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

competitiveness gpa gre requirements experience profile application

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483 replies to this topic

#481 Yuanyang



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  • LocationCambridge
  • Application Season:2015 Fall
  • Program:Neuroscience

Posted 16 July 2014 - 04:19 AM

I need advice so this is a good place to start I guess.


Desired Program:: Neuroscience/Neurobiology PhD, Fall 2015

Goal: A job where I'm paid to act like I'm the smartest person in a room (professor)

Undergrad: Private Liberal arts college, B.A. class of 2011 

Major: Biology

Minor: Mathematics (no real computer science minor)

GPA: 2.3 (Major GPA ~3.3). Bad freshman-sophmore year grades and very low grade inflation. 

GRE: 160 Math, 161 verbal, 5 AW

Quant-related coursework: Statistics, computational macroeconomics, data-structures and algorithums

Work Experience: 3 Years at MIT as a research technican in a neuroscience labratory, 2 publications as a middle author,  and some summer programming experience in bioinformatics with 1 middle author publication.

Schools I'm looking into:

Reach Tier: Columbia, Stanford, John Hopkins, MIT, Harvard (the latter two is the result of explaining to idiot relatives that just because i work for and know the professors there doesnt mean I'll be easier to get in. nevertheless they expect me to apply)

Likely Tier: UCSD, U of Washington, UT Huston, UT Southwestern Medical, Boston U, U of Arizona

SOP: A detailed research plan of what kind of project I want to do. I've been planning it it since I was an undergrad so there will be opportunity for narration on how I came up with it. I'll also have to explain my bad grades; I have been trying to get off SSRI medication at the time, with disasterous consequences.

Letters of Recommendation: 2-3 letters from my workplace, the PI's name holds some weight in the field but she urges me to get my undergrad professors to write one as well. The problem is, the best letter from my undergrad college is from a professor whom recently passed away and im not sure who else to go to.


I'm looking for other good programs in neuroscience. Also, thinking of taking the GRE again. And finally, can anyone vouch for application "tutor" services for help with writing the SOP?

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#482 thevillagersid



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  • LocationSouth Korea
  • Application Season:2014 Fall
  • Program:MPP/IR

Posted 16 July 2014 - 04:38 AM

Hi Yuanyang--GPA can be a deal breaker, but raising your GRE scores (quant esp.) and doing an MS could help show you have what it takes for a PhD. Solid research experience and good recs are definitely a plus, but you should probably ask in another forum for advice on those--this is government affairs.  ;)

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Admit: Syracuse Maxwell (MPA) ($$$) | Yale Jackson (MA) | Chicago Harris (MPP) ($) | UPenn Fels (MPA) ($) | Columbia SIPA (MIA)  

Waitlist: Berkeley GSPP (MPP) | HKS (MPP)

Stats: GRE Q/V/A - 170/165/4.5 | B.A. - 3.2 | M.A. - 4.0 (international uni.) 

#483 Pichichi



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  • LocationUnited States
  • Application Season:2014 Fall

Posted 21 July 2014 - 01:51 AM

Hi everybody,

I will be applying to IR programs this fall (or next, depending on my satisfaction with my GRE scores) and would appreciate any words of wisdom regarding my chances or any advice on how to make myself more competitive. 



Programs Considering: SIS, GW Elliot, University of Maryland, Korbel, LBJ, Fletcher, Pitt, LBJ


Undergraduate Institution: Top 5 Regional Public University in the South


Undergraduate Major:  International Affairs; Minors: Spanish and Economics


Undergraduate GPA: 3.35 (less than stellar freshman year)


Study Abroad: 4 months in Spain


GRE: Taking it later this Fall


Work Experience:  

Just completed one year as an English teaching assistant in Spain and will begin my second year this fall.

2 Summers interning at a relatively small US regulatory agency


Languages: Spanish (essentially fluent); Russian (very basic level) 


LORs: Already assured by 2 professors (Econ dept and Poli Sci dept)


Coursework:  micro, macro, IR, comparative politics, international finance, economics of natural resources, political geography, politics of the EU, political development, economic development, US foreign policy, statistics, cross-national research skills and more...


Concerns:  C in my Macro class, which is slightly unsettling and perhaps a lack of more formal work experience (I'm not sure how most of these schools look at teaching English abroad).

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#484 emd89



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  • LocationSeoul, South Korea
  • Application Season:2015 Fall
  • Program:MAIS/MPA

Posted 25 July 2014 - 01:41 AM

I'll be applying for MPA/MPP/MAIS concurrent programs for Fall of 2015. My geographic area is constrained by my desire to build a west coast network and my husband's choice of MBA program (he's narrowed down to Berkeley, Stanford, or UW). I am most concerned about my lack of math prowess, and I won't be able to take a math class between now and my application cycle. 


For career goals, I'd love to end up in the Foreign Service in 5 or so years but realize the chances are miniscule. I'd be happy working in an environment where I spent a lot of time in the field, developed my language skills, and was able to travel. I'm looking at large non-profits with a strong presence overseas. 


I would love the community's opinion on how to address my math deficiencies, what other programs come to mind when you see my profile, and any red flags you see. Thank you so much!



School requirements:
I'm applying to UW's concurrent MPA/MAIS program, so a combo of the Evans School and the Jackson School, and Berkeley's Goldman MPP. I'm a west coast girl who wants a west coast network. 

3.63, with a 3.85 in-major (English) which I don't think they'll care about. 

GRE score:
152Q/165V/4.5 AWA

Work experience:
One year of alumni program administration at a large research university. Two years of running a pilot government education program in Seoul, South Korea. Internships in Germany (youth development) and stateside (non-profit homeownership foundation). 

Language skills:
Spanish: I could argue fluency, but I've tapered off my study in the last few years. 

German: Elementary

Korean: High comprehension, reading, and writing, but my speaking is kindergarten-level.

Quantitative requirements:
NONE and this is what I'd like advice on - I have two math classes on my transcript. One is the only C I've ever received, and the other is the only class I've withdrawn from. My GRE Quant score isn't bad, but I am terrible at math and my transcript shows it. How should I address this? I work with budgets and other numbers in my job (and my previous jobs) with no problem, but in a math classroom I'm a sad idiot. 

Overseas experience (work, study and teaching):
Yes, I've travelled extensively in Europe and Asia, worked in Korea for 2 years, and interned in Germany for 4 months.

Statement of Purpose:
I love writing and feel confident about this section. 

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