Of course, by the time our students apply to Ph.D. programs, we hope that they understand that they need to find a real match, whether it's geographic, thematic, or both. Yet, as many commenters pointed out, the M.A. might be different -- many of our applicants are place-bound, and so are applying to the program that's closest to them. Heck, many are applying only to get the M.A. as a teaching credential, so that's a different animal altogether.
I wasn't place bound -- in fact, I wanted out of where I was, at least temporarily -- but my M.A. program selections were not anywhere near as careful as my Ph.D. applications. Here's the short list of questions I asked when researching M.A. programs:
- Is there a person in my geographic/chronological field of interest?
- Do they have tenure? And if not, is there another person in the department who can supervise me if they are denied tenure or recruited away?
- What is the very best program (as opposed to person) that might actually let me in?**
**Considering my combination of big ambitions, but only a B+ G.PA., this final point weighed the most heavily in my deliberations. It's also why I giggled when my undergrad medieval professor, whose Ph.D. was from Fancypants U., kept urging me to apply to Fancypants U. myself.