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  • Application Season
    2017 Fall

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  1. This forum was extremely useful during my application process, and my results were far better than expected, so hopefully I can be of use to others through this post: Program Applied To: MPP/MPAs (also MPhil Econ @ Oxford, MSc Econ & Phil @ LSE and MSc Behavioural and Economic Science @ Warwick) Schools Applied To: WWS, HKS, Duke Sanford, Chicago Harris Schools Admitted To: all -- WWS (tuition + stipend), HKS (full tuition), Duke Sanford (90% tuition), Chicago Harris (no funding) Interests: applying behavioural science to social and microeconomic policy in developed countries Undergraduate institution: 'top' Australian university Undergraduate GPA: 3.98 Undergraduate Major: Economics and Psychology GRE Scores: 170 / 170 / 6.0 Magoosh was extremely useful for this, particularly on the quantitative side. For both the quant and verbal I did a lot of Magoosh practice questions. I also got a copy of the Official GRE book and did all the practice exams (one before I started preparing). On AW, I watched the Magoosh videos and also picked a few (maybe around 5) essays to write at random from the list on the GRE website whenever I felt up to it. Quizlet was super helpful in building my vocabulary: I'd add a flash card with a definition whenever I encountered a word I wasn't familiar with during my Magoosh practice. That being said, I've done a lot of standardised tests in my time, so was probably more comfortable than most during the actual test. I was also very lucky. Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 6 and a bit Years of Work Experience: 6 and a bit Describe Relevant Work Experience: ~5 years in analyst roles at central bank and ~1 year developing and briefing on policy at a federal treasury department. Strength of SOP (be honest, describe the process, etc): I can't self assess overall strength, but I felt like it was strong on detail and motivation (i.e. I could convincingly use examples to show my motivation was genuine and sustained over many years). It was also probably a bit on the dry side. The process I followed was: Used coggle.it to create a mind-map of all the policy issues I was interested in, going from general (e.g. 'education', 'well-being', 'consumer protection') to specific (e.g. 'best ways to allocate funding', 'difference b/w decision and experienced utility', 'making disclosure more effective'). I then used the mind-map to figure out what I really wanted out of grad school, and to select and consolidate interests to mention in my SOP. Gathered all the different aspects I needed to cover across each SOP (re: motivation, interest, skills, experience). I then drafted a 'master SOP' that included everything on this list. After selecting the programs I was going to apply to, I spent a fair bit of time going through the website of each university/faculty and identifying the courses and faculty members/research topics that aligned with my interests. For each program, I tailored the master SOP to fit the requirements of that specific application, and weaved in details of specific courses and faculty members to demonstrate why I had chosen that program at that university. Some unis required 'special' essays but I was mostly able to use material from my master SOP. I also asked my partner to proof read each SOP. Strength of LOR's (be honest, describe the process, etc): I have no idea how strong my letters were, but I had some variety both in terms of seniority and background: one very senior manager from my current organisation, an immediate manager from a previous organisation, and my thesis supervisor from undergrad (an Assistant Professor in econ). I had a very good relationship with my previous immediate manager, so I emailed her straight out explaining my plans and asking if she had time to write a letter. With the other two, I used this strategy: Emailed saying I was interested in grad school but wanted to get their advice. Met in person to talk about what I was interested in learning about, what I wanted to get out of grad school, and to ask about recommendations of programs/universities. My thesis supervisor assumed he would be writing a letter for me, and the senior manager got very excited about a common interest and offered to write a letter without me having to ask. I followed up with each by emailing: a list of programs I was applying to with short description of each; resume; transcripts; GRE scores; and my draft 'master SOP'. I had to send multiple email reminders and some of the letters ended up being submitted at the last moment. Decision: HKS. This was really tough, and ultimately came down to personal reasons. On paper, HKS was my top preference. But I ended up visiting Duke, Princeton and Harvard and was impressed by them in that order (most to least). Duke was impressive and welcoming, but didn't feel cosmopolitan enough; WWS felt like the safe option with lots of great people; HKS felt less personal, more daunting and with a less consistent mix of new admits. In the end I chose HKS because I thought I would grow more by being out of my comfort zone, getting to know people I wouldn't normally get to know, and because it had the most opportunity for someone interested in applying behavioural science to public policy. My partner will be moving with me, and Boston seemed to have the best job opportunities for her outside of NYC. Words of Advice: Before even deciding on a specific type of program, think about what you're really interested in, what you want to do with your life, and why. 80,000 Hours is extremely useful for this -- check it out! For example, I was considering PhD vs. academic masters vs. professional masters, in economics, psychology and public policy. This will really help with making your SOP sound coherent and convincing. Ask for help and advice from people in your network that might have gone through a similar process in the past. I was amazed at how willing people who I hadn't really kept in touch with were in helping with my applications and providing advice and tips. Don't be afraid of aiming high. I am not at all like the super humans described in the bios section of top schools. I got good marks at undergrad because I was genuinely interested in what I was learning, and managed to land a good job afterwards, but I am also shy, anxious and quiet. I haven't founded a start-up or non-profit, haven't held many official leadership positions and only did a few (low-key) extracurricular activities during undergrad. The length of my work experience and consistency of volunteer experience probably helped balance this out, but the point remains -- don't be intimidated by the descriptions of the students they choose to put up on their websites! Take care of your mental health. I found that practicing mindfulness through meditation to be really helpful in managing stress and in embracing whatever results end up arriving (check out apps like Headspace or Insight Timer). Hope this helps!
  2. Thanks everyone, this is really helpful
  3. Hi everyone, just looking for a sounding board on this one: is it crazy to be considering Duke vs. Princeton? I was fortunate to get full funding from Duke, and I think with differences in cost of living (particularly if my partner lives in NY) the stipend from Princeton just evens things out. I did a campus visit to Duke and went to the hosting weekend at Princeton. Both programs felt very similar in terms of their very personal/welcoming approach and focus on strong academics. The class I sat in on at Duke was very impressive (both in terms of lecturer and student engagement) but less so at Princeton, but they were different subjects and I'm sure there are idiosyncrasies across courses at any school. The student culture at Princeton was amazing, but I don't want to be too swayed by that because I didn't get to experience it at Duke. Both seem to have good opportunities to pursue my interests in behavioural science and program evaluation, albeit in quite different contexts. Right now, the main thing making me lean towards Princeton is that I'm not American, and the campus/town/alumni felt more cosmopolitan than at Duke/Durham. The Princeton name is also much more recognised where I'm from (maybe Fresh Prince of Bel Air/West Wing played a role?) but name isn't everything to me. On the other hand, Princeton seems to have strengths in international policy but I am more interested in domestic, developed country issues (just not the US in particular). Thanks for reading and for any thoughts
  4. Neither did I (traveling from Australia)
  5. Great, thanks for confirming!
  6. Still no details right? Just want to make sure I haven't lost a link somewhere in my inbox...
  7. Hey, looks like the email was sent around 6 hours ago
  8. Yes for me too! So unexpected! Good luck to everyone else waiting
  9. I'm in the same boat (from Australia) - is it worth flying over for the new admits days? Do many students from different continents go to them?
  10. I was accepted with $42k - very pleasantly surprised and grateful after receiving no funding from Chicago. Thanks @chocolatecheesecake for encouraging me to apply!
  11. I was admitted but with no funding -- which was only confirmed by emailing the admissions staff. (A bit disappointed that there was no separate letter informing me of the scholarship decision, like the acceptance letter implied.)
  12. Has anyone else had the experience of applying to grad school from an existing policy role, wanting to switch or broaden policy focus, but also relying on a letter from a current employer who does not want you to leave? I'm worried that my personal statement will imply that I want to eventually leave the organisation and that this might induce a less positive letter or weaken my relationship with my letter writer if I do return to my current role after study or in case I am unsuccessful in my applications. I've spoken to the letter writer and explained the divergence between my interests and the work that the organisation does, but she (very persuasively) made an argument that I could apply my interests while remaining in the organisation. But on reflection, I'm less convinced, and while I've given a shout-out to her ideas in my personal statement, I didn't want to limit my personal statement to the application of my interests to my current organisation. I'll have to send my letter writer my personal statement soon so she can get started on the letter, but was hoping for any advice on how to deal with the situation. Thanks in advance
  13. Hi everyone, I'm new here (applying for the first time for Fall 2017) and would very much appreciate any feedback and advice. The whole application process has made me feel quite anxious, given all the very impressive people on this forum as well as all the high achievers that I work with, but at the same time I acknowledge that parts of my profile seem quite strong - so I hope I don't intimidate anyone else or sound ridiculously insecure! My main concern is consistency; I have a good academic record, but am more mediocre in other aspects (I'm quite introverted/shy by nature so have not put myself out there as much as I should have, but am slowly trying to change this). Program Applied To (MPA, MPP, IR, etc.): US MPP/MPAs and some UK MSc/MPhils as backups if I don't get any offers with funding for the former (which are so expensive!) Schools Applying To: MPP/MPAs: WWS, HKS, Chicago Harris and possibly GSPP and Heinz. Undergraduate institution: One of the higher profile Australian unis Undergraduate GPA: 3.98 Undergraduate Majors: Economics (incl. Honours year) and Psychology, with a minor in Computer Science. Study Abroad: none GRE: I lucked out and got 170Q, 170V and 6.0 AWA Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): 6 Years of Work Experience: 6 Describe Relevant Work Experience: 5 years working as an economist/analyst at a central bank and a year working on financial regulation/consumer policy at a federal government department. Languages: none really - I really struggle to learn new languages. Have some basic fluency in my parents' subcontinental language (not one of the more common ones) and have tried to self-teach Spanish and French in the past but have no conversational ability. Quant: first year linear algebra/calculus/discrete maths (for science undergrads); advanced undergrad micro/macroeconomics and 'mathematical economics'; and a bunch of compulsory econometrics/applied stats from my economics and psychology majors. Strength of SOP: Working on this; don't have too much unique experience to draw on and will have to explain my desire to change direction from macroeconomic analysis and policy to more microeconomic/social policy development and evaluation (all with a focus on incorporating a better understanding of human behaviour and well-being). Rather than wanting to build on existing experience, my main motivation for wanting to pursue graduate study is to shift direction and apply my skills to a broader range of policy issues. I also can't convincingly say that I have a specific area of public policy that I'd like to focus on. Instead, I want to develop my expertise in behavioural science and policy evaluation since these seem to be relevant to a wide range of domains. Strength of LOR (be honest, describe the process, etc): I've approached a former immediate manager in the public service who I suspect will write a very positive letter; the head of my department (who is very enthusiastic about my behavioural science interests but is keen to have me stay at my current institution) also offered to write one but it might not be as personal since I haven't worked directly with her. My main concern is my third, academic reference, who supervised my economics Honours thesis but strongly recommended I pursue a US economics PhD rather than an MPP/MSc since he considers the latter to be a waste of time/money apart from the uni's brand. I am about to write an email to him explaining the decision I've come to and hopefully he respects my choice and writes positively about my academic ability and initiative. Other: I've done a bit of volunteering, including a couple of years tutoring high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds in maths and physics, tutoring and social development outings with younger children from refugee backgrounds, and a bit of data analysis for a charity, but none of it on a long-term/frequent basis. I have also co-authored a couple of journal articles in economics and data analysis, plus co-authored central bank publications if that's worth anything at all. Thanks a bunch for reading
  14. Thanks both, really appreciate the suggestions. The CMU Heinz program was one that I hadn't looked at before. Do any other schools come to mind?
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