Help with Grad Programs in Near and Middle East Studies

<p>I'm applying to grad programs in Near and Middle East Studies, as well as Islamic studies, this Fall. Some of these programs are at Yale, UPenn, Cornell and many of the "top tier" schools; with the exception of a few public schools, most of the programs in these fields are located at the Ivies. With that said, I'm now doubting whether I've got what it takes to make the cut. I graduated from a public school (Middle East studies major, minors in History and Philosophy) with a 3.75 GPA (magna cum laude), an honors thesis, 1480 on the GRE, and some good recommendations. However, I started out at a CC and ended up with a 3.2 before I transfered and now I'm worried this might hurt my chances. Is there anyone out there pursuing grad school in the same or related fields with any advice?</p>

<p>I think your language preparation will be crucial. If you don't have the necessary languages yet, you may have substantial difficulties in admission. This is true for everyone applying in this field -- not just you. </p>

<p>Given your CC history, I suspect that your SOP and writing samples will also be very important. The fact that you wrote an honors thesis is good -- I suspect this was also helpful in providing a solid writing sample.</p>

<p>You only provided a cumulative GRE -- only your verbal (and possibly your writing score) will count in admissions.</p>

<p>Languages??? It's often the area where people involved in these "studies" lack. I know MA students in my program who did it because they didn't have enough languages under their belt despite having a strong record. My prof ran a seminar and the language component usually had Greek, biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin, and students had to know them in order to fulfill an extra credit for languages.</p>

<p>I've always been advised to avoid area studies graduate programs. My advisers say that it is better to enter a history graduate program, for instance, focusing on the Middle East (my field), than to enter a Middle Eastern studies program (and the same in terms of undergraduate major). Perhaps Professor X can speak to that, as I am also interested--I may be applying to similar programs in another year.</p>


<p>Your advisers are making an excellent point. When applying to doctoral programs, one should be very clear about the departments into which one eventually wishes to be hired. When hiring assistant professors, disciplines like History will very often hesitate (or even refuse) to consider applicants with degrees in area studies rather than History. (History is the most conservative of disciplines, IMHO.)</p>

<p>However, choice of an area studies department often depends on one's precise subfield of intended specialization. In addition, choice of discipline also turns on one's preferred methodology. An aspiring political scientist, for example, should not take his or her degree in Middle Eastern Studies, but an aspiring Islamicist who hopes to be hired in Religion may well consider that route. However, such a person must also be sure to take classes in theory and method in the study of religion, and to deploy religious studies methodologies in his or her dissertation.</p>

<p>As another example, in Religion, again depending upon one's intended subfield, a PhD in Ancient Eastern Studies is often more than acceptable. However, in History, this degree might not suffice. </p>

<p>Do keep in mind that given the growing emphasis on interdisciplinarity throughout the academy, this situation may change in the near future, even in History. And in addition, area studies degrees may sometimes (but not always) be more acceptable to departments of History in smaller LACs than they would be in R1s.</p>

<p>One should always heed the counsel of one's advisors when making these very important distinctions and decisions.</p>


In addition to admission, language preparation will be important for fellowship funding. Near/Middle Eastern Studies programs often rely heavily on FLAS fellowships.</p>

<p>What do you think about getting an area studies masters (maybe a one year one) as a runner-up to a doctoral program or a professional degree such as a masters in IR? Especially for acquiring advanced language skills and more in-depth knowledge about a specific area this seems like it could be practical. Or do you all think it's a waste of time and money?</p>

<p>In addition to looking at eventual jobs (academic/pastor/private) take a look at the government job requirements and educational expectation of jobs that you might consider. Check <a href=";%5B/url%5D"&gt;;&lt;/a> sort to the kinds of jobs you might be interested in and their education requirements (which will be amazingly stiff). </p>

<p>Once the job-to-education connection is identified, consider that the government probably has programs that will pay you to go to school in middle eastern studies. </p>

<p>Languages are key in any case.</p>

<p>A question on undergrad language preparation--the languages that one needs to know depend on your dissertation topic, yes? And in a field like this, there are a variety of possible languages, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, Latin, and Arabic. How is one to prepare when we don't know the exact details of our future research? Particularly with those languages, ones that require years of intensive study for proficiency.</p>

<p>yackityack, you are right. a MA in an area studies is fine as a prep for the PhD. (Which is what I am doing now and the history profs here are thrilled.) History departments know this and really do favor people with MA in related field. However, it is NOT advisable to get a history MA because you're just going to pick one up when you go into PhD programs (and for top programs, credits DO NOT transfer). </p>

<p>I have yet to see anyone with area studies PhD get hired in history departments.</p>

<p>alSaghir- Focus on Arabic if you're interested in Islamic culture. Otherwise do Hebrew if you're looking at the Jews.</p>

<p>This is great advice. Yes, I intend to do a MA in Near Eastern Languages/Civilizations or a related field and then either move on to History for my PhD or continue with an interdisciplary NELC; I will consult with my advisors about job prospects for NELC PhDs and see what they say. As for languages, I have 3.5 years of Arabic study, 2 years of Persian, 1 year Hebrew, 1.5 years of French and 1 year of German (the last two being required as "reading" languages, which many in the Humanities are familiar with). I intend to enroll at Yale U as a non-degree (graduate) student at some point to take Aramaic there, since it is important for what I want to research. Again, thanks for your help.</p>