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BFB

Faculty perspectives

339 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

19 minutes ago, dumbunny said:

Legitimate red flag, or am I overreacting?

I've been admitted to a political science PhD program, and met with some faculty members one-on-one. The program director (herself a faculty member) had suggested some people for me to meet, and her list matched the names I'd come up with based on CVs and reading past publications.

When I finally got to meet faculty members, they all told me there wasn't much overlap between my research interests and what they do. One professor ("prof A") suggested I talk with "prof B"; I go talk with prof B, and he refers me to somebody else...prof A. Later, a pair of faculty members also told me I wasn't a fit with them, and used the rest of our scheduled meeting time to catch up with each other while I couldn't get an academic word in edgewise.

Afterward, I told the program director how the in-person meetings went (she'd asked). She suggested some other people for me to reach out to, so I emailed four professors. I heard back from one person who's retiring next year, but I haven't heard a peep from the other three in the 2+ weeks since. (I've reached out to each professor twice).

Overall, I'm feeling pretty discouraged about my fit with the department. It's a smaller program, and I've met or reached out to nearly half the faculty already. It seems like faculty sees me as a great match for the department in general, just working with somebody else. Aside from that, I'm just not feeling like I'm being taken seriously - which is kind of weird, because the department's offering me a research fellowship and ~4k more funding than other members of my prospective cohort.

That sounds like a big disconnect between the adcomm and the rest of the faculty. If everyone is telling you that you fit best with someone else, yes, that's a bad sign. It doesn't sound like either A or B is excited to take you on in a primary advising role—is that your impression? Or is each excited to have you but of the impression that you're an even better fit with the other?

The experience with the other two faculty members sounds bizarre. All in all, unless both A and B are falling all over themselves to advise you, I'd be very wary of accepting.

Edited to add: Did A or B have any contact with you (phone, Skype, email) prior to your having been accepted to the program?

Edited by BFB

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37 minutes ago, BFB said:

That sounds like a big disconnect between the adcomm and the rest of the faculty. If everyone is telling you that you fit best with someone else, yes, that's a bad sign. It doesn't sound like either A or B is excited to take you on in a primary advising role—is that your impression? Or is each excited to have you but of the impression that you're an even better fit with the other?

The experience with the other two faculty members sounds bizarre. All in all, unless both A and B are falling all over themselves to advise you, I'd be very wary of accepting.

Edited to add: Did A or B have any contact with you (phone, Skype, email) prior to your having been accepted to the program?

On February 6, the program director sent me an email to notify me that I had been admitted to the program. That was my first interaction with any faculty member.

"It doesn't sound like either A or B is excited to take you on in a primary advising role—is that your impression? Or is each excited to have you but of the impression that you're an even better fit with the other?" - definitely the former. It wasn't "you should also talk with this other person" - it was "you should talk with ___ instead." (Direct quote).

Re: adcomm - I noticed that a couple faculty members were able to recall details from my application with zero prompting on my part. I assume this means these faculty members were either on the adcomm, or at least the adcomm did a good job keeping the general faculty in the loop.

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3 minutes ago, dumbunny said:

On February 6, the program director sent me an email to notify me that I had been admitted to the program. That was my first interaction with any faculty member.

"It doesn't sound like either A or B is excited to take you on in a primary advising role—is that your impression? Or is each excited to have you but of the impression that you're an even better fit with the other?" - definitely the former. It wasn't "you should also talk with this other person" - it was "you should talk with ___ instead." (Direct quote).

Re: adcomm - I noticed that a couple faculty members were able to recall details from my application with zero prompting on my part. I assume this means these faculty members were either on the adcomm, or at least the adcomm did a good job keeping the general faculty in the loop.

Only the last part is good news, and it's not great. The upshot is, if there's no one there to work with, don't go... and the "instead" gives me the distinct impression that there's no one there to work with.

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Posted (edited)

22 minutes ago, BFB said:

Only the last part is good news, and it's not great. The upshot is, if there's no one there to work with, don't go... and the "instead" gives me the distinct impression that there's no one there to work with.

I think you're right. The bit about the adcomm supports my suspicion that I got admitted because I was seen a great fit for the department in general. People on the adcomm must have thought I could work with a bunch of other people, without actually having any feedback from those other people.

It's disappointing. I really wanted to go here originally and I've been nudging the department to give me a reason to say "yes," but it's hard when people don't answer your emails. Oh well. :( At least their funding offer is useful for negotiating with another school.

Edited by dumbunny

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Hello, thanks so much for the advice you give to prospective students; I know I appreciate it!

 

How do admissions committees view breaks between undergraduate and graduate studies? I will hopefully be applying this fall. December will mark the 2 year mark since I graduated from undergrad, so it will be 2.5 years by the time I start my PhD. I'm particularly worried because they have been unrelated private sector, contract jobs. Will this serve as a hindrance to admissions?

 

Thanks!

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1 hour ago, not@prof_yet said:

Hello, thanks so much for the advice you give to prospective students; I know I appreciate it!

 

How do admissions committees view breaks between undergraduate and graduate studies? I will hopefully be applying this fall. December will mark the 2 year mark since I graduated from undergrad, so it will be 2.5 years by the time I start my PhD. I'm particularly worried because they have been unrelated private sector, contract jobs. Will this serve as a hindrance to admissions?

 

Thanks!

Might hurt you a little, but I doubt it'd hurt you much, especially not just a couple of years. I'd just explain the break succinctly and mention whatever prompted you to decide to come back.

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Posted (edited)

Professor B, thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions—it's been very beneficial for me. My question pertains to the importance of formal experience with quantitative methodology. I have a pretty solid Quant GRE (above 90th percentile), but my most advanced quantitative course was introductory statistics, which I took as a high school senior. Since I'm looking at the IR subfield and not theory, how much is this likely to hurt my chances of admission? I won't go into too much detail about my profile, but I feel that generally all other aspects—LoRs, SoP, writing sample— are strong. If this is going to be an overarching issue, I can simply forego my planned writing sample (a case study I completed for my honors thesis) and spend the next months crafting a new sample that includes some form of basic regression, etc. and demonstrates that I'm not completely inept in this area. Despite the lack of formal training in undergrad, I'm mathematically inclined. I'd appreciate any input you have. 

Note: I do plan to incorporate quantitative methods during graduate study, and I mention this in my SoP when discussing how to address a puzzle I posed. 

Edited by IR44

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I am intruding here, as Political Science is not my field...

I wish there was a faculty perspectives' thread for other fields, and also not just for those who are applying. I am already in a program (first year masters, hoping to fast-track to a PhD). Sometimes I worry about disappointing my advisor with my performance but I don't know how to bring it up in a way that is constructive vs I want a pat on the back.

I do think it's great the Political Science faculty have this thread, though. Such a great service to the student community. Thank you.

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1 hour ago, orange turtle said:

I am intruding here, as Political Science is not my field...

I wish there was a faculty perspectives' thread for other fields, and also not just for those who are applying. I am already in a program (first year masters, hoping to fast-track to a PhD). Sometimes I worry about disappointing my advisor with my performance but I don't know how to bring it up in a way that is constructive vs I want a pat on the back.

I do think it's great the Political Science faculty have this thread, though. Such a great service to the student community. Thank you.

You should check/post in the officially grads section. There are faculty from other fields around here, and what you're looking for can also be answered by senior grad students. 

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On 5/19/2017 at 10:14 PM, IR44 said:

Professor B, thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions—it's been very beneficial for me. My question pertains to the importance of formal experience with quantitative methodology. I have a pretty solid Quant GRE (above 90th percentile), but my most advanced quantitative course was introductory statistics, which I took as a high school senior. Since I'm looking at the IR subfield and not theory, how much is this likely to hurt my chances of admission? I won't go into too much detail about my profile, but I feel that generally all other aspects—LoRs, SoP, writing sample— are strong. If this is going to be an overarching issue, I can simply forego my planned writing sample (a case study I completed for my honors thesis) and spend the next months crafting a new sample that includes some form of basic regression, etc. and demonstrates that I'm not completely inept in this area. Despite the lack of formal training in undergrad, I'm mathematically inclined. I'd appreciate any input you have. 

Note: I do plan to incorporate quantitative methods during graduate study, and I mention this in my SoP when discussing how to address a puzzle I posed. 

Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much. We tend to look at quant GRE as an indicator of potential to do well in stats courses. Actual stats courses are a bonus, but their absence doesn't really hurt your prospects.

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Hello!

I am applying to PhD programs in political science/government and was wondering if you could take a look at my profile to see if I would be a competitive candidate. I did my undergrad at a top 25 public research university and had a 3.4 GPA. After working on a congressional campaign, I started teaching at an urban title 1 school. While teaching full-time I got my MA and had a 3.6 GPA. My GRE scores are solid (V-165, Q-168) and I have good letters from 2 professors in my MA program, 1 from my assistant principal at the school I teach at, and 1 from the congressman I worked for.

My question is this: will my low GPA be prohibitive when applying to top PhD programs? Will my experience as a school teacher be viewed favorably? Will I be an attractive applicant at top programs? Is there anything obvious that I should be doing to improve my profile and make myself a better candidate?

Thanks in advance for your insight!

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16 hours ago, polsgoals said:

Hello!

I am applying to PhD programs in political science/government and was wondering if you could take a look at my profile to see if I would be a competitive candidate. I did my undergrad at a top 25 public research university and had a 3.4 GPA. After working on a congressional campaign, I started teaching at an urban title 1 school. While teaching full-time I got my MA and had a 3.6 GPA. My GRE scores are solid (V-165, Q-168) and I have good letters from 2 professors in my MA program, 1 from my assistant principal at the school I teach at, and 1 from the congressman I worked for.

My question is this: will my low GPA be prohibitive when applying to top PhD programs? Will my experience as a school teacher be viewed favorably? Will I be an attractive applicant at top programs? Is there anything obvious that I should be doing to improve my profile and make myself a better candidate?

Thanks in advance for your insight!

I'm afraid I can't speak to the way that other programs do things or what they see as a plus or a minus. In our case, the MA and Congressional work would probably help and the teaching would be neither here nor there. Statement and letters would weigh more heavily. Our system is a bit unusual (I think) in that we need waivers for anyone with an undergrad GPA below a 3.6, even if they subsequently got advanced degrees from top schools and earned a 4.0 GPA while doing so. It's a quirky holdover requirement that I frankly think should be taken off the books, but as long as it's there it limits our flexibility in such cases. In practice, it doesn't limit it too much, though, so if we liked the rest of your record we'd try to figure out a way to use the waiver.

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Hello,

So I have two very defined, but rather unrelated research interests. How do you recommend talking about this in an SOP? Should I describe both interests equally (i.e. prior research experience, plans for future research, and professors I'd want to work with) or should I tailor each SOP according to whichever field the department most fits? Thanks!

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On 8/12/2017 at 6:49 PM, not@prof_yet said:

Hello,

So I have two very defined, but rather unrelated research interests. How do you recommend talking about this in an SOP? Should I describe both interests equally (i.e. prior research experience, plans for future research, and professors I'd want to work with) or should I tailor each SOP according to whichever field the department most fits? Thanks!

It's not worth hiding your research interests if they're going to remain research interests. If you're going to continue to do X and Y, you should say that (while perhaps changing the order depending on a department's strengths). If you're willing to do X and totally drop Y while in graduate school or vice-versa, though, you should feel free to write about X to the schools that are strong in X and Y in the schools that are strong in Y.

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