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About reasonablepie

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  1. Frank profile evaluation (Political Theory)

    Frank evaluation: you've got too many degrees. Both your law degree and professional masters lead to some obvious career choices, and yet you've chosen not to pursue those. You may have your reasons for that, I don't know, but you might have a hard time convincing schools you want a Political Theory PhD to actually do something with, rather than just because you enjoy getting degrees.
  2. First - having two years of private sector experience is not at all unusual. Most programs quite like it if people are a few years out of undergrad, and having spent those years in consulting is not at all a negative thing. At best it shows you've really thought through your options and know what you're doing in choosing academia, at worst it's just the opportunity cost of more research-related activities you could've been doing. I would say it should be in your SOP, but not as something to apologize for - instead, use it to explain how you came to the decision to go to grad school and try to think of which skills you gained from that experience that will be valuable in your life as a graduate student and academic, and emphasize that. Regarding that C+, don't even mention it. It was one class several years ago, your grades overall are great, they really don't care. There's one thing I think you should think about carefully, and that's the choice between political science and political economy programs. There is not one single meaning of the term political economy. In particular, to some people it means "studying economics issues with political science tools" (which seems to be where you fall) whereas for others it means "studying politics issues with economics methods" (which gets you more to using formal models etc to answer questions that may have nothing to do with the economy directly). Different department lean different ways on this, so it would be worth figuring out (either from the work of faculty and grad students at the institution, or by asking your LOR writers) which places would be a good fit for you on this front.
  3. Okay great, that's much clearer. Identifying schools is hard - don't feel like it's weird that you're feeling lost. In my opinion, just going through all the schools in roughly the ranking range you're interested in (using a few different rankings) and combing through their website to look at their faculty's interests (as well as the degree structure and funding information) is the only way to really get a good complete list. It's tedious and overwhelming, but you're doing well in that you're starting this process early so you should have plenty of time. Take on board any advice that faculty members (particularly your LoR writers) might have, but also look at things yourself and form your own opinions. I'd say the idea that policy-based schools aren't quite as optimal for academic jobs is probably true, although all things in the academic job market come with a lot of uncertainty.
  4. Prepping for grad school

    I'd say the most useful thing you can do over the summer before grad school is get some rest and get ready on a practical level. If you have to move to a new city, all the organizing associated with that is going to take up a lot of your time. Even if you're not, it's worthwhile getting all your logistical stuff in order. You'll be much happier starting grad school if your apartment is all set up, you've got any tech/gear/etc you might want, any legal/official stuff is taken care off (especially for international students), so that you can just focus on the classes and getting comfortable in your new role. So the summer would be the ideal time to do that research about what new laptop to buy, or to pick out your furniture on the IKEA website, or to decide on a financial plan, and so on. I found having this kind of stuff out of the way reduced a whole lot of the stress of starting out. I also agree with cy92 that in so far as you're planning to prepare content-wise, math is probably where you can give yourself the biggest advantage by doing some things over the summer. This comes with the caveat that some programs start with a pre-first semester/quarter math camp of some sort where a lot of this will be covered, so if you are going to be attending one of those independent prep is less necessary although still useful. Another practical skill it could be worth investing time in is your software abilities; depending on how comfortable you are with R/STATA/whatever stats program is preferred by your new department, it could really pay off to get more fluent in these or even start learning one from scratch.
  5. You need to be a bit more clear with yourself and us about what it is you are looking for. If what you want to do is a PhD in Political Science with a focus on International Relations doing research on security issues, then the best route is probably to go through all the Political Science PhD programs around the ranking that you think you're competitive for and look through their faculty to see who you share interests with, as well as asking people in the discipline (including here) which PoliSci departments have a strong reputation on these topics. However, if you want to do a MA in Security Studies or in International Relations with a focus on security, that's a whole other sort of degree. In that case you'd be looking more at public policy schools, DC schools like Birdie mentioned, etc., and there's separate rankings that could help you along in identifying these. It's important to think carefully about what kind of degree you're looking for and why.
  6. Welcome to the 2015-2016 Cycle!

    Stipend figures are definitely not the amount you can expect to receive. There is both federal and state tax that generally has to be paid (details obviously differ per place), plus there might be an array of university fees that may or may not be covered by the tuition portion of your funding as well as potentially health insurance related costs if that's through the university. The best way to know what you can expect to end up receiving is asking a current student discretely during the visit day.
  7. Welcome to the 2015-2016 Cycle!

    This is something to ask the administrators about - they should be able to give you clear information about all years, and you should be very concerned if they cannot give you guarantees beyond year 2. A) This is not true, in many departments people choose to still take classes after year 2, for example to get more methods training, B ) even if you are not taking classes, you generally have to pay some tuition fee to be registered as a student, and this can be a non-trivial amount.
  8. Choosing a Program

    Number one advice above all else: go visit if it's at all financially/practically feasible for you, and do not decide until at least a week after your last visit. The visits will give you a ton of insight into the intangibles and informal stuff that will be very hard to get in any other way. After getting those impressions, let them sink in for a while then decide. I do think the choice you describe is a very difficult one. Some of it depends on the specifics, which I understand if you don't want to share. For example, I'm personally of the opinion that a bit more money shouldn't be the deciding factor in choosing grad schools, but that's under the hard condition that neither option will involve taking on any kind of debt or having to work outside of research to make extra cash. Another thing that really depends is the distance of rankings we're talking about. Pedigree and rank do matter, but it's not the same to be choosing between a top 20 and a top 30 program or between a top 20 and a top 75 program. From my observations in grad school, a LOT of people change their topic of interest, sometimes a little bit and sometimes switching subfields entirely. On the other hand, some people stick with the exact topic they started with, so it can go both ways. But I would say that faculty who are 1) supportive of you and excited about you, 2) in line with your wider way of viewing the world and political science, and 3) good mentors who will be able to help you become a good scholar is more important than having someone interested in the exact thing you think you're going to end up doing right now. Overall, my inclination would be towards P1, but that's not a very strong recommendation. Geographic location and fit with professors does matter, and you should definitely keep both programs in the running. Make a list of things you'd like to know more about for each program (e.g. press profs in P1 how they feel about supervising on your interest, ask grad students at P2 how they've found the money situation), then find out the answers either through email/phone/skype or ideally by visiting. Take all the time you need to feel comfortable in your decision (or until April 15th, whichever comes first). Talk it over with anyone you trust, including those who wrote your rec letters and family and friends. Good luck, this is a hard one, but keep in mind that either way you're going to go to a school you're pretty excited about!
  9. I don't want to be a spoil-sport, but I'd really caution you from using this forum to learn about your wait-list chances. All the stressing about whenever something comes on the result board is already not great (although totally understandable, I did the same thing), but at least those results are somewhat informative about when letters are being sent out. The number of factors that go into wait-list decisions compared to the amount of information this forum will give you essentially means that it is much more likely to give you miss-information than anything useful, while adding to your anxiety. Only a small number of people post on this board, and whether them rejecting an offer leads to a wait-list place really depends on all the other people's decision too. Even if a wait-list spot opens up, the process by which departments then choose who to give it to is pretty opaque. I understand you all want more knowledge, but try to find ways to deal with the anxiety rather than make it worse. Step away from this board for a few days and you'll feel a lot better, trust me.
  10. Advice for Visiting Weekends

    I completely agree with what both wb3060 and cy92 said - might as well visit, unless you have a good reason not to. If there's even a small chance you'll choose the second school, it's worth putting in the effort considering how important this decision is. And even if that chance is effectively zero, the down the road what-ifs can be pretty terrible. Plus, a visit is a chance to both meet other students and other professors, which is never a bad thing. That said, if the financial costs are a real strain or you have time limitations or you just feel really sure, it's also fine not to go. I think a lot of grad student types have a tendency to want to do absolutely everything even when it hurts us, and sometimes it's okay to not do something.
  11. Advice for Visiting Weekends

    1) Don't worry too much about making a good impression! It's about you and your decision now, and schools will be putting in a lot of effort to make a good impression on you. Come September, no one will remember much of what you said/did/wore at visit weekend, so just focus on getting the information you want. I was really stressed about this and turns out it didn't matter in the least. 2) Think carefully in advance about what really matters to you in your decision; this will determine what you need to ask. It could be you mainly care about how you get along with people on a personal level, or about the kind of research students are doing at this department, or about the kinds of methods training you will get, or about the quality of life in that place, or any number of other things. All of these are valid concerns, and they will matter to different extents to different people. Make a list in advance, and focus on getting the information most important to you. 3) Make sure you talk to a good mix of people. Students in both lower and upper years, professors ranging from new APs to the most senior scholars, the admin people for practical stuff, etc. Don't put too much weight onto any particular opinion, instead look for patterns of things that keep coming up or a general impression you get. 4) Practical stuff: wear something one shade nicer than what you'd wear on a daily basis in this particular department (huge differences between schools, particularly East vs West coast), if you're hosted by a grad student be a good guest, get enough sleep because visits are exhausting, plan any practical transport things in advance so you don't have to stress about those (admin people can give you good advice on logistics things if needed, but keep in mind they're busy and you do have google). 5) Don't ignore your gut feeling! You're looking at 5-6 years at this place, whether you'll be happy there is really important. Go to as many as the social events as you have energy for, see if you vibe with the current students and other admits, because they'd be your friends. Get a feel for the department and campus more generally, and see if you feel at home there. We like to worry ourselves a lot about 'objective' measures and how grad school choice will impact our careers, but whether you will have a great or awful experience matters and that depends in large part on whether it feels right for you.
  12. IR/Comparative Stats Question

    Your question makes very little sense. In political science, there is generally no such thing as population data. Sure, you could have data for a certain time period for all the countries/other units you are interested in (although that's pretty rare!), but that doesn't mean that statistical inference no longer matters. You could make a statement such as "for X population in Y period, variable A was associated with this or that change in variable B", but that is a purely empirical statement, and those are rarely interesting. If you want to make any kind of substantive argument, you will need to argue that this also applies in other periods, to other places, or that it is an inherent feature rather than a coincidence; all those things will require you to show (at the very least) statistical significance.
  13. Writing Sample-- SOP ties?

    As a general rule for all materials, if it's not required only add it if it significantly strengthens a weak area in your application. In your case, that means definitely do not send optional writing samples if it's just something you'll be throwing together at short notice. For those schools that require you send something, the goal of the writing sample isn't to see whether you can write decent English (the SOP and to some extent GRE cover that), but to see how well you can engage in academic writing and ideally research. So, send something at least academic and ideally something that shows research skills, i.e. not blog posts.
  14. Which GRE scores should I use?

    This depends somewhat on how you want to profile yourself. If you have a weak record on quant skills, the second set is going to help you, and if your writing sample and such are strong the AWA score won't matter much. If you have really good quant skills elsewhere but are worried about your writing, the opposite applies. On balance, I'd say the second set is probably better, but it's not straightforward.
  15. Profile Evaluation and Program Advice

    You're in a pretty good position, especially because you're thinking about this plenty of time in advance. If you make sure you put in the time and effort to create the best application you can, you're certainly in the running for top-25 schools (always keep in mind there's a lot of luck/randomness involved in the admissions process too, so apply to a decent number of schools). For grad school, don't think in terms of ivies, that's not the relevant metric for top schools here. Look at a bunch of different rankings for some idea of what schools to look at, then look at placement records and talk to professors as well as of course finding a good fit to narrow down your list. The most relevant question is of course what you can do now. If you have a very weak quant background, you need to really own the GRE quant portion. Luckily, that's very doable, as it's completely a studyable test. So, get a number of GRE books and get practicing. It just takes time and effort, it's all material that anyone can do. While you're at it, study for the verbal part as well just because you have the time to do so and it will help if you're concerned about GPA (although I agree with rising star, that's not a big issue). Don't stress too much about research experience either - almost no one at undergrad has done actually serious research experience that would be publishable at grad level. Having a senior thesis is great because it shows that you know what doing research involves. Spend a lot of time thinking about what your interests are for the future and writing a good SOP that centers around those interests. The most tricky part (in my experience) is finding a balance between showing you know what you want to do and not being overly specific because you will never end up doing the project you currently envision. Other than that, enjoy your gap year. Get some nice work experience, do some research work, improve your languages further, whatever you would like to do. A lot of the aspects of admissions (undergrad performance, recommendation letters) are already out of your hands, so focus on the things you can improve, without going overly crazy.