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The 'Am I competitive' thread - READ ME BEFORE POSTING

788 posts in this topic

On 8/6/2016 at 3:17 PM, jvgneto said:

I've been reading the forum for quite some time, but it is my first time posting here. I'm an international student currently preparing my application for a PhD in Political Science or Public Policy in the US and would really appreciate to hear your comments on how to improve my application (questions below).


GRE: will take it in October. Very worried about it, as I feel myself very dumb when looking at the content.

2) If I don't score high (or even in the 50th percentile) on GRE, would I still have chances with my CV?
 

Hi, I don't have any advice directly on phd studies but I have some on the GRE. The GRE is an exam you can definitely study for and your score can improve a lot from that. I notice from your post you have some grammatical structure issues in your sentences. I would recommend that you brush up on your English as much as possible, maybe take some writing classes or hire a tutor. Some universities don't require the GRE if you are an international student, they will only ask for the TOEFL so check if yours do. 

Lastly I would recommend Magoosh for the verbal portion of the GRE and the Manhattan Prep study books for the math part, they are smaller books but there are 7 on different topics so can cover absolutely everything. Political Science programs will care more about the Verbal part of the GRE and Public Policy ones will care about both but will probably still lean towards verbal. However because you are in Economics they will probably expect fairly high quant scores from you. You can easily improve your quant scores with the Manhattan books and with Khan Academy (a website). Improving your verbal usually takes a long time but quant can be done in two months or so. Good luck!

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On 8/7/2016 at 4:17 AM, jvgneto said:

I've been reading the forum for quite some time, but it is my first time posting here. I'm an international student currently preparing my application for a PhD in Political Science or Public Policy in the US and would really appreciate to hear your comments on how to improve my application (questions below).

Academia:
Undergrad: Economics, 5 years, mid-level Brazilian university, GPA~2.5, thesis on public budget in Brazil.
1st Master's degree: Public Administration (courses on PolSci, Law and Economics), 2 years, mid-level Brazilian university, GPA=4.0, thesis on innovation policy & economic growth in Latin America, with full scholarship.
2nd Master's degree: Public Economics, Law and Politics, 2 years, mid-level German university, GPA (by now)~3.0, thesis on political parties in Latin America, with full scholarship, plus assistantship at a Development Economics course at the BA level.
Lecturer: Economics, Marketing and Financial Maths, 2 semesters, mid-level Brazilian university.
Others: short-term courses (i.e. summer schools) in over 10 countries.
Publications: 
One paper in a Polish journal, two papers in Brazilian journals; oral presentations at international renowned congresses as Development Studies Association (Oxford U), International Political Science Association, European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy, and a graduate conference on political theory at SciencesPo.
Work experience:
National bureau positions in a Brazilian political party's youth wing for ~7 years; treasurer and program manager at an international NGO based in the UK for ~6 years; political consultant for different politicians in Brazil, incl. a former minister for ~8 years; part-time jobs in small-sized consulting firms in Germany as finance coordinator and market researcher (energy sector) for 6 months each.
Languages: Portuguese (native), Spanish (upper-intermediate), German (intermediate), English (TOEFL: 104, 3 years ago, I guess I have to retake it).
GRE: will take it in October. Very worried about it, as I feel myself very dumb when looking at the content.

"Dream" universities: MIT, Georgia Tech or George Mason (although I believe that with not-high scores on GRE and coming from mid-level unis would not allow me to be accepted).

Well, my questions are:
1) How much does coming from mid-level (not famous) international universities harm my application?
2) If I don't score high (or even in the 50th percentile) on GRE, would I still have chances with my CV?
3) In the case of low GRE scores, would you recommend any uni in the fields of either innovation or political parties in Latin America?
4) The applications are in December/January. I'm trying to improve my CV by having more publications. Is there any other thing I can do now?
5) On which aspects should I focus my application?
6) Do you believe the three listed universities would be a feasible target? Unfortunately my budget only allow me to apply for 3 universities, so I must be pretty assertive.
7) Should I approach potential supervisors before applying? If yes, how do you suggest doing so?
8) Any other suggestions or comments? I'd really appreciate hearing from you!


Thank you very much for all of you contributing to it! :) 

I suggest you look more at the Political Science forums and get advice from them for the academic track, because a PhD in public policy has more in common with other PhDs in polisci, sociology, etc.: http://forum.thegradcafe.com/forum/36-political-science/ 90% of people here are pursuing a master's degree in public policy/public administration, which is usually a terminal degree, so we're hoping to be practitioners rather than academics. The application processes and criteria are very, very different. 

A side note: I've actually never heard of int'l applicants only being asked for TOEFL instead of GRE. If anything, in my experience, int'l students are usually asked for more qualifications, not less. 

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Hi all,

I'm completely new to Grad Cafe and trying to figure out where I want to apply for my masters' in public policy! I want to focus on poverty issues and I'd prefer a school that looks at policy from a socially progressive lens. If any of y'all have any tips, websites, etc that can help you decide what schools you'd like to attend, I would very much appreciate it :)

 

Program: MPP/MPA

Schools Applying To:  Still deciding, but so far I like Berkeley, NYU, Wisconsin

Undergrad Institution: NYU

Undergraduate GPA: a little above 3.9

Undergraduate Major: Sociology

GRE: Haven't taken yet.

Years of Work Experience: 1 year right now.

Languages: English. Speak passable Spanish, German, and Hebrew for basic conversations, but I'm truly not fluent so I wouldn't count it.

Work Experience:  Since graduating I've been working as a legal advocate for people having issues with their food stamps and public assistance. May be transitioning soon to a research assistant position at a social policy organization.

Other Things: Wrote a senior thesis that I'm pretty proud of.

Questions/Concerns: 

  1. Not fluent in any other language
  2. I haven't taken the GRE yet, but I'm anticipating a disappointing math score. I've taken some advanced math but it was awhile ago (in college I took two stats classes, one in sociology and one in politics).
  3. Not enough work experience?
  4. Lack of economics experience

 

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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Hi,

I'm hoping that this is the right place for this. I'm planning on applying to an MPP program, and while I'm sure that there are some schools out there that would take me, I'm having a hard time 'placing' myself. That is, I'm not sure which schools are out of my league, which I should apply for, and which I shouldn't bother with. Any advice on this or on otherwise bolstering my profile would really be appreciated.

-

Program: MPP

Education: Undergrad at Oberlin College, 3.2 GPA, Major in Russian/Eastern European Studies. (Bonus: Middlebury Summer Language Intensive, studied abroad at the Bard/Smolny program in St. Petersburg)

GRE: I haven't taken it yet, but my most recent practice test score was 166 quant, 162 reading. None of my essays have been judged, but I'm fairly confident in my writing.

Work Experience: I'm a little worried that this lets me down. I spent ~1 year in ESL administration (in the US), ~1 year in marketing and 5 months in a FOIA journalism internship. After this, I lived abroad for almost a year in New Delhi (with my folks), doing a little bit of freelance journalism, a brief internship with Reuters India, volunteering at a dog shelter, travelling, and preparing for the GRE. I'm moving to DC now, and plan to find a job doing policy research or (ideally) writing for a policy org. The only plus is that a lot of my (handful of) published work is mostly policy oriented.

Language: I speak and read decent Russian, but it would be a stretch to call me fluent. I also took a little Hindi in Delhi, but my Hindi isn't even conversational.

Additional Questions:

1. First and foremost for me is getting a sense as to which schools I'm qualified for, and how qualified. (i.e. Which programs are a reach? Which are safe? Where would a student like me normally find himself?)

2. I'm particularly interested in innovation policy. I read Mazzucato's The Entrepreneurial State when it came out, and it really helped to solidify what I want to accomplish with public policy. Are there any schools that would be particularly well-matched for this focus?

3. I've read that I'll need economics and probably statistics. Really kicking myself for not planning my career better while I was still in school. I've heard that some schools will accept you provisional on your completing pre-req courses before matriculating. Is that something to bank on, or should I take the classes first and apply in a year? (I'm already 26 and looking at starting a program at 27, so I'm a little unhappy at that prospect, but if I have to...)

4. It's been a while since I graduated, and I haven't stayed in touch with my professors. Any advice on getting back in touch with my professors and convincing them that I'm a good horse to back?

5. Does anyone know anything about the RANEPA public policy program in Moscow? I met the head of that program and he encouraged me to apply. I'm attracted to the idea of studying in Moscow, but I'm a little uneasy at how new the program is.

-

Thank you so much in advance for any advice you can give - it means a lot.

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8 hours ago, MalenkiiMalchik said:

Hi,

I'm hoping that this is the right place for this. I'm planning on applying to an MPP program, and while I'm sure that there are some schools out there that would take me, I'm having a hard time 'placing' myself. That is, I'm not sure which schools are out of my league, which I should apply for, and which I shouldn't bother with. Any advice on this or on otherwise bolstering my profile would really be appreciated.

-

Program: MPP

Education: Undergrad at Oberlin College, 3.2 GPA, Major in Russian/Eastern European Studies. (Bonus: Middlebury Summer Language Intensive, studied abroad at the Bard/Smolny program in St. Petersburg)

GRE: I haven't taken it yet, but my most recent practice test score was 166 quant, 162 reading. None of my essays have been judged, but I'm fairly confident in my writing.

Work Experience: I'm a little worried that this lets me down. I spent ~1 year in ESL administration (in the US), ~1 year in marketing and 5 months in a FOIA journalism internship. After this, I lived abroad for almost a year in New Delhi (with my folks), doing a little bit of freelance journalism, a brief internship with Reuters India, volunteering at a dog shelter, travelling, and preparing for the GRE. I'm moving to DC now, and plan to find a job doing policy research or (ideally) writing for a policy org. The only plus is that a lot of my (handful of) published work is mostly policy oriented.

Language: I speak and read decent Russian, but it would be a stretch to call me fluent. I also took a little Hindi in Delhi, but my Hindi isn't even conversational.

Additional Questions:

1. First and foremost for me is getting a sense as to which schools I'm qualified for, and how qualified. (i.e. Which programs are a reach? Which are safe? Where would a student like me normally find himself?)

2. I'm particularly interested in innovation policy. I read Mazzucato's The Entrepreneurial State when it came out, and it really helped to solidify what I want to accomplish with public policy. Are there any schools that would be particularly well-matched for this focus?

3. I've read that I'll need economics and probably statistics. Really kicking myself for not planning my career better while I was still in school. I've heard that some schools will accept you provisional on your completing pre-req courses before matriculating. Is that something to bank on, or should I take the classes first and apply in a year? (I'm already 26 and looking at starting a program at 27, so I'm a little unhappy at that prospect, but if I have to...)

4. It's been a while since I graduated, and I haven't stayed in touch with my professors. Any advice on getting back in touch with my professors and convincing them that I'm a good horse to back?

5. Does anyone know anything about the RANEPA public policy program in Moscow? I met the head of that program and he encouraged me to apply. I'm attracted to the idea of studying in Moscow, but I'm a little uneasy at how new the program is.

-

Thank you so much in advance for any advice you can give - it means a lot.

You have a promising profile, so don't knock yourself! I say so because the practice GRE scores are great (getting above 160 in quant is desirable), and you have what sounds like interesting journalism experience. When it comes to age, you're in the middle of the pack for public policy grad students. Our average age was like 27, and there were more than a few people who were 30 years old in my cohort, so don't worry. Age and experience are real assets when it comes to public policy grad school.

For suggestions, I would say:

  • Take care of econ and stats sometime in the next year. Take them through an online course (like UCLA or Berkeley's) or community college. As long as it's an accredited school, and you receive course credits for them, it doesn't matter what institution or name. Get an A to show you can handle the classes, and you'll also go much further during school with them - coursework will be a LOT easier. 
  • Your resume could use some sustained full-time work. I suggest you spend at least a year at your next job in DC. 
  • Don't feel bad about getting in touch with old professors. Four/five years is nothing. Some people come back after a decade, after all. (I've heard stories!) Maybe attach samples of your work from back then. If you attend your econ/stats classes in person and develop a good relationship, you could even use one of those professors.
  • Once you have a firmer idea of your subject area (maybe through more work experience), you'll get a better sense of what schools are best. Starting by just going through websites for the top 30-40 schools should help you identify which have focuses/ professors I was interested in. I will be frank and say I've never even heard innovation policy, but you may want to look for social entrepreneurship focuses, which may be the closest thing. 
  • New programs aren't necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the people involved, and where it is. IMHO, I'd go for a more established program, because what I mainly value about higher ed is the alumni network that it comes with. That's how I've gotten every single job in my career so far. 

Good luck! 

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Posted (edited)

Want to see how strong of a candidate I would be for Carnegie Mellon's MSPPM program. Specifically, I am interested in taking the environmental policy concentration. 

Program: MPP

Education: Undergrad at Allegheny College, 3.6 GPA. Major in English with double minor in Philosophy and Psychology. I spent a semester abroad in Australia where I took and Environmental Science course with a lab component. 

GRE: 161 V, 4.0 W and 150 Q. The quantitative score is the big black mark here, and I am currently studying to retake and hopefully improve my score by at least 3-4, which would put me at least among average accepted students to Heinz College. I should be able to improve my writing score to a 4.5 as well, but it doesn't look like CMU cares about the score from what I can tell.

Work Experience: This is an area of concern for me. I have a 3.5 month internship doing trail work for Americorps in the Catskills for New York Department of Environmental Conservation, worked for a semester at a local conservancy near my college, and have for the last two years been working full time for an environmental advocacy organization (watch dog group for the Delaware river watershed, essentially) doing social media/It and fundraising. While I haven't done any real policy work directly, I now have a general understanding of the mechanisms through which local and state level environmental legislation gets passed, as well some firsthand experiences with current major environmental issues affecting the region, many of which are relevant in Pittsburgh. I've definitely learned a good amount, but I don't want to be deceitful about my work experience when it comes to relevancy here. Lastly, while this isn't work experience, I am an Eagle Scout which may slightly improve my application in terms of experience doing service work. I am enrolling to take statistics in the spring at a local college, which is something CMU likes to see.

Language: No foreign languages, I am a native English speaker.

Additional Questions:

In addition to CMU (by far my top choice) I am looking at Syracuse, Suny ESF and Pitt's MPA program. Syracuse seems like an excellent school as well, but I think my lack of a quantitative background might make me more or less ineligible. CMU offers a course to get students without this background up to snuff before starting the program. Do you guys think I have a good shot at getting accepted to CMU? Also, are there any other similar programs in the area that you would recommend looking at?

Edited by mpamppquestions

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Hi Everybody, Prospective Economics PhD applicant here.

I did the GRE recently and scored lower than I did on the practice exams. My scores were essentially 155Q and 154V. Now, I could take the test over, but with my work load at my job and the extra work I will need to put into the GRE to improve my score I dont think I would have enough time for the rest of the year to do the exam. Also, I have very good work experience applying economic concepts, and I have very good scores in almost all my math courses from College. Therefore, I am thinking about just going ahead and applying with with the score I already Have, 

My question is, who got into an Economics PhD program with similar scores? Where do you guys think I should apply?

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38 minutes ago, coconnor13 said:

Hi Everybody, Prospective Economics PhD applicant here.

I did the GRE recently and scored lower than I did on the practice exams. My scores were essentially 155Q and 154V. Now, I could take the test over, but with my work load at my job and the extra work I will need to put into the GRE to improve my score I dont think I would have enough time for the rest of the year to do the exam. Also, I have very good work experience applying economic concepts, and I have very good scores in almost all my math courses from College. Therefore, I am thinking about just going ahead and applying with with the score I already Have, 

My question is, who got into an Economics PhD program with similar scores? Where do you guys think I should apply?

I don't have personal experience applying to Econ PhD programs, but that seems like a really low and problematic quant score, considering how quant heavy an Econ PhD is. For reference, I got a 157Q and found that I was on the bubble for top MPP programs. I did get in, but it affected my funding options. And I'm more focused on qualitative research and had a 168V. If you're posting in this forum, I assume you're interested in econometrics, which requires substantial statistical expertise. Hence the red flag from your quant score. You  might want to consider pushing back your application cycle, since it is totally doable to raise your quant score if you can set aside the time to study (see Magoosh!). Plus, more work experience never hurt anyone. Just my two cents.

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10 minutes ago, hopeful88 said:

I don't have personal experience applying to Econ PhD programs, but that seems like a really low and problematic quant score, considering how quant heavy an Econ PhD is. For reference, I got a 157Q and found that I was on the bubble for top MPP programs. I did get in, but it affected my funding options. And I'm more focused on qualitative research and had a 168V. If you're posting in this forum, I assume you're interested in econometrics, which requires substantial statistical expertise. Hence the red flag from your quant score. You  might want to consider pushing back your application cycle, since it is totally doable to raise your quant score if you can set aside the time to study (see Magoosh!). Plus, more work experience never hurt anyone. Just my two cents.

Interestingly, I got very good grades in two econometrics courses I did in undergrad, and 2 advanced econometrics courses I did for my MSc. I think that my best option is just to do the test over next year. However, just to get an idea, does anybody know of someone else that got through for an economics PhD with such a low quant score even to a lowly ranked school (NOT top 100)?

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19 minutes ago, coconnor13 said:

Interestingly, I got very good grades in two econometrics courses I did in undergrad, and 2 advanced econometrics courses I did for my MSc. I think that my best option is just to do the test over next year. However, just to get an idea, does anybody know of someone else that got through for an economics PhD with such a low quant score even to a lowly ranked school (NOT top 100)?

 

I've stumbled into a corner of the forums that I cannot directly relate, but I can speak of the GRE more generally. Generally, schools use the GRE as a gate-keeping mechanism to arbitrarily reduce a gigantic pile of applicants. For these schools, GRE scores are simply a metric which facilitate heuristic strategies, and how reliant a program will rely on these strategies will vary widely. It's an over simplification, but one can probably suppose that more competitive programs will more heavily rely on heuristics (because they get a lot more applicants and have much lower yields).

I'm sure people have gotten into economics PhD programs with lower quant scores, but I'm guessing that it's going to probably be either in a program that does not require or consider GRE scores or is much less competitive. Now, as to what those programs are, I have no idea. :) I'm a history person. Sorry!

But, like I stated, this is a corner of the forums I probably shouldn't have wandered into, so take my comments with a measure of cynicism. 

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On 8/18/2016 at 11:25 AM, coconnor13 said:

Interestingly, I got very good grades in two econometrics courses I did in undergrad, and 2 advanced econometrics courses I did for my MSc. I think that my best option is just to do the test over next year. However, just to get an idea, does anybody know of someone else that got through for an economics PhD with such a low quant score even to a lowly ranked school (NOT top 100)?

Don't mean to imply any incompetence on your part :). I think the Math GRE maps better onto HS level concepts. Annoying, but nevertheless a barrier one must overcome. Good luck with the admissions process!

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Program: MPA

Education: Public University 3.5 Cum GPA, major Public Administration. Recent graduate (~1 year)

Schools (in order of preference): Fels, SIPA (Don't think I can get in, but I can dream), Ford, NYU, Evans.Heinz. Open to other suggestions!

 GRE: Didn't take it yet, but I am planning on taking it next year!

Work Experience: Several internships during undergrad, as well as being active in student clubs especially in student government (held a leadership position).  Currently working full time in a well-known non-profit.

Languages: 3 language. 4 including English.

Other notes: 2 scholarships at my school: one to study abroad in Mexico (offered, but declined), and another award for public policy (1 of 4 students to receive it within my department). Accepted into my school's competitive professional enrichment program.  

I didn't do super well during my first two years, but did really well on my last two. Math/Econ/Stat class grades are okay-ish--lowest grade is a C for micro, andhighest grade is a B+ in quant methods. The rest are in between those ranges Will this hurt my chances? My major classes: 1 B-, 2 B+, the rest are A-s and A. Took college courses while in high school. 

I can get a good recommendation from one of my quant professors who knows me very well. Planning on asking my previous employers for a LOR.

It has always been a dream of mine to go to an Ivy league school, or a top-tiered school, and I would be more than happy if I were to be accepted into one of the top MPA programs. Currently looking for a school that will help broaden my network in the east coast and have classes that are transferrable if I decide to switch career paths. As of right now, I am focusing on making myself mor attractive to the adcoms committee and figuring out who I should ask for LOR, writing my SOP, and studying for GRE.

 

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Hi all, 

I've been lurking on gradcafe for a loooong time, and have found many of these posts to be incredibly useful.  I'm looking to apply to MPA programs for Fall 2017, and would appreciate any feedback you may have!  As is true for many of us, getting funding is extremely important for my ability to pursue a graduate degree -- so I am particularly interested in hearing thoughts on whether I may be a good candidate for getting significant funding offers from the programs I'm interested in. 

Program: MPA / MSSP (Master's of Science in Social Policy)

Schools Applying To:  Princeton WWS, NYU Wagner, Penn Fels, Penn SP2, University of Delaware SPPA, Syracuse Maxwell

Undergrad Institution: Sarah Lawrence College, with a one-year study abroad stay at Oxford

Undergraduate GPA: 3.96

Undergraduate Major: American Studies (interdisciplinary, self-directed study with focus on examining poverty, inequality & race in the US) 

GRE: 170V, 157Q, 5.5AWA

Years of Work Experience: 

Languages: None (just some high school Spanish)  

Work Experience: I've worked for four years at national nonprofits that combat poverty, help people access public benefits, and increase access to healthy, affordable food. My work has focused on fundraising/grant writing and building strategic partnerships. I also serve on the Board of Directors of a start-up neighborhood food co-op.  

Other: I think I have a pretty compelling personal story/family background that connects to my professional and academic aspirations.  

Questions/Concerns: 

  • One of the things I'm most concerned about is my quant score, particularly since I know GRE scores can be used to weed out applicants. Is it possible that my verbal and writing scores could carry me? 
  • I took Econ (15 credits) and Stats (5 credits) in undergrad and got all A's -- could that help to mitigate my sub-par quant score? 

Thanks in advance for any feedback or advice you may have! 

Edited by caitiroth

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