REALLY bad start, have I done enough to make up for it? (History)

<p>In 2003, just after graduation from high school, I went to a community college for a semester and completely stopped going to class, ending in a 0.0 GPA for 15 credits.</p>

<p>In 2004, I went back to the same community college, and again ended up with a 0.0 GPA for 12 credits.</p>

<p>During this time, I was going through some pretty severe issues, mental health problems (resulting in hospitalization) and then finding out I was pregnant, completely unexpectedly.</p>

<p>Fast forward a couple years, I've been raising my daughter and realize that I want better for her than I can provide with no degree and also want to give her a good influence.</p>

<p>2008-2009 I went to a (new) community college. In the fall I took 18 credits and earned a 3.8 GPA. In the spring I took 20 credits and earned a 4.0. During my stay at this CC I also joined Phi Theta Kappa.</p>

<p>2009-2010. I transferred to Salisbury University as a history major. Fall semester I took 16 credits and earned a 3.5, with a major GPA of 3.5. Spring semester I took 12 credits, 4.0 GPA. My cum. GPA is now 3.714, with a major GPA of 3.75. I was also just accepted to the university honors program. </p>

<p>I have already started my languages. I took French this semester, and next semester will be taking French and German. I fully expect to graduate with honors (Magna Cum Laude), as a member of the university honors program, and am on track to be invited to join both the History honors society and the French honors society. I am also planning to do an independent study next year, so I will have some research experience. I haven't taken the GRE (since I just finished my soph. year), but expect to do fairly well, since I have a history of testing excellent, and will begin preparing in plenty of time.
I also have good relationships with my professors, and already have a few in mind that would give me excellent LoR. </p>

<p>My goal is a PhD in European History. I haven't nailed down exactly what I want to do, but <em>most likely</em> WWII/Holocaust or German History, or something in religious history.... </p>

<p>What are my odds of getting into a higher ranked school, with funding? Have I completely ruined my chances with the horrible start?
I'm a single parent, so having funding will make or break me. I cannot afford to pay for school. I have some support from family, so they can help with living expenses, but they aren't doing all that well either.</p>

<p>If you've made it through this long post and have any suggestions about what else I can do to strengthen my application, it would be much appreciated!</p>

<p>What is making you decide that history PhD is for you? You haven't done any research to confirm that PhD is really for you. You also mentioned that you want to be a good example to your daughter that it's important to finish a degree and get a good job. What do you mean by that? A PhD is indeed ambitious but academia is NOT a well-paying field (good paychecks don't happen until at least after tenure and then a promotion to full professor from associate (another 5-10 years at that...), if you get it after 5-7 years of working as an assistant professor), especially in the humanities. You may be better served with a BA or a MA. Do the math. You may be a more sane mom if you can just take the degree and go back to work with it. You're looking at a long road of near poverty/working class salary and is that how you want your daughter to grow up with?</p>

<p>If you want to be competitive at all in European history (already saturated), you need to be fluent in German if you want to do German history. I would steer away from Holocaust as there are not many Holocaust-trained historians in doctoral level programs (quite surprising really). There are a lot of German historians who usually do either military, social movements, or intellectual history. And those military people usually stick to military.</p>

<p>Consider this as a very friendly, heads-up advice because I know of another forum that can be a lot harsher than this.</p>

<p>To clarify, I went back to school to be a good example to my daughter, and be able to pay for her college, and eventually provide something more for us. I chose history because I love it, and I want a PhD because I actually have done research.</p>

<p>I have taken quite a few high level history courses, all of which have required final papers of 12-14 pages, including the use of primary source documents. I have excelled in those courses. My only B in my major was in a 100-level course in which our grade was not based on papers/research.</p>

<p>If I do stop with a B.A., it would have made more sense for me to NOT go back to school and to have stuck with the (reasonably well paying job) I had before.</p>

<p>I could go with a M.A., but since I want to be a professor, that limits my job opportunities severly. And of course there is the matter of getting an M.A. funded, which is not likely.</p>

<p>I actually have done quite a bit of research and thinking, and academia is where I want to be. I can, eventually, make a reasonable wage, and I'd be doing something I love. Thank you for your advice, but I was mostly just wondering how my early performance would affect my chances of getting into grad school.</p>

<p>I don't know about your University's policies, but at the school I go to; graduating with Latin Honors requires your gpa to be re-calculated including ALL previous work which would thus include the work you did at both community colleges, and the quarters of 0.00 gpa.</p>

<p>I can't imagine that would help your chances of graduating with honors if that is Salisbury's policy.</p>

<p>TF: since the OP earned 0 credits at her first community college, then she probably would not be considered a transfer student from there. She started her education at Community College B, then transferred to Salisbury. But all this depends on the individual college. I know that my D, who took college level courses before she attended a four-year college, could not get those grades applied to her GPA -- or even get credit for them beyond placement. And if she took courses at other colleges, they would not count toward Latin Honors, although she could get credit for them if she received pre-approval; only courses taken at that college counted for Latin Honors because, presumably, that college wanted to compare oranges to oranges. </p>

<p>OP: Listen to TMP because she is in your field and has gone from a top LAC to a top master's program. (Look at her signature.) History PhD programs are tough to get into, although that certainly does not mean you shouldn't try; however, you may need to adjust your expectations. Already, you're preparing for the next step, which is great since many don't realize what they need until they go to apply. If you are going to get into a "top program," you're going to have to show something really special to elevate you from just another applicant to the one of five the program takes. You will be competing against those who were trained in history at HYPS as well as a host of other institutions with noted historians on the faculty. Since letters of recommendation are heavily weighted in admissions, you'll have to make sure that three history faculty members at your home institution are fully aware of your abilities. Your writing sample should be polished and professional. </p>

<p>Since history is such a competitive field, you'll want to apply to lesser schools as well as top programs in your subfield. And you may have to go through more than one application cycle if the first doesn't turn out well. Good luck! Your determination is admirable, and I hope it pays off for you.</p>

<p>Then no because you have shown a stellar growth. You will definitely have to explain VERY briefly in your statement about that first CC transcript. Demonstrate how you have overcome your challenges and matured over the years to get you where you are. </p>

<p>Don't balk at the MA. Although there isn't a perfect route to a successful PhD application, a MA can certainly help your credentials in terms of faculty contact and language preparation. It's been figured out by a group of PhD-aspired applicants this season that all the funded MA programs seem to be at universities that only grant MAs, not PhDs. So I would consider applying to funded MA programs. Yes, as MWFN pointed out, I did go to a top-notch LAC but the problem with teaching-focused and unknown schools is that the faculty tends to be out of loop when it comes to PhD admissions. My professors hadn't been in close contact with faculty members in PhD granting programs and that is where my professors from my MA program at a research university came in. I had my thesis supervised by one of the superstars in my sub-field. I also used the time to work on languages and by the time I will re-apply for PhD, I will have 3-4 languages under my belt to pass reading exams. Those two years really made the difference and it usually does for anyone who isn't doing US history and/or went to no-name schools.</p>

<p>I applied for Fall 2010. I ended up with 2 waitlists. That's it, out of 5 programs. I asked these two schools what I could do to improve my application. They said it was absolutely solid and there was nothing more I could do. 2 of my LOR writers were very well-known in the community. 1 LOR writer knew me better than I knew myself and probably wrote a very personal letter. My SOP presented original and provocative questions. My writing sample was a portion of my MA thesis (nearly polished) with truly original research. My GPA was passable. I had 2-3 reading languages. What was the problem then? Department politics and current demand. At some places, excellent applications make it to the executive committee but they get thrown into a different pile because of on-the-spot conflicts between professors. At other places, maybe they just didn't need another applicant in my sub-field.</p>

<p>Some scary statistics:
Columbia- approximately 500 applications for 12 spots
UNC Chapel Hill- 420 applications for 10-12 spots
Michigan- 350 applications for 18-20 seats
George Washington University- 120 applications for 7 offers
Indiana University- 250 applications for 18-20 spots (some waitlist movement)
Emory University- 200 applications for 7 spots (no waitlist movement this year)</p>

<p>Professors admitted to me that the quality of application pool has been excellent despite an increase in applications. So there are people out there who are fully qualified who are indeed applying and are choosing to do so now because of the recession. Not many are doing this on a whim and applying with nothing in hand.</p>

<p>So I would prepare Plans B and C at the same time and realize that it will most likely take 2 cycles before you can actually get in anywhere. For many people, the first cycle is a dry-run and they learn so much and create stronger applications (or had better luck) for the following cycle. This past cycle was my 2nd.</p>

<p>I'd like to add that although the stats seem daunting, you should still try. If you let people discourage you from following your dreams, then you'll always regret it. Go for it -- but temper the process with realism.</p>

<p>Wow. Thank you. I definitely didn't know that a funded MA was possible, and I will definitely be seeking out those options. I'm not opposed to going that route first if it will get me where I want to go. </p>

<p>I have realized, by browsing these boards, that an amazing number of people end up applying for a second round. I could say I wouldn't be too upset if that happened, there is a program for teaching English in France that I would love to do for a year, but I wanted to get my schooling done and over with. I guess if I get denied, it's a sign from the universe! :)</p>

<p>Thank you both for your help. I've spoken to a few of my professors about it, but it is nice to get more opinions/advice! One of the things I have been working on is narrowing down the subfield I want, and I know once I do that I can start a more official search of schools.</p>

<p>Keep in mind that if you get a PhD, even from a top 10 program, your choice of jobs will be very restricted, and you'll probably have to pick up and move across the country (or even the world), which might not be so great for your daughter. A lot of people don't get tenure at the first place they work, so you'd probably be making several major moves before you finally settle.</p>

<p>Also, a PhD will take 5 years at the absolute minimum, and you basically will be making $0 that entire time, plus very very little money for all the years you're non-tenured faculty. Grad school and the early years of being a prof are absolutely life-consuming, since you need to continuously prove yourself and churn out award-winning research if you want half a chance of getting a good job. </p>

<p>In light of that, you might consider becoming an archivist. There's always a need for them, and they get to do a lot of fun historical things, like preserving and organizing cool manuscript collections, etc. A lot of archivists actually get to do their own research as well, it's just not "expected" like it is for professors, so it's a LOT lower-stress. Though it may not be as prestigious, there are a lot of benefits stemming from being an archivist:
--you don't have to have a PhD (you're fine with a master's)
--you don't have to "publish or perish," so work is a lot less stressful and cutthroat
--you don't have to go to a top 10 program to get a decent job
--you aren't restricted to universities as workplaces: state archives, national archives, major libraries, various historical sites and monuments, and museums, as well as colleges, all employ archivists, so you'd probably have a lot more choice in terms of location than you would if you were a history PhD</p>