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GopherGrad last won the day on July 28 2018

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  1. I earned a JD and worked as an attorney for a number of years before transitioning to a PhD program in Political Science. In the most general sense, being a Yale law student will help you, because being a Yale law student signals that you are very, very smart. Like the poster above, I know a handful of JDs studying in PhD programs or teaching in political science departments. That said, at both of my admission visits, I was told that doctorate programs are often skeptical of JDs because many attorneys who decide that lawyering sucks think they can bail to academia without really understanding the nature of or methods used in the work. If this is still the case, your job will be to find costly ways to signal your interest in and understanding of the social science academy. I did an entire MA to demonstrate how serious I was. (Happily, it was fully funded, which, given your credentials, would probably be available to you.)
  2. You should take the "do you really know what you're getting into" posts above very seriously for two reasons. First, getting a PhD in political science is really a waste if you don't have some hard-nosed empirical questions you want to research for roughly forever. Second, if you can't succinctly explain your passion to the members of this board, you'll have a hard time convincing an admissions committee. That said, I graduated with degrees in theatre and english and presently attend a top ten program. My road was tough. After about seven years of professional experience in semi-policy oriented field, I took two undergraduate courses in political science and one in statistics. My applications at all T20 schools were then denied, and I attended a two-year IR MA program on scholarship. Only at this point was I accepted. Good luck.
  3. If you do a little digging, you'll find some good advice from past years on how to approach the popular, top-tier MA programs. I have no experience with those schools, but the major concerns seemed to be over-crowding and the lack of time or resources to really distinguish oneself. In addition, the policy focus of the terminal students tends to undermine a culture that supports a long-term investment in the PhD skill set. I'd like to plug smaller programs. When I became curious about social issues addressed in academic political science, I had no political science background and was almost a decade into a mostly unrelated professional career. I was rejected at every PhD program to which I applied, but happened to also apply for an MA at Marquette University (I think based on anonymous discussion board advice). I was accepted and offered a large scholarship with a stipend. My file was probably rejected everywhere the first time because I lacked any social science training, didn't write a personal statement that made much sense in the academic language, and could offer no credible signal of my dedication to the field. Marquette's program helped me solve a lot of those issues. I focused on developing a theoretical understanding, getting strong letters of recommendation, and demonstrating my passion (read: I ignored the shit out of methods because that stuff was scary). I ended up getting a few acceptances to top schools after I finished. Your MA decision should be tailored to address weaknesses in your current PhD application. If your weaknesses look at all like mine, consider a smaller program where you'll be focus of the faculty attention, and where you have time to develop relationships, skills, and perspective. Marquette was a home run for me, and I still feel very strongly about that program, but look more deeply at places that might fit well for you. Edit: Note that Comparativist's advice to look outside the box addresses different potential areas for improvement. There are good reasons you might want to focus on method or area expertise, depending upon what you want to do in your PhD and what skills or signals your application might lack now.
  4. Good clarifying question. Uncertainty looms large in making these predictions, and the academic and private job markets are structurally very different. Given that many people's list of preferred jobs at some point starts to mix academic and non, it can be difficult to talk about this stuff concretely. I would be surprised to find that a student at a Top 10/12/16/ish school who did the work and the networking failed to find some decent, challenging job that pays for a middle class life in a major American city of the student's choice. Graduates who end up permanently on the VAP circuit (or the private market equivalent) from these schools either have very specific and inflexible job preferences or did something fixably wrong to end up there. As one moves down the school ranking and down the informal ranking of students at one's own school, the likelihood that this job will be academic decreases, and the attention the student should pay to the networking section of my advice (and to developing skills needed in the government and private sectors) increases.* Pick-your-place has a lot to do with the place's opportunities, but some trade-off between prestige or ideal job duties will usually open something up. In general, if you have a sense of where you'd like to live and this consideration is more important than finding a prestigious or even academic job, networking in that place is totally key. *Academia is not everyone's brass ring. Outside the obvious schools, if you prefer to work in a think-tank or NGO, networking becomes increasingly important, because there is a lot lower signal-to-noise ratio in private job markets, and fewer people will automatically know that UCLA or Duke is actually a pretty kick-ass department.
  5. I read this thread with a little concern and wanted to add my own perspective. I am presently in my fourth year, recently defended my dissertation prospectus, and am preparing to start gathering data. Prior to my PhD program, I worked as an attorney and taught practical courses at two law schools. In this thread, I’ve seen three related, basic concerns: job prospects, strategies for maximizing job prospects, and the work load. Take my advice as a current student with a grain of salt, but be aware that the path to success in this field is idiosyncratic enough to doubt that tenured faculty know how it works, either. Job Prospects BigTen is right here, and the attempt to rose-tint the job market issue by noting that an important number of tenure track positions at research universities are held by graduates from 10-25 ranked schools ignores the struggles faced by the vast majority of student from those programs. It is frankly unconscionable that faculty at 50+ ranked schools encourage graduate students to attend. I truly believe the emerging consensus that a number of graduate programs exist to fill the egotistical and labor needs of the department rather than because they provide reasonable employment opportunities to graduates. Evaluating job prospects and placements by reading placement boards provides some information. Watching your colleagues graduate and fight for positions provides another. Attending a PhD program outside the top 10-12 is a real gamble. Most students in this range seem to place at universities or outside jobs that at least provide standard of living and a reasonable connection to the questions and research that drew you to study social science in the first place. But the plight of Visiting Assistant Professors who make minimum wage is real, and in most cases the PhD does little outside the academic/think tank world other than convince employers with no idea about the academic job market that you’d leave. After the 12-14 rank, most graduates have fewer tenure opportunities, period. They certainly face uncomfortable constraints on the region and pay they must accept for any measure of job security. If your passion or self-assurance prompts to take the risk of attending a program outside this range, do yourself a favor and pay special attention to the advice in the following section. Securing a Stable Job Publishing: Ask yourself an important question over and over again (and ask your advisors): can some part of the questions that animate me be answered in a compelling, novel way with data that exists on the internet? If the answer is yes, you need to work on publishing. If the answer is no, then you need to focus on generating compelling research and data collection designs. When you graduate, hiring committees will have an opinion about whether it should have been possible to publish on your question during school, and often times the answer is. Often times (especially in comparative politics), the more promising candidates are the ones that generated awesome data sets. Networking: I promise you this works. Every week during your first three years of graduate school, find two non-academic employers that have jobs you think you might like and be qualified for, then email a person that has 5-10 years experience in one of those jobs asking for advice. Ideally, you would get 15 minutes to speak with them about their own day-to-day (like you’re interviewing them about whether you want the job) and what skills the job takes (as though you are preparing to interview for it). This means you send out 300 networking emails in three years. You’ll get maybe 40 people willing to speak with you and 10 that like you. Find excuses to stay in touch with those people, and 1 or 2 will have a job for you when you graduate. This job worked for young law school students I mentored and seems to be working for MA candidates I work with now. Grants: Winning a grant is easier said than done, but it can be very beneficial. Winning a grant that pays you to research frees you from needing to work and sends a signal to future grantors and employers that you are promising and talented. Winning grants for research activities achieves the latter. I have not won any of the general work-replacement grants, but those I know who have burst ahead of the rest of us. They have zero distraction. This is part of why students from private schools like Harvard and Stanford outperform equally talented students at Michigan or UCLA. They work less. I have been fortunate enough to win a couple of small but prestigious-sounding grants to fund research. It has completely altered the way senior colleagues view my work and promise. Work Load I think the gallows humor about reading in the shower is part of what makes for bad graduate students. It is absolutely true that you cannot read enough to stop feeling behind your classmates or (heaven forfend) the faculty teaching you. So why bother? First the saccharine advice: if you are an interesting and curious enough person to attend a decent PhD program, there is very little in the world, and nothing at school, worth the sacrifice of five to seven years of your personal growth and exploration. I don’t care if you end up teaching at fucking Harvard, your colleagues will never look at you with the wonder your friends do when you serve them a perfectly seared scallop or play them Fur Elise on the piano after you eat someone else’s scallops. They won’t know you like your mother or your husband or your son. Here’s an inconvenient truth: 90% of you want to go to grad school in large part because you want to feel smart. Your colleagues will rarely make you feel smart, even though you are. The whole enterprise is about identifying flaws in even the best work (in order to improve it) and on some level, this is miserable. Don’t believe me? Ask students at the schools you were admitted to how they felt about the process of drafting and defending their prospectus.** But your friends and family will make you feel smart, especially if you turn your substantial talent to excelling in at least one thing they can relate to. You want to feel proud and useful and cherished and special? Learn to give people something that gives them instinctual pleasure. (Usually not an AJPS article.) Now for the professional advice you won’t ignore: You will have plenty of pressure to read deeply and critically and to learn method. I don’t suggest ignoring this. But the best ideas and the best careers don’t seem based on picking apart the causal identification of a key article. Great insight requires time to rest and percolate, and inspiration comes from wondering why people haven’t solved real world problems more often than it comes from replication data. Models don’t provide insight. They describe it. Good ideas require some amount of travel and art and philosophy and debate and REST and EXPERIENCE and EXPOSURE. If you want to have any hope of avoiding the scholarly lament that “my research and my life talk to twelve other people” you have to set aside some time to be out of the literature and out of the methods. I’m not suggesting you spend every Saturday smoking weed and reading Batman comics. Maybe baseball games and 30 Rock marathons are rare indulgences now. But don’t cancel your subscription to the New Yorker or stop seeing your friends, because politics is about real life and on some level no one trusts that the academic without work experience, without family, without friends, without hobbies, has any insight about what animates actual people. Good luck with everything. **Setting aside the problems with political science as a science, while this process of critique and revise makes everyone feel stupid and insecure, it does help you eventually feel proud of and defend your work. But to scratch the itch of feeling competent, you’d be better off having kids and teaching them to camp or make great spaghetti sauce or something.
  6. Well, yeah, but I'll buy you a drink after methods tomorrow so this was kind of a given.
  7. Lies. Whiskey. Rye. I might even share with you.
  8. I'll also volunteer to talk to the UCSD admits. Of course, you're all probably going to be drinking at my house in a month, so maybe it's not that urgent.
  9. Makes me anxious just remembering it. Good luck, guys.
  10. I think it's best to identify a research interest and a way that you would go about analyzing and solving the puzzles that remain in that interest. Once you're there, you can ask what kind of methods are best. In general, you can make a case for mixed methods in just about any interest area, but it's more convincing in some than in others. Comparative nationalism might employ some surveys that require you to prove statistically that associations between responses were not random, but you'll have to do process tracing and historical analysis to make any sort of convincing case. Voter behavior is maybe the opposite; you can get some leverage from attempting to trace particular influences on a given voter and then generalize, but you can't possibly avoid using large-n surveys or experiments that will have to be justified statistically. Making an argument that you need training in partcular types of methods to solve particular types of puzzles not only communicates your personal methodological bias or interest, it also signals that you understand methods to be the ways that you go about gathering and analyzing data and that there are certain tools for certain jobs. Your own field would appear to have puzzles best solved using a wide variety of tools. If you are interested in the associations between particular types of financial or economic policies and later performance, you'll likely be doing a lot of coding and quant work. If you are interested in explaining the history or comparative internal politics of these institutions, that seems to be more qual. At some point, you may want to tie those questions together, at which point you'll need both.
  11. GOPHER GRAD'S DOWNHOME R COOKBOOK As an appetizer, consider a zesty bruschetta with parsely and white pepper to punch up the basil: meetbinom<-function(appetizer,hearty){ K<-choptomatoes tempd<-onions,garlic for(k in 0:(n)){ K[k+1]<-k tempd[k+1]<-dbinom(k,n,p) } barplot(tempd,names.arg=K)} meetbinom(fry, bake) results<-NA pool<-c("Tomato","Onion","Basil","OliveOil","Salt") NumberOfSimulations<-100 for(i in 1:NumberOfBreadSlices){ sample<-sample(pool,size=3) results<-0 if(sum(sample=="parsley")>=1 | sum(sample=="whitepepper")>=1) results<-1 } table(results) On summer days, I find a pacific style seafood chowder gives you the energy to stare at Marx texts all day without leaving you feeling bloated: results<-NA pool<-c(rep("coconutmil",8),rep("fishstock",10),rep("currypaste",5)) NumberOfStirs<-100 for(i in 1:NumberOfStirs){ sample<-sample(pool,size=onegallon) results<-0 if(sum(sample=="Snapper")==2 & sum(sample=="Shrimp")==3 & sum(sample=="CrabinaCan")==0) results<-1 } table(results) For hearty fare, consider seared flank steak with roasted asparagus and a balsamic reduction: normprob<-function(F1=-shallots,T1=flank, F2=-1,T2=1,NPOINTS=1000,TITLE="",FNAME=""){ curve(asparagus,from=counter,to=oven,main=steak) x<-c(F2,seq(F2,T2,length.out=NPOINTS),T2) pan<-c(steak(EVOO)) y[1]<-0 y[NPOINTS+balsamic+orangerind]<-0 polygon(x,y,border=NULL,col=2) postscript(file=paste("norm",FNAME,".ps",sep="")) curve(dnorm,from=F1,to=T1,main=TITLE) x<-c(F2,seq(F2,T2,length.out=NPOINTS),T2) y<-c(dnorm(x)) y[1]<-0 y[NPOINTS+2]<-0 potato(x,y,border=CRISPY,interior=SOFT) dev.off() printto->plate Enjoy!
  12. Rather, HOW it shapes your conceptions. Fair.
  13. Yale's program is fantastic. Nowhere is as methodologically diverse as it claims except Berkeley. Be prepared to accept R as your wife, mistress and personal chef.
  14. I really can't see how this would be a problem. If anything, it suggests that you produced work you're proud of under four professors.
  15. I will make no attempt to improve on the clinic RJC put on a few posts above. I'll simply say this: I see the benefit in being able to understand statistical and game theoretic work, and to be able to think mathematically about even the most theoretic concepts we will encouter in political science. But I'm in the middle of Math Boot Camp before my first year and I would rather eat a fucking gun than take one more partial derivative.
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