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Academic Guidance Academic Guidance - Academic guidance for those pursuing a college degree... what college? Grad school? PhD help?

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Old September 15th, 2016, 12:09 AM   #1

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Re-applying for an MA

Hey all. I'm coming into my final year of undergraduate study and I'm now pursuing my post-graduate avenues. I've found a couple of suitable programs, including one internally fully funded place, which is a fantastic, but apparently temporary opportunity. However, I'm also seriously considering doing a year long intensive language course in Mongolia. My question, as naive as it might sound, is whether if I apply for an MA now and get rejected, then take a year out to brush up on languages, can I apply to the same MA program the following year? I'm guessing you can, but I'm not 100% sure. There's also the question of whether they would accept me the second time around, if they rejected me the first time, but I'd have a year of intensive language training in a relevant area afterwards, so I'm thinking that would do me a lot of good.
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Old September 15th, 2016, 07:22 AM   #2

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Decisions, decisions. Should one go through the first door that is opened, or wait in hope a better choice will appear? What are the associated costs with each potential choice. Since the future has been unavoidably detained, we just can't know outcomes in advance.

Evaluate what you want your life to be. Is it within your existing skill set, and how can you stack the deck to lean more fully in your ideal goal(s)? What will you need in life to regard the process as a success when you are eighty years old? How reasonable is it that you will meet your personal goals for the existing choices you have now? Is an "opportunity" really an opportunity, or is it a mirage promising hope when there is little or none?

The folks you need to be asking are those who are more directly involved with the alternatives you've outlined.

General rules: Retain the greatest flexibility as possible. That means if the central goal can not be achieved within budget, more alternative choices will exist to pursue. What are your personal life goals, as opposed to professional careers? How adventurous and self-directed are you? Are you a real academic, or an Indiana Jones?

Your success in life has much less to do with career paths, than who you really are. The wider the world you've experienced and the skill set relevant to academic studies are always in demand. A year's intensive study of Mongol is probably a good thing, if you intend advanced degrees in East Asian studies. Once you acquire a language, you have to use it to keep it. My Mandarin was required for a Doctorate in Oriental Philosophy and Religion, I satisfied the requirement in an intensive language course at USC in L.A. thirty years ago. As it turns out I've had little use for Mandarin, but occasionally am pleasantly surprised at being able to make sense of short written bits. Mostly, my language has deteriorated to "Thank you", "have you eaten", "What's your name & my name is", "I'll have Number 5, with red sauce", and "Dentist's Office". It was a mistake on my part not to have continued using the language even though it wasn't relevant to the career I eventually stumbled into. Life is stranger than you know.
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Old September 21st, 2016, 06:31 PM   #3

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As Asherman said (and listen to him; he has excellent things to say!), this is a tough call. I'd say that the hardest part is whether you think you can get another funded MA later on. If, for example, you're in the UK or the USA where such things seem to be less common, then it might be worth taking it.

Assuming that you're interested in an academic career, I know that this may sound flippant, but remember that it's just an MA. This is where you build up your research skills, get a better understanding of the historiography of the field, brush up on some language skills or acquire new ones, and produce a piece of work that's designed to get you into the best PhD program you can. If that's what you want to do and the language course in Mongolia is relevant, then I'd say go for the language course. Going abroad can be a wonderful experience. After my MA I didn't like the PhD offers I had, so I went abroad for a year in a funded one-year MA as a means to buy myself time. In the end I came out with admission and full funding to an Ivy, another degree to tack on the wall, some incredible friendships, and what was probably the best year of my life.

I wouldn't fret about being accepted a year later after an initial rejection. I actually think re-applying is probably a boon to your application since it shows determination and shows the school that you want to go there. I didn't get in to my Ivy the first time either. Never forget that while you are competing for places, the schools are also competing for the best graduate students.

Asherman also makes an excellent point when it comes to language retention. I studied a particular near Eastern language three years ago and have barely looked at it since, but all of a sudden in the last two weeks I've had to bring myself up to speed and I've really lost most of it. Tacking another language onto the CV is great, but if it's going to sit unused for long enough that your skills will deteriorate than it may not be worth it. Still, the experience of learning the language might be worth it.
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