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I completed my Master's degree in political science from CUNY Brooklyn with a 3.96 GPA, including writing a Master's thesis and an internship working for an NGO. However, as things stand I have been having trouble finding a fulfilling career. I am thinking about returning to pursue a PhD in political science, in hopes of becoming an academic and going into teaching. I would be especially inclined to pull the trigger on this if I can get a scholarship to a decent PhD program. However, I would need to take the GRE again, as it's been more than five years and my old score is no longer valid. 

In short, I'm wondering what people think about my prospects for a PhD program with my GPA? What kind of a GRE score would I need? I'm looking at programs at NYU, Columbia, and CUNY Graduate Center, and generally prefer to remain in New York, but I am open to relocating if an opportunity is too good to pass up.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Apologies if this is a bit vague, I can provide more details if it is helpful.

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Your GPA is fine, but since your undergrad institution isn't top-tier, you will need solid GREs (as well as the SOP, LORs, etc.) to get into schools like NYU and Columbia. The "precise" verbal/quant splits you'll need will depend on your research interests. In general for Poli Sci at these schools, you should aim for 165+ verbal reasoning (96th percentile), 162+ quantitative reasoning (80th percentile) and a minimum 4.5 analytical writing score (82d percentile). This will demonstrate that your grades aren't a result of institutional inflation. Since you have an internship and presumably some additional work experience, you have the makings of a good profile. One thing that you should keep in mind is that if you are set on moving into academia, you will have to let go of your preference to stay in New York. Admissions are a crapshoot to a large degree and even with a great profile you'll be lucky to get into wherever you get into. Where you get accepted (and tbh, where you should want to go) will largely be dependent on departmental fit, i.e. the presence of researchers at a department of interest who are doing work that interests you. A PhD isn't like a BA or an MA, where the institution doesn't really matter and things like location or social scene take precedence. It is an intensive process, the focus of which is producing academic research. On the bright side, almost all of the good programs will fully fund all or most of their PhD students.

If you are going to commit, then you are going to have to really commit. You will not succeed otherwise. This shouldn't be something you do on a whim because you are unhappy at your current job (and you are unlikely to succeed if this is your primary motivation). That being said, I bid you good luck, and it looks like you have a shot at building a good application profile based on the small amount of information that you have provided.

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I wanted to provide another perspective re: relocating. I went through the application process this past cycle and had similar geographic constraints. I'm in the DC area and only applied to schools that would allow me to commute from where I live. While not ideal, it's totally doable. You're lucky to live in a place that has several good options, so that's good news.

The good thing about having geographic constraints is that you can get to know the area schools really well so that you can get a feel for whether doing a PhD locally is realistic. So if you're serious about applying to local schools, take the opportunity now to meet local professors who do research in your area of interest, learn each school's strengths and weaknesses, visit the campus, talk to other grad students, etc. You might also consider stretching your geographic area to consider schools outside of Manhattan (for example, does is Rutgers a fit?). That might give you more options when it comes down to applying and acceptances.

Good luck!

Edited by amyvt98
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On 5/15/2019 at 5:24 PM, bhabhafk said:

Your GPA is fine, but since your undergrad institution isn't top-tier, you will need solid GREs (as well as the SOP, LORs, etc.) to get into schools like NYU and Columbia. The "precise" verbal/quant splits you'll need will depend on your research interests. In general for Poli Sci at these schools, you should aim for 165+ verbal reasoning (96th percentile), 162+ quantitative reasoning (80th percentile) and a minimum 4.5 analytical writing score (82d percentile). This will demonstrate that your grades aren't a result of institutional inflation. Since you have an internship and presumably some additional work experience, you have the makings of a good profile. One thing that you should keep in mind is that if you are set on moving into academia, you will have to let go of your preference to stay in New York. Admissions are a crapshoot to a large degree and even with a great profile you'll be lucky to get into wherever you get into. Where you get accepted (and tbh, where you should want to go) will largely be dependent on departmental fit, i.e. the presence of researchers at a department of interest who are doing work that interests you. A PhD isn't like a BA or an MA, where the institution doesn't really matter and things like location or social scene take precedence. It is an intensive process, the focus of which is producing academic research. On the bright side, almost all of the good programs will fully fund all or most of their PhD students.

If you are going to commit, then you are going to have to really commit. You will not succeed otherwise. This shouldn't be something you do on a whim because you are unhappy at your current job (and you are unlikely to succeed if this is your primary motivation). That being said, I bid you good luck, and it looks like you have a shot at building a good application profile based on the small amount of information that you have provided.

I mostly agree, especially about location, but think this guy's GRE recommendations are a little high. Anything 160/160 or higher is good enough to get into any program. Obviously the higher the better, but you're not going to get disqualified on the basis of GRE anywhere with a 160/160. 165 verbal is particularly high. I know multiple people who got into CHYMPS with less than a 165 verbal. 

NYU does really love high quant scores, though. 

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On 5/22/2019 at 12:24 PM, BunniesInSpace said:

I mostly agree, especially about location, but think this guy's GRE recommendations are a little high. Anything 160/160 or higher is good enough to get into any program. Obviously the higher the better, but you're not going to get disqualified on the basis of GRE anywhere with a 160/160. 165 verbal is particularly high. I know multiple people who got into CHYMPS with less than a 165 verbal. 

NYU does really love high quant scores, though. 

Yes, you're right that it's possible to get in with a 160/160, but it's not going to help your chances. Some schools like Stanford post their averages, which are close to the scores that I provided. I think that NYU says on their website that if your score is not in the 90th percentile, it's not considered an advantage (though it's not necessarily a disadvantage). The ~160/160 range is going to be somewhere around the 20th to 30th percentile for admits, so the other parts of your application better be stellar.

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Lmao at the NYU 90th percentile comment on their website. There's very little reason to believe that they only admit people with Q166s or higher (or make very few exceptions for people with under 166s). Take a look at this data which was scraped from the gradcafe results section: https://imgur.com/a/EuNTB . Obviously not a perfect sample but I believe that gradcafe skews neurotic (by this I mean more people who are obsessive about controllable factors GRE scores and GPA and subsequently have higher GRE and GPA than the overall pool). In fact, there is very strong reason to believe that these statistics skew high: looking at the verbal scores there's pretty much no way that the median verbal score for an admitted applicant is in the 97th percentile. 

For NYU the reported median Q for admitted students is 164, meaning half (likely more because of aforementioned skewing) of all admitted students are scoring below the 90th. Of enrolled students, that number is probably going to be lower as NYU loses a lot of the top students to CHYMPS. Same deal with Columbia. 

Even if you're not a fan of my somewhat-corrected statistics, we can look at some real data too. Duke (ranked higher than NYU and similar to Columbia) has theirs herehttps://gradschool.duke.edu/about/statistics/political-science-phd-admissions-and-enrollment-statistics 

  • Q GRE of entering student around 160 

I'm not trying to advocate in favor of aiming for a 160/160 and then quitting. By all means, everyone should put in a decent amount of effort to get the best score they can get. But if someone has given it their all and is hitting a wall at something like 163/163 or 161/166 or whatever, trying to get over that wall is going to be a waste of time. No one gets admitted on GRE scores alone -- from what I've seen, it's mostly used as a competency threshold.

Talking about the GREs this much probably makes it seem like a much bigger part of the application process than it really plays. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the best applicants tend to have high GRE scores, instead of the idea that high GRE scores are what make an applicant good. GRE scores will never get you into a program, they'll only disqualify you, and the bar for disqualification based on GRE scores is lower than we probably think. The most make-or-break factor is going to be the letters or the statement of purpose. 

 

Also the Stanford website never calls those numbers averages (nor does it call it any name denoting central tendency) and I don't believe it would be wise to treat them as such. The way they phrase it on the website makes it almost sound like those are minimums, which they absolutely are not, because literally all three of the people who reported accepted results on the gradcafe results page this year had at least one GRE aspect lower than what Stanford published. 

Anyways, in 2004-2006 the NRC collected GRE Q score data on political science programs. Here's the results:

Institution Name  Average GRE Scores,
2004-2006
         Corresponding New GRE
STANFORD UNIVERSITY 774.884 162
HARVARD UNIVERSITY 758.5 160
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY 757.576 160
YALE UNIVERSITY 753.208 159
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY 739.4 158
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-SAN DIEGO 738.71 158
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY 729.333 157
DUKE UNIVERSITY 728.936 157
MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 725.806 157
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES 721.429 156
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER 719.524 156
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS 719.5 156
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-ANN ARBOR 718.302 156
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY MAIN CAMPUS 718.116 156
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK 717.019 156
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT STONY BROOK 713.462 155
CORNELL UNIVERSITY 711.029 155
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 710.213 155
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY 708.864 155
RICE UNIVERSITY 707.895 155
BOSTON COLLEGE 705.333 155

 

Have things shifted in the last 15 years? Of course. Everything is more quant-driven now. A lot of programs have made their cohorts smaller. Admissions might be a little more competitive. But at the heart of it, even if every school increased its average Q GRE by three points (like Duke did), a low 160s would make you pretty much average anywhere that's not Stanford.  

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1 hour ago, BunniesInSpace said:

Lmao at the NYU 90th percentile comment on their website. There's very little reason to believe that they only admit people with Q166s or higher (or make very few exceptions for people with under 166s). Take a look at this data which was scraped from the gradcafe results section: https://imgur.com/a/EuNTB . Obviously not a perfect sample but I believe that gradcafe skews neurotic (by this I mean more people who are obsessive about controllable factors GRE scores and GPA and subsequently have higher GRE and GPA than the overall pool). In fact, there is very strong reason to believe that these statistics skew high: looking at the verbal scores there's pretty much no way that the median verbal score for an admitted applicant is in the 97th percentile. 

For NYU the reported median Q for admitted students is 164, meaning half (likely more because of aforementioned skewing) of all admitted students are scoring below the 90th. Of enrolled students, that number is probably going to be lower as NYU loses a lot of the top students to CHYMPS. Same deal with Columbia. 

Even if you're not a fan of my somewhat-corrected statistics, we can look at some real data too. Duke (ranked higher than NYU and similar to Columbia) has theirs herehttps://gradschool.duke.edu/about/statistics/political-science-phd-admissions-and-enrollment-statistics 

  • Q GRE of entering student around 160 

I'm not trying to advocate in favor of aiming for a 160/160 and then quitting. By all means, everyone should put in a decent amount of effort to get the best score they can get. But if someone has given it their all and is hitting a wall at something like 163/163 or 161/166 or whatever, trying to get over that wall is going to be a waste of time. No one gets admitted on GRE scores alone -- from what I've seen, it's mostly used as a competency threshold.

Talking about the GREs this much probably makes it seem like a much bigger part of the application process than it really plays. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the best applicants tend to have high GRE scores, instead of the idea that high GRE scores are what make an applicant good. GRE scores will never get you into a program, they'll only disqualify you, and the bar for disqualification based on GRE scores is lower than we probably think. The most make-or-break factor is going to be the letters or the statement of purpose. 

 

Also the Stanford website never calls those numbers averages (nor does it call it any name denoting central tendency) and I don't believe it would be wise to treat them as such. The way they phrase it on the website makes it almost sound like those are minimums, which they absolutely are not, because literally all three of the people who reported accepted results on the gradcafe results page this year had at least one GRE aspect lower than what Stanford published. 

Anyways, in 2004-2006 the NRC collected GRE Q score data on political science programs. Here's the results:

Institution Name  Average GRE Scores,
2004-2006
         Corresponding New GRE
STANFORD UNIVERSITY 774.884 162
HARVARD UNIVERSITY 758.5 160
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY 757.576 160
YALE UNIVERSITY 753.208 159
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY 739.4 158
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-SAN DIEGO 738.71 158
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY 729.333 157
DUKE UNIVERSITY 728.936 157
MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 725.806 157
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES 721.429 156
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER 719.524 156
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS 719.5 156
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-ANN ARBOR 718.302 156
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY MAIN CAMPUS 718.116 156
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK 717.019 156
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT STONY BROOK 713.462 155
CORNELL UNIVERSITY 711.029 155
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON 710.213 155
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY 708.864 155
RICE UNIVERSITY 707.895 155
BOSTON COLLEGE 705.333 155

 

Have things shifted in the last 15 years? Of course. Everything is more quant-driven now. A lot of programs have made their cohorts smaller. Admissions might be a little more competitive. But at the heart of it, even if every school increased its average Q GRE by three points (like Duke did), a low 160s would make you pretty much average anywhere that's not Stanford.  

I totally agree with you about the general importance of GRE, but its clear to me that for some schools it's a big deal and for others it's not. Same as the LSAT or any other standardized test, some schools see it as a better indicator of future success than GPA due to the fact that you don't have to control for variation across institutions.

Some of your numbers don't add up though. Firstly, I think that you're right to take the gradcafe results with a grain of salt, but you're pretty much lobbing off like 5 or 6 points from the average GREs posted on imgur. Secondly, the averages at Duke (per the link you provide) over the past 5 years are 164 V and 161 Q. That's a huge difference from 160/160, especially for the verbal. Again, if the rest of your application is good, then it's likely not a problem. However, if you have any other faults or they're trying to decide between comparable applicants, then you may be out of luck.

 

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1 hour ago, bhabhafk said:

 I totally agree with you about the general importance of GRE, but its clear to me that for some schools it's a big deal and for others it's not. Same as the LSAT or any other standardized test, some schools see it as a better indicator of future success than GPA due to the fact that you don't have to control for variation across institutions.

 Some of your numbers don't add up though. Firstly, I think that you're right to take the gradcafe results with a grain of salt, but you're pretty much lobbing off like 5 or 6 points from the average GREs posted on imgur. Secondly, the averages at Duke (per the link you provide) over the past 5 years are 164 V and 161 Q. That's a huge difference from 160/160, especially for the verbal. Again, if the rest of your application is good, then it's likely not a problem. However, if you have any other faults or they're trying to decide between comparable applicants, then you may be out of luck.

  

I'm curious what schools you think it's clear that the GRE is a big deal towards and for what schools it isn't (over other important factors like letters, of course). Having gone through the application process and done the rounds at admitted students day, and having read pretty much every thread here (because of course I'm a neurotic gradcafe type) on admissions results, I haven't formed any opinions on schools that care more or care less about the GRE. I mean of course Stanford and stuff will have higher GRE averages but pretty much everything about the profiles of those getting into H/P/S are going to be superb, but I can't pinpoint any school where I'd tell someone who isn't all around fantastic but has a perfect GRE score "hey, you'd have a good chance here." 

Also not trying to be too antagonistic, but I think the entire "oh no! we have two candidates that are exactly the same amount of good except one has a higher GRE score and we can only choose one" really never happens. There are so many other factors that are likely more important to the department (such as fit with the department, whether the people you want to work with are retiring before you'd finish the dissertation, the amount of people admitted into each subsubsubfield, whether someone on the adcom owes one of the letter writers a favor, not to mention stuff like writing sample and the letters) that are going to take precedent before they start squinting at GRE scores again. 

I mean, yeah sure a 160/160 isn't completely ideal and by all means, score higher if possible. Just know that the difference between 160V and 166V actually isn't statistically significant at the 95% level and admissions teams know this :P My interpretation of the 160/160 is that those are the scores you should at least have to think you have an somewhat realistic chance at a top 6 and to not get cut in the first round because of GRE score. These scores alone are absolutely not sufficient for admission (but neither is a 170/170). 155/155 (but over 320 composite) for the top 15. What I'd personally aim for is 165+/165+ for CHYMPS and about 162+/162+ for other top 15s, but I got into more than one CHYMPS even though I slightly fell short of my personal goal of 165/165. I feel like this distinction between what's good enough vs. what's ideal is probably what the two of us are disagreeing about when we define adequate scores. 

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