programs hold you back from applying.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,486 Super Moderator
    Asian studies is an interdisciplinary area that would include study in sociology, literature, history, religion, political science, economics, and possibly some other social science and humanities areas. So other programs you could explore would depend upon your focus. If you are interested in Asian studies for the more social science aspects, then exploring an MA in sociology, political science, or maybe history would be good substitutes; if you are interested in Asian studies for the more literary aspects, then explore an MA in literature, etc.

    However, a bigger issue is that it's kind of unlikely that you would become a thought leader in this area, and someone who writes and conducts research, with just an MA in Asian studies. Most researchers and experts in humanities/social sciences areas like that hold doctoral degrees and research and/or teach at universities and colleges, or maybe do research at think tanks, NGOs, and government agencies. If you want to write and get published on a consistent basis and at a high level, you should probably aim for a PhD in the field. And it's better to not be geographically limited if you can swing it for a PhD search.

    For your goals, even if you got an MA only, the place where you went would be pretty important. Normally, for an MA used as a stepping stone to a PhD, I'd say the MA granting university is less important - SFSU or USF would be fine, as long as they allow you to do some research and learn the ropes to get into a PhD program. But if you were going to try to stop at your MA and attempt to become a thought leader/expert in the area with that degree, then I think where you get your MA from would be just as important as where an aspiring doctoral applicant got their PhD from - and in that case, UC Berkeley would be the best choice. Stanford also has an MA program in East Asian Studies.
  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    The responses so far seem quite condescending - especially from julliet and xraymancs. I looked at the post history of the people who replied, and they are not typically condescending to other posters. It seems people latched on to certain things in my post and hang onto it - in julliet's case, it's partly a nasty reaction to my use of the term "thought leader." I had written an apologetic "sorry if it sounds arrogant; it's not meant to be" after my use of "thought leader" - which I put in quotes as well - showing I'm not serious about it.

    The tone of julliet's response seems to be, "You're pretty dumb - you need a PhD for the high-falutin' crap you're "aspiring" to achieve; don't aim too high - you're a lowly person - you need to spread your net wider." I've looked at her responses to other posters, and they have no demeaning tone whatsoever.

    Also, I believe that because my post is about Asian Studies and Asian American Studies, the condescension is more likely to happen than if it was about African American Studies, Ethnic Studies, or any other program.

    I also believe there's a certain vibe or writing style to posts that seem to invite condescending responses. Mine seems to be one of them. I've looked more into people who get condescending responses - and they tend to look nice in pics and have impressive resumes or LI profiles.

    People responding on forums need to try to avoid condescension towards certain posters, whether it's the "vibe" of the post, the content, the writing style, etc. People are free to post on these forums to get information they need - and they shouldn't be made to feel bad for very valid posts. This is especially true on a forum like this one, where posts cannot be deleted.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,486 Super Moderator
    ...I...genuinely have no idea what you're talking about, because my intent in my response was not to be condescending. Knowing xraymancs and having observed a long history of his posts here - he's a Forum Champion because he has a reputation for being friendly and welcoming to people who ask questions here and giving good advice - I also don't think he was intending to be condescending, either. I'm not really sure what kind of response you were looking for here, but let me attempt to explain my response from a different angle to clarify what I meant.

    I don't think that aiming to be a thought leader is "aiming too high" or "arrogant." I think it's admirable and pretty normal for someone who wants to seriously study a field in an academic program higher than a bachelor's degree. There's nothing wrong with being serious about it, if you truly want - having goals to write and publish in a specific area of deep interest and passion are good ones! I would never cast aspersions on anyone who dreamed of that. I dreamed of it myself, and still do; it's one of the reasons I hang out here to answer questions on the Grad School forum, because I want to help people who want to get there.

    My advice was intended to be a sense of encouragement and information. For better or worse, most experts and thought leaders in the humanities have doctoral degrees. It's possible to become one with an MA, particularly if you work in foreign policy or with nonprofits, NGOs, or think tanks for a long career. But as a researcher - one who writes and publishes and teaches courses in the area - you're far more likely to gain success at your aspirations if you have a doctoral degree.

    That's not me telling you not to aim too high or that you're dumb. On the contrary, I'm encouraging you to go the distance and consider a PhD or at least consider getting an MA at two of the most prestigious institutions in the world, because that will make the path to your desired career much easier. (The tenor of my response also had nothing to do with you wanting to study Asian studies - I would've responded the same way had you said history, African American studies, religion, or frankly physics or economics. It's easier to become a recognized expert/researcher in a field if you have a PhD. This is especially true but not limited to the humanities.)
  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    @julliet Thanks for your explanation. It feels better now. I had felt the tone of your response was a bit condescending - but that's something I often get when I post online. I don't know if it's the tone of my own post, the vibe, the fact that I'm not as straightforward as most people, or what it is that makes me more likely to get a dismissive response than others.

    I think the condescending responses are very much "felt," by me, but the responders may not be aware of it - it's subconscious biases. That happens a great deal, especially to me IRL.

    Also, about the condescending answers because I wrote about Asian and Asian American Studies - that would be subconscious biases as well. No one wants to be biased against any groups - but when it's a group that people really don't like at an inherent level, and have no interest in, the subconsious biases are going to happen. It's not intentional, but it's going to hurt just as much, if not more. Studies show that people react worst to Asian faces than any other ethnicity. Asians receive the worst treatment in stores, eateries, hospitals, and other public places. I've noticed some Asian posters on various sites getting the same less-than-courteous responses from others.

    Your most recent response does seem much nicer and more supportive.

    A major problem for me getting into a PhD program is that I'm already in my late 30s - and a PhD program would take years. I haven't accomplished that much in my life. But I am very passionate about Asian and Asian American issues - I know there's a lot of very important content I can put out there that hasn't been published in an official capacity.

    The other thing is that I don't look young for my age, so appearing to be someone even older can be problematic - I'd get age discrimination when i shouldn't even be getting it at this age. I need my time in a grad program to be mostly happy and rewarding - not painful and depressing - and I don't want to be excluded.
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,529 Forum Champion
    @FrBlue - I assure you my response was not intended to be condescending. I was reacting to the statements in your post which were somewhat contradictory, as @juillet pointed out. If you want the best graduate program from which to launch a career in the field, then it is essential to be flexible as to where you attend. I understand that you are concerned about your age and the notion of getting a Ph.D. is daunting, however, if this is really want you want to do, then it could be worthwhile to take the plunge. From your later posts, it sounds like you want to be taken seriously as a scholar in the field. Frankly, that does require a scholarly background which is best achieved with a Ph.D. It is really up to you and if you want to go that route, you need to start by getting into the MA program which best prepares you eventually for a Ph.D.
  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    So I'm still wondering if I should even apply this year, since the applications are due in early December. My chances are certainly very slim for Cal and Stanford. I'm not even sure if I can get into the lesser-known programs at SF State and USF. USF has a rolling deadline in March, I believe.

    GPA: I had a 3.2 GPA at a community college and a 2.8 from UC Davis. I got a BS in Managerial Economics - a very quantitative and analytical major that was very difficult. I took much more courses and spent a longer time at the community college, so the my GPA might tip more in the direction of the community college - though I don't know if it works that way. My grades in humanities/social science/language courses were high (almost all As, maybe a few Bs - and I took lots of them). What made my GPA go down at both the community college and UCD were STEM courses.

    GRE: I have not taken it yet

    LORs: I don't know who to go for these, since I graduated 15 years ago.

    Work experience: I just have okay work experience in areas unrelated to Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, or university research.

    Volunteer experience: Lots of them in my college days, but that was a while ago.

    SOP - I'm uncertain about how well I'd be able to sell myself in the SOP. I've had a unique and difficult life, but it would depend on how well I get everything across. What I do have is a lot of knowledge and passion in these areas, and in many topics that are little known and not yet published in articles or books. I've taken Asian American Studies and plenty of Chinese language classes in college - but that was a while ago. I'm constantly self-educating and posting stuff on these subjects online - though not in an official capacity.



    What are my chances for getting in? Is it even worth it? I'm also afraid I'll have a difficult and painful experience in a grad program, if I do get in. I'd be afraid I'd need to drop out - after all the time, effort, and expense of trying to get it.

    Would it be a good idea to start with an MA, and if I choose, to continue with the PhD? Of course, I'm afraid of age discrimination because I'm already in my late 30s.

    Should I wait to apply next year to better my chances? If I get rejected one year, and I reapply the next year, will they view this negatively - would that be a strike against me?

  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Any responses would be appreciated, thanks.

    I can't find a way to delete a thread or posts on here - I really regret posting.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 71,095 Senior Member
    Would applying directly for the UCB ethnic studies (includes Asian American studies) PhD program be an option?
    http://ethnicstudies.berkeley.edu/programs/grad/admissions
    http://ethnicstudies.berkeley.edu/areas-of-study/area/asian-studies

    However, it is not obvious how selective admissions is (PhD program admissions are by department and holistic, so there is little public information on their admission selectivity).
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 71,095 Senior Member
    FrBlue wrote:
    A major problem for me getting into a PhD program is that I'm already in my late 30s - and a PhD program would take years.

    Universities do admit non-traditional students (or re-entry students in UCB terminology), including both graduates and undergraduates.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 25,374 Senior Member
    edited October 14
    GPA: I had a 3.2 GPA at a community college and a 2.8 from UC Davis.

    You really need to calc your cumulative GPA first. UC requires a minimum of a 3.0 to even apply; otherwise, its auto reject.

    But even if you are just over the 3.0 threshold, the odds of admission to Cal/UCLA and Stanford are near zero w/o related work experience. For an MA, you can assume that the successful competition has a 3.4/3.5+.

    You might look into UC Extension to take a course or two. Not only would you obtain a more current academic grade, but you could possibly get to know the faculty member for a rec.

    Good luck.
  • FrBlueFrBlue Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    @ucbalumnus & @bluebayou - thanks for your responses.
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