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Profiles, Results, Advice - 2019

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Hey guys, 

Although I did not apply in this cycle, I think this is about the time to start this thread. Good luck with your pending applications! 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution:
Major(s)/Minor(s):
Undergrad GPA:
Type of Grad:
Grad GPA:
GRE:
Any Special Courses:
Letters of Recommendation:
Research Experience:
Teaching Experience:
Subfield/Research Interests:
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$):
Waitlists:
Rejections:
Pending:
Going to:

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

 

 

SOP:

Edited by SwaggyVeritas

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EDIT: Forgot to note — I graduated in spring 2018, and took a year off in between undergrad and grad to work as an RA

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: SLAC known for sending students to PhDs
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political science
Undergrad GPA: 3.67 (my school is known for major grade deflation, tho — this GPA put me in the top 10 percent of the graduating class)
GRE: 166 V / 156 Q / 5.5 
Any Special Courses: I took a lot of political science classes and had a 4.0 in my major (around 10 classes, most of which were 300+ level), and I took five grad-level research seminars (i.e., you read 6000000 pages a week and produce a large paper at the end). Also took upper-level Econ courses and intro stats + data science classes. 
Letters of Recommendation: Presumably pretty good. I knew all three profs very well and took multiple classes with all of them.
Research Experience: Aside from my senior thesis (mandatory for all seniors), I worked as an RA with a visiting prof my second year and our paper was accepted to ISA (I wasn't there to present, though). I worked in a think-tank in a former Soviet country as an RA for a summer. Also interned at a public interest magazine and wrote freelance print articles for them for 2 years afterwards. Worked as an RA for a global humanitarian non-profit/NGO. Worked remotely as an RA for a federal agency in a former Soviet country. Currently working as a super data/quant heavy RA at an academic dept at an Ivy League but not within my own major or specialty.
Teaching Experience: None but I worked like a million on-campus jobs.
Subfield/Research Interests: IR first, CP second. Conflict studies, mostly.
Other:  Native fluency in another """strategic"" language and can read in two others. 

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): Duke $$, Columbia $$
Waitlists:
Rejections:
Stanford, Yale, Northwestern
Pending:
Going to:
Most likely Columbia     

LESSONS LEARNED:

Firstly, this is super obvious but like...research schools and programs as much as you can. I went into this super blind and clueless (I'm first-gen) and knew for sure I had a #1 choice but was having a hard time figuring out the rest. Come January, I was definitely regretting not applying to more schools and would have DEFINITELY regretted it if I hadn't gotten into my top choice. I'm not recommending applying for more schools just to apply to more schools (like, I applied to Yale but have no idea why really), but make sure you know exactly all the programs that might fit well for you and consider them all seriously when applying.

Second, I really think connections are incredibly important. Ask your profs where to apply and where they know people — aka so they can personally put in a good word for you.

Third, STUDY for the GRE as much as you can. Again, I kind of went into this blind and clueless and did not study for the GRE as much as I should have. I had maybe a week of serious studying before my exam. I decided not to retake it but I had a pretty low quant score. My writing sample (a quant-heavy thesis) and my current job and skills hopefully offset that low score, but this is one thing you can do to even out the playing field for yourself a bit. 

 

 SOP: PM me! It starts with a relatively quick anecdote about my personal history to explain why I'm interested in poli sci (and IR and CP specifically) and then I go straight into my research interests, then my current job, then my thesis, then other research, and then a paragraph about fit. 

Edited by peggy.olson

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: R1 with an unremarkable political science department
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political science, Communications
Undergrad GPA: 3.66
Type of Grad: Applied Politics 
Grad GPA: 3.8
GRE: 170V, 161 Q
Any Special Courses: None
Letters of Recommendation: 3 professors from my grad school (I graduated over a decade ago, but currently teach there, so I have strong relationships with all of my recommenders)
Research Experience: None
Teaching Experience: Adjunct faculty at an R1 school for the past four years
Subfield/Research Interests: American/Behavior/Political Psychology
Other: I have 20 years of professional experience working in politics (on Capitol Hill and as a political consultant), and my work in the field directly relates to my research interests.

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): Maryland ($$), American University ($$)
Waitlists: GW, Georgetown
Rejections: None
Pending: None
Going to: Maryland

LESSONS LEARNED: Meeting faculty with similar research interests at each school helped me understand fit and write strong personal statements tailored to each program. It also gave me a good feel for the schools that would likely accept me. Demonstrating fit in the personal statement is crucial. 

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This is going to totally out me to any adcoms, if I haven't already done so (but hopefully very few lurk here) 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: R1, somewhere in the top 30-55 ranked polisci PhD programs. Ranked 50-100 of undergrad schools. Yes, I'm trying to be a little vague. 
Major(s)/Minor(s): econ, stats, political science
Undergrad GPA: a hair under 3.9. It's probably worth noting that my last 2 year GPA was much much better than the first 2 year GPA. 
Type of Grad: none
GRE: 94-98th percentile on all sections. Only took once. 
Any Special Courses: 3 PhD-level courses (All A's), plus all the mathematical goodies that come from a major in stats (including calc 1-3 and linear algebra)
Letters of Recommendation: 3 professors, 2 tenured, 1 assistant. 2 are big enough names in their subsubfields and polisci is small enough that application readers probably know who they are even if they're in different subfields. 
Research Experience: some RA work, some research intense coursework, one independent project funding by an honors college fellowship, published in only an undergrad journal
Teaching Experience: 3 years of TA work, but in math
Subfield/Research Interests: American, methods, behavior. Specific interests include inequality, political participation, public opinion, REP, policy, geography, and how these all interact via cool methods. 
Other: 1 year at an unrelated but quantitative job. Experience with coding. Again, I'm pretty decent at math relative to the typical applicant. Also gonna mention that I'm not an underrepresented minority, nor do I come from an underprivileged household, or anything like that, so no big diversity points for me. For schools that asked for personal/diversity statements, I explicitly said something along the lines of "yeah I'm probably here somewhat because of some privilege. I had a 20hr/week part time job in school, but if you really think about it, only needing to work half time while getting to go to school is really freaking lucky relative to so much of the country"

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$) -- all $$: Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Berkeley (no word on funding for another week actually, but I think they always fund everyone), UCSD, MIT, Columbia, Duke, UNC, NYU, UCLA, Ohio State, WashU, Emory  
Waitlists: none
Rejections: Harvard, Michigan
Pending:
Going to: I have a vague idea abut I'm waiting for visits to decide for sure. 

 

LESSONS LEARNED: This is the part where I say that I applied so many places because I expected maybe 3 acceptances, and I'd apply to all of these schools again. I don't know what exactly I did "right" that other people haven't done. But I'm going to take a stab at it.

1. Coming from a large R1 where students rarely pursue PhDs in political science probably helped in a way. Less competition and professors really notice when you say you want to go into political science. When recommenders send their letters, they often also fill out a survey section asking stuff like "Is this student: a. best I've ever had (or best in years), b. excellent (top 1%),  good (10%)" etc. and my situation made it much easier to get an a or b vs. coming from somewhere like Reed or Swarthmore. Letters really matter, especially if the people who read your letters know and trust the people who wrote your letters, which gives R1s a big advantage.

2. I never contacted any prospective advisers. I think it can sometimes help but I know a lot of professors are very lukewarm-to-cold about it. Also I'm awkward, which is really why I didn't do it. Didn't seem to matter in my case anyways.

3. Work on the SOP a lot. People who have read mine include: 3 professors, 2 parents, 1 bf, 1 ex-bf (I feel the need to point out that my SOP writing period did not span two relationships, but rather the latter was an ex when I let him read it). Some will give you good advice, some will give you bad advice, and you'll absolutely get contradictory advice. I leaned on the side of professional as opposed to fun-to-read, which meant no sarcasm, only 1 half-joke, and very little personal background that isn't directly relevant to my skills. It took a long time for me to get mine to a place where I could say "it isn't going to get any better than this" but I did get there!

4. Don't refer to the Harvard Government department as the Political Science department like 3 times in your SOP. This probably isn't really why I got rejected from Harvard, but I'm pretending that it is. 

5. Try getting your writing sample published somewhere, even an undergrad journal. Even if it doesn't get published, you'll get a lot of experience in editing and polishing that mofo. I did all of this in the spring and summer, and didn't even have to touch my writing sample come application season (other than to mess with margins to get it to conform with grad school requirements). Major time-saver. 

6. A few less-than-perfect grades won't sink you. As a recovering high school valedictorian, having my first two years of undergrad be filled with B+'s and A-'s was a little painful. All my B+'s were in major courses, too. There were definitely nights when I anticipated my semester GPA dipping below 3.5 and it freaked me out so much. I worried that this blemish would sink my graduate school prospects. In hindsight, it's clearly fine.

7. While looking at grad schools, I noticed that so many PhD students at the most prestigious institutions were all graduates of prestigious, expensive undergraduate and master's programs, and often also had prestigious work experience (ie central banks, prominent NGOs, cool politics-related companies and organizations, big-name management consulting). This does not describe me at all. I'm not saying that there isn't an admissions boost for students who don't come from prestigious schools (and I wholeheartedly believe that the BA-to-PhD pipeline is much much better supported at those places), but it's not an obstacle that can't be overcome. In fact, 2 of the exact schools I most had this worry about both accepted me and offered me money beyond their standard stipend package. 

8.There's a lot of really good information at GradCafe, especially for those of us who again don't come from common PhD pipeline schools. There's an older thread where people actually posted their statements of purpose. These threads are really good to see the level of competition that is present for many schools. BFB's stickied thread is a must-read. There's also a lot of good information on PSR, but I wouldn't recommend going there unless you're used to reading reddit or 4chan. There's a learning curve before you can recognize what is trolling vs. good information, but that's, unfortunately, the best aggregated place for information on what's going on in the field. 

I know I just said a lot, but if there's more that anyone would like me to speak on, feel free to DM me or ask here. 

Edited by eggsalad14

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14 minutes ago, eggsalad14 said:

This is going to totally out me to any adcoms, if I haven't already done so (but hopefully very few lurk here) 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: R1, somewhere in the top 30-55 ranked polisci PhD programs. Ranked 50-100 of undergrad schools. Yes, I'm trying to be a little vague. 
Major(s)/Minor(s): econ, stats, political science
Undergrad GPA: a hair under 3.9. It's probably worth noting that my last 2 year GPA was much much better than the first 2 year GPA. 
Type of Grad: none
GRE: 94-98th percentile on all sections. Only took once. 
Any Special Courses: 3 PhD-level courses (All A's), plus all the mathematical goodies that come from a major in stats (including calc 1-3 and linear algebra)
Letters of Recommendation: 3 professors, 2 tenured, 1 associate. 2 are big enough names in their subsubfields and polisci is small enough that application readers probably know who they are even if they're in different subfields. 
Research Experience: some RA work, some research intense coursework, one independent project funding by an honors college fellowship, published in only an undergrad journal
Teaching Experience: 3 years of TA work, but in math
Subfield/Research Interests: American, methods, behavior. Specific interests include inequality, political participation, public opinion, REP, policy, geography, and how these all interact via cool methods. 
Other: 1 year at an unrelated but quantitative job. Experience with coding. Again, I'm pretty decent at math relative to the typical applicant. Also gonna mention that I'm not an underrepresented minority, nor do I come from an underprivileged household, or anything like that, so no big diversity points for me. For schools that asked for personal/diversity statements, I explicitly said something along the lines of "yeah I'm probably here somewhat because of some privilege. I had a 20hr/week part time job in school, but if you really think about it, only needing to work half time while getting to go to school is really freaking lucky relative to so much of the country"

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$) -- all $$: Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Berkeley (no word on funding for another week actually, but I think they always fund everyone), UCSD, MIT, Columbia, Duke, UNC, NYU, UCLA, Ohio State, WashU, Emory  
Waitlists: none
Rejections: Harvard, Michigan
Pending:
Going to: I have a vague idea abut I'm waiting for visits to decide for sure. 

 

LESSONS LEARNED: This is the part where I say that I applied so many places because I expected maybe 3 acceptances, and I'd apply to all of these schools again. I don't know what exactly I did "right" that other people haven't done. But I'm going to take a stab at it.

1. Coming from a large R1 where students rarely pursue PhDs in political science probably helped in a way. Less competition and professors really notice when you say you want to go into political science. When recommenders send their letters, they often also fill out a survey section asking stuff like "Is this student: a. best I've ever had (or best in years), b. excellent (top 1%),  good (10%)" etc. and my situation made it much easier to get an a or b vs. coming from somewhere like Reed or Swarthmore. Letters really matter, especially if the people who read your letters know and trust the people who wrote your letters, which gives R1s a big advantage.

2. I never contacted any prospective advisers. I think it can sometimes help but I know a lot of professors are very lukewarm-to-cold about it. Also I'm awkward, which is really why I didn't do it. Didn't seem to matter in my case anyways.

3. Work on the SOP a lot. People who have read mine include: 3 professors, 2 parents, 1 bf, 1 ex-bf (I feel the need to point out that my SOP writing period did not span two relationships, but rather the latter was an ex when I let him read it). Some will give you good advice, some will give you bad advice, and you'll absolutely get contradictory advice. I leaned on the side of professional as opposed to fun-to-read, which meant no sarcasm, only 1 half-joke, and very little personal background that isn't directly relevant to my skills. It took a long time for me to get mine to a place where I could say "it isn't going to get any better than this" but I did get there!

4. Don't refer to the Harvard Government department as the Political Science department like 3 times in your SOP. This probably isn't really why I got rejected from Harvard, but I'm pretending that it is. 

5. Try getting your writing sample published somewhere, even an undergrad journal. Even if it doesn't get published, you'll get a lot of experience in editing and polishing that mofo. I did all of this in the spring and summer, and didn't even have to touch my writing sample come application season (other than to mess with margins to get it to conform with grad school requirements). Major time-saver. 

6. A few less-than-perfect grades won't sink you. As a recovering high school valedictorian, having my first two years of undergrad be filled with B+'s and A-'s was a little painful. All my B+'s were in major courses, too. There were definitely nights when I anticipated my semester GPA dipping below 3.5 and it freaked me out so much. I worried that this blemish would sink my graduate school prospects. In hindsight, it's clearly fine.

7. While looking at grad schools, I noticed that so many PhD students at the most prestigious institutions were all graduates of prestigious, expensive undergraduate and master's programs, and often also had prestigious work experience (ie central banks, prominent NGOs, cool politics-related companies and organizations, big-name management consulting). This does not describe me at all. I'm not saying that there isn't an admissions boost for students who don't come from prestigious schools (and I wholeheartedly believe that the BA-to-PhD pipeline is much much better supported at those places), but it's not an obstacle that can't be overcome. In fact, 2 of the exact schools I most had this worry about both accepted me and offered me money beyond their standard stipend package. 

8.There's a lot of really good information at GradCafe, especially for those of us who again don't come from common PhD pipeline schools. There's an older thread where people actually posted their statements of purpose. These threads are really good to see the level of competition that is present for many schools. BFB's stickied thread is a must-read. There's also a lot of good information on PSR, but I wouldn't recommend going there unless you're used to reading reddit or 4chan. There's a learning curve before you can recognize what is trolling vs. good information, but that's, unfortunately, the best aggregated place for information on what's going on in the field. 

I know I just said a lot, but if there's more that anyone would like me to speak on, feel free to DM me or ask here. 

God damn those are some nice acceptances. You’re a baller

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Top 5 school, particularly known for STEM/engineering. It's top 10 in polisci.
Major(s)/Minor(s): Unrelated social science field
Undergrad GPA: 3.7 (alma mater is also known for grade deflation)
Type of Grad: none, but in a 2-year polisci program at another school in the top 5 (both for undergrad and for poli sci)
GRE: 170, 163, 5.5
Any Special Courses: STEM requirements from going to an engineering school. No undergrad polisci courses at all (a few econ courses is as close as I come), though I've taken a bit of polisci in my current program.
Letters of Recommendation: I went crazy with these and submitted 5 at all schools that would allow it. One top 5 only allows 3, and I was accepted there, so maybe it doesn't make a difference. But anyway, they were from an undergrad professor in my unrelated field for whom I did research, two polisci professors at my current program, my former manager at work who has an econ PhD from a top 15 program, and an econ professor who I worked with while in that job. I've heard the one from my undergrad prof is strong, though of course no one in polisci would know the name, and they no longer teach at my alma mater. The more senior of the two polisci profs I had a letter from is pretty well known and really supportive so I think the letter would have been strong. The more junior of the two told me that letter was very strong. The econ professor is well-known, but we didn't work super closely together, so the letter was probably medium. The letter from my manager was there to give some more context for the relationship with the econ professor, and was strong, but not from someone in academia.
Research Experience: RA work in my undergrad field throughout college, including two summer internships abroad. RA work in polisci in my current program.
Teaching Experience: Zero
Subfield/Research Interests: CP
Other:

  • Pretty decent, if a bit rusty, speaking/listening/reading skills (but cruddy writing) in a major foreign language from working abroad in undergrad. 2 years of study in two other languages, one of which is rare. I brought all three up in my SOP.
  • 3 years of unrelated work, including one year in a very junior role at a super well-known company; nearly two years at a small but still well-regarded firm where the work could be super-tangentially related to polisci. Over 1 year of RA work at a top poli sci department (this will be nearly 2yrs at enrollment).
  • Since eggsalad mentioned it, I am a URM (and privileged, if that's not clear already). None of my diversity statements actually mentioned my own background at all, but were about an experience I had meeting people less advantaged than myself. (Also, @eggsalad14, 20 hrs of work a week in undergrad sounds huge to me! I think we were limited to 10hrs max at my alma mater, not that anyone tracked it if you worked off campus.)


RESULTS: (Using current USNWR rankings, duplicates refer to ties)
Acceptances($$ or no $$) -- all $$: #1, #1, #3, #4, #7, #9, #9, #12, #12, #12, #19. Funded at all.
Waitlists: none
Rejections: #4, #19
Pending: none (whew!)
Going to: Some ideas and I've already declined a few, but I'm waiting on visits. But I do have strong location preferences.

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. I applied to a massive number of schools because I'm still pretty fresh to polsci and had no idea how this process would go. I was encouraged by profs and others in my program to do around 10-12. I had a main list of 10 with 3 additionals that I was hesitating on but ended up applying to as well. If I had had any idea I would get into most, I would have pared the list wayyyy down. Having a lot of acceptances makes deciding where to go much harder! While I'm really, really happy to have each acceptance, saying no is tough, particularly once you've been in contact with profs. Many reach out right when you're accepted, they're all incredibly interesting, and if you could replicate yourself, you'd probably work with all of them. But you can't, so you need to be very diplomatic. To avoid this, see if you can talk to your advisor or others about a good number to apply to based on your file.

2. TBH, I didn't spend that much time on the SOP. I know it's sacrilege to say so, but I knew what I wanted to say so it came together quite easily. Two profs (including a DGS) at a top 5 school looked at it and had no suggestions. Some friends and family also looked at it. I hadn't seen any SOPs before writing it and later got a few examples of successful SOPs from the DGS, but I had already submitted it to a few schools at that point. It's absurd, but I was too nervous to look at the examples to see if mine was way off until application season was over.

3. Also on the SOP, I didn't personalize that much. I usually just wrote the final paragraph to be targeted to the school and changed nothing else. For some schools, because of length requirements, I wrote only 1-2 sentences targeted to the school. A prof at a top 10 school actually mentioned this when we spoke, which was a bit embarrassing! I would have written more about the school if it weren't for the length cut off, but oh well. And, I was still accepted, so I'm not sure how much schools need to see you saying about their specific department. They seem to be able to get fit mostly from your research interests. Also, once I did take a look at the sample SOPs the DGS had shared with me, I found that most of those letters also have just one final paragraph about the specific department.

4. I think my writing sample was a big factor. It's been mentioned by several profs I've spoken with since being admitted to various schools. This is where I spent a ton of time and where feedback from a professor was incredibly helpful. I didn't have one already laying around, so I pulled it together over the fall, starting with something very rough I had written the previous spring. One of my rejections limited the sample to 10 pages, so I submitted just an excerpt. It's impossible to say, but I feel that played a role in the rejection. I was sure to make a point of building my quantitative research abilities into the sample.

5. I have a personal connection to three top 5 programs and one top 10. i.e., I went there, took classes/did a program there, or have a recommender from there. I was accepted to all of those, so I really do think it matters.

6. If you're applying to UCs, apply for the extra scholarships the apps mention! They're not huge, but they make a difference. Also, more generally on funding, a lot of schools will add scholarships to the funding package, and you might be notified of the scholarship after receiving the initial funding info. So don't just cross anything off until you're sure you know everything from them.

7. Trust yourself. I freaked out a lot during app season—over developing my materials obviously, but also over not having a background in the field since I studied something else in undergrad, and then worked in the private sector for several years. I probably should have just straightforwardly asked some of my professors in my current program about this, because it was a really silly reason to be anxious. If you're seriously considering PhD programs like these, you're probably pretty qualified.

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution:  International Institution 
Major(s)/Minor(s):  econ,  political science
Undergrad GPA: 3.9
GRE: 163/168/5.0 (took three times to improve score)
Any Special Courses:    6 graduate-level courses in political science
Letters of Recommendation: 3 letters from professors from 
Research Experience:  6-month research experience at Washington think-tank, 4-month research experience at a research institute in a foreign country.  some RA work with  3 faculty members, one independent research.
Teaching Experience: None
Subfield/Research Interests:  CP, IR
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$):  #4,  #9, #12, #15, #17, #19. #24 
Waitlists: #19, #
Rejections: #1, #4, #7, #9, #19, 
Pending:
Going to:   Probably east coast  

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Start working on your sop as early as possible: This is my second time applying to graduate school, and I began to work on my sop in July. I noticed that my first draft was garbage and kept revising and updating until December.  During this process, the feedback I received from professors and friends in Ph.D. programs was very helpful so I strongly recommend you guys to ask for feedback if possible. 

2. GPA: I think the GPA doesn't matter. I saw my friends whose GPA is lower than 3.5 got in top programs. So guess we don't need to be obsessed with that.

3.  Don't push yourself: As everyone knows, this application process is very random and we cannot guarantee anything. Last year, I was frustrated and I thought I lost my way after my application cycle was over. I couldn't get any acceptance, and out of frustration I kept hurting myself and pushed me so hard. However, looking back, although it remains unclear, I might have been a qualified applicant but couldn't get in due to fits, luck or random things. Last year was not what I expected to be and this year was also different from what I expected to be  (though better than I anticipated).  So please be confident and don't need to blame yourself. If you keep moving on, I believe you will nail it. 

 

 

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15 hours ago, eggsalad14 said:

This is going to totally out me to any adcoms, if I haven't already done so (but hopefully very few lurk here) 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: R1, somewhere in the top 30-55 ranked polisci PhD programs. Ranked 50-100 of undergrad schools. Yes, I'm trying to be a little vague. 
Major(s)/Minor(s): econ, stats, political science
Undergrad GPA: a hair under 3.9. It's probably worth noting that my last 2 year GPA was much much better than the first 2 year GPA. 
Type of Grad: none
GRE: 94-98th percentile on all sections. Only took once. 
Any Special Courses: 3 PhD-level courses (All A's), plus all the mathematical goodies that come from a major in stats (including calc 1-3 and linear algebra)
Letters of Recommendation: 3 professors, 2 tenured, 1 assistant. 2 are big enough names in their subsubfields and polisci is small enough that application readers probably know who they are even if they're in different subfields. 
Research Experience: some RA work, some research intense coursework, one independent project funding by an honors college fellowship, published in only an undergrad journal
Teaching Experience: 3 years of TA work, but in math
Subfield/Research Interests: American, methods, behavior. Specific interests include inequality, political participation, public opinion, REP, policy, geography, and how these all interact via cool methods. 
Other: 1 year at an unrelated but quantitative job. Experience with coding. Again, I'm pretty decent at math relative to the typical applicant. Also gonna mention that I'm not an underrepresented minority, nor do I come from an underprivileged household, or anything like that, so no big diversity points for me. For schools that asked for personal/diversity statements, I explicitly said something along the lines of "yeah I'm probably here somewhat because of some privilege. I had a 20hr/week part time job in school, but if you really think about it, only needing to work half time while getting to go to school is really freaking lucky relative to so much of the country"

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$) -- all $$: Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Berkeley (no word on funding for another week actually, but I think they always fund everyone), UCSD, MIT, Columbia, Duke, UNC, NYU, UCLA, Ohio State, WashU, Emory  
Waitlists: none
Rejections: Harvard, Michigan
Pending:
Going to: I have a vague idea abut I'm waiting for visits to decide for sure. 

 

LESSONS LEARNED: This is the part where I say that I applied so many places because I expected maybe 3 acceptances, and I'd apply to all of these schools again. I don't know what exactly I did "right" that other people haven't done. But I'm going to take a stab at it.

1. Coming from a large R1 where students rarely pursue PhDs in political science probably helped in a way. Less competition and professors really notice when you say you want to go into political science. When recommenders send their letters, they often also fill out a survey section asking stuff like "Is this student: a. best I've ever had (or best in years), b. excellent (top 1%),  good (10%)" etc. and my situation made it much easier to get an a or b vs. coming from somewhere like Reed or Swarthmore. Letters really matter, especially if the people who read your letters know and trust the people who wrote your letters, which gives R1s a big advantage.

2. I never contacted any prospective advisers. I think it can sometimes help but I know a lot of professors are very lukewarm-to-cold about it. Also I'm awkward, which is really why I didn't do it. Didn't seem to matter in my case anyways.

3. Work on the SOP a lot. People who have read mine include: 3 professors, 2 parents, 1 bf, 1 ex-bf (I feel the need to point out that my SOP writing period did not span two relationships, but rather the latter was an ex when I let him read it). Some will give you good advice, some will give you bad advice, and you'll absolutely get contradictory advice. I leaned on the side of professional as opposed to fun-to-read, which meant no sarcasm, only 1 half-joke, and very little personal background that isn't directly relevant to my skills. It took a long time for me to get mine to a place where I could say "it isn't going to get any better than this" but I did get there!

4. Don't refer to the Harvard Government department as the Political Science department like 3 times in your SOP. This probably isn't really why I got rejected from Harvard, but I'm pretending that it is. 

5. Try getting your writing sample published somewhere, even an undergrad journal. Even if it doesn't get published, you'll get a lot of experience in editing and polishing that mofo. I did all of this in the spring and summer, and didn't even have to touch my writing sample come application season (other than to mess with margins to get it to conform with grad school requirements). Major time-saver. 

6. A few less-than-perfect grades won't sink you. As a recovering high school valedictorian, having my first two years of undergrad be filled with B+'s and A-'s was a little painful. All my B+'s were in major courses, too. There were definitely nights when I anticipated my semester GPA dipping below 3.5 and it freaked me out so much. I worried that this blemish would sink my graduate school prospects. In hindsight, it's clearly fine.

7. While looking at grad schools, I noticed that so many PhD students at the most prestigious institutions were all graduates of prestigious, expensive undergraduate and master's programs, and often also had prestigious work experience (ie central banks, prominent NGOs, cool politics-related companies and organizations, big-name management consulting). This does not describe me at all. I'm not saying that there isn't an admissions boost for students who don't come from prestigious schools (and I wholeheartedly believe that the BA-to-PhD pipeline is much much better supported at those places), but it's not an obstacle that can't be overcome. In fact, 2 of the exact schools I most had this worry about both accepted me and offered me money beyond their standard stipend package. 

8.There's a lot of really good information at GradCafe, especially for those of us who again don't come from common PhD pipeline schools. There's an older thread where people actually posted their statements of purpose. These threads are really good to see the level of competition that is present for many schools. BFB's stickied thread is a must-read. There's also a lot of good information on PSR, but I wouldn't recommend going there unless you're used to reading reddit or 4chan. There's a learning curve before you can recognize what is trolling vs. good information, but that's, unfortunately, the best aggregated place for information on what's going on in the field. 

I know I just said a lot, but if there's more that anyone would like me to speak on, feel free to DM me or ask here. 

omg we have very similar research interests let's be friends

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution:  R2, Ranked just inside the top 200
Major(s)/Minor(s):  BS Political Science/BA History
Undergrad GPA: 3.41 Overall, 3.85 at Baccalaureate granting institution

Type of Grad: Same institution
Grad GPA: 3.85
GRE (V/Q/AW): 164/158/4.0
Any Special Courses:   Graduate Seminars in history.
Letters of Recommendation: 3 letters from professors at my institution (1 IR, 2 Americanists) 
Research Experience:  Honors Thesis in Political Science as an undergraduate. Coauthored a paper in my first semester of my MS program, which was presented at ISA South. Currently serving as an RA on multiple projects, including one paper where I will be included as a co-author. 
Teaching Experience: None
Subfield/Research Interests: International Relations (my current work examines political economy, conflict, and IOs, but I am looking to go more in the IPE/CPE direction)
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$):  Colorado-Boulder($$), University of Florida (4 year funding)
Waitlists: Northwestern (unofficial)
Rejections: WUSTL, UNC, Penn, Ohio St., Pittsburgh, Virginia, Emory,
Pending:
Going to: Almost certainly CU-Boulder

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

If I had to do this all over again, I would definitely have been prepping and taking the GRE in the three years between my application cycles. This year, my spouse and I didn't decide I should apply until October, and I hadn't been prepping because I thought I wouldn't be going back until about 2021. As such, I just went with my Dec. 2015 GRE scores, which were okay, but not stellar. That said, I generally don't think my GRE scores were disqualifying in most cases, although the Q would have been concerning for WUSTL, UNC, OSU and Emory, imo. If I had worked on the GRE right along, I could definitely have gotten the Q into the mid-160s, which may have gotten me one or two more acceptances. Similarly, my late start meant my SoP was not nearly as polished as I would have liked. Frankly, with my SoP, I count myself lucky to have gotten into CU-Boulder, which has a pretty strong placement record relative program ranking. It could have been worse.

Also, FIT MATTERS! CU had, by far, the greatest number of professors for me to work with (at least 7 faculty members that had research that overlapped with mine in some form or fashion). I think this was a major factor in getting in. It also may have helped that they had a graduate student from my institution in residence, which I didn't realize at the time. For those in political science programs, it might be beneficial to get contact info for recent PhD admits out of your department to both get info about grad programs from a student perspective and get a handle on what your department's academic network looks like. Having knowledge of where current PhD candidates are from your institution can give you an idea of which PhD programs are familiar with the quality of students from your current institution. This honestly had not even occurred to me until I mentioned my CU admit to my faculty mentor, and she mentioned that another student from our department had gone there. If you start the process in April or May, it should give enough time to follow these leads. If I had known I would be applying, I would have been laying the groundwork that early.

 

 
Edited by StormingTheCastle

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PROFILE: Low tier
Type of Undergrad Institution: small, state school
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science
Undergrad GPA: 3.63
Type of Grad: Large, state school
Grad GPA: 3.93
GRE: 161V/154Q/4
Any Special Courses: 
Letters of Recommendation: three well published critical theorists
Research Experience: RAship building a large dataset for which I am writing conference papers now, worked for Correlates of War (doing so again)
Teaching Experience: 2 years, excellent teaching reviews
Subfield/Research Interests:  IR (theory, civil conflict), Political Theory (international ethics, empire, postcolonial/decolonial & queer theory)
Other: 

RESULTS: 1 Acceptance ($$ @75-85 rank, waitlist @ top 20, rejected at 8 other schools ranked from top 5 to top 40)
Going to: The school I've been waitlisted at if accepted, otherwise staying where I currently am.

Transfering is difficult unless you have extraordinary circumstances (which, being gay in the deep south isn't easy) or are transferring to a less prestigious program, I don't know that I'd recommend trying. The best advice I've got is that rejections aren't an indictment on your potential or character. If I had to speculate on what to avoid based on my experience, I think retaking the GRE if your quant score is lowish (undergrad scores, figured graduate grades in stats/methods would compensate) and varying the 'type' of recommender might matter. Was told by all recommenders that my application materials were excellent, but I'm sure that my writing sample and statement of purpose weren't perfect.

Edited by schuaust

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: STEM focused R1
Major(s)/Minor(s):  Business Administration / Spanish, Latin American affairs certificate
Undergrad GPA: 4.0/4.0
Type of Grad: None
Grad GPA: None
GRE: 167 / 167 / 5.5
Any Special Courses: Took several polisci courses but as you can see I did not major in it
Letters of Recommendation: 2 PoliSci professors, 1 Spanish professor
Research Experience: None 
Teaching Experience: None
Subfield/Research Interests: IR / CP, Latin America
Other:¯ \_(ツ)_/¯

RESULTS: 
Acceptances($$ or no $$): UCSD, UChicago, Georgetown, GW, UT Austin (all $$) | American and NYU master's after being rejected by PhD (no $$)
Waitlists: none
Rejections: Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, Emory, American, NYU, Columbia, UCLA, Stanford, MIT
Pending: none
Going to: Between UCSD and UChicago

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Overall, things I thought were strong about my application: GRE, GPA, letters were probably very positive, interesting/unique work experience, being from a rural town. Things that were not strong: research experience, teaching experience, limited relevant coursework, writing sample was probably meh (although I don't have a lot with which to compare it). If that profile describes you at least in part, take heart!
  • I obviously was coming from a non-polisci background. I'm sure that hurt me at some places and helped at others. It probably depended on the rest of the cohort they were forming. That being said, I realized I wanted to do a PhD late in undergrad and forged strong relationships with PoliSci faculty at my school, so just remember it's never too late to do that if you're worried about it. I did a study abroad with 2 of my letter writers and took multiple classes from the other, so they knew me quite well, including in a non-academic environment for the former two.
  • Apply widely, both in terms of number and profile of school. I applied to as many schools as I reasonably thought I could put my best effort into their applications, and where I could see myself living. I got rejected from schools in the 60s in the USWNR rankings, and accepted to a top 10. My acceptances were at quite a range, and I was shocked with how well things went. So apply to as many as you can because you never know where you might get in. A couple of my application advisors recommended applying to only 5-7 schools but I'm very glad I didn't follow that advice. I also started the applications themselves as soon as they opened.
  • Review your SoP with honest feedback givers that understand what professors will be looking for. The structure of mine changed significantly throughout the process and I went through several drafts. The more time you can give yourself for tweaks, the better.
  • I worked in a mostly unrelated job for what will be 2 years before starting my program. I didn't hide from that and played up the benefits and technical skills that I learned on the job that would be helpful on the SoP (given how quant heavy a lot of research is now, my being a data analyst probably helped).
  • My writing sample was honestly pretty bad imo, especially in hindsight, but I translated it from my original text in Spanish which hopefully gave me brownie points?
  • One of my letter writers offered to reach out to professors at other schools that they knew well to let them know to look for my application. I don't know if they actually did it or if it had any effect, but I can't imagine it hurt and probably would have asked them to do it even if they hadn't offered. Obviously depends on your relationship with the writer but if you're close I would encourage doing this.
  • A lot of people on here talk about fit and I guess that's true, but I don't see that as being the biggest factor in my applications. I didn't get in to some schools where I had a very strong fit with the faculty, and did get in to some where it seemed more tenuous. I honestly don't see an obvious common thread between my acceptances. YMMV.

I'll add to this if I think of anything else but hopefully some of those ramblings are helpful.

Editing to say if anyone is reading this in preparation for future application cycles, feel free to DM me with any specific questions. It's a hard process and Bill and Ted taught us to be excellent to each other.

Edited by CactiCactus

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On 3/28/2019 at 1:16 PM, CactiCactus said:

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: STEM focused R1
Major(s)/Minor(s):  Business Administration / Spanish, Latin American affairs certificate
Undergrad GPA: 4.0/4.0
Type of Grad: None
Grad GPA: None
GRE: 167 / 167 / 5.5
Any Special Courses: Took several polisci courses but as you can see I did not major in it
Letters of Recommendation: 2 PoliSci professors, 1 Spanish professor
Research Experience: None 
Teaching Experience: None
Subfield/Research Interests: IR / CP, Latin America
Other:¯ \_(ツ)_/¯

RESULTS: 
Acceptances($$ or no $$): UCSD, UChicago, Georgetown, GW, UT Austin (all $$) | American and NYU master's after being rejected by PhD (no $$)
Waitlists: none
Rejections: Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, Emory, American, NYU, Columbia, UCLA, Stanford, MIT
Pending: none
Going to: Between UCSD and UChicago

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Overall, things I thought were strong about my application: GRE, GPA, letters were probably very positive, interesting/unique work experience, being from a rural town. Things that were not strong: research experience, teaching experience, limited relevant coursework, writing sample was probably meh (although I don't have a lot with which to compare it). If that profile describes you at least in part, take heart!
  • I obviously was coming from a non-polisci background. I'm sure that hurt me at some places and helped at others. It probably depended on the rest of the cohort they were forming. That being said, I realized I wanted to do a PhD late in undergrad and forged strong relationships with PoliSci faculty at my school, so just remember it's never too late to do that if you're worried about it. I did a study abroad with 2 of my letter writers and took multiple classes from the other, so they knew me quite well, including in a non-academic environment for the former two.
  • Apply widely, both in terms of number and profile of school. I applied to as many schools as I reasonably thought I could put my best effort into their applications, and where I could see myself living. I got rejected from schools in the 60s in the USWNR rankings, and accepted to a top 10. My acceptances were at quite a range, and I was shocked with how well things went. So apply to as many as you can because you never know where you might get in. A couple of my application advisors recommended applying to only 5-7 schools but I'm very glad I didn't follow that advice. I also started the applications themselves as soon as they opened.
  • Review your SoP with honest feedback givers that understand what professors will be looking for. The structure of mine changed significantly throughout the process and I went through several drafts. The more time you can give yourself for tweaks, the better.
  • I worked in a mostly unrelated job for what will be 2 years before starting my program. I didn't hide from that and played up the benefits and technical skills that I learned on the job that would be helpful on the SoP (given how quant heavy a lot of research is now, my being a data analyst probably helped).
  • My writing sample was honestly pretty bad imo, especially in hindsight, but I translated it from my original text in Spanish which hopefully gave me brownie points?
  • One of my letter writers offered to reach out to professors at other schools that they knew well to let them know to look for my application. I don't know if they actually did it or if it had any effect, but I can't imagine it hurt and probably would have asked them to do it even if they hadn't offered. Obviously depends on your relationship with the writer but if you're close I would encourage doing this.
  • A lot of people on here talk about fit and I guess that's true, but I don't see that as being the biggest factor in my applications. I didn't get in to some schools where I had a very strong fit with the faculty, and did get in to some where it seemed more tenuous. I honestly don't see an obvious common thread between my acceptances. YMMV.

I'll add to this if I think of anything else but hopefully some of those ramblings are helpful.

Editing to say if anyone is reading this in preparation for future application cycles, feel free to DM me with any specific questions. It's a hard process and Bill and Ted taught us to be excellent to each other.

Hey, 

Have you already declined from UT-Austin? I was waitlisted.Thks 

Edited by pp30

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Top 5 global university, top 2 in the UK
Major(s)/Minor(s):Politics and International Relations
Undergrad GPA: UK grading system, but a very high 2.1, ~3.7 GPA
Type of Grad: Masters at a top 10-20 R1 
Grad GPA: 3.83
GRE:168 V, 163 Q, 6.0 W
Any Special Courses: No, but both BA and MA theses
Letters of Recommendation: I submitted 4. One was from a fairly big name in my subfield whose class I did very well in, one was from my thesis advisor whose class I also took. He is a quickly rising star in my subfield so not well known in the rest if the field. One was from the head of my subfield in our program + I took his class. One from a professor of divinity with whom I formed a good relationship and whose class I did extremely well in.  
Research Experience: BA thesis, MA thesis, international fieldwork, internships
Teaching Experience: 7 years private tutoring, 3 summers teaching at a camp for gifted youth, 1 year teaching at a religious school
Subfield/Research Interests: Political theory and environmental politics

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): University of British Columbia $$, CU-Boulder $$, Oregon $$
Waitlists: None.
Rejections: Hopkins, UPenn, Brown, Washington, Yale School of Forestry
Pending: None. 
Going to: UBC

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

Not a ton to add that hasn't been said honestly. The main thing is that fit matters. I didn't apply to many places in comparison to many other applicants (although I still applied to quite a few) because I only applied to places that had multiple people who I would be excited to work with and whose work matched my broad interests well. While the rejections  probably came down to a huge variety of factors, it is worth noting that, with the exception of Hopkins, none of them were as strong of a fit as the places where I was accepted. Admittedly not focusing on rank might not have been the best choice for future job prospects, but getting a PhD is about more than how much attention your CV gets when you're finished. 

Another main thing is just to be open minded when you go on visits and such. I went in fully convinced I would go to either CU Boulder or, if I had been accepted, Hopkins or Yale. Still, I decided to go on visits everywhere I was admitted and keep options open, and it paid off. I'll be going somewhere that I had applied to mostly on a whim, and it has an amazing fit, very generous funding package as far as public universities go, beautiful location, and good global reputation (I don't necessarily want to work in the US). 

 

SOP: I personalized mine a lot for particular schools and focused almost exclusively on past and future research. It included very little "fluff," biographical info, etc. Nothing special, but I was pretty pleased with it. 

Edited by as2472
formatting

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It's a little late, but at least one person here is identifiable given the information they provided. Please be careful with what you post in these kinds of results thread, especially when they refer to a combination of (veiled but obvious) undergraduate institutions, major fields of studies, and admitted schools. Those facts alone can allow grad students and faculties who are provided info on admits to narrow down the possibilities to one person. The forum has really strict deletion policies, so it can be hard to put the cat back in the bag if your account is attached to anything unseemly.

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On 4/16/2019 at 4:03 PM, throwaway999 said:

It's a little late, but at least one person here is identifiable given the information they provided. Please be careful with what you post in these kinds of results thread, especially when they refer to a combination of (veiled but obvious) undergraduate institutions, major fields of studies, and admitted schools. Those facts alone can allow grad students and faculties who are provided info on admits to narrow down the possibilities to one person. The forum has really strict deletion policies, so it can be hard to put the cat back in the bag if your account is attached to anything unseemly.

I personally don't consider this as an issue as long as people do not post inappropriate comments on schools/departments. 

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Hope this helps someone as much as posts from previous years helped me!

 

PROFILE:

 

Type of Undergrad Institution: Large public school on the West Coast

 

Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science and Anthropology

 

Undergrad GPA: 3.75ish, and a 3.9ish major GPA

 

Type of Grad: N/A

Grad GPA: N/A

 

GRE: 160Q, 170V, 5.5 Writing

 

Any Special Courses: If you count anthropology courses, plus two independent studies.

 

Letters of Recommendation: One from a professor at my undergraduate institution who is well-known in my subfield. He's been a great mentor to me, so I assume the letter was good. One from a respected scholar who was my boss at a think tank internship. And one from the professor who supervised my capstone undergraduate thesis.

 

Research Experience: 2 independent studies in undergrad, both research-extensive. Think ethnography.

 

Teaching Experience: If you count summer camps and volunteer trips. I did include them on my CV.

 

Subfield/Research Interests: 

Distributive politics (Comparative)

 

Other: I took math classes (single variable calc, multivariable, and linear algebra) but got straight C's in all of them. I think this was at best a wash as far as my applications were concerned. Maybe I got points for persistence in some places.

 

RESULTS:

 

Acceptances($$ or no $$): Ohio State $$, University of Maryland (UMD) $$, George Washington $$

 

Waitlists: UNC Chapel Hill, Duke

 

Rejections: A host of Ivies, MIT, Michigan

 

Going to: University of Maryland, College Park

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

Two things, basically. 

One was that math can badly hurt your chances. This is obviously a guess, but I assume that my straight C's in math were not a hit with admissions committees, especially at quant-oriented school.

The second thing is about rankings. I think Maryland is a great school, and I was very proud to get in. But I did think long and hard about going because of its 29th place ranking, since I heard so many warnings about the importance of attending a "Top 10" schools. If anyone is facing this same dilemma, feel free to contact me! (I do feel confident in my decision now.)

 

SOP: PM me! I was happy with it. I think that focusing on quite a niche topic worked well for me, and several professors at my accepted schools commented favorably on it.

Edited by dvxyzijil
Added details to the SOP section

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