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2018-2019 Application Thread

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1 hour ago, sandmoon said:

To get into the Chicago MA program or to get a full-time RA-ship, it also helps to have one or more of the following things:

- research skills

- connections

- money (if you can’t get a scholarship)

I understand that this isn’t ideal but from the people I’ve talked to it seems like those of us from non-prestigious undergrad institutions have only a few options if we want to have a shot at the most competitive programs.

I'm in a Chicago MA program. If anyone is curious about the program, feel free to slide into my DMs.

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1 hour ago, sandmoon said:

To get into the Chicago MA program or to get a full-time RA-ship, it also helps to have one or more of the following things:

- research skills

- connections

- money (if you can’t get a scholarship)

I understand that this isn’t ideal but from the people I’ve talked to it seems like those of us from non-prestigious undergrad institutions have only a few options if we want to have a shot at the most competitive programs.

Has anyone been successful in getting an RA position after undergrad? If so, do you have any advice?

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Just now, polisci1 said:

Has anyone been successful in getting an RA position after undergrad? If so, do you have any advice?

I emailed a prof and asked to RA. Then I got hired. So, just reach out I guess? Ask the professors you are close with if they know anyone who needs an RA and just email them?

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16 minutes ago, e2e4 said:

I emailed a prof and asked to RA. Then I got hired. So, just reach out I guess? Ask the professors you are close with if they know anyone who needs an RA and just email them?

Thanks! I will definitely reach out to everyone I know. Also, I DM’ed you about the Chicago MA program. I would love to know more about it!

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35 minutes ago, polisci1 said:

Has anyone been successful in getting an RA position after undergrad? If so, do you have any advice?

 I didn't personally do this, but if you want to check out economics RA positions, lot of jobs are posted on NBER, the @econ_ra twitter, and the Yale (?) economics page for example. Academics also post jobs on their own Twitter, but you kinda have to be on twitter all the time to see it, which you really shouldn't. The skills required are probably some knowledge of Stata/R and statistics, as well as some knowledge of the substantive area. I assume these positions become available throughout the year, so there might be ones you could be applying to right now! If your undergrad major is political science, you probably have to come up with a convincing motivation for applying, etc. I've never done this before, so I'll leave this part to more experienced applicants.

If you do any type of theory (political theory or formal models), I'm not sure whether there are RA positions in those areas. Will let others chime in..

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7 minutes ago, sandmoon said:

 I didn't personally do this, but if you want to check out economics RA positions, lot of jobs are posted on NBER, the @econ_ra twitter, and the Yale (?) economics page for example. Academics also post jobs on their own Twitter, but you kinda have to be on twitter all the time to see it, which you really shouldn't. The skills required are probably some knowledge of Stata/R and statistics, as well as some knowledge of the substantive area. I assume these positions become available throughout the year, so there might be ones you could be applying to right now! If your undergrad major is political science, you probably have to come up with a convincing motivation for applying, etc. I've never done this before, so I'll leave this part to more experienced applicants.

If you do any type of theory (political theory or formal models), I'm not sure whether there are RA positions in those areas. Will let others chime in..

Thank you so much! I’m CP, not theory, and basic stats, Stata, and R pretty much sums up my quant skills. I guess it’s mostly a matter of tailing your application/experience for each position? Would definitely appreciate hearing from anyone that has succeeded in getting an RA position like this. 

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3 hours ago, pscwpv said:

Out of just pure curiosity, i'd be interested to hear people's self-evaluations of what worked and what didn't for them.

I think some of the letter-writer-preferences is probably trusting others' evaluations of students, which I think is a big part of why students from prestigious institutions have an easier time getting into prestigious grad institutions. If the letter readers think the person writing it is a good political scientist who has trained top-level grad students themselves, they'll trust the evaluation of the applicant more. Going to the same school as the recommender probably does this as well by signaling the writer is of the same caliber as the reader. The professor who advised me on grad school apps suggested using the biggest names who knew me best because recognizable names carry more weight, but letters still need to be personal.

I'd definitely second the importance of fit in my experience. My area is pretty popular these days so there are lots of people doing research on it generally, but given my unusual (read unsexy) methodological interests, I got in only where there were people using those methods and who are actively interested in the particular topic I want to research. This might not be a problem if you're wanting to study American politics with quantitative methods, but seems to have been a big one for me. For the programs that were 'great' fits, I got into two and rejected one (where they typically have more accomplished prospective students than I, anyway).

I felt two major things helped this cycle be successful. One, I did a thorough analysis for fit to decide which programs were worth my time and money to apply to. Two, I spent a lot of time researching each department I was applying to and their faculty and personalized my SOP for how I fit and would benefit their program, including naming whose research I felt would work well with my own. Last year I was 0a/1w/10r. This year I am 2a/0w/1r/1p (plus one that would have been an acceptance but I withdrew my application right before they sent the offer because I knew I wouldn't pick it over an acceptance I already had). I did also retake and raise my GRE score but I felt the two points above were bigger factors in my success.

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I'm a Theory person (hence the name), and I don't really see much by way of RA opportunities for Theorists outside of actually being in a phd or ma program, unfortunately. I think it has to do with the nature of the sub-field since there isn't a lot of work that can be delegated to an assistant a la stats. Maybe some think tanks have positions, though those are, of course, more policy-focused generally speaking. The ones that are more likely to have a few theory-ish spots though are probably places like AEI OR Hudson which will have a very Straussian-slant and may not look great when trying to go into proper academia, though that is just my personal impression.

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45 minutes ago, irgradcafe said:

There's a Harvard rejection in the results. Did they start sending rejection emails?

He/She stated that she/he e-mailed the administrative person at Harvard

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QS released 2019 world universities' political science ranking:

1. Harvard (World Ranking: 1)

2. Stanford (6)

3. Princeton (7)

4. Berkeley (8)

5. Yale (9)

6. Columbia (11)

7. Chicago (13)

8. UCLA (14)

9. Georgetown (15)

10. UCSD (16)

11. MIT (20)

12. Michigan (27)

13. NYU (28)

14. Cornell (35)

15. GWU (39)

16. Duke (44)

17. JHU (46) 

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The QS rankings are interesting but remember they also factor in strength of policy/public administration/foreign service/international affairs programs, too, which are often pretty separate from the political science program at least in the US. 

JHU, GW, Georgetown are too high (inflated by their non political science programs and DC location), and you'd be much better served going to a program that doesn't appear in the top 50 like UNC or Ohio State than any of those three if you want a tenure track job.

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What's the pulse on Harvard GSAS? A few received calls. Does anyone expect more acceptances this week, or just rejections/waitlists? 

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6 minutes ago, Pillcopata said:

What's the pulse on Harvard GSAS? A few received calls. Does anyone expect more acceptances this week, or just rejections/waitlists? 

My intuition (but maybe this is just me being really optimistic because I want to get in) is that there's more to come out. Harvard has pretty big cohorts and I think the grad cafe community should have more than like 3 acceptances. 

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26 minutes ago, eggsalad14 said:

My intuition (but maybe this is just me being really optimistic because I want to get in) is that there's more to come out. Harvard has pretty big cohorts and I think the grad cafe community should have more than like 3 acceptances. 

I suspect this is true. Not sure why they called some people early. I'll post here when I get an email from them just to let you guys know

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23 minutes ago, trinityshot said:

I suspect this is true. Not sure why they called some people early. I'll post here when I get an email from them just to let you guys know

That's my thought as well. When I called them last week, the admin I spoke with said acceptances would be coming out late this week. The professor who called me to tell me I was admitted said I would be receiving email from that administrator with, and I haven't gotten it yet. So I'm thinking most notifications will come as emails.

I have no idea what basis schools use for deciding who to call. I have some personal connection (in one case, very tangential) to the two schools that notified me by phone, but I have closer connections with two other schools (including my alma mater) that just sent me the regular email. I received advance email notification of my acceptance to two other schools that I have no personal connection to at all.

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10 hours ago, polisci1 said:

Has anyone been successful in getting an RA position after undergrad? If so, do you have any advice?

I was an econ/poli sci undergrad and work as an RA in health econ/public econ; happy to chat about the process. That said, this cycle applying to Poli Sci programs hasn't been successful for me, so can't say for certain it's a path that will guarantee a place in a Poli Sci PhD.  Might be in love with the wrong discipline tbh

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26 minutes ago, nerokoala said:

I was an econ/poli sci undergrad and work as an RA in health econ/public econ; happy to chat about the process. That said, this cycle applying to Poli Sci programs hasn't been successful for me, so can't say for certain it's a path that will guarantee a place in a Poli Sci PhD.  Might be in love with the wrong discipline tbh

I'm so sorry things didn't work out for you! I would've thought Poli sci and Econ are very similar disciplines (same methodologies, different substantive focus), and if you excel in econ and get a good letter from someone who does empirical research, you'd be a super star in Poli sci!

I'm curious to hear if you have any reflections on your experience this cycle. Do you plan on applying next year?

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37 minutes ago, sandmoon said:

I'm so sorry things didn't work out for you! I would've thought Poli sci and Econ are very similar disciplines (same methodologies, different substantive focus), and if you excel in econ and get a good letter from someone who does empirical research, you'd be a super star in Poli sci!

I'm curious to hear if you have any reflections on your experience this cycle. Do you plan on applying next year?

Haha no worries. I'm a little perplexed - I have pretty reasonable scores 165/165/5.0, a not amazing but decent 3.5 GPA from a t15 liberal arts school, and have experience working for a big-name think tank doing empirical research and have consulted for another. I know two of my letters were great, but don't know how the letter from my third - an economist who I work for- was.  Applied to both pub pol and poli sci programs, and the only positive(ish) response was a waitlist at Rochester.  Yet to hear from Harris, but somewhat resigned at this point.

If I were to apply again, I'd probably rethink fit and make sure I only apply to places with faculty who specifically do empirical & comparative political economy of development work. I can definitely do better on the quant for GRE, but other than those two things not sure what else I'd redo. My sample was highly technical and empirical, so I might submit a more poli sci ish next time round?

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7 minutes ago, nerokoala said:

Haha no worries. I'm a little perplexed - I have pretty reasonable scores 165/165/5.0, a not amazing but decent 3.5 GPA from a t15 liberal arts school, and have experience working for a big-name think tank doing empirical research and have consulted for another. I know two of my letters were great, but don't know how the letter from my third - an economist who I work for- was.  Applied to both pub pol and poli sci programs, and the only positive(ish) response was a waitlist at Rochester.  Yet to hear from Harris, but somewhat resigned at this point.

If I were to apply again, I'd probably rethink fit and make sure I only apply to places with faculty who specifically do empirical & comparative political economy of development work. I can definitely do better on the quant for GRE, but other than those two things not sure what else I'd redo. My sample was highly technical and empirical, so I might submit a more poli sci ish next time round?

I wouldn't necessarily give up on Harris. They're big on development economics and your GRE shouldn't keep you out at all.

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1 hour ago, sandmoon said:

I'm so sorry things didn't work out for you! I would've thought Poli sci and Econ are very similar disciplines (same methodologies, different substantive focus), and if you excel in econ and get a good letter from someone who does empirical research, you'd be a super star in Poli sci!

I'm curious to hear if you have any reflections on your experience this cycle. Do you plan on applying next year?

Forgot to add - will definitely apply to more than the 7 programs I applied to this year!

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Just emailed Harvard and they replied in minutes telling me my result (rejected). They also said "Notifications are being sent just now by the Graduate School Admissions Office." So my fellow applicants to Harvard - it's time to check your mailbox every 5 seconds.

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1 hour ago, nerokoala said:

Haha no worries. I'm a little perplexed - I have pretty reasonable scores 165/165/5.0, a not amazing but decent 3.5 GPA from a t15 liberal arts school, and have experience working for a big-name think tank doing empirical research and have consulted for another. I know two of my letters were great, but don't know how the letter from my third - an economist who I work for- was.  Applied to both pub pol and poli sci programs, and the only positive(ish) response was a waitlist at Rochester.  Yet to hear from Harris, but somewhat resigned at this point.

If I were to apply again, I'd probably rethink fit and make sure I only apply to places with faculty who specifically do empirical & comparative political economy of development work. I can definitely do better on the quant for GRE, but other than those two things not sure what else I'd redo. My sample was highly technical and empirical, so I might submit a more poli sci ish next time round?

We have nearly identical GREs and GPAs! I wouldn't worry about the GRE at all if you scored 90% on the quant section.

Again, I'm shocked and disappointed that you didn't hear better news. I know Econ programs are even harder to get into than similarly-ranked political science programs, but maybe that's worth a try? Your recommenders probably have better connections there?

I recommended the Chicago MA and the econ RA routes only because I know people who did those things and got into good programs. But now I'm starting to think that there's so much arbitrariness in the process that it's impossible to give any meaningful prescriptions. At the end of the day it probably all comes down to what you do with your time and whether those on the admissions committee that year happen to appreciate what you do?

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C'mon Northwestern!!!!  What the heck??  Waitlisted? Rejected? Something? ANYTHING?  It was my greatest hope, and my last hope... funny how that works.

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Applied 11 schools, got into 2 T20 programs and 1 T10 program this cycle (IR, international applicant). Two takeaways I got from my experience which I believe mattered to my application, for future applicants' reference:

  • Letters written by people whom the DGS / POI know and cite. Two of my accepted schools have people who definitely know my letter writer.
  • A writing sample that hits the main research interests (in my case, also the methods) of the DGS / POI.

Obviously my case is singular and there could be millions of other factors that mattered. Perhaps more people can share and we'll have large-N data!

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