I have been lurking this forum since I decided to apply in this cycle (nonstop), I know a lot of people have already posted profile evaluation questions but I still feel extremely insecure about my chances of admission at decent US PhD programs (maybe top 20-40), any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
Type of Undergrad Institution: Top 3 Canadian University
Major(s)/Minor(s): Honors in Political Science, minor in economics (another minor in management, if this is relevant?)
Undergrad GPA: 3.85 (as of now, upward trend, not sure if I can keep it though)
GRE: 165 V, 167 Q, 5.5
Languages: Chinese (native)
LOR: I have one strong letter almost guaranteed (a very relevant professor for whom I worked closely as RA for more than a year now) ; a quant focused professor I took seminar course with; a qual focused professor who has seen my work and nominated it to a departmental award (best writing in poli sci); or alternatively I could ask a course instructor (now works as a post-doc) who also has reviewed and thought highly of my research paper (said it was publishable).
SoP: I aim to apply in the area of comparative politics with a regional focus in China, and a substantial focus in social movements/civil society. I have a fairly narrowed research interest, but I do not have a clear answer or approach to my proposed questions. I plan to emphasize more on my potential and flexibility, as I am good at both quantitative methods and poli theories.
Research Experience: undergraduate summer research award; said RA work, from the very basics such as transcription to more advanced quantitative analysis such as regression analysis
Quant Experience: econometrics and statistics.
My issue is, since I am straight out of undergrad, and I don't have much experience with writing a thesis just yet (by the time of graduation, I will; but by the time of application deadline, I won't), I would be severely lacking in providing a good writing sample. Although I have written many research papers for higher level poli sci classes, none of them would be comparable to a MA or honors thesis. In other words, while I am applying, I'm still in the process of producing writing-sample-worth papers and getting closer contact with my professors, would that heavily impede my chances at admission? Of course I could use the next 3 months and write a good paper, but I feel it is too rushed that might pose a problem.
If I wait and apply next cycle, that is after I graduate from undergrad degree, I think my chances of being admitted will improve significantly, as I will have major research papers done in my last two semesters. Am I wrong in believing this? If I'm right, will I still benefit from attending a US terminal master degree, such as the one offered in UChicago? Or am I better off staying in Canada for a master degree? Should I apply to PhD programs at all this cycle?
I also welcome any school reccomendations, etc. Please say anything you feel relevant and I appreciate your input! Thank you again and good luck to your academic endeavors!