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9/12/07 8:08 PM
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Pustak
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Edited: 12-Sep-07
Member Since: 08/13/2002
Posts: 7246
 
FRAT WARNING I'm finally wrapping up my undergraduate degree and beginning to think about grad school. not sure yet what to do about that, so i'm just looking for OG input, which is always valuable, if flippant. here's the deal: i'm 26 years old, and will graduate this winter with a BA in history. i've got a pretty spotty academic record, especially my first time around in school. i attended UMass for two years straight out of high school before flunking out. (underachievement is a pretty consistent thread through my academic career: i graduated high school with a 2.5 GPA, but scored a 1460 on the SATs(800V/660M)) i then lined up a pretty respectable job(911 operator), and stuck with it for about 3 years. i'd get goo references from those folks if i asked for them. after a while i started to burn out on the constantly ringing phones and the dead people. i also realized that, while i still don't know what to do with my life, whatever it is will require higher education. i returned to UMAss, taking advantage of a program there which let me keep the credits i'd already earned, but begin again with a clean slate of a GPA. after my return i still had some ups-and-downs academically, but overall made much better progress. about a year ago, however, about a year ago i hit the same wall i had the first time around. this time i was not content to let myself go off the rails, and sought out some professional help. after a battery of tests i was diagnosed with previously unrecognized ADHD, as well as related clinical depression. with medication and a new awareness, i'm on track to finish out my last three semesters with straight A's or very close to it. unfortunately, because of my university's policy regarding study abroad (i'll graduate in absentia after two semesters in China), only one of those good semesters will be factored into my GPA, though all will show on my transcripts. this will leave me with a final GPA of 3.2. (there is a potential that i can get 6 credits of F expunged for "medical reasons," making that into a 3.75, but i don't think it likely. at any rate, the F was in Chinese, which i'm now doing very well in.) so, my question boils down to this: what are my prospect with such a spotty history and relatively weak mitigating circumstances? at this point i'm considering trying to go the academic route, but i know that positions in higher ed are quite difficult to come by, and it seems risky to rely on a Doctorate from a lower-tier school in competing for such a limited number of positions. is it realistic to apply for PhD programs under my current circumstances, or would i be better served to enroll for a masters at a mid-level school and then try to move on to a top-tier program afterwards? what's my best bet to sell myself as greater-than-the-sum-of-my-transcripts?
9/12/07 10:44 PM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 12-Sep-07 10:50 PM
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 4909
It's pretty hard to give more specific advice without a subject area and GRE scores. If you're willing to pay most of the costs, you can likely get into a masters program somewhere. The real question is if you feel like you can compete with (and beat) more qualified people every single time you fill out an application for the next decade. The people we're talking about will have graduated with honors from the top schools in the country (many with duals degrees or from university honors programs).
9/12/07 11:13 PM
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Pustak
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Edited: 12-Sep-07
Member Since: 08/13/2002
Posts: 7248
"It's pretty hard to give more specific advice without a subject area and GRE scores. If you're willing to pay most of the costs, you can likely get into a masters program somewhere." i'm a history major, and would look at history or international relations grad programs. i've not yet taken the GRE (i'm trying to see where i can do that while overseas, but as yet no definite info), but i test very well and expect a strong score, particularly in the verbal and writing sections. "The real question is if you feel like you can compete with (and beat) more qualified people every single time you fill out an application for the next decade." that's the frustrating part: i believe i can compete with most of them in future performance, but i can't currently do so on paper. i'm only just learning my own tricks, but i don't know how to demonstrate that new knowledge convincingly, given the material i've left myself to work with.
9/13/07 3:45 AM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 13-Sep-07
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 4913
Well those are subjects I know a bit about. You'll have plenty of options as long as you end up with a 5 (76%) on the writing section of the GRE. Depending on you area of interest in international relations you'll notice a very heavy and serious professional bias. People with rather impressive law enforcement and military backgrounds will be at most places that you would apply to. The good news is that many programs are geared towards taking people that don't need a PhD to get a promotion in their field. That means you can get a professional MA in international relations and be very much on track for a tenure track teaching job (provided you make grades, publish, and do research ect).
9/15/07 3:18 AM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 15-Sep-07
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 4916
"i dont want to be a buzz kill, but that is the way it is in huamities. youll also make shit money, like 50K if you are lucky" Assistant professors make that kind of money(associate and full professors make more). Also, it seems pretty unlikely that someone interested in an international relations or history PhD would drop that pursuit solely for the money. Plus not having an educational or professional background in accounting would make earning a PhD difficult and rather slow even under good conditions.
9/16/07 4:38 PM
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thesleeper
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Edited: 16-Sep-07 04:47 PM
Member Since: 08/31/2007
Posts: 11
First of all, Chinese is in high demand now, if you combine that with any sort of other expertise you can probably make some money (MBA is probably better than accounting). One of my friends got a job with the Department of Defense as a Chinese linguist with a BA and he hates it (not alot of money for where you work as well). Then again he is in China studying chinese and they are paying for it. A 3.2 GPA is the new minimum to get into grad school. You can offset that by taking graduate level classes. You can do that by doing a masters or a PHD. If you do a masters that means it is out of pocket. If you get into a Phd program without an offer of money, you didn't get in. I would recommend that you get really fluent in Chinese and take a couple of graduate level classes, 1 per semester. If you want to go the academic route, get really good grades and make good contacts with your professors. That way you will get into a really well regarded school and will get funded. IR and PoliSci are your best bet in academia for Chinese, more interesting than history and you still get to deal with history. read this about getting a job in academia. http://www.danieldrezner.com/research/jobmarket.pdf If you want to go the policy route, you can do a masters in securities studies, I am in grad program that has alot of people from the military in that.
10/23/07 1:03 AM
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naqis
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Edited: 23-Oct-07
Member Since: 05/04/2006
Posts: 740
If you study China, then I think History or PoliSci are well worth pursuing, especially if you can study something applicable to contemporary (and future) politics. You can also make a lot more money in the consulting sector (as a Ph.d.) than in academia, but most academics find a way to do both. I study contemporary middle east politics as a history ph.d., so if you have any questions on history programs, etc. let me know.
10/26/07 12:06 AM
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thesleeper
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Edited: 26-Oct-07
Member Since: 08/31/2007
Posts: 127
naqis, tell me more about this consulting stuff. How does one become qualified to do that?
10/26/07 11:38 PM
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naqis
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Edited: 26-Oct-07
Member Since: 05/04/2006
Posts: 760
Well, there's many ways to get into consulting or working on government contracts, but it all basically boils down to getting recognized by the right people.  Sometimes this is as easy as one of your professors suggesting your name to contacts they have. Other times it comes from publishing an article or a short commentary that gets noticed. It's generally something not emphasized in academia, but if it's something that interests you then you can generally find a way into the scene through being a ph.d. student in a decent program. Of course, if government (or government-related) work is your goal then you just go to the job fairs, get the interviews, and find a job.

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