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About Artifex_Archer

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    Los Angeles
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    Political Science [Theory]

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  1. I was thinking more like MIT, Cornell, JHU, Stanford—schools that are strong in the humanities, but maybe a bit better known, or as well known, for STEM. Michigan is an up-and-comer as a top humanities school, so they might not be as quick to put their reputation on hold for a year. One might also expect slightly lower-ranked schools to do the same—Boulder springs to mind? [Not saying they’re a worse school, just that the USNWR algorithm puts them a bit further down the list.] I’ve heard rumours that Northwestern was struggling financially and pedagogically to begin with, so they might also be one to watch. But my thoughts on that are worth exactly what you’re paying for them.
  2. It probably goes without saying, but at this point—especially given that it has to do with 2021 enrollment—this likely has much less to do with COVID numbers and much more to do with financial ones. Many departments are probably facing extreme under-enrollment, exacerbated by unanticipated health and safety expenses. It's upsetting, to say the least. As for which other schools/departments will follow Columbia's lead, my guess is that they'll be, well, like Columbia—universities that have excellent reputations across the disciplines, and that are therefore willing to trim, or freeze, their humanities departments in order to find the necessary funding to keep the STEM ones afloat [where stipends—and placement rates—can run much higher].
  3. It's unusual, but not unheard of, depending on the professor and relationship to the student [I've had similar experiences]. Given what @wwfrdhas said about this professor's stature in the field, I'd still use him as a recommender. At absolute worst, it sounds a little bit like he's guarding his own turf and wants to 'tag' the OP as one of his students, which is complimentary if not territorial. And that's probably not even what's going on; it's simply my most cynical interpretation. Given his age, it's more likely a generational thing. I'll admit that I preferred having my professors upload their letters directly, but that isn't always feasible, especially when applying to a great many schools. For some universities/committees, it seems not to matter much at all whether a letter comes from Interfolio or the professor themselves; others will outright refuse to accept Interfolio letters. If this professor has given you a 5-university cap [in terms of individually-uploaded letters], I suggest making sure you direct him to those universities that won't accept Interfolio letters; then, if there are any left over after that, have him do a direct upload to your first choices among those.
  4. Schools: Those are all within reach, and I agree with @Theory007 that you should consider UCLA, given what I recall your interests being. Brown might also be a contender. A lesser-known program that actually sounds like quite a good fit for you is UCSD. Unless I'm confusing them with another four-letter acronym university in California [there are several...], they've got a very strong social theory program sandwiched between their philosophy and polisci departments. GRE: It's a slog, but I strongly suggest getting both your V and your Q up. The GRE is learnable—and even lovable. It's also hotly debated whether it matters at all, especially this year. I belong to the 'it matters and it's worthwhile' camp. LoRs: Probably matter more than I initially thought. A lot of people underestimate the importance of rec letters; I think it's easy to do because it's not something that feels as directly manipulable as an SoP, GRE, or what have you. Is there any way to reach out to your writers and provide them a bit of additional information, especially any current accomplishments, that would help them to individualize and strengthen the case they make on your behalf? Have they indicated that their recommendation will be 'very strong,' or simply 'good'? The two major factors to consider when finding letter writers are strength of the letter [often, a function of the nature of your relationship to the writer], and the clout of the writer themselves. If, by finding a different writer, you can dial up one of these factors without turning off the other completely, it might be worthwhile to consider switching out a letter. Also, I'm not sure whether this made any difference or not, but even for those schools that accepted letters from Interfolio, I always felt better when my writers uploaded their letters directly onto the school's portal. POIs: If, hypothetically, you've applied to one of those schools on your list before... it's a very good idea to keep in contact with your POIs there, as well as to write to POIs at your other target institutions soon. This advice is more valuable—or at least it was in my case—than it seems at first blush [disclaimer: yes, some people will say that you shouldn't write to profs; and no, you shouldn't always expect to hear back if you do write, especially now]. It doesn't have to be a daunting task, either: last cycle I put together a basic template that I used to make initial contact with faculty members, and of course I tweaked it quite a bit depending on the particular professor/school. Sort of like... grad application ad libs? Ugh. Anyway. I'm always happy to circulate that for use as a general guidepost [with the obvious caveat that it will sound infinitely better when put in your own words]. To make your application stand out, I would focus very strongly on tailoring your SoP to each school, developing a rapport with faculty members if possible, and leaving no stone unturned when it comes to any 'optional' materials like diversity or cluster statements. [Yay, the Northwestern Cluster Statement: long may it reign.] Sending lots of good thoughts your way this cycle.
  5. It depends on your subfield. Based on the rest of your post, I'm going to assume that you're interested in American Politics and/or Methods, since those are generally the most quant-heavy of the subfields. Please do correct me/elaborate if I'm mistaken. At the outset, I will say that a 3.93 is quite good, especially if you have great LoRs, a good fit with the faculty at your target schools, and a solid SoP/CV. I'm a bit confused, however, as to whether that 3.93 GPA includes the B in Calculus, or excludes it. I'm guessing it excludes it based on your phrasing. A strong GRE quant will also help tremendously. In any case, electing to take a calculus course that you didn't have to take speaks very well of you. This is only my opinion, and others may view it differently, but if I were on an adcomm, that fact alone would stand out to me. If I saw that, coupled with a very high quant score, great letters, a great statement, etc., I'd consider you quite competitive. Finally: you say that you're in ongoing discussions with faculty at all of your target programs. This is awesome. Since you've already established a rapport, there are zero things wrong with asking those faculty members what they think about including the calculus course in your file. The 'trick' [which is not really a trick] is to make sure it's phrased, not as a 'can you help me get into your program?' question, but a 'I'd like your advice as to whether this is valuable information to include in my application' sort of question. Sending you really good thoughts as you enter into the fall phase of your PhD apps! It sounds like you're on a great timeline, if that helps. Come back often with questions—if that helps [although sometimes, GradCafe feels like the WebMD of academia...]
  6. All of mine did ask that question. I believe you that yours may not have [honestly; I’m not just being snarky], so I won’t accuse you of stating ‘completely false’ information. I also agree with you that not all admissions committees run background checks on applicants prior to admission. However, from my personal conversations, some admissions committees and/or faculty do just that. In that sense, neither one of us is giving ‘completely false’ information. If it’s not a question on the app, sure; the OP can leave it out, although I’d read very carefully to make sure it isn’t on there—because it was on all of mine and I assumed that was pretty standard. If it is on the app, all of us seem to agree that the OP should address it. In that case, my advice remains the same: add a note to the application if there’s an opportunity to do so, and/or better yet, mention it to a POI in advance.
  7. I wasn't blowing smoke. I have heard from professors that they do exactly this—yes, it's in the later stages of culling the field, but it occurs prior to acceptance. And really, wouldn't that make sense? If you extend an offer of admission only to have to rescind it, you run a high risk of losing out on other competitive. applicants, whom you could have admitted instead, to other competitive schools. We're a bit off-topic, and I don't mean to attack. But my remarks came from a place of having heard from several people about this, as well as doing my own research into what schools conduct what sorts of 'background checks,' formally or otherwise—and when. ETA: Also, what difference does it make when the background check occurs? If a university finds out that someone has entered fraudulent information on their application—especially if it regards academic dishonesty—they'll probably rescind an offer. I'd rather that not happen to the OP.
  8. I agree—I would be VERY wary of non-disclosure, especially if, as is the case for most of the schools to which you're applying, there's a section on the application that specifically asks if you've ever been convicted of academic dishonesty or plagiarism. I would also imagine that, even if it's not on your transcript, there is a record of this incident, linked to your name, somewhere in the annals of your university's bureaucratic proceedings. And top-tier schools will go hunting when it comes to a background check, especially when making final cuts. There is an opportunity to reach out to POIs, and, after establishing initial contact, explaining the issue and asking for their advice on how to address the issue—whether there's something that they would like to know, or see, that would help them feel assured that this will not happen again. [Essentially, you're not just asking, 'how do I keep this from hurting me?'; you're asking, 'what can I do to put your/others' minds at ease about this issue?'] I wouldn't put this in your first email. You'd at least wait for a positive reply first, and ideally wait until there's some rapport established. But profs are busy, especially now, so you might be lucky to even get an initial reply [totally normal and not a death-knell for your admission prospects if you get radio silence]. Otherwise, on most apps there is a space for you to add 'any additional information relevant to your application' or attach other files. That might be a place to include a brief note explaining the situation further—depending, it could even be a note from the course instructor. You have a wonderful profile besides that, and no one is blemish-free. Best of luck!
  9. Hey @Psychological Yam, I know you posted this a while ago, but if you spot this and it’s not too much trouble, would you mind linking/sharing the Google doc? That’d be great! Have a blast this fall, guys 😀
  10. Even very competitive programs don’t have a hard and fast GRE ‘cut off.’ what many may do, even the less competitive ones [though they’re loath to admit it] is use GRE scores as an unofficial ‘culling’ mechanism. For example, when vetting applicants, some might merely ‘skim’ low-scoring applicants’ files, unless there’s something else about their recommendation letter, CV, or GPA that merits a closer read. This is pretty true for all the numeric components of applicant files [including GPA], which are faster to review than statements, writing samples, etc., are, and which are therefore read first [see above note re: vetting]. So, to look at it another way, a very high GRE score could be a signal that an applicant with a lackluster GPA is worth a more than just a ‘skim’ through their SoP. ***Disclaimer that all this information is anecdotal and comes from people I personally know who have read grad applications. Your mileage can and will vary.
  11. Hey now. That’s not the positive opportunity. You’re absolutely right—a lack of scholarly community and in-person training is not, itself, an opportunity. And frankly, it sucks. The ‘this’ I was referring to is graduate education itself, which is likely to resume in-person ASAP [not least because so much university revenue comes from the intercollegiate athletics industry]. AND, even so, there are other opportunities that present themselves as a result of the necessity to become more digitally adept, as well as the flexibility of location/schedule/learning environment for the first quarter or semester. Finally, just because some schools won’t be offering in-person classes in the fall [or as many of them] doesn’t mean there won’t be in-person gatherings, period. You can still convene for research groups. You can still meet with professors. “Once again, the question should be whether this is a big deal to you, and what the associated costs (if any) there are for deferring.” —Totally agree here. Believe me, I am the last person to be excited about this and I think it’s pretty absurd to cancel in-person classes. But opportunity is, after all, created rather than given. Which means it’s something we have a choice over.
  12. How public is ‘public’? Are you talking about op-eds, journal articles, or social media accounts? If so—and regardless, in fact—now is a good time to make all of your social media accounts private and table any public-facing political writing. If your CV includes time spent on political campaigns or organizations, I recommend making their affiliations as vague as possible [e.g., ‘[year]: volunteer for state gubernatorial campaign‘; ‘Secretary of college political organization’]. Be specific about what you did—for example, recruitment, canvassing, event organization—but not about whom you did it for. Some things you can’t help disclosing. I wound up with a proverbial neon marquee screaming out my political affiliation by virtue of having a job at a well-known think tank. These are the sorts of situations where you will need to, in campaign jargon, ‘hang a lantern’ on the issue. Call attention to it first, and do so in a way that spins it as an asset, not a liability. [I say ‘spin’ non-judgmentally, by the way. You’re not being disingenuous; you’re not doing any weird rhetorical Jedi mind-trickery; what you’re ‘spinning’ is your own perspective about why your work is meaningful into something that will also resonate with an admissions committee. At no point do you need to be insincere about any of it.] Usually this lantern-hanging takes place during the ‘supplemental materials‘ portion of your application—stuff like diversity statements or any other ‘optional’ sections [protip that you probably already know: they’re not optional. They’re options for signaling your high interest in your program of choice, as well as for including any information that you haven’t conveyed elsewhere in your file. And for hanging lanterns]. There are also certain, well-reputed schools that are more amenable to dissenting views and who will accommodate students that can challenge [respectfully] the ideological orthodoxy. If you or anyone else who’s reading this would like to talk specifics, please DM me. I’m happy to give one-on-one advice on this, share what did/didn’t work for me, and address any concerns specific to your situation that you may not want to disclose in a public forum. The political ‘closet’ is real in academia, but it doesn’t have to be a prison cell either.
  13. Another thing to remember is that usually, if you defer your admission, you also forfeit your current funding package. That means your package will be re-evaluated the subsequent year, when—let’s face it—schools are likely to have a far more competitive pool, and far fewer dollars to throw around. Even if you’re still guaranteed a spot, you may not be guaranteed the money you are now. My guess is that even for those schools that will be online for fall quarter, there will still be active near-campus community within your cohort/department, and classes will likely resume in-person within the next year. And think about all that you can do to get acquainted with the area in the time you’ll spend *not* commuting to class, or between classes. You could ‘attend’ seminars wherever, build a stronger relationship with your classmates and professors by virtue of being one of a likely smaller cohort of students, and maybe use the free time to do a bit of side-hustling, working out, volunteering, or gig economy work [depending on how much free time you have]. This from someone who never thought we should be under house arrest to begin with [but advocates for personal responsibility/human decency measures like choosing to wear a mask], and wants very much for classes to be held in-person this fall: If it were me, I wouldn’t think for a second about deferring, no matter what. This is a rad opportunity.
  14. I see. Even so, I still think the answer is 'it's unlikely,' for the reasons described... And I'm afraid I'm showing my ignorance here, but in my experience, it's the professors who make up, and make, the major calls on grad school adcomms—not general admissions officers. This may not apply to all fields, though.
  15. I'm sure it happens, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. Obviously you don't want to be too self-disclosing—just general internet advice, really—but think about it this way: Professors don't have oodles of time to trawl the GC forums, and admissions committees have a much easier time identifying applicants by checking their social media profiles than they do scrolling through one anonymous post after another and cross-checking those posts with the information in applicants' files. The opportunity costs are way too high, and the payoff is dubious at best.
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