I often counsel undergraduates and M.A. students, both my students and others, about applying to Ph.D programs. I talked a bit about what I sometimes say to them in Episode 37 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.
Every now and then an applicant will tell me that they have been rejected by a graduate program in history because their potential adviser does not think they have developed a fully-formed dissertation idea. (Or at least this is what the potential adviser told them).
So I ask our readers: Must an applicant to a Ph.D program have a fully-formed dissertation idea in mind when they apply for admission? I am not referring to a general field of study or even a particular topic within that field of study, I am referring to an actual dissertation topic.
How many of you history Ph.Ds out there actually had a dissertation topic in mind the moment you set foot on the university campus to begin your program?