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2018-2019 Application Thread

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29 minutes ago, PonchoVilla said:

As someone who has worked in graduate school admissions, and with undergraduate programs aimed at sending students to graduate school, at two tippy top schools (for all fields falling within arts and science), I can confidently say you are both overestimating the impact of math classes (for all but physical sciences, math, and economics), at least as it relates to admission to the Ph.D. You are probably also overestimating the importance of quant GRE, which is often overlooked if it meets some threshold - often around 155 - as long as some other evidence of quant skill is presented (I discuss forms this can take further down). Having a bunch of math will always look good. Still, if you have math but have difficulty forming an interesting research question, or if you're not able to elaborate at all on how that question might be answered, you will not be competitive. On the other hand, if you have almost no math (and I mean no math whatsoever in college, aside from maybe a semester of intro to stats), but you have a strong handle on how to develop and answer an interesting research question, and this comes across convincingly in your application, all things equal (GRE, GPA, letters, and sample), MOST departments, and MOST subdisciplines, will rather have you than the former. I have seen this over, and over (and over) - students accepted to all subfields of political science (and most disciplines in arts and science) at top 1-5 schools, and also at places like Caltec, MIT, NYU, WashU, etc. Still, it's important to note that it's somewhat uncommon to find someone with little math preparation (or interest) who can confidently put it all together. It's easier, probably, if you have at least a semester of calculus, and definitely you must be enthusiastic and thoughtful about methods either way. [Note: having two semesters of calc 1, earning an F the first time around and a B- the second, is not necessarily bad for your application (except for the ding to your GPA, though nobody cares much about GPA either). Tenacity is undervalued throughout most of the entries here. Like movie-goers, schools love a story about sticktoitiveness!] Doing well in a graduate methods class at a decent school, and securing from that professor a strong recommendation that compares you favorably to matriculated grad students? Now that is likely to provide you with a nice advantage, but calc 3 or even linear algebra? I haven't seen it. With regard to the GRE, it's not at all unusual to find someone scoring at or near 170 who has only had geometry. Surely those who get top scores often have more math, and that familiarity makes the test easier for them in general, but the test only actually calls upon your math knowledge up to geometry. If you're comfortable with algebra and basic geometry, studying the little idiotic tricks that the test for some reason includes could get you a long way. Finally, I do think, all else equal, great if you have a lot of math. You will be admired and dreaded all at once when you sail through math camp, and you might well be sought after as a coauthor for those of us who have pretty good questions but limited intuition when it comes to readily identifying techniques for answering them. 

As someone with similar experience, I completely disagree. And if you've never seen a student with linear algebra come though... I'm not sure what to even say to that.

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26 minutes ago, eggsalad14 said:

Thanks for the perspective. Again, like I've said previously, what mostly matters is stuff outside of math and outside of the common quantifiable things like GRE and GPA (past a threshold). 

That being said, it surprises me that even an F turned B- in intro calc isn't really disqualifying (assuming you don't show better scores in further math classes). Maybe it depends on what school that B- was earned at, but I'd be really surprised if a B- from a mid-to-not ranked school would not at least raise some eyebrows.

A bit off topic but generally speaking a B from a mid to range school would be less disqualifying than a B from an Ivy or similar school. It's well understood that grade inflation is rampant at the top while mid tier and state schools give grades that are more indicative of aptitude. There's kind of a goldilocks zone between Harvard and your local community college.

My own experience in grad school reflected this. I went to a small state school and sweat blood for my grades. Then when to an elite graduate university and grades were basically free.

Edited by oats

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15 minutes ago, oats said:

A bit off topic but generally speaking a B from a mid to range school would be less disqualifying than a B from an Ivy or similar school. It's well understood that grade inflation is rampant at the top while mid tier and state schools give grade that are more indicative of aptitude. There's kind of a goldilocks zone between Harvard and your local community college.

My own experience in grad school reflected this. I went to a small state school and sweat blood for my grades. Then when to an elite graduate university and grades were basically free.

You do have to keep in mind that graduate and undergrad grading scales are also wack and not really comparable. I've had it explained to me as for grad courses, A=average, B=bad, and you should drop out if you get a C, whereas undergrad courses regularly will fail 1/3 - 1/2 the class. 

But I digress, you are right in that a B from Harvard shouldn't look good as it's well established that an A- is the modal grade. 

Edited by eggsalad14

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Anyone who has received an acceptance from American University SIS, do you have any idea if all acceptances have been sent out/will be sent out over the next couple of days?

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I've said for a while that political science major requirements should essentially be what is now a political science major plus a stats minor. But of course then lots of people who want a "humanities" major wouldn't do it and enrollment in the major would drop drastically.

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I interviewed with Notre Dame yesterday and they say they’ll send out acceptances within the next week or so. Sounds like if you haven’t gotten an invite to interview for CP subfield chances for admittance are pretty slim, but I could be wrong. Does anyone know how comparative politics programs at UT vs. Notre Dame rank? I’ve heard conflicting things but both have fantastic faculties.

Also, when I started speaking with my mentors about getting a PhD, they all told me to take stats and econometrics, which I feel is super relevant with the quantitative field now and no one has really mentioned yet. I’m also double majoring in econ so I guess it’s easier for me to take with required prerequisites.

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33 minutes ago, oats said:

As someone with similar experience, I completely disagree. And if you've never seen a student with linear algebra come though... I'm not sure what to even say to that.

Sorry, I must have given the wrong impression. Plenty of applicants have linear algebra. I meant to say that I have not seen a situation in which it seemed like linear algebra had a strong impact on admission whereas a great letter from a professor who taught a grad quant methods course can be a different story. At any rate great for anyone who has an exceptionally strong math preparation. You will see, when you start your program, this is not the case for all of your classmates, even at top programs. 

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I have two acceptances at top-20s so far and did not take a single math course in undergrad. Intro to stats from a cc in high school was it for me. A decent Quant GRE can definitely mitigate things if you have little formal training, and I think in that case the SoP and writing sample are very important. 

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1 hour ago, eggsalad14 said:

Thanks for the perspective. Again, like I've said previously, what mostly matters is stuff outside of math and outside of the common quantifiable things like GRE and GPA (past a threshold). 

That being said, it surprises me that even an F turned B- in intro calc isn't really disqualifying (assuming you don't show better scores in further math classes). Maybe it depends on what school that B- was earned at, but I'd be really surprised if a B- from a mid-to-not ranked school would not at least raise some eyebrows.

If you look at hundreds of (accepted) applications each year, over time you learn that (in poli sci and most programs) almost nothing is disqualifying. Truly. At least a handful of your classmates (non theory included) will not have completed a calculus class. Ever. So the one who fails, then gets a B-, often won’t be considered any worse off. Also, right, a B- can mean many things. In my story, for the student who eventually scored ok on the GRE and has a head for methods, it can even signal persistence. 

Edited by PonchoVilla

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6 minutes ago, IR1995 said:

I have two acceptances at top-20s so far and did not take a single math course in undergrad. Intro to stats from a cc in high school was it for me. A decent Quant GRE can definitely mitigate things if you have little formal training, and I think in that case the SoP and writing sample are very important. 

 

6 minutes ago, IR1995 said:

I have two acceptances at top-20s so far and did not take a single math course in undergrad. Intro to stats from a cc in high school was it for me. A decent Quant GRE can definitely mitigate things if you have little formal training, and I think in that case the SoP and writing sample are very important. 

Exactly. And congratulations!

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14 minutes ago, PonchoVilla said:

Sorry, I must have given the wrong impression. Plenty of applicants have linear algebra. I meant to say that I have not seen a situation in which it seemed like linear algebra had a strong impact on admission whereas a great letter from a professor who taught a grad quant methods course can be a different story. At any rate great for anyone who has an exceptionally strong math preparation. You will see, when you start your program, this is not the case for all of your classmates, even at top programs. 

I'm not an applicant. I'm on the other side of a Ph.D.

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15 minutes ago, oats said:

I'm not an applicant. I'm on the other side of a Ph.D.

I meant to address the gradcafe community at large. To you, congratulations, what an accomplishment!

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I was rejected by Princeton, Berkeley, Duke, and Wisconsin-Madison. My first acceptance came today, and all I can say is that the process is extremely arbitrary provided that you meet the minimum requirements.

People on this forum have talked about math, SOP, research experience, GPA, etc being important factors in the admissions process. But my experience tells me that even if you excel in all these areas, it's still not sufficient. (N=1, so take my words with a grain of salt.)

I took advanced math and programming classes and graduated with a minor in computer science. I worked as a research assistant for two CHYMPS political science professors and got recommendation letters from both of them. My GRE scores are in the 95% percentile for all three subsections, and my GPA is in the top 20% of my class at a top 20 university. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on political economy, and the project involved a lot of heavy programming. The two CHYMPS political science professors read my SOP and said it was good. I wrote two paragraphs for each school emphasizing research fit.

All that is to say that I still got rejected almost everywhere despite these credentials. I honestly do not know what I would do differently to improve my chances. I would think it's the same for a lot of great applicants, like @acmnny and @Chronicoverthinker.

Also, I think research fit is too subjective to be a useful topic of discussion. I met with another CHYMPS professor recently, and he said my research idea was "uninteresting" and "did not speak to any larger issue in political science." But the two professors I worked with both liked my proposal and one said he hired me because I wrote it in my job application.

I think a more productive approach to rejections is simply accepting the arbitrariness of life. If you meet the minimum standards (90% GRE, okay GPA at a known university, good letters from people who do research, some research experience), there's no use faulting yourself for rejections or thinking you could've done things differently to improve your chances. The process is simply just random, like job searches and the search for a romantic partner or a true friend.

Finally, there's a lot of reporting bias on this forum. I wouldn't have created an account to share my experience had I not received an acceptance today. So when you see people getting multiple acceptances, know that they are hundreds of others who have been rejected everywhere or who have only gotten into one school. Please don't think less of yourself as a person or as a political scientist just because there are two or three people getting accepted everywhere.

TLDR: The process is random. Pedigree definitely matters, especially when it comes down to picking two people out of the final ten. Research fit is super subjective, so don't worry about it if you've said what you wanted to study in your SOP. And if you don't think there's anything you can change, either apply again next year or find a job! The application process says nothing about you as a scholar let alone a person.

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A generous message, and very well put. I’m so glad you got in. You sound like a dynamite (and unlucky) applicant. Congratulations, I hope today marks the tide changing for you. 

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2 hours ago, oats said:

A bit off topic but generally speaking a B from a mid to range school would be less disqualifying than a B from an Ivy or similar school. It's well understood that grade inflation is rampant at the top while mid tier and state schools give grades that are more indicative of aptitude. There's kind of a goldilocks zone between Harvard and your local community college.

My own experience in grad school reflected this. I went to a small state school and sweat blood for my grades. Then when to an elite graduate university and grades were basically free.

Sorry I just joined this site and didn't realize i was in poli-sci ignore my previous comment.

Edited by XLW

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Agreed! I hope more come out soon. And also still wtf @ Northwestern just tell me already !!!

 

edit: somehow the quote wasn't included? was responding to eggsalad re: more decisions

Edited by peggy.olson

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15 minutes ago, peggy.olson said:

Agreed! I hope more come out soon. And also still wtf @ Northwestern just tell me already !!!

 

edit: somehow the quote wasn't included? was responding to eggsalad re: more decisions

Northwestern is killing me. Still have only heard definitively from one school (rejection - Berkeley - pretty expected). Waiting on Northwestern, and it looks like Washington might be doing decisions this week. Otherwise, everything else is still out there. 

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3 minutes ago, schuaust said:

Northwestern is killing me. Still have only heard definitively from one school (rejection - Berkeley - pretty expected). Waiting on Northwestern, and it looks like Washington might be doing decisions this week. Otherwise, everything else is still out there. 

Best of luck !!!! And yeah, I think spacing decisions apart by a few days or so is fine, but it has...literally been two weeks since they sent out those acceptances! It's insane

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6 minutes ago, peggy.olson said:

Best of luck !!!! And yeah, I think spacing decisions apart by a few days or so is fine, but it has...literally been two weeks since they sent out those acceptances! It's insane

Have any Northwestern rejections gone out, or was it just acceptances? I've been assuming a rejection for awhile, but it would be nice to know definitively. 

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Just now, StormingTheCastle said:

 

Have any Northwestern rejections gone out, or was it just acceptances? I've been assuming a rejection for awhile, but it would be nice to know definitively. 

Nope, that's the thing -- some rejections went out too! What a mess

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I had my Arizona State University interview today and they said results should be out in the next two weeks. So anyone waiting on there doesn't have too long to wait now.

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Congrats to the admits! Do you think it's safe to assume that I would get rejections from NYU and UChicago if I didn't hear/see anything yet? All the decisions seem to be out, I guess.. Also, anyone heard back from Cornell at all? It's so hard to keep it cool when I have this weird feeling of imminent doom of rejections :unsure: Well, good luck to myself and everybody here! Fingers crossed so hard they might just snap ;)

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9 hours ago, quesadilla said:

I interviewed with Notre Dame yesterday and they say they’ll send out acceptances within the next week or so. Sounds like if you haven’t gotten an invite to interview for CP subfield chances for admittance are pretty slim, but I could be wrong. Does anyone know how comparative politics programs at UT vs. Notre Dame rank? I’ve heard conflicting things but both have fantastic faculties.

Also, when I started speaking with my mentors about getting a PhD, they all told me to take stats and econometrics, which I feel is super relevant with the quantitative field now and no one has really mentioned yet. I’m also double majoring in econ so I guess it’s easier for me to take with required prerequisites.

Applied for theory at Notre Dame and didn’t receive anything yet. I’m assuming it’s a rejection now as I know that someone in theory has gotten intervirwed already according to the results survey...

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