There is a good reason why the COVID-19 pandemic has consistently been referred to as “unprecedented.” If you had been carefully planning your academic ambitions prior to the pandemic, it might feel like getting into graduate school for your master’s in history degree has become a lot more complex. It’s true that COVID has changed several aspects of graduate school admissions, including whether and how standardized tests are required, how admissions interviews are conducted, how classes are held and even whether schools are accepting new students. However, students are still adapting and working toward their master’s degrees, and you can, too.
Changes in Standardized Testing Requirements
Standardized test scores have long been part of the traditional graduate school application package. For master’s in history degree programs that require standardized test scores, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is the most common requirement. The GRE General Test measures prospective graduate students’ skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing.
The GRE General Test has historically been administered in person, in testing facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic forced testing centers to close, interfering with the typical GRE testing process. As a result, some graduate school programs have temporarily or permanently stopped requiring students to submit GRE scores. Other programs have kept this requirement in place, but applicants have had to meet it in a different way. The GRE General Test is now offered in an at-home format that allows students to take the test online, proctored remotely by a real person, so that students don’t have to put their graduate school plans on hold as the pandemic lingers.
Not all master’s in history programs required the GRE even before the pandemic. Many history programs have removed the GRE from their admissions criteria due to concerns of restricting access to graduate education, especially to traditionally underprivileged groups.
Changes in Admissions Interviews
Interviews aren’t a required part of the application process for every master’s in history degree program, but they are part of the process for some students in some programs. After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the traditional on-campus interview that encompassed in-person meetings and, typically, a handshake was no longer safe due to the risk of virus transmission. To preserve this part of the admissions process, history graduate degree programs that wished to continue interviewing applicants began to do so using videoconferencing technology.
The potential for technical difficulties and the uncertainty of what graduate education would look like when the next academic year started could make these videoconference admissions interviews feel different from the typical in-person interview. However, finding success in an online graduate school interview requires much of the same preparation as you would expect to do for an in-person interview. You should still practice answering some sample interview questions and dress to impress in neat and professional attire.
For some applicants, such as those who live far from the school to which they have applied or those balancing a full-time work schedule, videoconference graduate school interviews are more convenient because they don’t have to travel or miss work for the interview.
Changes in Class Formats
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It isn’t only the application process itself that has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools have changed the format of classes that, in previous years, would have been offered in traditional, in-person formats on campus. At many schools, the risk of COVID-19 infection has caused more classes to move online. Some courses are offered in hybrid formats, in which more of the coursework takes place online, limiting in-person meeting time.
As a larger share of the population gets vaccinated, more programs are likely to transition back to in-person classes. However, to facilitate a safer learning environment, some colleges and universities are instituting a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students and staff who will be on campus.
The pandemic has hit college students hard, with research published in the Journal of Public Economics reporting the 40 percent of study participants having lost a job, 29 percent anticipating reduced earnings even at age 35 and 13 percent delaying graduation.
Changes in Admissions and Selectivity
In some ways, COVID-19 may have made getting into graduate school more difficult. The pandemic has prompted some graduate programs to stop accepting applications for upcoming semesters. According to Inside Higher Ed, one reason schools are making this tough choice is to save their budgets and resources – many of which have taken a hit because of the pandemic – to support their existing students, particularly those working on research for a dissertation or thesis.
Additionally, in the spirit of being mindful of social distancing recommendations for reducing the risk of transmitting COVID-19, some schools may be decreasing the number of students they admit into a single cohort or graduating class. Admitting a smaller number of students necessarily forces schools to be more selective in who they accept, which in turn makes it harder to get into your intended degree program.
Lockdowns and travel restrictions mean that international students now face more obstacles in getting into American graduate schools. In the midst of the pandemic, some schools will only accept international students into online programs, Inside Higher Ed reported.