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About shibboleth

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  1. So I've decided to head to a PhD program in Geography in the fall. It's been ages since I took statistics (think AP stats in high school, woo hoo!). I'm going to need to brush up! I'm posting in the government affairs thread because I perceive you all as being very prepared when it comes to basic prerequisites like stats. I'm wanting to brush up on my basic stats (think: to the proficiency of a social science stats 1 class). Does anyone have any good recommendations as to how to do this on my own time? I'd theoretically be open to taking an online course, but I'll be travelling so much this summer that a local community-college type course really isn't an option. I also don't have a lot of spare cash to be shelling out for a course for credit. I don't need the credit, I just want to bring myself up to speed so I can jump in to stats 2 when I start my program. I have a good quantitative background, I'm disciplined, I do know some stats, and I'm a quick study. Ideally, I'd like a self-study option that won't be too expensive. Any good books, itunes lectures, or free courses out there?
  2. FYI- if anyone applied to Wisconsin, you're likely in for a rude surprise. Small talk around the department is that they've only admitted a few students, most of whom are already working in the department. They're rejecting pretty much everyone this year. Sad.
  3. Penelope- This makes perfect sense. I'm wondering, in a general sense, why they bother to try to suss me out anyway? I don't really get the game. A definite answer from a prospective fellowship winner this early in the process is hardly likely, no matter who they are. I suppose the DGS might think there is some chance that I might give an unequivocal "No Thanks" (but, then, why would I have bothered to apply at all?). There is also the chance that someone in my situation could say "Absolutely, I commit to you! I will withdraw all my other applications!" - but really how big is that chance actually likely to be? If someone has stats stellar enough to be considered for your top fellowship, they're most certainly the kind of candidate who is going to be applying to multiple schools, and also likely to have the luxury of choosing a program based on multiple criteria. So the DGS probably assumes that there's a 95% chance I'll lie somewhere between these two extremes. Which I do. And, absent having my other offers on the table, I have no way of knowing how likely it actually is that I will attend their program. So what will they really gain from the conversation? The department in question is a great department, and I suppose it is possible that (for whatever reason) I will choose it in the end. Do any past applicants or adcomm participants have a sense as to the factors that are likely to contribute to them awarding me this fellowship even if I am noncommittal in my response to the DGS? If someone's application is seen as far exceeding the strength of the rest of the typical cohort, will that be seen as a red flag that the student most likely will not choose to attend, resulting in denial of the fellowship? Or is the converse true? (ostensably the purpose of the fellowship- that it be granted to the top applicants regardless of perceived propensity to attend). I oscillate between: A- being a little peeved that I am being evaluated not only on the strength of my application, but the strength of my percieved desire to attend. I assume when I return the call from the DGS, I will be asked point-blank which other schools I'm considering. B- feeling badly that, on the big assumption that application season goes as planned, I will most likely decline the fellowship, and thus deprive this particular department of funding.
  4. I'm at work so I can't call him back, but I just go a voicemail from the DGS at one of my 'safety-ish' schools (I say "ish" because what school is really a safety these days?). The message was very very encouraging. In fact, he says that the committee is "very impressed" with my application, and won't I please call back and have a chat about my interest in the program, etc, because they are considering nominating me for a university-wide fellowship. The departmental meeting is apparently tomorrow, and he implored me to return his call soon. He left both his office and cell #'s. I know how these university-wide fellowships work. There is a pot of money set aside at the university level to leverage the attendance of top applicants, program by program. Almost always, each department is only allowed a set number of nominations. If those nominations fall through (ie- if the student decides not to attend), the department does not get to re-allocate precious funding to another student. So departments have a big interest in doing whatever they can to nominate people they believe will likely accept the offer - and once nominated, encouraging those people to attend. Hence the DGS's somewhat un-kosher request that he be able to (perhaps) grill me over the phone. Here's the thing- this program is not a bad option, it's actually pretty well-ranked, but it is not my dream school. While I have not yet been accepted elsewhere, I can reasonably assume that I have a very good chance of doing so. It feels great to receive this attention, and being a top applicant to the program is certainly quite an honor. There are a few faculty there whose research interests are quite a good fit with mine. Indeed, I would like to cultivate some sort of relationship with these professors by way of future collaboration, job hunting, or just "not burning bridges." I just don't know what to do. If I call the DGS back, I will feel disingenuous lying about my great interest in their program. If I'm honest (ie- let on in perhaps not so many words that I'd go to a top school in a heartbeat when and if I am admitted), I'm guessing that I will likely not be awarded the fellowship. This would probably be all for the best (It could be awarded to someone who actually ends up using it), but I will have essentially sabotaged any chance that I will attend their program, or get to meet their faculty on visit day. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be flown out, put up, wined and dined, and get the chance to network with a few very impressive faculty who may be my future colleagues. That in itself would be a positive career step. But having to call up this guy and imply that they have some chance at convincing me to attend their program would leave a seriously bad taste in my mouth. What would you do?
  5. I would say that you are a potentially very competitive applicant. Of course, on these forums it is quite difficult to convey a lot of key intangibles. Especially for those who have been out of undergrad for some time- by far the most important part of your application is going to be the statement of purpose. You're going to need to coherently and convincingly tie together all of your many pertinent experiences to convey that you're a serious scholar who will be a big asset to a top PhD program. Everything in your application needs to be building up to this eventuality. It sounds like you've got plenty to draw on, but you need to start brainstorming early. For those of us with a lot of diverse experiences (both academic and professional) since our college days, the statement of purpose can be very difficult to write. I'm in a similar boat, with a background that is both interdisciplinary and wide-ranging. As someone who just finished up this process, I have a lot of sympathy. My SOP tied together a natural science bachelors, an international development master's, several years of research management, and a whole slew of projects, teaching assignments, and relevant experiences in-between. If your application isn't tied together with a succinct knock-out SOP, it can start to look like the applicant is simply collecting random experience. Numerous folks have advised me that a stellar SOP is absolutely key to admission to top programs. While the SOP won't make up for other parts of an application that may be lacking, it's the only way the adcoms can get a sense for where you place yourself as an academic. You need to show exactly how what you're doing and where you've been make the PhD a natural next step. You need to convey that you are familiar with the literature and are already well on your way to being successful as an academic. It may sound easy, but this is very difficult to do in just 500 or 1,000 words. You'll get to submit a CV as well, but keep in mind that it may not even be read (several faculty at a couple of top programs told me as much). The one thing that concerns me as I read the outline of your background/accomplishments is your publishing record. True, most applicants to sociology PhD programs are going to be coming straight out of undergrad and therefore will not be expected to have any publications (some will, but almost always as a second or third author on an advisor's research). But, as you have a couple of master's degrees and other types of research experience under your belt, you will have to clear a higher bar of academic standards . A book chapter is certainly impressive, but may not be as impressive as a peer-reviewed journal article. Or, for that matter, a chapter AND a peer-reviewed journal article. Is the book peer-reviewed? Are you the sole chapter author? Can you think about revising the chapter and submitting it to a few journals before next fall's application season? The answers to these questions are going to be pretty important. Since you already have so much graduate education under your belt - and your associated extensive teaching experience is certainly going to help your application a lot - you're also going to be expected to have been producing at least some academic scholarship. Depending on how you frame it in your SOP, and how much research/work went into it, a book chapter may be "enough," but it will be one of the most key parts of your application. Again, several professors at top programs have expressed this information to me as an applicant in a situation similar to yours. Your reference letters are also going to be key. Make sure you start talking to your referees early on in the process. Let them know how you're framing your application in your SOP, and (in addition to the usual obvious things like making sure they will write you a very positive and detailed letter) make sure they know why you're applying and how passionate you are about getting a PhD. Having a letter say something along the lines of "Sarah is a fantastic researcher and knows exactly what she's getting into with a PhD" is priceless. As far as the GRE is concerned, how bad were your previous scores? I would keep in mind that the importance of the GRE tends to be overblown on sites like this one. It's one of the few supposedly "levelling" metrics, so it gets a lot of lip service, but in truth it is usually one of the least important parts of the application as a whole. Obviously, your scores need to be decent enough that they won't raise eyebrows. Adcoms, whether they admit it formally or not, usually do have various "cutoffs" when making the first pass at applications. And higher scores are certainly going to play in your favor. But, once you're in the pile of applicants who are getting seriously considered, professors are looking much deeper than stellar GRE scores. This is when your SOP and recc's get read with a fine-toothed comb. General advice I've heard for top programs is that if your GRE's are in the range of the average for admitted applicants, you're far better off spending your time (and $) improving other aspects of your application. That being said, there are always exceptions. If your stats are the most impressive aspect of you as an applicant (say, if you're coming straight from undergrad), it may do you well to improve your scores - especially if you have reason to believe that there will be a dramatic improvement. A friend of mine was wait-listed at a tip-top Political Science program with only an undergraduate degree under her belt. She was eventually admitted off the wait-list, and decided to matriculate in the program. When she arrived, she found that everyone else in her cohort was a much more seasoned and impressive researcher. Most had published articles, master's degrees, etc.. it was an intimidating place to begin. She believes the only reason she even made the wait-list was a perfect score on the GRE. This, combined with a near perfect GPA from a decent undergraduate institution, were the most impressive aspects of her as an applicant. Those students who had been admitted before her were far more impressive in their substantive credentials (and, incidentally, all had good but not perfect GRE's & GPA's).
  6. We're a relatively small bunch, but I'm hoping to connect with others who are applying to PhD programs in environmental studies. This interdisciplinary field doesn't seem to have a home on The Grad Cafe forums, so let's start with this thread. I've tagged this post with several pertinent keywords, so I'm hoping that these tags will help us to find one another. Here are some representative stand-alone programs in Environmental Studies. Many, but not all, of these schools are known primarily for their Master's programs, but all have PhD programs as well. Most implicitly (or explicitly) require a Master's degree for acceptance into the PhD program: Berkeley ESPM & ERG Michigan SNRE Indiana SPEA Yale FES Duke's Nichols School UC Santa Barbara's Bren School Vermont's Rubenstein School Stanford's Woods Institute Wisconsin's Nelson Institute ASU's School of Sustainability Many of us are pursuing environmental training at the PhD level in a more traditional disciplinary department. This is possible in any number of departments, including: Sociology, Geography, Political Science, Ecology, Public Affairs, Anthropology, & Earth Science. I could attempt to list them here, but I don't think I can do justice to all of the academic departments known for their environmental faculty. About Me: I have a BS in Earth Science and an Master's Environmental Policy from one of the schools listed above. I have several years of experience in international development, and I'm looking to pursue a PhD in environmental social sciences. So what are your interests, what is your background, and where are you applying? Questions, concerns, curiosities about your fellow applicant cohort? Fire away!
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