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About megabee

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  • Application Season
    2018 Fall
  • Program
    Ph.D. in Political Science

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  1. Choosing a school

    If you're brave enough, you can call anyone dad.
  2. 2017-18 Cycle Profiles and Advice Thread

    This times one thousand. There are a few things that you can control. The quantifiables to some extent (GRE/GPA), your experience, the school list that you apply to, and the quality of your writing (SOP/WS). Advice should be reflective of things we can control. Also, none of us can speak to "what really works." We just know our details, and where we got in. Any advice given here should be taken with a grain of salt.
  3. 2017-18 Cycle Profiles and Advice Thread

    I will say a disclaimer first: In the interest of my own privacy, you'll notice I provided few details on what my research projects actually were. A bit more detail that I'd be fine providing includes on the ground surveys/interviews of revolutionaries and NGOs in a state which recently overthrew its government, as well as UN-related research conducted at the UN. Now: "Until proven wrong" - I can't definitively prove you wrong, obviously. I'm not on an adcomm, nor have I conducted any surveys of adcomms. Having spoken to adcomm members over the phone (not Michigan particularly but this was emphasized by someone on UNC's adcomm as well as in my phone conversations with other programs) my research experience was reflective of my fit. Anyone can say "I want to work with this great Latin America person", but it's better to say "I have cited this person in my own research on Latin America, which is unique from my POIs but you can clearly see that I would benefit from their mentorship." Or, "I read this POIs work while collecting data for my RA gig and it got me thinking about x question, which I then did research on." It's not number of publications, I think. It's the way those experiences indicate your fit with the program. Additionally, I emphasized heavily in my SOP that my research experience indicated readiness for the work required in graduate studies. I really wanted to hit that point hard in my SOP because I applied right out of undergrad. I explicitly pointed out that I was working as an RA, conducting independent research, taking classes, teaching classes, and working a job in child care at night. Basically, I was living the life of a grad student with kids for a few months out of the year. So I think research experience shows readiness for an intense program, as well as how that research reflects your fit.
  4. 2017-18 Cycle Profiles and Advice Thread

    Type of Undergrad Institution: Large public university, notoriously lacking prestige in political science (has one of the lowest ranked PhD programs in the country). Majors/Minors: Political Science (History Minor) Undergrad GPA: 4.0 Type of Grad: N/A Grad GPA: N/A GRE: 161V 158Q 4.5A Any Special Courses: No. Letters of Recommendation: One from research mentor for my independent projects, one from head of a national data project that I was an RA for, one from a professor I had in a seminar-style undergrad class. Research Experience: Two research based study abroads. One published qualitative paper, mentioned interviews and knowledge of IRB and revisions process on SOP (I'm not a qualitative person but hey, I got published in an online undergrad journal). Two unpublished quantitative papers - one was my writing sample, even if it didn't have very much to do with my stated research interests. Two years as an RA on aforementioned national data project which is very connected to my research interests. Five conference presentations (all at undergrad institution, which is host of a national conference for undergrads). Teaching Experience: Taught three courses on IR/CP to high school students in a lecture/seminar setting, as part of a program to show minority/low income/first gen students what college classes are like. Subfield/Research Interests: Comparative with some dips into IR. Research interests related to ethnic insurgency and civil wars, as well as terrorism. Other: Participation in a renowned program intended to prepare underrepresented groups for graduate school applications and graduate study. This gave me research experience and made me automatically eligible for a lot of fee waivers. RESULTS: Acceptances ($$ or no $$): Michigan ($$), North Carolina ($$), Penn State ($$), Michigan State ($$), Arizona State ($$) Waitlists: N/A Rejections: UCLA, Stanford Pending: UPenn Going to: Probably Michigan. LESSONS LEARNED: 1. Applications can be expensive. Go after GRE vouchers, apply to schools with application fee waivers available, ask your department for scholarship aid, anything that can get you through this process. 2. You don't have to have a fully rounded application. From my phone calls with POIs and adcomm members trying to get me to choose their school, I've learned that my extensive research experience is what really pushed me over the top for most of the adcomms. So I'd say go heavy on the research. That experience definitely made up for my meh-okayish GRE scores and non-prestigious undergrad institution. I think research experience really shows them that you know what you're getting into. 3. Ask your letter writers for advice on where to apply, but don't be afraid to aim high in addition to those recommended schools. Knowing where I got in (hindsight is 20/20), I wish I'd applied to more top programs. I was really stuck in the mentality of 'I need to apply to more middling and safety schools, because I'll never get into x program with my background.' Don't self sabotage. After I got my first rejection, a friend of mine said something like, "Congrats! To try is to not self-select out of an opportunity." I don't know if she was quoting something, but that sentiment is going to stick with me as I move forward. 4. Apply to at least one masters program if you're coming from undergrad. I didn't do this, and wish that I had. I dunno what I would have done if I struck out. Even knowing that I got into some fantastic schools, I still wish I had had that back up option in case I needed it. SOP: Background on why I wanna research what I do. Several paragraphs full of my research experience. One paragraph devoted to fit at that program. Thank you for your time and consideration.
  5. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Congratulations! Throw yourself a celebration for sure. Which subfield, if you don't mind me asking?
  6. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Doesn't Stanford do phone calls? Why would they do them after business hours? I'm skeptical until someone claims, I guess.
  7. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Second the Magoosh thing. I got an organization for underrepresented groups/low income/first gen students in graduate studies to pay for my Magoosh, but those were very specific circumstances that I don't know how to replicate. In any case, I only needed one month of it to bump up my score significantly, but it is expensive. The quant section on Magoosh is more difficult than the actual exam, so it really makes the GRE simpler. Also yeah, my school made it hard to find out about the GRE voucher and had no advertisement for it whatsoever, but the actual process was fairly simple. It never hurts to ask what a school can do for you, money-wise.
  8. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    On the money topic, I have some tips? I dunno how useful they will be for the people on here who have mostly already paid for these things (hence why I'm not specifically tagging or quoting anyone), and it still comes out to be very expensive, but I found a lot of ways to cut my costs. Maybe one of you will pass this info on to someone asking for your advice next application season. Another disclaimer: Most of these things are contingent upon current attendance at an institution for undergrad/masters. So: 1. If you attend school, your institution may offer a half off GRE voucher through the learning center or financial aid office. This is especially true of large, public universities with grad programs. You may need to provide proof of recieving financial aid or proof of income. My institution had no limit on how many vouchers a person could get, but it's still an expensive $100 bucks per exam. I took it twice, reasoning that I paid the same as anyone else taking it once. 2. Used bookstores can have lots of great GRE study materials. I got the huge Kaplan quant book for like $4. However, the free math review and two free practice tests provided by ETS helped a lot. In addition, check with your institution's learning center or equivalent for GRE courses. Mine offered a Friday night prep course at ~$30 for 6 weeks. 3. Most graduate schools have a system in place for those who cannot afford the application fee. I structured my entire list around these systems. Some schools are jerks about it and will absolutely not waive the application fee for any reason. In the end, I paid for 2/9 schools and got the rest to waive those fees. Some schools make it incredibly difficult. UPenn never responded to my emailed documentation in spite of having a fee waiver program. I ended up paying there since the due date came and still no waiver. Other schools make it incredibly easy. UCLA in particular comes to mind - their waiver was built into the application and made it easy to add in the documentation. As I said, I know a lot of this stuff isn't applicable or maybe some of you already knew and used these resources but hey, it's 8 AM and I haven't heard from Stanford so I'm bored.
  9. Questions to Ask after Admission

    Thank you for your advice. Related follow up question: Is it expected to name drop other programs ("alternative offers from X and Y") when declining an offer? My immediate instinct if I was writing that email would be to say 'another institution' rather than tell them explicitly which one.
  10. Questions to Ask after Admission

    Great topic - I also have about a million questions about this. For example, I have a phone call with a POI tomorrow to discuss our "mutual research interests." What should I expect from this conversation? Should I be ready to discuss research project ideas or will that seem arrogant? Would it be appropriate to ask the POI about their philosophy for advising students and what kind of RA work students have done in the past for them? Another separate issue with a different POI at a different institution: I got a terrible funding offer from this school. Unlivable, really. The feeling I get is that most of the adcomm weren't fans of me - the program is ranked in the 5-15 range, has a history of good offers and an excellent reputation, and is "fully funded", which is why I'm assuming this. The POI (who was on adcomm) is clearly advocating for me, because the school revised the funding offer slightly without any prompting from me and CCed the POI on the email. The new offer is still unlivable. At this point, I have better funding offers from schools with better placement records, thankfully. Still, the POI contacted me offering a phone call. They are respected in the field, and I don't know how to respond. It feels like this person is going to bat for me, but no one else is. I would like to tell them over email that I'd be happy to discuss our research interests, but that at this point I will likely not attend the program due to its funding offer. Is this a polite and acceptable response, or would that burn a bridge with someone high up in my field? Should I just go through with the call and ask questions about the program like a regular POI call?
  11. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    I cannot speak specifically for UPenn (I am also in the same boat as you) but some institutions only use interviews to clarify fit or some aspect of the application. No point in wasting time on an interview if someone is a definite good fit. I'm not counting myself out yet, I don't think you should either. Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but we're not out of the running until there's a rejection letter.
  12. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    UCLA rejection at 5 AM, North Carolina acceptance at 8 AM. Now a member of the "acceptance and rejection on the same day" club. The whiplash is real my friends.
  13. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Also claiming a rejection from UCLA now. It was only an okay fit, and the ratio of their typical stipend offer to the cost of living in LA gives me heart palpitations. This is for the best, as I prefer not starving over starving.
  14. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    My issue is a bit more complex. A school lower on my list had an early commitment date for their visit, then bought my plane ticket/hotel room for me. My POI there is very invested in organizing my visit and excited about it - read: someone who would be in my intellectual circle (or at the very least, peripheral) for the rest of our mutual careers, since we both study similar things, has sent me many emails about meeting at this visit. I'd rather not burn that bridge over a visit weekend. Fortunate circumstances allow me to get a standby plane ticket on a certain airline for free in case any department cannot cover my airfare for an alternative visit date. So that is also playing into my decision. Coincidentally, something similar happened to me as I auditioned for undergrad music schools. The more things change, the more they stay the same (also don't trust your 18 year old self with your future career choice, I guess).
  15. 2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Lo and behold, scheduling conflicts galore! Is anyone else this season having difficulties scheduling a prospective student visit? If so, how are you dealing with it? I can find very little info on the specifics of alternative weekend visits. Do departments typically still cover your costs if you visit outside of the official weekend? Is asking for a different visit day a huge no-no for political science departments? I know I need to ask the department's coordinator to get the real logistics, but I'm restraining myself from emailing them until 8 AM tomorrow like the reasonable adult I pretend to be. Curious to hear other people's experiences/takes on this forum.