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How do I Choose the Best History Graduate School?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 30 May 2019
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Choosing a history graduate school is an important decision for a future historian. Historians should think about the area of history they are interested in, noted people in the field, and issues like location when selecting an educational institution. Graduate students may also want to consider whether they want to go to an MA/PhD program at one university, or if they would prefer to get a master's degree at one school and a PhD at another. Academic advisors can provide additional assistance with choosing schools.

Educational institutions with history graduate programs usually have specific areas of focus. Students can start narrowing down programs by finding schools with programs in their area. For instance, a person interested in early American history would want to attend a graduate school with a reputation for early American scholarship. Students who know that they will want interdisciplinary degree programs should take special care when identifying programs suitable for their needs to make sure they apply to the right programs; a historian who wants access to things like chemical analysis of historical documents, for example, needs a school that will provide this option.

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Another issue to consider is who students will be studying with. Historians benefit from studying with leading members of the field who can provide them with a thorough education in addition to access to research materials and professional connections. People who know they will be attending history graduate school should keep up with scholarship in the field and identify individual historians they would be interested in working with.

A history graduate school will usually offer people an opportunity to visit, meet faculty, interact with students in the program, and tour the school. This can provide a chance to learn about the program from current students to see if it will be a good fit. While many programs enjoy an excellent reputation, sometimes the experience in the program is a bit different and historians who are currently completing degrees can offer advice and warnings.

Location, cost of attendance, and related matters can also be a concern for history graduate school. Completing a graduate degree can take a long time and students may want to visit schools to explore not only their programs, but the area where the history graduate school is located. Another issue to think about is access to archives and other historical materials. Students may need to travel to access archives and it helps to attend schools that have established relationships with archives to smooth the way to archival material of interest. Schools known for attracting grant money and funding also provide more opportunities for students.

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