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Hello all, 

MA (University of Houston) GPA: 4.0.

University of Houston GPA: 3.84; Community College GPA: 3.30.

GRE: 160Q/164V/AW 4.5.

3+ solid LORs from good faculty on campus. Various levels of publicity in the field. 1 is a Ph.D. alumnus from a school I'm considering.

Good personal statement/writing sample.

2 published articles (w/faculty on campus).

3 research presentations (1 national 1 regional 1 at university).

3 years as an RA.

Various summer research programs, as well as a Ralph Bunche Scholar (minority summer fellowship at Duke).

Math skills up to Cal 2/linear algebra/Quant methods grad courses. Statistical programming skills such as R, STATA, etc..

I'm interested in American/RGEP; focused on institutions, behavior, methods. Looking at Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, UT-Austin, UCSD, UC-Berkeley, TAMU, Vanderbilt,  Cornell, and open to other options as well (attempting a top school or bust mentality). I'm also an African American first generation student if that counts. 

Thoughts on chances? 

 

 

 

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You're probably golden with a profile like that + RBSI + first gen minority. Especially if the articles are published in peer-reviewed journals. Like the only thing I can see you doing to make your profile even better would be to shoot for a higher Q score, but even then you've proved you can do math with your actual math classes so it's probably not that important. 

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4 minutes ago, eggsalad14 said:

You're probably golden with a profile like that + RBSI + first gen minority. Especially if the articles are published in peer-reviewed journals. Like the only thing I can see you doing to make your profile even better would be to shoot for a higher Q score, but even then you've proved you can do math with your actual math classes so it's probably not that important. 

Thanks for your reply! I've thought about retaking for a higher Q score but I haven't decided if it was worth retaking the whole test or not yet. Figured I would just try to ride with my actual math classes and a decent Q score.

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57 minutes ago, dricjohnso said:

Thanks for your reply! I've thought about retaking for a higher Q score but I haven't decided if it was worth retaking the whole test or not yet. Figured I would just try to ride with my actual math classes and a decent Q score.

I mean I'm 100% sure you're capable of getting 165+ with enough practice, even though there is a lot of pesky stuff from high school on it. You have the time so if you're not doing too much over the summer I'd totally recommend trying it out. I found the math section really fun to study for and it sounds like it wouldn't be pure agony for you. 

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There are no guarantees (it's a very weird process), but given a strong statement with good research questions and clear discussion of past research and future goals, you sound like a great candidate for any school. Get plenty of feedback on each version of your statement. For some schools, you will have a "diversity statement" or a space in which you are encouraged to elaborate on your personal story. Take advantage of these to explain (maybe explicitly, maybe implicitly) your community college GPA. Take full responsibility for imperfections in your record (meaning make no excuses). Do not dwell on your early struggles, focus instead on how you turned things around. Ideally your story suggests (without necessarily having to say so) that a return to mediocre grades is not a possibility. [Note: a 3.3 is actually pretty good in the normal world, just not at Harvard, etc. If you happen to have resided in the "normal world" back then, and you didn't consider a 3.3 a low GPA until later, when people started talking to you about Harvard and PhDs, it's fine to say so, and it might even serve to further set you apart.] Get feedback from both academic advisors and enrichment program advisors (e.g. RBSI admin) on your statement(s). Have you taken part in a summer research program? If not, see if you can do so this summer (if all application periods have not passed). Many are paid and will bring you into contact with top faculty at highly ranked schools. Be sure your letter writers are solid (the question should be, "Are you comfortable writing me a very strong letter of support?" not "Will you write me a letter?") Give your letter writers at least 5 weeks or so to prepare the letters, and provide them with plenty of neatly-organized information, all in one delivery. At minimum, this should include generic (not yet tailored for individual schools) SOP, CV,  writing sample, list of schools, and a letter to each specifying how you met them (including semester/dates), which class(es) you took with them, what grade you received (no lower than A-), a paragraph summarizing what you produced in the class (e.g. a summary of your term paper or project), and any suggestions as to which aspect(s) of your preparation the individual recommender might be best positioned to comment on. If you feel weird specifying all of this for professors who already know you well, don't think that way. Faculty have a lot on their plate, and they will appreciate your thoroughness. [Note: I don't see your GRE scores as problematic. That said, the level of math courses you have completed does suggest a higher score. Then again, testing is tricky, and most committees recognize its limited usefulness at this point. Still, financial considerations and investment in studying aside, there is no penalty for retaking the GRE, since you can send whichever exam scores you wish (though, as you probably know, you cannot combine parts of test scores, you must submit all scores from a particular test date).]

Most grad schools in PS are seriously lacking in the kind of perspective I imagine you will bring as a first generation college student who has made their way through community college, BA, and MA, and one who has prepared well in terms of quantitative and methods courses and research (not to mention the scarcity of African Americans in doctoral PS programs). Best of luck. I hope you get in everywhere.

Edited by Midwester
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21 hours ago, Midwester said:

There are no guarantees (it's a very weird process), but given a strong statement with good research questions and clear discussion of past research and future goals, you sound like a great candidate for any school. Get plenty of feedback on each version of your statement. For some schools, you will have a "diversity statement" or a space in which you are encouraged to elaborate on your personal story. Take advantage of these to explain (maybe explicitly, maybe implicitly) your community college GPA. Take full responsibility for imperfections in your record (meaning make no excuses). Do not dwell on your early struggles, focus instead on how you turned things around. Ideally your story suggests (without necessarily having to say so) that a return to mediocre grades is not a possibility. [Note: a 3.3 is actually pretty good in the normal world, just not at Harvard, etc. If you happen to have resided in the "normal world" back then, and you didn't consider a 3.3 a low GPA until later, when people started talking to you about Harvard and PhDs, it's fine to say so, and it might even serve to further set you apart.] Get feedback from both academic advisors and enrichment program advisors (e.g. RBSI admin) on your statement(s). Have you taken part in a summer research program? If not, see if you can do so this summer (if all application periods have not passed). Many are paid and will bring you into contact with top faculty at highly ranked schools. Be sure your letter writers are solid (the question should be, "Are you comfortable writing me a very strong letter of support?" not "Will you write me a letter?") Give your letter writers at least 5 weeks or so to prepare the letters, and provide them with plenty of neatly-organized information, all in one delivery. At minimum, this should include generic (not yet tailored for individual schools) SOP, CV,  writing sample, list of schools, and a letter to each specifying how you met them (including semester/dates), which class(es) you took with them, what grade you received (no lower than A-), a paragraph summarizing what you produced in the class (e.g. a summary of your term paper or project), and any suggestions as to which aspect(s) of your preparation the individual recommender might be best positioned to comment on. If you feel weird specifying all of this for professors who already know you well, don't think that way. Faculty have a lot on their plate, and they will appreciate your thoroughness. [Note: I don't see your GRE scores as problematic. That said, the level of math courses you have completed does suggest a higher score. Then again, testing is tricky, and most committees recognize its limited usefulness at this point. Still, financial considerations and investment in studying aside, there is no penalty for retaking the GRE, since you can send whichever exam scores you wish (though, as you probably know, you cannot combine parts of test scores, you must submit all scores from a particular test date).]

Most grad schools in PS are seriously lacking in the kind of perspective I imagine you will bring as a first generation college student who has made their way through community college, BA, and MA, and one who has prepared well in terms of quantitative and methods courses and research (not to mention the scarcity of African Americans in doctoral PS programs). Best of luck. I hope you get in everywhere.

4

Thank you so much for your insightful reply! I really appreciate it and will take your advice to heart as I begin my application process in the coming fall. The whole process can be daunting, so it is really nice to hear from others on best practices for setting one's self up to be in the best position possible. Thank you again! 

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