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  1. Neo_Institutionalist

    Rising Senior Profile Evaluation

    Hello, Based on your profile, sounds like you are a pretty strong candidate for many schools. Now, to answer your questions: "What should I be doing to 'pimp out' my thesis. Should I be trying to get published/look at awards?" I definitely don't think you should be looking at getting your work published. Based on my numerous talks with political science professors, current grad students at Stanford and UCLA, and people on admissions committees, all of them have said that it is un necessary, namely because the journals admissions committees would even care you get published in are top journals like the american political science review and the american journal of politics. These top journals are incredibly difficult to get published in for even grad students and academics, let alone undergrads. Moreover, getting published is a very long process, and at this point, if you're gonna apply this December, you probably won't have anything published before then. However, I would try to see if you could get some awards for your thesis. That will definitely add to your CV. "Should I even bother applying for the next cycle? My thesis won’t be done by December and I won’t have Spring 2019 grades which will hopefully be raising my GPA" This is a personal decision based on your own assessment of your situation. But considering you thesis won't be done by December and you won't have your Spring 2019 grades on your application, I would probably hold out this cycle and apply to the next one. This way, you can try and RA for a professor and start building relationships with professors this coming school year so that way you can get really good letters of recommendation, which is a crucial part of your application profile. "What range of schools should I be looking at?" The range of schools you should be looking at depends on which school is the best fit for you and your research interests, and which school has numerous faculty that do research in your area of interest. Many people will probably tell you to try and get in the top 20, and while I think that is probably good advice, I think fit is just as important. If you do want to get into a top 20 or even a top 10, I would suggest trying to get a 165 or above on the Quant section of the GRE. "I need to get some additional recommenders. I’ve seen advice on here along the lines of “just ask to be an RA for free” but I don’t think there’s much opportunity for that at my school. Should I cold call professors to ask to work with them? I haven’t cultivated many good contacts in my dept. other than my thesis advisor." As I mentioned before, try to spend next school year developing relationships with your professors. The benefits to this will be twofold: you will get much better letters of rec, and you can try to become their RA. This is why I also suggested you try to apply the cycle after this one. It will give you more time to flesh out your application profile. Hope this advice helps!
  2. Hello, I saw this post and figured I would weigh in because I come from a somewhat similar background as you. I also went to and graduated from law school. However, after some lengthy personal reflection after graduating, and after an internship working with an attorney, I realized my passions lay in theoretical examinations of political science issues, and that my personality and interests were unsuited for the demands of a legal career. Since coming to this conclusion I have spent a year and a half engaging in extensive research that has included talks with political science professors, grad students currently enrolled in top poli sci programs (including students at top programs who went to law school and are transitioning into academia), blog posts, forums, career counselors, and advice books on getting into grad school. I am not currently a grad student in political science, so I cannot speak to the success part of your question. However, I will most likely be applying to grad programs in poli sci this upcoming cycle (or after). Take my advice for what it's worth, but I hope I can impart some of the knowledge I've accumulated over the past year or so. Before I get to your specific questions, I just wanted to make a few general points: First, be sure you understand EXACTLY what you're getting into with a PhD program, particularly in political science. I think it's critical you ask yourself honestly about your motivations for wanting to go to grad school beyond just the fact that your interests are in "more academic approaches to law". I am not sure the extent of research you have done regarding grad school, since you don't really mention that in your post. But, assuming you don't know very much, I think there are a few things you should understand before pursuing this venture. From all the research I've done and all the people I've spoken to, I have learned that there are really only two reasons you should go to grad school: 1) you LOVE research; 2) you want to be a professor at a university so you can teach, but also so you can further your research goals and interests. Any other reasons for wanting to go to grad school, such as not knowing what else you want to do with your life, or wanting to have the prestige of having "PhD" attached to your name, or to earn more money throughout your career, are not good reasons to get a PhD. Indeed, there are better, less costly ways to accomplish some of those goals mentioned. I think there is a big misconception about what you do in grad school, what academics do in academia, and what it is academics actually research in the profession. This is part of the reason why I think so many students end up dropping out of grad school, because they haven't done the proper research to understand what it is academics actually do. Do you have any idea what area of political science your interested in researching? Have you determined what, broadly, are your research interests in political science? Have you ever cracked open a top journal like the american journal of political science or the american political science review? If you haven't done any of those things yet, I would HIGHLY recommend doing so. This will really help determine whether or not you're truly interested in topics political scientists research and whether the life of an academic is really the right path for you. Grad school itself, from what I've been told, is very different than law school. Rather than being taught broad range of topics like in law school, your focus is necessarily more narrow. Attrition is very high in grad programs, sometimes up to 60%. Some drop out after being unable to pass their comprehensive exams; others drop out during the dissertation phase. I've also heard that grad school can be a very isolating experience, because you spend most of your time cooped up in the library doing research for your dissertation. Consequently, it's really hard to relate to other friends and family members and people who aren't in you cohort. And in political science, the average time it takes to complete the program is around 7 years as opposed to 3 years for law school. Also, I think it's important to understand that the job market right now for PhD's is atrocious. There are just simply more PhD graduates than there are positions to fill at universities, and graduating from a top 20 program with awards, accolades, and publications still doesn't guarantee getting a tenure track job right after graduating from grad school. There is an adjunct teaching problem, where many PhD grads take adjunct positions in the hopes they'll get hired at their adjuncting institution. But adjuncting jobs pay very little, and I've heard of some grads taking 2 or more adjuncting positions at different colleges in the area and drive around all day to their different teaching jobs just to be able to make ends meet. Many times PhD grads are on the job market for 5 years before they get jobs; other times they just drop out of the job search completely. Even if you get a tenure track job, your struggles don't end there. There is a lot of pressure, particularly at an R1 university, to "publish or perish" before your up for tenure consideration. And your publications must be published in journals that are approved by the department. Even in those circumstances, where a tenure track professor publishes in the approved journals, you still may not end up getting the job. Assuming you're already aware of all these things, and have determined that grad school is for you, then I would also start figuring out what areas of political science interest you, and then trying to find the department and faculty that engage in that kind of research (assuming you haven't already done so). Figuring this out is one of the most important things you will do in preparation for applying to programs. Many people on this forum will make a huge deal about getting into a top 20 program, and while that should be a large consideration in your calculus of where to attend grad school, it shouldn't be the only consideration. Fit with the faculty and department is a huge part of your consideration for which programs to apply to, and determining your research interests will help greatly with this. The recommendation is that you should try to find at least 3-5 scholars in a particular department whose work you really enjoy. If you can't find that many scholars researching in your area of interest, then the school is probably not a good fit for you. Also, figure out whether you want to go the policy route or academic route. If you want to go the policy route, I really don't think it's worth the time to get a PhD in public policy. A PhD in public policy is not required to get a job in the policy world, and most public policy experts do not have PhD's. You would be better off getting an MPA or MPP at somewhere like Columbia, University of Chicago, or Harvard. What really helps you get a job in the policy world is experience and networking like crazy. Now, to answer your specific questions: "Should I finish out the LLM (I'm about 1/3 completed) in order to be a "more interesting" candidate for a PhD program?" No I don't think you should finish the program as I think it would be a waste of time, and I don't think you would be a "more interesting" candidate for a PhD program if you graduated with your LLM. Admissions committees look carefully for applicants that have potential to produce excellent, original research, to demonstrate a passion for research and the subject of study, the potential to move the discipline forward, demonstrated creativity, and curiosity and desire to explore ideas, not whether you are "interesting". Depending on the program, there is no research or major thesis component to LLM programs. Furthermore, many adcoms are unfamiliar with the curriculum involved in JD and/ or LLM programs. Consequently, there is nothing really in your LLM program that would likely signal to ad coms the qualities they are looking for in candidates. Hence, why I think you should just leave the program. "If you were transported back to 9 or 10 months before you wrote your applications, what would you do (differently or again)? Try to get something published? Focus more heavily on acing the GRE?" To be a strong, competitive candidate, you're going to need excellent letters of recommendation (preferably from poli sci faculty; if not, from faculty that know you very well and your potential for research), an exceptionally well written statement of purpose indicating your reasons for wanting to go to grad school, and a potential puzzle you would like to solve in your research, a writing sample, and great GRE scores, preferably above 164 in the quant section if you want to get into a top 20. So yes, I would try to focus on doing very well on the GRE, because ad coms use the GRE as a cut off point for the first round of cuts. Then after that, they start diving into things like your statement of purpose, letters of rec, etc. I would also see if you can try and get a research assistant position if you don't already have research experience. Again, because your potential for producing research is crucial in grad school, ad coms will be looking for research experience. As far as whether to get something published, I've had mixed responses to that question, but the general consensus seems to be no, because the journals admissions committees would even care that your work is published in is usually too difficult for someone other than academics to get published into. However, I personally am going to try to get something published. I do not have a quality writing sample, so I'm going to start from the ground up with a research project and then see if I can get it published. Doesn't hurt I suppose. However, getting work published takes quite a long time, so if you're thinking of applying this upcoming cycle, you might not having something published in time before you submit your applications. Sorry for the long essay. I know I might have offered extra information that you didn't need or already knew about. But I figured I would be thorough just in case. I hope this advice helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to DM me.
  3. From my understanding by reading similar posts and responses on this forum, Colubmia's MA program is not that great. With some exceptions, MA programs are just a way for schools to get extra money from students in order to pay for and support the PhD students, and Columbia seems to be no different. There isn't much cross listing of courses between the MA program and the PhD program, which is what you want if you were to attend an MA program. Without scholarships, Columbia's tuition is very expensive, and doesn't include the cost of living in new york, which is incredibly expensive. Taking all these factors into account, in my opinion it's just not worth it; what you could get out of it is outweighed by other negative factors. I have heard great things about Chicago's IR program. It's rigorous and the professors who teach your classes are the same ones that teach courses in the Phd program. They tend to have excellent placements for students. As far as getting a JD, may I ask why you want to get a JD? I have a JD, and after experiencing the hell that was law school, I think it's important to seriously think about your true intentions for going to law school. It's certainly not for the faint of heart. You should only get a JD because you want to practice law, not because you want to have it on your resume to help you get a leg up in another profession (trust me, it won't help). I made the mistake of going into law school and not understanding what law school actually required of you, nor did I understand what it was that lawyers actually did. I wish I had done the research and interned at a law firm for a year before making the decision to waste over 300k in loans for a degree I will not end up using (going back to school to get a PhD in poli sci instead, lol). The only reason you should go to law school to become a lawyer is because: you enjoy reading boxes full of legal documents, cases, statutes, and regulations--often written in arcane language and legal jargon--for 10-20 hours a day you have an adversarial, competitive personality and don't mind getting in other lawyer's faces when they invariably start threatening you with lawsuits you are cool working more than 12 hours a day in an incredibly high stress environment you are okay with working in a profession with a high rate of narcissistic personalities with inflated sense of egos, who sometimes engage in shady practices to win cases or negotiate better deals for their clients and screw you over you are okay with spending the first five or so years of your legal career doing all the grunt work for senior associates and getting yelled at for simple editing errors (like accidentally misspelling a word or forgetting to put a comma in the correct place) you enjoy doing fairly mundane, monotonous work, such as tracking how many billable hours you have billed clients, and lots of proofreading: memos, letters to clients, legal briefs, and written motions to the court Now, I don't want to completely disparage the legal profession. There are some phenomenal lawyers out there doing a lot of amazing, selfless work. Not all lawyers are jerks and being a lawyer isn't always stressful. I have plenty of friends who I graduated with from law school who love their jobs. I'm just making you aware of what the legal profession actually entails, because there is a lot of misconceptions put out their by the media. Film and tv glamorizes lawyer's lives, and portrays lawyers always in court, standing up for justice, and making big, passionate speeches. However, cases rarely go to trial, because it's expensive, time consuming, and awful. Most people just settle out of court. And the legal profession has one of the highest rates of chronic alcohol abuse. And the legal profession itself is changing. More and more people are leaving the profession because they are realizing some of the negative effects it can have on living a normal life. It's a very old profession, and consequently much of the culture, structure, and rules are ossified and out of date, so it's been struggling in recent years to catch up with advances in technology. Now, jobs that first year associates and paralegals do (which is basically looking up case law), can be done much more efficiently (and error free) with artificial intelligence, so it's harder to get a job. If you are seriously considering getting a JD because you want to practice law, I would try to intern at a law firm first and see how you like it. Also, read this article on whether or not you should go to law school: https://abovethelaw.com/2013/10/deciding-to-go-to-law-school-in-one-epic-flowchart/?rf=1 Hope this helps!
  4. Neo_Institutionalist

    Don't talk about this!!! ?

    Where were you waitlisted?
  5. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-2018 Application Cycle

    where have you decided to go instead?
  6. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-2018 Application Cycle

    how do you do this if you are not affiliated with an academic institution (i.e. you've been out of school for a year or so)?
  7. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-2018 Application Cycle

    This is a political science sub forum, not a policy one, so when people say Columbia, they are referring to Columbia's PhD program in Political Science, not SIPA.
  8. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Congrats! Even though it's waitlist, I still think that's a pretty big accomplishment! I hope you get off the waitlist. What subfield?
  9. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-18 Cycle Profiles and Advice Thread

    Agreed! I’m applying next year and have been following some of these threads for months, trying to tease out as much as I can any helpful advice that will make my application profile better. So any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  10. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-18 Cycle Profiles and Advice Thread

    I think you are right about this point on research experience. I've spoken to numerous people: political science professors, people who have been on ad comms in poli sci departments, and grad students from Stanford, Princeton, and UCLA, and they have all told me that unless you managed to get your research in APSR, or some other prestigious journal, you do not need to have a lot of prior research experience, although that certainly does help if other areas of your application are weak. And certainly, having much research experience is a great way to demonstrate to ad comms that you are capable of producing good research, but from many people I've talked to, it is not a requisite.
  11. Neo_Institutionalist

    2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Congrats! Northwestern is one of my top choices. I would love to work with James Mahoney!
  12. Neo_Institutionalist

    SOP for Political Science PhD

    I'd be happy to read yours, as well as csantamir's!
  13. Neo_Institutionalist

    MA then PhD, or just PhD?

    Yes North and Ostrom are dead. I was not saying that I wanted them to be my advisors, I was just simply stating that my interests align with the kind of work they did. Since posting this, I have spoken to many other people, including students who are in Stanford's political science PhD program, my graduate school counselor, and a professor of political science at a major research university. All of them have told me that getting another Masters would be a complete waste of time, and that there are other ways I can boost my profile without having to incur even more debt for a degree whose probability of getting me into a good program is somewhere close to zero. Additionally, I don't want to work in public policy; applied work is not of any interest to me. I want to teach and do research in academia. Accordingly, I will not be pursuing a PhD in public policy, nor will I be getting my masters.
  14. Neo_Institutionalist

    Success stories for people without a relevant undergraduate degree?

    I think others on this thread have given excellent responses so I won't repeat what has already been said. The problem I'm seeing, beyond what others have already mentioned, is that you do not really have an idea of what political science scholars actually study and research. As exponential decay has already pointed out, what I would call "lay" political science and "academic" political science are two very different things. Have you read any articles in journals such as the American Political Science Review or the American Journal of Political Science (just to name a few)? Have you read books from scholars in academia? Because it's not enough to just say "i really love political science" and not actually have an understanding of what academic political scientists study. If you haven't, then what I think is really important that you do to determine if academia in general, and political science in particular, is for you is to start reading work that scholars in political science write (if you haven't done so already). Political science is a very broad subject that has many sub disciplines and fields of study, with the four main ones being international relations, political theory, american politics, and comparative politics. Start by going to the faculty pages of top 20 schools, reading their profiles and seeing if their research sounds interesting to you. If it does, then try reading articles these scholars have written (which can often be found on their faculty page via a link to their own personal website). If you have read enough of these articles and you find them compelling--and reading these articles causes you to have questions/ideas regarding the field that you want to further explore--then perhaps getting your PhD in political science may be for you. The other thing I would say is, although it probably doesn't happen as often, but there are still a good amount of people who have an undergraduate degree that is not in political science but are still able to get into a top PhD program. To be sure, it will be harder for you, but it's not impossible. If this is something you are truly passionate about and really want to do, then I say go for it. But this means other areas of your academic profile will have to be stellar: glowing letters of recommendation from people who know you very well, an exceptionally well written statement of purpose, and very high GRE scores. I also think you should really consider getting your MA in political science. It will you give a taste of what academics in political science actually study, it will give you the ability to have work product in political science you can demonstrate to admissions committees, and it will give you the opportunity to hopefully have faculty in political science that can write you glowing letters of rec. I also really think it will prove to you whether or not academia is right for you. Hope this advice helps.
  15. Neo_Institutionalist

    Profile Evaluation - PE Focus

    I also have a sort of atypical profile. I have both my JD and MBA, and was a history major in undergrad. So I'm in a similar position as you in some respects. But I've been doing an extensive amount of research, including speaking to students from both Stanford and UCLA. Here is what I've found: 1) There's really not much you can do about your letters of recommendation, as far as your ability to get letters from political scientists. But this doesn't mean you're doomed. It's important that you get letters of recommendation from people who really know you, your ability to do research/be successful in grad school, and who have seen growth in your academic abilities. Naturally, top schools are risk averse and need to see evidence in your application profile that you will not only be able to pass comprehensive exams, but conduct original research, graduate, and get employed at a research oriented institution. One stanford poli sci PhD student told me that it's crucial that your letter writers really ham it up for you, basically along the lines of "this is the best student I've had in the past 10 years" or something to that effect. If you can get enthusiastic writers like that, I feel it will make you competitive, especially against people who have letters from high profile scholars but who wrote a very generic LOR. Accordingly, I think it's important that you think carefully about which letter writers can do this for you, and to have a frank and honest discussion about how you want your letter written. Here is some excellent advice someone gave me on this forum who is currently attending a top 5 poli sci program: "When it comes to your LORs more generally, be sure to have discussions with [your letter writers] about your applications and what you want their letter to do for your profile. You don't have a standard letter template - you want them to be able to speak to you as a person, student, researcher and as someone who is eager to learn/apply yourself when at first glance your previous grades might not reflect that. I know a lot of people who were admitted with letters from all sorts of people outside of political science, so I wouldn't worry there. They were largely running up against the same issue of having been outside of school for so long that they opted to have references from people who knew them better than their undergraduate advisor from six years prior." 2) Most of the CHYMPS schools (Columbia/Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Michigan/MIT, Princeton, and Stanford) all have faculty that do work in political economy, although I have heard that Columbia in particular is very strong in political economy. However, I think it is critical that you research faculty in top 30 schools that are doing work that you are interested. This will be key, because fit is everything. Programs will not except you if you're not a good fit. That's why you need to do your due diligence and read faculty member's work in political economy and see if they have similar interests. I know people like Barry Weingast at Stanford and Carles Boix at Princeton do a lot of work in Political Economy. As for a profile eval, you're 4.0 GPA is excellent and will definitely look good. You're GRE score is hard to contextualize without seeing the breakdown of your score for each section of the test. Overall, for someone in your particular situation, your letters of rec and statement of purpose will be crucial to contextualizing your situation and demonstrating your fit and ability to be successful in one of these programs.

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