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CarefreeWritingsontheWall

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CarefreeWritingsontheWall last won the day on August 18 2016

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About CarefreeWritingsontheWall

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    Mocha
  • Birthday 07/26/1992

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    Canada
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  • Program
    PhD Political Science

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  1. On Rank, I would consider the relative position of people working in your subfield at the institution under consideration, not the department's rank overall. Some departments have incredibly strong faculty in one field (IR, CP, American, Theory etc) but not in others. On Academic Fit, I would consider whether your epistemological outlook is aligned with potential PIs. Substantive topics aside, are people doing the kind of research you want to be doing (natural experiments, ethnography etc). Will advisors allow you to do the work you want to do, the way you want to do it or will they push you to become more like them (this you can get a good sense of from talking to them about your work, but also current graduate students). On Advising, I think you covered the bases. I would also consider whether your potential PI has an advising style that suits you. Some people are very hands off, and that doesn't work for everyone but this fits with engagement. It's worth it to ask current and previous students what their meeting schedule looked like, and whether they felt their advisors read the papers they send and offer useful feedback. You don't need a committee of three people who will read everything with a fine toothed comb, but it helps to have one. Also, ask yourself if your main advisor left, would you still want to go to that school. Faculty move a lot, and most are not in a position to bring students with them or continue chairing committees if they leave and you can't follow them. I know too many people to count who have lost their primary advisor to a move, and then felt stuck committee wise without their main mentor. This is somewhat related to the idea of not choosing a program to work with one specific person. On the Cohort dynamic - ask about office space. Do places have it for graduate students; do you have to compete for it; is it a positive or negative work environment? This seems pedantic, but it can mean a lot for positive social and academic environments. It changed my grad school experience drastically when we got access to a building where all graduate students have dedicated offices (if they aren't working out of specific centres). I have two potential co-authored papers I doubt I would have in the mix if I wasn't working in such an environment. Your immediate cohort will only matter for the one to two years you are doing a lot of coursework, so it's worth it to consider the general climate amongst graduate students, and whether people are hostile or constructive in feedback and collaborative opportunities. On money: I would add a few other points of consideration. What is the cost of living in immediate area? Is rent so expensive it takes up your entire stipend? Will you need to commute to make ends meet if you can't get on campus housing? Is commuting easy (reliable transit, 15 min drive with no traffic) or difficult (no transit, heavy traffic/long drive)? Is your stipend the same as everyone else? I.e. do students compete for better funding packages. This is surprisingly true for a number of programs, and it can generate hostility in cohorts if people are fighting for money. Is there accessible funding for sixth years? Do you have it guaranteed or is it competitive? Is there accessible funding for fieldwork or research protocols? I.e. how easy is it to ask for 5000 to run a survey or spend a month in an archive? Are those internal departmental options, NSF grants, research centres? For RA work, what is the typical wage? Are RA/TA obligations built into your stipend or are they an addition to your stipend (i.e. if you TA for a semester, do you earn additional wages on top of your stipend or not - this varies a ton!) Are you responsible for any annual fees or health insurance, or are these included in your funding package? On location, I would also ask if it's a place you can see yourself living for at least 3 years, if not the entire duration of your program. Can you lead the life you want in the area the school is, with what kinds of housing is available to you etc? This is important for pet owners, as well as people looking to settle down or find a long term relationship in grad school. It's also true for people moving with partners or children. If the immediate location doesn't work, but a neighbouring city does, consider whether the commute is something you can handle (and afford). On partner groups, I would also consider whether centres regularly bring in post-docs or visiting professors. It's a great opportunity to collaborate with early career scholars, and bring in additional expertise. Minor thing, really, but it adds to the climate of collaboration and opportunities. Also consider whether there are research and social groups that can support you as well. I've gotten a lot out of a women and politics group we have in our department as it has fostered connections between female graduate students and female faculty I wouldn't normally interact with. Likewise for first generation scholars, or visible minorities, some departments have a lot of great opportunities to network with peers that can make the PhD process more manageable. A lot of people told me that such questions weren't important. A grad student at a visit laughed when I asked about offices and said that surely I wouldn't pick a place based on whether I would have an office or not. Sure, my decision wouldn't hinge on that one factor but it's a question meant to probe the underlying social dynamics of a department that may not be immediately visible during a visit weekend. There is plenty to consider of course. Hope this helps.
  2. As an aside, it's worth thinking about how isolating a PhD is overall - no matter where you attend. While your first year or two is quite busy with coursework, once you're ABD you are for all intents and purposes a researcher. You dive into your work, and it's all on you to be productive. Most advisors won't impose deadlines on you, which means it's entirely on you to hit targets and be independently motivated. The idea is to see how well you can do as an academic - since being a junior faculty member means you won't have any deadlines beyond those imposed on yourself. I didn't quite appreciate this on the outset of my degree, and it's been a challenge to grapple with as I move beyond coursework. It's the biggest difference between the standalone MA I did before, and my PhD. Some people thrive with the independence, but for many it's a serious adjustment. I think it's worth it to consider placements where you can build up a community and establish a positive work life balance. For some people that means picking a program closer to family, or at the very least a new city where it's easy to build a network beyond the program. I'm lucky to have colleagues that are incredible friends, and family who make the effort to travel to see me when I don't have the time to travel myself but if there's something I would do differently, it would be to consider applying to some programs closer to home. At the very least, I know I will be aiming for jobs closer to family when I finish.
  3. Hey all. Saw the recent conversation about admission stats for OSU. Statistics wise, Princeton usually gets 500+ applications in a given year and admits ~40 people across 6 subfields (IR, CP, AP, Theory, Methods, Public Law) for an admission rate of 8% (less during years when it's higher). They aim for a cohort of 20ish but some are smaller (16) and some are larger (27) depending on the year. I suspect Harvard is similar, though they can have cohorts of 30. Just thought I'd pop this up here for perspective. https://www.princeton.edu/politics/graduate/prospective/faqs/
  4. As a side note, if math camps are on ABD student resumes, it's likely because they helped lead it. In terms of timing, assuming camps will fall around August 10th assumes many other things - like acceptances (sorry to be blunt about this...just being honest). I honestly don't know and can't say anything with certainty about the timing of math camps for any of those programs. Luckily August is ~8 months away, so you should feel more than safe planning your trips closer to the beginning of Spring (say in 2-3 months) when you have a sense of what's going on for you - and this is still 5-6 months before you need to plan any moves or trips which gives you plenty of time to find a good deal on a particular destination. Best of luck with your applications!
  5. It really depends on the program. As mentioned, some have a camp that is 1-2 weeks, some have a semester long class, some have both. For reference, Princeton does both - in addition to 2-3 months of paced review over the fundamentals of calculus and real analysis in the summer prior to starting. A friend at Cornell had a 10 day camp. Emory has a short camp and semester long course (math for social scientists). A number of programs also do intro to programming camps, though like math the timing and structure differs. If students are spending their first semester on the fundamentals of probability and causal inference, then sometimes the programming camp is at the start of their second term when they finally get to work with software. Alternatively, Harvard does their math and programming camp at the same time. I've heard more often than not of this mixed approach. It's not hard to find equivalent websites for other programs. Google pulled up syllabi for math camps from the following institutions pretty easily: UC-Berkeley UMichigan MIT Stanford (Justin Grimmers Github has everything from last summer) UT-Austin Pretty much all of them are not an all day affair - they can only hope you learn so much during such a short time (I personally forgot pretty much everything - I just didn't have the time to practice until we were manipulating equations during the semester). Hopefully this is helpful.
  6. The majority of visits are in mid/late March and early April. There's a thread with a list of acceptance dates from previous years. Usually there's around 4-5 weeks between an acceptance and a visit date, sometimes longer. The only visit I had in early February (the 8th for reference) was from GWU, but that was because they flew out their shortlist before making final admission decisions. The others were March 21st and April 1st for reference.
  7. To my knowledge Emory, OSU and GWU all have forms of interviews for shortlisted candidates in political science (at least this was the case when I applied 3 years ago). They either interview over the phone or skype (Emory or OSU), or by flying out their shortlist (GWU). After that, they send out their offers. When I talked to GWU faculty about this approach, they said it was their way of seeing prospective students before most schools have sent out offers let alone had admission days, while evaluating who fit best with their program before making final offers. That said, I have heard of people being waitlisted at all three without an interview, and in some cases getting offers when acceptances were low in a given year.
  8. I'm at an R1 and your math is already better than mine. I never took calculus in high school, didn't follow up on it in college and as a result had only linear algebra and advanced functions under my belt when I walked into my first semester econometrics course. During my MA I did take a bunch of quant courses and I attended ICPSR. I had all of these skills mentioned by LOR writers to boost what was a really bad GRE Q score. I wound up auditing a bunch of undergraduate calculus courses to catch up in my first year. Now I've made peace with the fact that I will never be a methodologist developing algorithms, and understanding when it was appropriate to use, and how to use econometrics was enough for me.
  9. Some programs offer small moving grants for those arriving internationally. I had a $500 allowance to help with travel but that was included in my letter of offer. I know of people who got funding through their department for language training the summer before they started or started to RA before arriving as well. Never hurts to reach out.
  10. I would run through a list of priorities for yourself and consider which program best accommodates those. For me, the answers to these questions were what helped me make my ultimate decisions. 1. Did you have good meetings with prospective advisors? Did it seem like they would be the kind of advisor you want to work with? 2. Did you vibe well with the current students, and other prospective students? Did it feel like you would have a good community of peers to work with and socialize with that would be encouraging? 3. Is the location one in which you can see yourself living comfortably for at least 4-5 years, maybe 6? Does it allow you to live the lifestyle you want with ease? By this I mean, if you're a hiker, can you maintain that hobby? If having a dog or cat is a priority, is that easy or hard given housing the area? If you have a family or are looking to start one, is it easy and affordable to find housing, daycare etc. 4. Does the program support the kind of work you hope to do? Will it feel like an uphill battle to prioritize certain research interests or methods? Will you feel compelled to fit into a certain mould or "type" of research or will you be able to prioritize your own interests? Pursuing a PhD can be an incredibly isolating experience, particularly once you are past coursework. Ensuring you're able to work in a positive environment with support from your advisors, and your peers, is important. It gets you through the worst of times.
  11. If there's any advice I have, it's to choose a computer that works well for you. By this I mean opt into a device that accommodates the way you write, the hobbies you have and the way you like to organize your files. If your laptop is your primary computer, be sure the keyboard is one you like. You'll be writing a lot and staring at the screen a lot. An external monitor for working at home is well worth the investment as well. Given the state of current computer processors and harddrives, I wouldn't worry too much about having a laptop up to the task of a quantitatively rigorous program - the majority of new computers are up to the task. I would suggest opting into the biggest internal harddrive you can to give yourself the space, and perhaps one step up from the base RAM specifications. For any top of the line PC this won't break the bank, but for a Mac it will since they moved to SSD harddrives in all of their machines. I currently use a 2017 Macbook Pro. I upgraded at the end of my first semester after my older 2010 Macbook Pro died. I went with it to maintain my ecosystem more than anything else. I do photography on the side, the software licenses I have are for Mac. I have an iPad for reading and and iPhone. I like how easily everything syncs across devices. I tested out a number of PC alternatives and didn't like the feel of them. I also valued that my previous MacBook got me through 4 years of undergrad and an MA with next to no problems. The longevity of the machine is something I valued highly. In hindsight, given the cost, it doesn't seem worth it. I opted for the 15-inch, 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 model with 16GB of RAM and a 250GB harddrive. I managed to get a stellar deal of just under $2000 shortly after they were released through a family member who could get me a staff discount at Staples. The newer keyboards are finicky with time. Despite being fully recessed, the keys can stick or lose sensitivity without much reason. It's hard to type quietly and my fingers cramp when I type for more than 2 hours (which on a writing spree, happens often). The trackpads are now so large that it's easy to swipe with your palm when you're coding which can redirect your cursor to another line. The touchbar, while great, is also within range of being swiped. I've accidentally excited windows and closed files without saving because of it - including one instance that some combination of accidental swipes closed a one note document 3/4 through a lecture without saving. I've also paid out close to $75 on adaptors since most cables and monitors don't support USB-C. To connect my monitor and an external keyboard for working at home, this proved bothersome. The small things have been grating. Functionally, the machine I'm running has no problems and runs like a dream. The battery can drain incredibly fast if I'm running large estimations in R repetitively. I have had some yellowing on the monitor that Apple said was covered under AppleCare. I just haven't had the chance to hand it over to them for a week to have it fixed. Alternative PC models worth looking into are the Lenovo Yogabook. Asus also has a series of compact laptops, the Zenbook or the Q series of machines, that carry the look and feel of a Mac if that's more up your ally. A few people in my program use a variety of Microsoft Surface laptops. Some also have Dell laptops, a few HP. The majority have Apple laptops as they can be purchased through the university for less. A lot of my friends have the came feeling about the new MacBooks but with the investment made, we're sticking with it.
  12. Zotero is an alternative article and citation management software that works well with LaTex. BibDesk is also useful for Mac users. Stats wise, R is where most of the discipline is focusing its training since it's free and open source. That said, a lot of people still use Stata. Knowing both is helpful so that you can move from one to the other. I haven't done a replication yet that had code published in R. Stata handles massive datasets well (100,000+ observation panel datasets in particular). If you're into web-scraping data and text as data work, Python is another coding language that is worth putting time into picking up, though there are ways to get R to do the same work.
  13. For every visit I was given a schedule by the graduate program coordinator before arriving (usually 2-3 days ahead). They were individualized so we all knew who we were meeting with, when and where, between group meetings and socials. I can't say that everywhere is the same, but all of my visits were structured that way. As I mentioned, I heard about people who requesting additional meetings with faculty of interest if they weren't on their given schedule. Overall things are pretty centralized.
  14. I would opt into UBC for funding purposes (and also because Vancouver > Toronto any day). If people raise an eyebrow about attending the same institution for two degrees, there is an argument to be made that as a graduate student you will be focusing on political science in a way that you didn't during your BA, and you will very likely be working with additional professors that you didn't as an undergrad. Teaching experience is valuable and its not hard to pick up an RAship for your advisor (most try to offer some form of work to their grad students knowing money is tight). At UofT you most definitely won't be teaching. On the difference between major research papers (MRP) and theses, there are pros and cons. Some professors argue that a thesis is a better signal as a prospective PhD student since the manuscript tends to be longer, require more depth and more scrutiny (multiple reviewers) than a MRP. Others say the research paper option is better because you're capped for length, which pushes you to create something that (if done well) is publishable. In either case, the final paper you write (MRP or thesis) is what you make of it really.
  15. I had a failed application cycle right out of undergrad but to MPA/MPP programs. I realized ex-post that my SOP was a mess and that my interests laid in academia, not policy work. I also realized that my LOR writers were great people, but their letters may not have reflected my passions or given that much information about me and my potential as a PhD student. I was convinced to do an MA and the process of stepping back had me land on a very specific topic of interest. Specificity in a research agenda doesn't hurt you, but if there's one thing I've learned since started my PhD it's that some programs like a degree of malleability in incoming students. They like being able to shape how you see the world and the questions you're interested in (hence the value of coursework). They also want to make sure that your ontological and epistemological approach fits with theirs. American programs are very much dominated by the causal inference/potential outcomes ontology that fits broadly within a positivist approach to social science. Does your work lend itself to this perspective? This isn't to say that there aren't people working outside of these approaches at the schools you applied to, but if the wrong person was on admissions it can be a barrier. It's important to demonstrate a solid research agenda, as well as a sense of how you would pursue it, while balancing the general skills you would like to pick up and how you would apply those to a career in academia. On the LOR front, keep in touch with your letter writers. Have a discussion with them about this cycle. If you haven't already, have a conversation with them about what you want their letters to say about you. Some of your advisors may be able to stress your research interests better, while others can speak to your skills as a researcher and presenter. Have them contextualize how you did in their courses (if you took some with them), and the strength of your program overall relative to other departments. As you're coming from a state school and a European institution, it helps if they can contextualize what your grades mean. These are added details that can really help boost you independently of whether your advisors are known to American scholars or are active on the American conference scene.
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