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  1. You could say in your SOP that your performance in class has improved over time. But with the GRE scores and the research experience, nobody will care about the GPA because being good at taking exams is not an important skill. So I'd focus on the other skills you developed. I'd say to apply high. About the letters, tenure-track professors are fine, but make sure they are advanced tenure-track. The best letters are those comparing candidates to former students and other PhD applicants, and it will be difficult for them to do that if they have graduated 3 years ago. If you are going to go with someone very junior (as I said, < 3 years from graduation), it has to be because they are going to put a lot of time in writing your letter and they have much to write about you. If they write you a very short letter and they also cannot compare you to former students, that is kind of a through away. So I'd suggest that you think about this strategically and see if there is a more senior person that knows you who could write you a letter. I would apply to top schools and some safer schools. And because the topic you are interested in is very specific (and not many people work on it) I would look at schools that are good at conflict and have gender scholars (not necessarily working on conflict) to have more places to apply to. You also need to think if you are more interested in CP or IR. Some conflict scholars are in IR and some are in CP, and I've known people who wanted to do CP and ended having to take IR classes because the key advisor was in IR. This issue can vary depending on how departments are organized and I bring it up because your topics are more CP than IR.
  2. I agree with above about waiting for the following cycle. Focus should be on: - Finishing thesis and making you advisor happy with your work so that he/she can write you a glowing letter. - Awards for the thesis are not necessary. But keep an eye open for fellowships/scholarships opportunities. For instance, they have a summer fellowship you might be able to apply for https://dssg.uchicago.edu/ You can also try to participate in hackathons in your college or close by for some experience and trying to seem active. - I'd start by asking professors at your college for RA opportunities, particularly the ones you'd want a letter from. If not, do they have TAs? The letters do not need to be from political science. Just try to get the best letters. If that does not work, you can ask your advisor if he has any colleagues you could RA for to gain more experience. Maybe he knows people at universities you could eventually apply to. And I know some universities have summer research opportunities (or something called like that) where they assign you to a professor. You might be able to do that the following summer and get a letter from that. - I think that MPSA has panels for undergraduates (April in Chicago). You might want to try to present your thesis there. It would be good experience if you can get some money to attend (maybe your college has scholarships and MPSA might have something, I wouldn't try to pay for everything on your own). It could also give you an excuse to e-mail maybe 2 people whose work you really like and from universities you have a good chance of getting in (not top 10) to ask them if they can meet with you (and give the excuse you are there to present your thesis at such and such panel). The people should do work related to your thesis.
  3. I think that if someone writes on your letter that you are interested in methods or if you signal that in your SOP, that would be good. A signal that you are eager to learn and will put the effort/time would be enough (if the rest of the package is relatively strong). Maybe you have already selected the classes for the last year, but if you haven't, maybe there is room to take another statistics or data science class (preferable applied to social science). That would be another way to signal interest without having to take a very heavy linear algebra class or something of that sort. If you take the class in the Spring you can have one of your letter writers mention that along with your interest in working on your skills/tools. And I agree with others who have recommended that you take the GRE again.
  4. I would not say you are working through those books in your SoP. You are doing that on your own so it would not be useful information. Getting something publishable now seems too late. It is better to ask those people that are going to write you "passable" letters if you can RA for them in the summer (now). Tell them you can work for free, because you would like more experience. If you don't tell them you can work for free they might decline. Also, are those people teaching a class you could take in the fall? If they are not teaching undergrad and they are teaching a grad seminar that is relevant for you, try to get in that. Will your thesis be your writing sample? A lot of departments are asking for writing samples.
  5. I think you need to improve your work and think carefully about the feedback being given to you. You have to figure out what to do with it. For PhD admissions you need letters of recommendation and if that advisor were to write you a letter, well, I wouldn't think it would be a good one. Also, one of the first things you will have to work on in the PhD is literature reviews and you will have to do readings for class and engage in discussion. It seems that, based on what you say, you wouldn't be able to do any of that. Nobody is born knowing how to do stuff. Most of the work is sitting down for hours and putting the time and effort. You have to figure out how to do it more efficiently and improve.
  6. The best thing is start contacting letter writers early and try to get people that know you best to write your letters. The worst are letters of people that do not know the applicant enough.
  7. You might want to e-mail the DGS and ask if there are any professors who might need an RA during the summer. Someone could pay you to work remotely on a project. Usually, they pay by the hour.
  8. Here are my 2 cents: - Berkeley has huge cohorts and a lot of people get lost (end up not finding a job, takes for ever to write dissertation, competition for professors' time, etc.) - Yale has a combination of the methods approach you like (students typically do fieldwork, some people do experiments, others do stats, or formal models). They have good people for CP, CPE; not sure about IPE. - Duke has very good stats training. They have some people for CP, CPE. Students interested in formal models typically get the MA in Econ. The best person for IPE just retired (Michael Ward). - UCSD has a combination of methods too. They have GPS so that could increase the number of classes or advisors for you in CP/CPE/IPE. - Columbia does not have as many faculty as the rest. Some are too junior (assistants) so they cannot really advise you or chair your dissertation. The only one would be Humphreys but for what you said there is not enough overlap with your research. You have too many choices. You need to start declining some offers and leaving the ones you are really interested in. You only have 4 days and you have not declined any department yet!!! I think that just start declining and that will force you to leave only the ones you like. Look at professors and what they are working on: Do you like what they published? Is that what you want to do? Where are their students now? Did you talk to any of them? What did they say? You don't have much time to find out stuff.
  9. If you want to take the "non math" intro course, then maybe you need to take some math classes. If you haven't taken any math classes, then you don't have a shot at top 15 departments (with a few exceptions).
  10. Math dept are something too theoretical. Before going to another department you should ask around. You can also try sociology or psychology. You should definitely take some type of OLS and of MLE (logit, poisson). You might not have time to take more classes. If you do, ask around for classes that are more practical or that have a good balance of theory and practice. If there is a class on programming applied to social science problems, that could be handy too (if it uses R, for instance), since that could help you to learn how to manage data efficiently or scrape data, etc; it is a good skill to have if you want to start working as an RA for professors in the PhD program (I could definitely use one of those!)
  11. Try to take stats classes that could help your writing sample too. You can to definitely take MLE (logit, poisson, etc.). If the 2 classes you mention are research design and OLS, that is not enough to separate you from the crowd.
  12. There is not such thing as transferring to another department. You would have to apply to another department and start over (of course, you'd have some training which could be good). The students you mention probably have a pre-doctoral fellowship or are visiting students at Harvard. Of course, if that is what you'd like to do, it would be good option. I have never seen someone spend 2 years somewhere else, though. Sometimes people spend a semester to a year somewhere else. But spending the time in which you are supposed to be writing your dissertation far from your advisor is strange (1 year is fine, but 2 years!). Yes, I know people at Penn State that got good jobs. You should look at their placements, but a lot of the work is going to come from you. Programs can give you tools, but it is how you use them and how much you invest in your work! In the end, if you liked the professors are Penn State more, then there you have your answer. About applying again... That is a tough decision. You'd have to think whether you can do something in a couple of months to improve your package or not.
  13. One good professor is not going to change the fact that the Northwestern program in AP is not as good as the other ones you are considering. Also, with Political Psychology, you need a strong methods training and Northwestern does not have that (Northwester is strong in CP qualitative, not what you need, and there is that quant/qual divide). Minnesota is strong in political psychology; you'd have a lot of people to work with and professors tend to co-author with graduate students (I remember seeing one paper on AJPS recently). Their methods training is a bit lacking compared to UCLA, but better than Northwestern. They've had a very good placement record in the past couple of years. UCLA has better methods training. However, they have less people on political psychology and more professors working on public opinion. The professor you mention that is moving there is going to be an associate; he does political psychology, but also race/minority politics -- which seems to be a strong area at UCLA or at least they had a lot of ABDs on the market. If you like race/minority politics, that would be something to take into account. If you want to do something at an intersection of psych and public opinion, then UCLA could be a good place too. You are also considering Michigan? It has great methods training. I tend to relate Michigan more to institutions/bureaucracy, etc. But that is probably because I haven't seen who else is there in a while. You should check out who you could work with and definitely consider it; ranking of the institution matters.
  14. If you already have a committee in place, seek advice from another member. Be specific about what you need from them (e.g. read a chapter and give comments; help address a particular problem you are having). Once you are done, you'll need recommendation letters to apply for jobs, so doing this will also help you get great additional letters (don't put all your eggs in one basket).
  15. Be honest. It seems as if you don't have second thoughts of continuing your studies; your second thoughts are about having to fund the program yourself (Did you apply for fellowships? Are you looking into only doing a MA?). You should ask them for their advice about how to improve your record before reapplying. (Just retaking the GRE is not going to cut it.) You will want them to write letters again next year so you want to keep the connection with them. You could even RA for them (sometimes colleges/universities have programs for that) which might improve your letters.
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