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About StrengthandHonor

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    Political Science

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  1. Choosing a school

    12) Is there free coffee?
  2. Choosing a school

    A couple of thoughts here, in a different order: (c) I am sympathetic, and it's true that some departmental cultures might not be productive for you. That's a decision and a call you have to make. (b) I think confidence has little to do with outcomes. A confident, talented scholar will have a better outcome from Michigan than from Wayne State. Sure, departmental differences, living situation, etc. makes a difference, but those differences (I believe) are ones that help you decide between UNC and Wisconsin, or between Yale and Princeton. It's asking too much of "intangibles" to ask them to overcome large differences in program quality. (a) As a theorist, I am particularly sensitive to this point. My solution is to, broadly, just place those schools which have strong theory departments alongside other top schools--that is, if someone were to ask me (as a theorist) what the top 15 schools were, I'd list Northwestern and John Hopkins and Notre Dame, alongside the top 10-12 overall programs. Notre Dame's excellence in the theory subfield makes it a top program for theorists. Obviously, there's a balance between overall program strength and strength in subfield. I do want to make several additional points, however. I pointed out earlier that we will all be hired (or not hired) on the basis of perception. Search committees will use heuristics to make their job easier in a high noise low signal environment. Among other heuristics, search committees will think about the overall reputation of your program, of whether they've heard of your work, of the reputation of your advisor and references, etc.--just as is the case in graduate school admissions. It's not fair. In applying to graduate school (and in applying for jobs), you may very well have candidates of identical quality from vastly different backgrounds. But the sad (yet understandable) truth is that in applying to grad school you'll have a better shot with LORs from well-known scholars and a degree from a top institution than a degree from a no-name place and unrecognizable LOR writers. The same is true in getting a job. Now, where does this come home? As a theorist currently in graduate school, I have to encourage my fellow theorists--nay, I beseech you!--think about the job market. I began regularly cruising the Chronicle's job postings and those on Higher Ed Jobs before I began graduate school. You'll notice, there are almost no positions out there that are hiring just political theorists. That is to say, you will be unlikely to get a job simply based on being a damn good political theorist. Of the many universities and colleges in the U.S., a relatively small proportion of them can support people who just do political theory. Many/most of the jobs require or state preference for theorists who can also teach Con Law, Methods, American Politics, etc. You will probably be hired as a swiss army knife, not as a full-time political theorist. If you are certain that you are in the top 5-10 political theory Ph.D. students in your year, perhaps you will be fine--but otherwise, you need to seek broad training in a variety of areas--because that's what the jobs require. One last word on perception and the job market: It is unlikely that your search committee will have more than 1 or 2 political theorists on it. It's quite likely, at many institutions, that if they're hiring a political theorist it's because their only one is retiring. Much more likely, your search committee will have Americanists and comparativists. Most people in our discipline (non-theorists) have little ability to accurately judge the quality of political theory work. Thus, the reliance on heuristics becomes even more pronounced. Also, many in our discipline don't know the names of top political theorists (or they might know just a handful of the biggest names). So to an even greater degree, decisions will not be made entirely on the basis of merit or real quality, but on perceived quality of your training, corroborated by LORs and publications. I have spoken to a number of well-known, tenured political theorists at top schools, and the near unanimous advice I've received follows these lines: 1. go to a school where you can produce AND PUBLISH quality research in your subfield 2. go to a school where you can learn and work outside of political theory (in other words, probably don't go somewhere with a solid theory program and low quality overall program). 3. If you have any ability or inclination, take methods courses so you can contribute to quantitative research agendas, teach methods, and maybe coauthor (even if you don't do quant work on your own). 4. Cultivate good relationships with well known figures. 5. Practice telling non political theorists why your work is important. Sorry for the novel, and I hope it helps. It's a killer decision--last year, I was choosing between theory boutique programs and some broader programs. There isn't any one-size-fits-all approach. I'm just trying to offer some things to think about.
  3. Choosing a school

    These are quite correct. Your "Success" (getting a job in academia) will be a function of placement, program reputation, your advisor quality and placement, your dissertation quality and publications, your teaching experience, and intangibles. Your dissertation quality and publications and your intangibles are a function of both program quality and personal happiness. Being in a well-ranked department with good faculty members will likely put you in the best position to succeed on the job market. Ranking is, more or less, a heuristic for program quality. And yes, I am aware that the rankings measure perception--but you will receive a job based on the perception of your education and dissertation quality, not on its actual quality. I am quite sure that there are poorly ranked programs where you can receive an equal education with higher ranked programs, but none of that will matter on the job market if everyone thinks your training was inferior. @Comparativist is correct in saying that you should emphasize measurables in this decision. You will not get very good picture of life in a city or a department during your visitation weekend. That being said, visitation weekend is a good opportunity to look for obvious red flags. One school I considered strongly (very well-ranked in my subfield) had graduate students who told me they were completely miserable and explicitly told me to accept other offers. Another school, it was obvious that I could not live even moderately comfortably on their stipend offer in the city (a judgment corroborated by graduate students). There are some things you can rule out. If you suffer from terrible Seasonal Affective Disorder, you probably want to think about that before you go live in Chicago for 5-7 years. It's hard for program rank to overcome being unproductive for 3 months of the year.
  4. Questions to Ask after Admission

    People who say that you shouldn't mention your personal life, generally, are the same type of insufferable persons who say that you shouldn't be married in graduate school, or that having relationships will distract you from your research. It's true, people who have lives outside their work make less "useful" RAs, because they tend to have boundaries--they won't stay in the office until 10 PM every night working on their advisor's datasets. If I sound cynical, it's because I am. Professors typically have spouses, children, and take vacations--but a few (not all) professors want their students to live ascetic lifestyles dedicated to the professor's research. All that being said, talk to fellow graduate students about relationships, if your relationship is a big part of your life. My departmental culture, for instance, is very friendly towards spouses/SO's and those people are welcome (and regularly seen) around the office, at happy hours, and at department social events. My wife is happy, has good work, and is welcomed into my life at graduate school--and that makes me happier and my work better.
  5. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    It works out. I'm in a small subfield in my department (Theory at UNC) and we have one (and occasionally two) seminars per term in the subfield. So you'll get your 5-6 courses in your subfield no problem. Most of our seminars have 4-6 students in them--comprised of students across cohorts, plus one or two advanced undergrads, plus sometimes students from other departments or institutions. We also have the opportunity to take seminars over at Duke. To be honest, I'd much rather have the experience of less choice, but having 4-6 student seminars at UNC than the classes at Duke, which have more diversity of topic but usually have 15-20 students, with <1/4 of the students being theory subfield Ph.D. students.
  6. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    This 1,000,000x. I could have never afforded to take the GRE twice or apply to 9 schools on my own. I'm from a low-income background and had little in the way of savings even. I harassed everyone I could think of at my small LAC for assistance--both of the departments I was affiliated with, the learning center, the internship/career development office, and even at one point the president's office. Between that, and requesting waivers from most/all of the schools I applied to (and providing the necessary documentation), I didn't pay anything out of pocket for the GRE, and ended up having all but one application fee covered. Especially if you're from a low-income or underrepresented group--and have good grades and a good reputation--people are willing to do a lot to help you. --- Also, can we take some of this info and make it a pinned post or part of a wiki or something?
  7. Questions to Ask after Admission

    If you have the sort of really minor logistical questions (dress code or office norms, whether professors seem to be pro-technology or anti-technology, etc.), save those for graduate students (maybe your "host" when you go to the visit--or just observe. For talking with your POI, ask questions about their upcoming projects, future projects/grants they might be working on, how they tend to work with their TAs or RAs, etc. Try to feel out how collegial and collaborative the environment will be. It's also a good time to ask probing questions about hiring plans, etc. Ask specifically about placement records in your subfield, and ask about students your POI has advised, and where they are/what they're doing now. For talking with the DGS, ask about funding, summer funding, conference funding, and more funding. Ask about TA or RA policies. Ask about fellowship aid. For graduate students: Ask honest questions about living situations. Ask them whether they can live comfortably without taking on debt. Ask about the atmosphere of the department. Ask about fun things to do, places to grocery shop, public transportation or parking, good places to begin looking for apartments, etc.
  8. Is public school funding enough to cover cost of living?

    There is quite a bit of summer funding available for teaching, RA work, or just your own research. Those are much more likely to be received in summers 3 or 4, though. A lot of students work an alternate job in the summer. There are public policy thinktanks in Raleigh, etc. where you might get an internship or fellowship.
  9. Is public school funding enough to cover cost of living?

    I'm in Chapel Hill, and $17k/year is sufficient. The funding at UNC is on the low end, but it's fine. My spouse and I live comfortably on my stipend, in a nice but old apartment not far from campus. She works, but her earnings net 0 after her school expenses. So yeah. I mean, we don't eat out every day, I make my coffee at home and carry a thermos instead of buying coffee during the day, we've got our car paid off, and we shop at Aldi. Yeah, a public school stipend won't go very far if the cost of living is insanely expensive, nor will it go very far if you're a big spender. But if you're happy to live modestly, you probably won't have any problems.
  10. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Congrats on those of you who received UNC acceptances(@dr.strange, @megabee, etc.) My understanding is there are still a few more to go--you'll notice that almost all of the acceptances on the results board are comparative/IR. If you have any questions, please shoot me a message. I'm a current student in the department and happy to help.
  11. All of the above have good advice. If you're either in a quantitative field or have quantitative classes to make it through your first year, knowledge of statistical programming and linear + matrix algebra will make your life much easier. If you are weak on academic writing, it helps to brush up. Nota bene, there is a big difference between "good writing" for an undergrad, and the particular styles and conventions of academic writing for political science journals. Above all, take some time to go outside. I spent much of my last summer travelling with my spouse, camping, and backpacking. I also spent plenty of time indulging in intellectually stimulating reading that was only somewhat related to my work. Once you start the term, your time will soon become entirely eaten up with the various tasks of graduate school. Enjoy the break while you have it. It's also a good time to make sure that you have entrenched healthy lifestyle habits regarding sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
  12. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    I was referring more to the gap between top-15 programs and 20-40th ranked programs (or lower) instead of the gap between different t15 programs.
  13. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    I think the rankings issue is still in-play, as many (hopefully, all) of you will be choosing Ph.D. programs to attend. That being said, here are a few thoughts: 1. Productivity matters. You will likely get a job based on your publications and the quality of your dissertation (as well as teaching effectiveness). So prestige/program quality makes a huge difference in the quality of your methodological training, in the quality of your peers, and the faculty around you. That being said, I have friends in CHYMPS programs that have "famous" advisors who hardly give them the time of day. Go to the department that you believe will enable you to write the best damn dissertation you possibly can. 2. Letters of recommendation/connections from faculty members will be important. This is the same reason that students from higher ranked schools often do better in graduate school admissions. If you are choosing between two college seniors/two newly minted Ph.D.'s with similar profiles, you will (in that high noise, low signal environment) prefer the one who is recommended by a scholar you know, or whose work you know to be of high quality. So it's helpful to attend a program with well-connected, well-respected faculty. That being said, if you do truly excellent work at a lower ranked program, you can likely find at least one recommendation outside of your institution. 3. Productivity is actually everything. Productivity is also affected by more things than we tend to think. Your environment and your happiness will affect the quality of your work. A student from Princeton may have a leg up, but if I'm happier living where I live and he hates living in NJ, then I'm going to produce better work, and I will take his job. So don't consign yourself to miserable living situations for the sake of rank. Be prepared to make lifestyle choices because few graduate programs are well-payed, but just be aware of the situation. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, you probably will not work up to your potential in Chicago. If the stipend is unreasonably low compared to cost of living, and you have to spend 5-7 years eating ramen in an unheated apartment, you probably won't do very good work either. So yeah. tl;dr, more than rankings, focus on what universities will give you the best training and the best shot at producing good scholarship. That is correlated (but not tightly) with the USNWR rankings.
  14. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    I'm no expert on the comparativists here, though I know they they and Americanists dominate the department (IR and Theory students and faculty are rarer). Strengths in social movements, Latin America, and Eastern Europe/post-Soviet studies, I think. My (rather) uninformed opinion is that they're competitive with any other top-15, non CHYMPS school.
  15. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    RDU airport is no JFK, but it's only about 15-20 minutes drive from UNC, and flights tend to be pretty affordable. It's a big hub for Southwest. Also, Chapel Hill/Carrboro is a lovely place to live.