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bama124

Poli-Sci PhD China Security Focus Evaluation

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Hi all,

I am planning to apply in the next admissions cycle to a number of programs focused on security studies and modern China. I'm mainly just interested whether or not I'm competitive at these top programs that I'm applying for. I don't plan to attend if I am not accept to what would be considered a top-10 program in my field. 

If there is anything I should do over the next 10 months to make myself more competitive that would also be much appreciated. 

Admissions data 

BA: Political Science (w/honors) at a top-5 US university. Major GPA 3.8, General GPA 3.4. General and Departmental Honors. Also, not sure if this matters but one of the programs I'm applying for I also did my undergraduate work at. 

MA: Georgetown SFS, GPA 3.9, full fellowship

GRE: 165V/159Q/5.5 

Recs: Assume all stellar.

  • One will be a the Professor who I worked as a research assistant for one of the top practitioners in the field.
  • Another will be my undergraduate thesis advisor. 
  • Third unsure, likely a MA professor

Language: Mandarin professionally fluent

Softs: Spent the last 3 years living and working in China. Boren Scholar.

Writing Sample: Debating between updating my undergrad (honors) thesis or writing something interesting over the next 10 months. This will likely depend on whether or not I'm actually a competitive candidate. 

Targeted programs (in order to some extent): 

MIT - PoliSci (probably security studies focus)
Columbia - PoliSci
Harvard - Gov

UPenn - 
Princeton - WWS Security Studies
Cornell - 
Georgetown - 
UCSD - 
UChicago - 
NYU - 

 

Thanks!!

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I think overall your profile is really solid. However I am not quite sure about your choice of programs. Who are you gonna work with at Harvard? Two China scholars there are fantastic but they are both comparativists...as for MIT it should be noted that Tsai is shifting away from Chinese politics. Hou at UPenn and Yang at UChicago are also both comparativists and hardly do anything on security. 

Another potential concern is your GRE quant score although you could still very much prevail in IR by doing purely qualitative work (e.g. Abrahms and Greitens). 

Edited by SwaggyVeritas

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Thanks for replying!

 

MIT I was looking at Fravel and UPenn Goldstein. I do agree that at UChicago and Harvard there is no one purely China Security focused on my area, but Harvard has so many scholars focused on IR in other areas and top China comparative scholars and UChicago does have Mearsheimer... 

Are there obvious programs I'm missing? I've really just begun my search. 

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I'm not china-focused, but I applied this cycle with an explicit security studies interest/background and also approached the process only interested in top-10 programs. Harvard, Yale, and Columbia are all tbd, but I've had success with other programs and will most likely be at MIT in their security studies program in the fall. 

Happy to chat about the process and different schools - applying with a security studies focus can be tough given its sometimes awkward footing in U.S. political science, so I'm happy to help out where I can. Feel free to shoot me a message.

Re. above At Harvard, you'd probably want to work with Alastair Iain johnston. He is absolutely China security focused. At Chicago, I'd take a look into whether Mearsheimer is advising (he may be, but definitely worth finding out).

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If you have the time and resources, retake your GRE to boost your quant score. It's becoming less important (I got into one of your targeted programs with a quant score way lower than yours) but just from this post, this looks like a weak spot.

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On 2/21/2019 at 9:56 AM, mightyblue25 said:

I'm not china-focused, but I applied this cycle with an explicit security studies interest/background and also approached the process only interested in top-10 programs. Harvard, Yale, and Columbia are all tbd, but I've had success with other programs and will most likely be at MIT in their security studies program in the fall. 

Happy to chat about the process and different schools - applying with a security studies focus can be tough given its sometimes awkward footing in U.S. political science, so I'm happy to help out where I can. Feel free to shoot me a message.

Re. above At Harvard, you'd probably want to work with Alastair Iain johnston. He is absolutely China security focused. At Chicago, I'd take a look into whether Mearsheimer is advising (he may be, but definitely worth finding out).

Mearsheimer is still taking on students

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Seems like a very solid resume for these apps. I'd second to work on your quant GRE. Worth retaking given the amount of time and just giving them fewer reasons to veto. Once they're winnowing from 100 to the final 35 or so, I think they probably just look for some reason to cut people and having as few reasons as possible is the dream. Otherwise, focus on SOP. That and letters are the thing that seem to actually get people in (or out), and from what I've heard from professors, they are often under-developed, even from otherwise very competitive applicants. You'll see quite a few people on the results thread railing about getting rejected from top-15s despite their excellent GPA/GRE/undergrad-rank stats, but they forget that lots of people have those things and the SOP and letters are the decision-makers. 

Mearsheimer is still taking students, but you may want to make sure there are backups for your interests. Chicago has some other solid younger quant-security people (thinking specifically of Paul Poast and Austin Carson) but I'm not a China person, so can't speak to any of that.

I'm also doing security-adjacent things and also did the whole 'top-10 applications only' type thing, if you'd like to chat. Not sure I can offer too many pearls of wisdom, but can pass on what professors told me to think about.

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