History Department: U of Alabama vs. Ole Miss vs. U of Utah (undergrad)

I’m looking for input on the History departments at these three universities: Alabama, Ole Miss, Utah. My son plans on studying history (and then attending law school, but this is not why we are picking an UG school or particular history program). So I’d love info specifically on history departments at any of these three schools (yes, we’ve already considered many other factors, right now we are looking at the comparison of history departments). He is very interested in history and it’s important to him to find a good program (this has nothing to do with getting into law school). It’s not about coming out of a place with a good ranking to get ahead in life…just what will be the best for a learning experience.

Does anyone have any feedback on the history departments atay of these? Another parent told me her son at Alabama had all TA’s for level 100-200 classes, and also some 300 level. Our older son at Alabama hasn’t had any TA’s, I don’t think. He’s in the business college and honors college, so not sure if one of those made a difference. But that would stink for a history student to have all TA’s the first couple of years. This same parent told me that she has found that Alabama’s history department does not have a great reputation. I don’t know, but I think they have some interesting things to offer such as a legal concentration for history majors, and also an UG history publication.

I understand that Ole Miss has a very good history department? I don’t know much about it. As well as a very good honors college.

Do not know about Utah.

So if anyone can weigh in on the History departments at any of these, that’d be appreciated! Alabama has a good law school, and I understand that as a UG there he’ll have a better chance at getting in. But what about scholarships? Will he have a better chance at that as well? He doesn’t want to go there for law school, but I figure it is at least good to consider as a safe back-up plan.


Are you Utah residents? U of Utah is an interesting place to go to college, but it is quite different from Alabama and Mississippi, culturally and geographically, even though they’re all three politically conservative, secular but in an area with a conservative religious presence. Salt Lake City is now only about half Mormon; it’s actually developing a tiny bit of a “Portlandesque” vibe. The entire student population is now only about 36% Mormon, but I suspect that the undergrad population skews more highly Mormon. Congressional districts in Utah are gerrymandered so as to effectively preserve Republican (conservative) political power in all but local SLC elections, so there is a very strongly conservative state political influence, even though local politics are more liberal.

Of the three schools you are considering, it seems as if Utah has the strongest history department. You’ll have to find Utah history major undergrads to ask about who actually teaches the classes - perhaps try Reddit?

If your son likes to hike and ski, you cannot beat SLC for outdoor recreation. It is a beautiful campus, with a fantastic view (if there’s no air pollution inversion, which unfortunately there often is). Most people move off campus after freshman year, but close by. There will be a significant number of returned missionaries, who are older, more experienced, often married, just at a different life stage than your average US college student, but of course the majority of the students will be the usual age college students.

If it were me, I’d choose U of Utah. Highest ranked history department of your three schools plus fantastic outdoor recreation. As long as he gets high grades and great LSATs, he can go anywhere for law school.


Thank you…Utah is definitely his first choice if cost was not a factor. We are waiting to see about scholarships, but it will likely be more expensive. And the scary part is you must keep a 3.5 GPA to maintain scholarship. Otherwise permanently lose it. At Alabamba you go on probation. I THINK at Ole Miss you just lose for a semester and try again…not sure.

I think majoring in history - it doesn’t matter where you go.

You’ll come out and get a general job in someone’s training program no matter if you go to Utah or a top school like UCLA. Or grad school.

So you mentioned law school - which is a natural progression and is in that grad school camp. Your LSAT will matter much more - and your GPA. Many law students today also work a year or two in between.

If you’re a solid student, Bama is the cost winner by far - and the Honors Dorm Ridgecrest South is very nice - you get your own room. Ole Miss is nice, Oxford more charming then Tuscaloosa which is ehhh at best. People only say great things about the U.

Here’s a couple other thoughts - if your son isn’t sold on history or might like another social science - say international related - the Croft Institute for Intl Studies is in high regard.

If your son has AP credits - so he can graduate early - Bama’s law school is ranked 25th - very well thought of. Utah 43rd and Ole Miss 98th.

If he has AP credits, you might see if the merit aid is good for grad school - if you graduate in 3 or 3.5 - so you might sneak in a free semester or two of law school.

Good luck.


D has loved Utah, especially the outdoor lifestyle. Don’t know about history but the Honors College has been good, with interesting small classes and amazing dorms. She hasn’t found it difficult to keep a high GPA (>3.9) despite double majoring with a heavy course load, since the grading is very generous without any pre-defined percentages: the majority of students in Honors courses get As.

Cost-wise, WUE is readily available to students from the western states, otherwise merit is quite limited except for very strong students (typically needing a ~4.0UW with full IB or 6-8+ APs). But you can get residency to keep costs down after the first year or immediately as the child of a veteran ($25K COA instead of $45K).


I have a good friend who teaches in the history department at Utah. She is a fantastic teacher and also speaks highly of her colleagues. She been at the U for awhile so she has lots of seniority but she definitely teaches undergrads, including intro classes. I don’t think Utah has grad students teach classes, though I know they serve as TAs for large lecture classes.


has your son applied to the Blount Liberal Arts Program at Bama? Small classes, residential experience, lots and lots of reading and writing (good prep for law school!)…


1 Like

My oldest is currently in that program. He’s a business major, so it’s great to have the liberal arts minor. Great idea that it is good prep for Law School. I wonder if the application is still open…I seem to remember us going to interview in Jan/Feb! I will look into it. Thank you.

1 Like

Another parent told me her son at Alabama had all TA’s for level 100-200 classes, and also some 300 level.

Looking at the class schedule, the into classes are either a mix of Prof/TA or fully by an Adjunct. The upper level are capped at 40 students. They do have 3 Lectures, but the rest would be Professors.

I wouldn’t pick based upon the strength of the major unless there was some very specific area that he would like to study. Just look at the University overall.

1 Like

LSAT will matter more than brand name of UG school for law school.

If he is indifferent between the schools, my personal view is to focus on graduating from undergrad DEBT-FREE from whichever one offers the best financial package.

This provides more flexibility for if he gets into a top law school but does not get a great financial package from that top law school…

1 Like

Yes, thanks. UA and Ole Miss will both scholarships with full tuition+. Waiting to hear from Utah, but in any case will not go into debt.

He isn’t really looking at UG school as far as his chances at getting into law school. He just wants the best school as far as a UG experience for him with a great history department because he loves history so much! I just mentioned the law school part to give the full picture…for example, he’s not planning on teaching history and might want a school that will have something else that’s a benefit. Alabama has a Legal History concentration in their history department, which will be beneficial to someone planning on law school.


Based on your son’s plans to attend law school, it might be wiser to focus on COA and on quality & benefits of each university’s honors college rather than on trying to assess quality of history majors.

Nevertheless, among schools offering history as a major, it might be wise to evaluate this major based on TAs versus professors & on seminar writing requirements if there is no particular area of interest to the student. Try to examine the history dept. course offerings to see whether any program is more attractive to your son based on his interests.

If available to your son, it should be helpful to read any student reviews of the history professors at each targeted school.

Does your son have any interest in earning a double major ?

Why is your son interested in history ? The answer to this question may help determine which university best meets your son’s interests.

The other thing is - since you are looking at cost. Does anyone have a 6 year BA/JD. Not sure if these do?

Where would he want to practice law? Bama is by far the highest rated law school but it would only matter if he’d want to stay at the same school.

I was a history major at Syracuse (my dual). At the UG level, I personally don’t think it matters where you study. You’re talking about 3 solid flagships.

The legal history thing reads interesting. I can’t tell if anyone can sign up or it’s limited…you might email the contact and ask. I’d also ask - how it prepares you - it says it does and has coaching…but you might ask “how” - i.e. is it any different than other pre-law advising. It makes it sound like it is…but we know how people over promise during the “recruitment” phase.

If asked this question without the opportunity to research each school’s department of history, I would have ranked Mississippi at #1, Alabama at #2, and Utah at #3.

After researching this question with a bit of knowledge about your son as shared in this thread, I would reverse #1 & #2 so that Alabama was on top followed by Ole Miss.

Both Alabama & Ole Miss are among the top 5 schools for Greek life. This is an important social & campus culture factor to consider.

Alabama has the most diverse student body with slightly over 60% non-residents, followed by Mississippi, while Utah has a large percentage of resident students. Why might this be significant ? Diversity tends to bring different perspectives and regional / geographic diversity can be as important as socio-economic & other types of diversity.

Freshman mix at Utah is now 40% OOS and they plan to be at 50/50 within the next 5 years (all the expansion is coming from OOS students, as this helps with the budget even at WUE rates). The largest group is from CA (13% of freshmen).

Thanks…he is not interested in Greek. I have a son at Alabama and I know Greek is big, but it has been no problem at all for him not being Greek and he loves it.

Yes, we have considered many things about the three universities that I didn’t mention here (to keep it short!). Main thing I’m looking for info on is just comparing the history programs, rather than overall comparison (because we feel more informed about those already and it’s easier to find info on that…harder to figure out which history departments are better!).

If a student has a particular area of interest, then the course offerings easily address that issue.

Historically, Ole Miss probably has the best reputation for history–especially to matters related to the South. But, for law school prep, Alabama offers the most through its history department. But, if interested in snow skiing & other Winter sports, then Utah would be my choice.

Ole Miss Greek life is even more dominant as a part of campus culture than is Alabama–although both are ranked among the top 4 schools for Greek life.

Size of history department measured by number of professors and number & variety of courses offered.

But it really does not matter for one set on attending law school as to which among the three has the top history major. Means nothing at all.

That’s the crazy thing - people write off schools like Bama because of the huge greek and football. My kid is interested in neither and has no problem.

His Honors dorm was so quiet - to the point of boredom.

I think at any large school - if your thing is video or board games or hiking, you’ll find like minded students. Yes, there will be all the zaniess of parties and sports too - but kids that don’t fit that mold do just fine if they want to - even that these “top party” schools.

Personally, I don’t think you take undergrad history and make that distinction - short of a top tier school.

Even at top schools, you have huge lectures and TAs or people that kids can’t understand teaching.

If you wanted a ranking - and i’m not saying you should - Niche rates Utah #174 of 899, Alabama #237, and Ole Miss doesn’t rate.

I just think it’s inconsequential - it’s a history major - now some might focus on a different type of history that interests your son - for example, one may offer courses in a part of the world, etc. that interests him more than another…or a time frame…so maybe it’s smart to look at a catalogue.

But you are not looking at Alabama vs. UAH - i.e. big college vs. mid size or Montevallo…a smaller public.

You are looking at large flagship vs. large flagship…even the elite large flagships will have larger classes and use of TAs, etc.

I’d look at areas of interest (does a catalogue have better classes for him), $$, and strength of the law school.

In the last two, Bama is going to win.

The fact that you have experience there is a bonus (just for comfort).

1 Like

It’s just what it means to him personally…not about getting him into law school. For example, it’d be a bummer to go somehwere where all the classes are taught by TA’s the first 2-3 years compared to profs. Things like that matter. Or a department that is known for great professors and support for students and internships, etc. Some of the colleges we’ve looked at (that we decided against for financial reasons and other) offerred pretty cool-sounding internships possibilities for history majors. I think Utah has an internship opportunity with Mitt Romney. We met with the history chair at a university near our home and were SO unimpressed - didn’t seem like any opportunites at ALL…and just boring! So this isn’t about law school…I just mentioned it because of things like the Legal History concentration and Alabama and maybe other things like that I don’t know about. Thanks!

If a political internship is of significant interest to your son, then consider schools which offer a major in Philosophy, Politics, & Law or Politics, Philosophy, & Economics.

If political internships are the attraction, then Wash DC area schools might be of interest. (Univ. of Virginia, College of William & Mary, American University, Georgetown University, GWU, etc.).

As I noted in my first response in this thread, TAs versus professors is an important consideration as is number of seminars with analytical writing requirements.

At an LAC, the lack of variety / breadth of course offerings may be limiting to one’s interests & motivation. Attending a university typically gives one a much wider variety of options regarding courses & professors.

P.S. I read your post below which shares that your son has always had a love of history. This is great, but somewhat meaningless when comparing schools without a specific area of interest in history.

Rankings are very important with respect to professional schools–especially for MBA degrees & law degrees.