PROFILE:Type of Undergrad Institution: PrivateMajor(s)/Minor(s): International RelationsUndergrad GPA: 3.4Type of Grad: Public University in Netherlands - Rijksuniversiteit GroningenGrad GPA: 8.0/10 on Dutch scale - around an A on American scaleGRE: 161V, 148Q, 5.0 AWAny Special Courses: noneLetters of Recommendation: Yes Research Experience: 3 yearsTeaching Experience: yesSubfield/Research Interests: Conflict Studies, Security Studies, RussiaOther:RESULTS:Acceptances($$ or no $$): Colorado State University $$, George Mason $$Waitlists: CU Boulder, University of DenverRejections: George Washington University, YalePending: Georgetown (but that's obviously not happening)Going to: Colorado State University
Lessons & advice:
Retake the GRE again. I didn't think the scores would really matter if you had research experience but looking at everyone else's scores in retrospect, I would have taken it at least to improve my quantitative score. Advice: get a good score and actually spend the time preparing (I did not)
Reach out to professors of universities earlier! I didn't think to reach out to professors and instead just researched schools and didn't do the personalized focus of getting one-on-one meetings with POI's whose work I found interesting. Advice: Reach out to students, professors and anyone at the schools you are interested in. Are they happy in their programs? Is it worth it?
Would have applied to more safety schools and more schools that fit my interests. I focused too much on the top 50 list. Russia is generally a pretty hot topic these days so I kind of assumed that most schools would have a focus in it at some level - but if I had to do it again, I would look for the best Russian programs and looked for schools that maybe weren't as well known to ensure that I had more options. Advice: Look more broadly than just the popular schools and their programs.
Visit campuses. Being international made that quite difficult, but in retrospect, I would have planned one large trip to meet with people and see the campuses and living areas if possible. It would have made my decision and my schools to apply to easier to narrow down.
Explain my graduate GPA better. I don't know this for a fact but I suspect that what disqualified me for some schools was that my GPA looks low from an American perspective. If you're going to the US and applying for a PhD program, convert your grades to the American GPA level. Even though an 8 is perceived as a really good grade in the Netherlands, in the US, it reads like an 80% which isn't good. Advice: Make sure you target your CV and add explanations to your applications to make sure that your grades and GPA are presented in the most accurate light possible.
Stop stressing so much. Stop checking Gradcafe and application websites so much that they become your most visited sites. It's not worth it The acceptances and rejections will come when they come.