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On 3/3/2020 at 4:30 PM, Paulcg87 said:

Difficult to say. I've met Georgetown PhD's who go from postdoc to postdoc and can't get anything, and others who are rock stars. Georgetown and JHU are fantastic schools, as are Berkeley, Harvard, Penn, and a number of other top 20 schools I did not mention. But without the pedigree of the Columbia/Harvard/Yale/MIT/Princeton/Stanford (CHYMPS) name behind you, you need to have some stellar credentials whether you want a job in Canada or the US. The same goes for UT, McGill and UBC. They don't have the prestige of the CHYMPS and they probably never will. They also can't compete with the CHYMPS in terms of quant/methodology training. I don't think anyone could argue otherwise. But they do give you solid training, just like Georgetown and JHU. If you have strong credentials (published, relevant research, excellent recommendations/references, etc), I would argue you have about an even chance of getting a tenure track job in Canada if you're at Georgetown/JHU or UBC/McGill/UT and you're also already a Canadian citizen/PR. My point earlier was that top-40 is way too broad and the lower end of the top-40 can't compete against UBC/McGill/UT within Canada. If everyone in the US top-40 is more competitive than the Canadian top-3, you would not see any faculty anywhere in Canada from top-3 Canadian schools, which is simply not accurate. Outside of the US top 10, the Canadian top 3 have the next largest presence in Canadian polisci faculty. 

You got the CHYMPS wrong. Its Cal Berkeley Harvard Yale Michigan Princeton Stanford 

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Excited to get to post this finally! I was going to post earlier, but figured it was better to wait until I was officially decided. Also if you count the Columbia MA acceptance I technically got the C

PROFILE: Type of Undergrad Institution: Big state school Major(s)/Minor(s): IR Undergrad GPA: 3.6 Type of Grad: N/A Grad GPA: N/A GRE: 162v/147q/4.5aw Any Special Courses: Two methods courses, one on 

Hello everyone! As lots of schools have sent out decisions, I think it’s time to start this thread for the application cycle 2020. I believe everyone has his/her unique story to tell and I hope more p

25 minutes ago, Pol22222 said:

You got the CHYMPS wrong. Its Cal Berkeley Harvard Yale Michigan Princeton Stanford 

I guess that’s subjective because I went to MIT and everyone there says the M is for MIT. Personally I couldn’t care less. 

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2 hours ago, BunniesInSpace said:

For undergrad yeah the M is for MIT but Michigan is unanimously (niche subfields aside) stronger in political science PhDs. It's not subjective. 

Mmmkay. Thanks BunniesInSpace. 

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On 2/26/2020 at 12:38 AM, ChooseHappily said:

Sure, I can update this as I hear back.

 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Big Ten
Major(s)/Minor(s): BA Political science, BS Molecular Biology
Undergrad GPA: 3.63
Type of Grad: ivy league, public health masters
Grad GPA: 3.9
GRE: V162/Q163/AWA5
Any Special Courses: n/a
Letters of Recommendation: job supervisor, research supervisor, joint letter from two professors
Research Experience: applied research, no publications
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: climate migration
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): The New School ($$)
Waitlists: Princeton
Rejections: Brown, MIT, NYU, Harvard
Pending: Tufts
Going to:

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Find a way to make learning about researchers interesting, then follow those threads - for me, podcasts... but I started listening only after my applications were in

2. Connect with current PhD students at schools you're interested in to learn if the environment is right for you - email them and ask for a conversation

3. Don't underestimate yourself, try even if you think it's a long shot

updating again. New lesson learned:

4. Questions to ask current PhD students when vetting programs: What is your typical day like? Where do you go for help with (funding, advice, editing/reading)? Is your advisor hands on or hands off? What professors should I talk to who might be important contacts for my subject? Is the research applied? How do you find leads for research collaborations? Do you like living/working there? What do you do for fun/relaxation? What if I wanted to study 'X', do you think I would be able to do that?

5. Don't apply to programs that aren't good fits - meaning that don't have faculty that make sense for you. It's a waste of money and anxiety.

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On 2/15/2020 at 7:19 PM, IRTphd915 said:

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution:  small unranked state school
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political science 
Undergrad GPA: 3.5
First MA: SEC School GPA: 4.0

Second MA:Top 60 Political Science program (also SEC)- left PhD program after 2 years for personal reasons GPA: 3.85


GRE: first time V159/Q153/AWA5 second time V161/Q151/AWA5


Letters of Recommendation: 3 really good letters from well-published academics 


Research Experience: 1 sole authored publication in a good (not great) academic journal; 1 work in progress; 5 conference presentations


Teaching Experience: TA for 5 semesters; Instructor of American Government for 3 semesters 


Subfield/Research Interests: IR/CP

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): University of California, Irvine $$, University of Georgia ($$ - funding info to come), Arizona State University $$, University of Nebraska $$
Waitlists: Indiana University (fully funded if offered a spot)
Rejections: Rice, Vanderbilt 
Pending: University of Oklahoma

 

PROFILE:

Type of Undergrad Institution:  small unranked state school

Major: Political science 

Undergrad GPA: 3.5

First MA: SEC School GPA: 4.0 Second MA:Top 60 Political Science program (also SEC)- left PhD program after 2 years for personal reasons GPA: 3.85

GRE: first time V159/Q153/AWA5 second time V161/Q151/AWA5

Letters of Recommendation: 3 really good letters from well-published academics 

Research Experience: 1 sole authored publication in a good (not great) academic journal; 1 work in progress; 5 conference presentations

Teaching Experience: TA for 5 semesters; Instructor of American Government for 3 semesters

Subfield/Research Interests: IR/CP


RESULTS:

Acceptances($$ or no $$): Indiana University $$ University of California, Irvine $$, University of Georgia ($$ - funding info to come), Arizona State University $$, University of Nebraska $$

Rejections: Vanderbilt, Rice, Oklahoma

Going to: Indiana University 

 

Suggestion (copying and pasting one of my comments from another post): If you decide to contact a potential adviser, make sure your email is worth their while. Don't waste their time by saying how much their work interests you and that you'd love to work with them on some unstated future research project. What I did was contact potential advisors and asked if they could provide feedback on an original research idea related to their work. I put a lot of thought into these research ideas (e.g., I showed that I had a grasp of the previous lit, provided a well thought out argument with hypotheses as well as alternative hypotheses). All except one replied very quickly and expressed enthusiastically that they were interested in providing feedback, and indeed were very insightful about how to think about the causal mechanims involved, other possible ways I could approach the research question and what new literature (or important works that I did not mention) I should read. After having an in-depth discussion, I then said that I was interested in the program and that I may apply and that I would enjoy working with them in the program. One of the profs I contacted told me to mention her name in the application and that she would put in a good word for me (I recieved a fully funded offer from that school). I had a detailed discussion with a prof from another department who thinks my research is promising, but that program rejected me. I didn't contact any of the faculty at IU and still received (and accepted) a fully funded offer from them. So, it may or may not help to contact potential advisors, but it certainly doesn't hurt you. At the very least, you will be seen by your potential future advisor as someone who's very serious about research.

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Ivy liberal arts college
Major(s)/Minor(s): BA Political science
Undergrad GPA: 3.71
Type of Grad: Ivy law school
Grad GPA: 3.41 (that's honors in law school, just as a comparison point; obviously wouldn't be great for a grad program!)
GRE: V170/Q160/AWA6
Any Special Courses: n/a
Letters of Recommendation: well-known poli sci professor who I RA'd for, poli sci professor who advised my thesis, joint letter from two law professors
Research Experience: quantitative thesis, RA for well-known poli sci prof, research intern at top think tank, RA for two law school profs
Teaching Experience: TA in both UG and law school
Subfield/Research Interests: AP

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): UCLA ($$), UCSD ($$), USC ($$), UCI ($$), UCSB ($$) 
Rejections: UC Berkeley, Stanford
Going to: UCSD

 LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Reach out to professors to learn about their research and get a sense for how open they are to grad students.

2. Talk to as many current PhD candidates as you can to get a sense of the culture/environment of the school.

3. Don't be scared of being a "different" candidate -- it can make you stand out if anything.

 

If you're someone who is making a career change and want to chat, feel free to reach out!

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: continental Europe
Major(s)/Minor(s): BA in humanities
Undergrad GPA:
Type of Grad: Europe & US 
Grad GPA:
GRE: V167/Q157/AWA4.5
Any Special Courses: n/a
Letters of Recommendation: 2 US profs, 1 European prof, most were probably lukewarm at best 
Research Experience: none 
Teaching Experience: none
Subfield/Research Interests: CP/IR

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): 2 15-25 ranked US schools ($$ & $$$) and 2 top Canadian schools ($$)
Rejections: variety of top 15 schools
Going to: idk????? very difficult decision because the job market looks very scary. 

 LESSONS LEARNED:

1. My major %&$! up was that i really underestimated time I would need for GREs and generally for the application. So advice no. 1 - START PREPARING NOW :) Write up first drafts of your writing sample and SoP and revise, revise, revise.

2. Take additional courses in maths, econ or similar if you can. Especially if you did not take them. This was told to me by a renowned polisci prof. I did not take these courses because of the time limits and personal situation and that might have disqualified me (together with quite weak GRE quant) at some better places :(

3. "Don't be scared of being a "different" candidate -- it can make you stand out if anything." >> I second this. 

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution:  Private
Major(s)/Minor(s): International Relations
Undergrad GPA: 3.4
Type of Grad: Public University in Netherlands - Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Grad GPA: 8.0/10 on Dutch scale - around an A on American scale
GRE: 161V, 148Q, 5.0 AW
Any Special Courses: none
Letters of Recommendation: Yes 
Research Experience: 3 years
Teaching Experience: yes
Subfield/Research Interests: Conflict Studies, Security Studies, Russia
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): Colorado State University $$, George Mason $$
Waitlists: CU Boulder, University of Denver
Rejections: George Washington University, Yale
Pending: Georgetown (but that's obviously not happening)
Going to: Colorado State University 

Lessons & advice:

Retake the GRE again. I didn't think the scores would really matter if you had research experience but looking at everyone else's scores in retrospect, I would have taken it at least to improve my quantitative score. Advice: get a good score and actually spend the time preparing (I did not)

Reach out to professors of universities earlier! I didn't think to reach out to professors and instead just researched schools and didn't do the personalized focus of getting one-on-one meetings with POI's whose work I found interesting. Advice: Reach out to students, professors and anyone at the schools you are interested in. Are they happy in their programs? Is it worth it? 

Would have applied to more safety schools and more schools that fit my interests. I focused too much on the top 50 list. Russia is generally a pretty hot topic these days so I kind of assumed that most schools would have a focus in it at some level - but if I had to do it again, I would look for the best Russian programs and looked for schools that maybe weren't as well known to ensure that I had more options. Advice: Look more broadly than just the popular schools and their programs. 

Visit campuses. Being international made that quite difficult, but in retrospect, I would have planned one large trip to meet with people and see the campuses and living areas if possible. It would have made my decision and my schools to apply to easier to narrow down. 

Explain my graduate GPA better. I don't know this for a fact but I suspect that what disqualified me for some schools was that my GPA looks low from an American perspective. If you're going to the US and applying for a PhD program, convert your grades to the American GPA level. Even though an 8 is perceived as a really good grade in the Netherlands, in the US, it reads like an 80% which isn't good. Advice: Make sure you target your CV and add explanations to your applications to make sure that your grades and GPA are presented in the most accurate light possible. 

Stop stressing so much. Stop checking Gradcafe and application websites so much that they become your most visited sites. It's not worth it :) The acceptances and rejections will come when they come. 

 

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: R1 Big state school
Major(s)/Minor(s): BS Political Science, minor in Economics 
Undergrad GPA: 3.2
Type of Grad: n/a
Grad GPA: n/a
GRE: V162/Q168/AWA4.5
Any Special Courses: computer science and advanced math coursework, advanced research methods 
Letters of Recommendation: one professor who's my research adviser, professor who's the head my my undergraduate thesis program, professor who taught my methods class 
Research Experience: independent undergraduate research and a senior thesis, department award for top undergrad research paper
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: American, political methodology
Other: Started school as a computer science major so my math and coding skills are above average 

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): Princeton $$, TAMU $$, Emory $$, URochester $$, WUSTL $$, NYU $$
Waitlists:
Rejections: Harvard, Stanford, UCSD, UNC- Chapel Hill
Pending: 
Going to:

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Fit and research matters more than your numbers 

2. Talk to as many faculty members as you can about where you're thinking of applying, what their experiences were like (esp. if they went to a program you're interested in)

3. Apply to schools even if you question if you have a shot; PhD admissions are unpredictable and mildly arbitrary sometimes 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Excited to get to post this finally! I was going to post earlier, but figured it was better to wait until I was officially decided. Also if you count the Columbia MA acceptance I technically got the CHYMPS Infinity Gauntlet of PhD acceptance 😆

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Large Private & Religious
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science/Africana Studies
Undergrad GPA: 3.94
Type of Grad: N/A 
Grad GPA: N/A
GRE: V169/Q164/AWA6.0
Any Special Courses: R/Stata coding courses, Quantitative Methods, Data Visualization, Game Theory, Senior Capstone course
Letters of Recommendation: Undergrad professor I TA'ed for, undergrad professor who I did research with, & former manager/colleague with PhD in Politics from Princeton at my current survey research job (all of my LOR writers went to good Poli Sci programs and are pretty well respected/published from what I can tell)
Research Experience: Senior capstone seminar paper, field research in Africa (original survey) w/ solo-authored publication in undergraduate journal, data analysis/visualization projects on 1) corn subsidies and 2) game theory analysis of presidential cabinet picks at undergraduate research conference, research assistant World Economic Forum survey (for my current company), MPSA presentation on gendered presentation of primary candidates (survey experiment adapted from mentor's previous work) which served as my writing sample, 2.5 years as a project manager/survey research specialist at well known company
Teaching Experience: 3 semesters TA for poli sci research/writing methods course, 2 semesters TA for game theory course, 1 semester TA for quantitative methods/coding course 
Subfield/Research Interests: gender, surveys, experiments, voting behavior/elections, Sub-Saharan Africa, political psych
Other: 2 years of Swahili in undergrad, some awards/scholarships/academic honors relating to Poli Sci

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): Harvard $$, Stanford $$, Princeton $$, Yale $$, Michigan $$, UC Berkeley $$, UCSD $$, NYU $$, UCLA $$, OSU $$, UW-Madison $$, Cornell $$, UC-Davis $$, Penn $$, WUSTL $$, UM-Twin Cities $$, Stony Brook $$, Columbia MA (no $$)
Waitlists: UT-Austin
Rejections: Northwestern, MIT, Columbia PhD, Vanderbilt (also for future applicants, Duke was not accepting PhD applications this year, so we were all rejected by Duke haha)
Pending: None
Going to: Stanford!

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. I got lucky in that I only had to take the GRE once. I think I had a Slumdog Millionaire-esque experience where I just happened to know certain words/answers from weird experiences in my life/schooling. Or I had just gone over a similar math problem the week before. That is to say, I'm not really sure I could replicate those scores again. But one bit of advice I followed is to get the GRE out of the way early. This serves two purposes: it allows you to focus on the other aspects of your application, and it gives you enough time to re-take it if you want a better score. I found taking practice GREs was really helpful! 

2. One of my work colleagues who got a PhD in Political Science put it really well: "Success in grad school applications requires both a great profile and luck. Both are necessary, but neither alone is sufficient." While I hit on the right points (good GRE scores/GPA, research experience, good SOP, helpful LORs, interesting writing sample, etc.), the "crapshoot" aspect of applications worked in my favor in ways that were out of my control, just like how they can work against you in ways that are out of your control. For example, at many of the Top 10 programs I got into, they had just hired 1-2 new faculty members with interests that aligned very well with my own. At some schools, they had just had a few grad students finish up and now had more openings with advisors that fit my interests. Again, I doubt I could replicate quite this level of success any other year (though I'm sure I would have received a few good T20 offers most years?). So don't beat yourself up or hype yourself up too much; the R-squared is still pretty low ;). 

3. Working for a few years after undergrad did wonders for me (and not just financially). Foremost, it allowed me to experience non-academic life (and the paycheck/lifestyle that goes with it). When it came time to apply (and subsequently give that all up), I knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD because it's what I really wanted, not just because it seemed like a good next step. I used to think that not going immediately to a grad program right out of undergrad was a weakness in my application. I actually heard the exact opposite from the adcomm members -- my 2-ish years of industry experience showed I was serious about grad school (you don't leave tech jobs for just anything haha). Additionally, I picked up some other skills during my job that would have been weaker/non-existent coming straight out of undergrad.

4. Grad students are a better resource than faculty for deciding between programs. This largely has to do with incentives. You're potential cheap labor to faculty, so they have an incentive to put the program's best foot forward, whereas grad students can just tell it like it is and won't be affected by your decision. When it came to deciding between Harvard and Stanford, for instance, grad student perspectives led me to decide Stanford was a better fit. This isn't to say faculty "vibes" don't matter -- they do. And in fact, faculty can help you decide between programs -- I talked to a lot of faculty teaching at School X who went to School Y and did a post-doc at School Z who gave me insights into each school that were very helpful in my decision making process.

5. Echoing point #1, start EARLY. I made a comprehensive spreadsheet about a year before applying to determine fit, cost of living, etc. I contacted faculty early to get research written and presented, confirm they could write me letters, go over my application, etc. That way, when applications open, you're focused mainly on the actual steps of applying (and paying) for applications rather than scrambling to get materials together ON TOP of actually applying. This will both reduce stress and likely improve the quality of your SOP, writing sample, etc. Also keep in mind this all takes time and diligence. I made myself spent at least a few hours each week filling out the spreadsheet (parsing through CVs and websites takes awhile).

6. My writing sample was something that seemed to impress the adcomm/faculty of interest. Doing original research, especially the kind where you do your own data collection (where applicable of course), seems to be the cherry on top that can take a great application to an "irresistible" one. It's a strong signaling device to indicate your readiness for and likelihood to succeed in grad school. That being said, don't let other aspects of your application suffer just to make your writing sample better. We're all constrained in different ways. 

7. In re to the SOP: Fit matters. Everyone who has gone through this process will tell you that, so I won't go into it too much here. I do want to discuss how you signal fit in your SOP (which I'll talk more about below). The point of the SOP is not to show a super narrow research interest or to show how you'll change the world or how passionate you are about political science. The first point will likely make you an ill fit everywhere but 1-2 institutions (a numbers game you likely don't want to play!), and the latter two points are something you can show in how you craft the SOP (e.g. talking about how/why you were compelled by a certain topic, your academic trajectory, etc.), but they aren't the main point and aren't something original compared to the typical applicant. Rather, the main point of the SOP is to 1) show that you know what political science is about and 2) show you can come up with good research questions. You should show that you have an interest in certain political phenomena plus a method/region as applicable (for me that was experiments/Sub-Saharan Africa) and talk about your work generally as well as what you envision it to (again, generally) be in the future.

A huge help to me was thinking of a Venn Diagram i.e. I am interested in gender, voting behavior/elections, Sub-Saharan Africa, and experiments, so I am interested in exploring questions like X, Y, and Z by employing a field experiment/survey experiment/whatever. Think of it as a "map" that both explains your past (how you got interested in XYZ, how you've explored questions in political science in the past) and your future (a roadmap showing how your research will likely look re XYZ). Because most programs require or optionally allow you to add a CV/resume, listing out what's already on the resume won't do you many favors. Mention accomplishments/background when it's relevant to what you're writing. Feel free to add in some things in your concluding paragraph that show grad school readiness (e.g. Through my background in X, training in Y, and research experience in Z, I am well positioned to contribute to questions regarding yada yada and well prepared for rigorous training at the graduate level). Another good thing to signal is that you know a PhD is about becoming an academic/why you're compelled to be an academic (hint: it's to do research regarding XYZ). 

8. Have people look over your materials. Ask for critiques. Keep in mind what critiques are qualified and which are not (e.g. my husband doesn't do Political Science, so he isn't well qualified to go over research methods in my writing sample, but he can critique my grammar/wording in my SOP). 

9. I applied to a lot of schools. This is in part to do with my family circumstances (when applying, I had a 3 year old and was pregnant with another) and is in part to do with imposter syndrome. I really went into this thinking my "yield" would be a lot lower than it was in reality (e.g. 3-4 acceptances with MAYBE 1 T10 versus the 17-18 with 7 T10 I got). While having this many great offers was a good problem to have, it was still a problem (20 emails a day at some points, a lot of "wasted" money of applications, some hate on this forum for "being greedy" even though I, a single human, can only fill one spot and programs know how to manage waitlists, etc.). That being said, applying broadly is a good idea because while the crapshoot worked in my favor this go around, it could have done the opposite another year. I usually hear 8-10 programs is a common number to apply to, especially for childless folks. 

10. Play your cards in whatever way sits right with you. I've heard conflicting advice on what to reveal in SOPs, diversity statements, talks with faculty after admission offers, etc. As a mother, this was something I agonized over regarding my family situation. I personally decided to give my letter writers the go ahead to include some aspects if they wanted but did not expect them to. I didn't mention it in my SOP or diversity statement, though I did mention some aspects of my background in my diversity statements (e.g. first gen, grew up in less than ideal physical/emotional circumstances, etc.). Also, some applications ask where else you're applying. They often only allow you to say a certain number (e.g. 5-7 other schools), so I usually just put the ones I was a little more interested in/thought I had a decent chance of getting an offer in terms of fit. I'm not sure how much this disclosure affected my admissions, if at all. But don't feel pressured to say anything you aren't comfortable with. What you decide to reveal about your personal life is up to you, and you shouldn't feel ashamed either way you decide to go. 

11. This forum has a lot of knowledge -- I'd suggest spending some time looking over the posts from the last 4-6 years. It really helped me out in understanding the nature of grad school applications. I hope I'm adding something useful to it!

 

SOP

You can DM me, and I'll consider sending the full thing. But below is basically how I structured it (my SOP seemed pretty darn important to the adcomm FWIW). I'll try to keep it generic enough it could act as something of a template/example for the average applicant. I think this format works well, though I've seen great SOPs that follow a more timeline approach as well. (Also my SOP was pretty polished by the time it was done; the below paragraphs are not. 😆)

 

Paragraph 1 (Introduction) :
Statement about what I find interesting. Statement about a few projects that show I am interested in Poli Sci research regarding ABC that now has morphed into an interest in XYZ, which I want to study professionally. Statement about how I've prepared in methods, research experiences, jobs, etc. to train for an academic career. Sentence that outlines the 3 key areas (XYZ) of interest to me and how these interests and my preparation underlie my decision to pursue a PhD at UNIVERSITY NAME. 

Paragraph 2 (Interest in X) : 
Where this interest comes from. Background on work I've done regarding interest X. Accomplishments in association with research regarding interest X (keep in mind to weave in accomplishments as fits, not just list them -- that's what your resume/CV in for!). How previous work on interest X led to more work on interest X. Info on specific aspects of new project on interest X and presenting at MPSA on interest X. How I would like to study interest X in grad school (give some examples of general questions, e.g. I want to study how A affects B as well as how C affects A, etc.). 

Paragraph 3 (Interest in Y) :
Experience regarding interest Y and courses. How this training/knowledge lays the groundwork for further inquiry and why this kind of work is important to political science. Specific interests in Y with some specifically in relation to interest X and a few questions I have that I would like to answer and contribute to the literature.

Paragraph 4 (Interest in Z) :
Statement saying how I'd like to employ method Z to study questions relating to X and Y. How current job and training and exposure have refined my skills and interest regarding Z. Example of how I did some stuff regarding Z. Examples of areas of method Z that I would like to keep working on in the future (show eagerness to gain new skills, even if harder, in order to better answer questions). Statement showing I recognize that other methods are great and useful and that I've had experience employing them but that I really like using method Z because it provides benefits A & B and is well positioned to answer the questions I have about interests X & Y. In some of these, I would point out a few faculty who are super good at method Z and how I'd love to learn from them (with my fingers crossed they were on the adcomm and were flattered haha). Statement regarding how I want to keep learning new methods so that I'm even better at answering questions re X & Y. 

Paragraph 5 (Conclusion) : 
Statement saying that through the intersection of X, Y, and Z, I'm well positioned to answer questions like A & B. Sentence outlining how my undergrad training and current job have given me good skills to succeed in PhD training. How my job gave me skills to manage research projects and to do research well and learn new methods. Some aspects of my resume (e.g. being Managing Editor of an undergrad social science journal for 2 years, publishing in another undergrad journal, presenting at conferences, etc.) and how these prepared me to do work and have helped me understand that research is difficult. Statement about how I enjoy research both solo and with others and how I want a PhD program that allows for these opportunities but also is rigorous. Closing statement saying how my drive and abilities make me excited to train at UNIVERSITY and a good fit at UNIVERSITY. 

 

Note: I may not be on the forum as much after this, but I'll try to check periodically. I'm happy to discuss applications, especially if you have a spouse and/or kids tagging along like I do (as that can really affect decisions). Thank you to my fellow applicants this cycle; it was great to have the support! Shoutout to @Dwar for spearheading a lot of discussion and contributing a ton! 

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Small Liberal Arts College (#64 in US News)
Major(s)/Minor(s): Philosophy, Classics
Undergrad GPA: 3.7
Type of Grad:
Grad GPA: 
GRE: V165/Q163/AWA4.5
Any Special Courses: n/a
Letters of Recommendation: Three professors, One went to the similar program as I was applying
Research Experience: Senior Thesis
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: Political Theory (Ancient and Early Modern)
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): Michigan State University ($$), Claremont Graduate University ($$), Boston College, University of Dallas
Waitlists:
Rejections: Harvard, Notre Dame, UT Austin
Pending:
Going to: Michigan State University

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Try to connect with the professors you are interested to work with at the graduate school. I found out that one of the professors at the graduate school went to the same small undergraduate college as mine and we had very fruitful conversations over the phone.

2. Ask the professors who can really vouch for you to write recommendation letters. One of my professors went to the same program I was applying to (even same subfield) and she was impressed with me in class. It is especially important when you go to a small college.

Edited by central dogma
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On 4/17/2020 at 12:22 AM, sloth_girl said:

"Success in grad school applications requires both a great profile and luck. Both are necessary, but neither alone is sufficient."

I just wanted to agree with this statement whole heartedly. A great profile will get you past the door, but it's the luck that gets you an offer. Personally, I think the luck factor is the larger of the two, but honestly it varies from person to person and school to school and even year to year. 

I also want to congratulate you on an awesome cycle! I have spent the last two years or so on this site and honestly I think you are the most successful candidate that I've seen on here!

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4 hours ago, Dwar said:

I just wanted to agree with this statement whole heartedly. A great profile will get you past the door, but it's the luck that gets you an offer. Personally, I think the luck factor is the larger of the two, but honestly it varies from person to person and school to school and even year to year. 

I also want to congratulate you on an awesome cycle! I have spent the last two years or so on this site and honestly I think you are the most successful candidate that I've seen on here!

Thank you @Dwar! I wish you the best of luck, and I hope the info I've posted helps out future applicants! This forum really did give me a lot of help in preparing to apply. 

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5 hours ago, Dwar said:

I just wanted to agree with this statement whole heartedly. A great profile will get you past the door, but it's the luck that gets you an offer. Personally, I think the luck factor is the larger of the two, but honestly it varies from person to person and school to school and even year to year. 

I also want to congratulate you on an awesome cycle! I have spent the last two years or so on this site and honestly I think you are the most successful candidate that I've seen on here!

Yep--just chiming in to echo this! At the places I got into, I was told that I just happened to align with what the faculty are currently working on/fit their specific need for this cycle. And, even then, there's a large luck component (I didn't get into other programs where I thought I matched well with the faculty's research interests). I think it's essential to thoroughly examine how your interests merge with faculty's and to apply widely (as one's mileage can vary significantly cycle to cycle). I wish everyone the best of luck for the fall!

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PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts college
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science/Philosophy double major
Undergrad GPA: 3.5
Type of Grad: Top university in the UK
Grad GPA: Equivalent of about a 3.7
GRE: V160/Q153/AWA5.0
Any Special Courses: n/a
Letters of Recommendation: Three professors that know me very well
Research Experience: Three theses in my undergrad. Master's thesis. 
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: Political Theory 
Other: Minor subfield IR

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): The Ohio State University, Brandeis University ($$), The University of British Columbia ($$)
Waitlists:
Rejections: Brown, Northwestern, Berkeley, Irvine, UChicago, Toronto, Johns Hopkins
Pending:
Going to: University of British Columbia

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Fit!!!!!

2. Find something to distract you during the waiting stage. It is long and you might not hear back until the very end. Don't check your email (or grad cafe) a million times a day.

3. Put a lot of work into your SOP. It matters more than GRE scores/past grades. Also, tailor each SOP to the school you are applying to. 

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1 hour ago, decisions1234 said:

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts college
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science/Philosophy double major
Undergrad GPA: 3.5
Type of Grad: Top university in the UK
Grad GPA: Equivalent of about a 3.7
GRE: V160/Q153/AWA5.0
Any Special Courses: n/a
Letters of Recommendation: Three professors that know me very well
Research Experience: Three theses in my undergrad. Master's thesis. 
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: Political Theory 
Other: Minor subfield IR

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): The Ohio State University, Brandeis University ($$), The University of British Columbia ($$)
Waitlists:
Rejections: Brown, Northwestern, Berkeley, Irvine, UChicago, Toronto, Johns Hopkins
Pending:
Going to: University of British Columbia

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Fit!!!!!

2. Find something to distract you during the waiting stage. It is long and you might not hear back until the very end. Don't check your email (or grad cafe) a million times a day.

3. Put a lot of work into your SOP. It matters more than GRE scores/past grades. Also, tailor each SOP to the school you are applying to. 

Congrats! UBC was my undergrad alma mater. You'll love it there. If you decide to live off campus, I highly recommend Kitsilano. Kerrisdale is also nice but not as young/fun as Kits. PM me if you need any help with getting to know the area :)

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On 4/21/2020 at 11:33 AM, Paulcg87 said:

Congrats! UBC was my undergrad alma mater. You'll love it there. If you decide to live off campus, I highly recommend Kitsilano. Kerrisdale is also nice but not as young/fun as Kits. PM me if you need any help with getting to know the area :)

Thanks so much! I will definitely look into that. Applying for on campus housing first!

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1 hour ago, decisions1234 said:

Thanks so much! I will definitely look into that. Applying for on campus housing first!

I lived in on-campus housing myself for the first year of undergrad at UBC. It's nice, and it's a beautiful campus with access to some great views and beaches. Also, are you a runner? If so, one of my favourite events every year is "The Longest Day" road race, which is on the UBC campus. It's a 5K/10K road race through the campus, in the evening, usually on (or close to) the longest day of the year. I've been doing it since I was an undergrad about ten years ago; usually they get a few hundred runners including a lot of students and it's so much fun! I expect it will be postponed this year but keep it in mind if you're interested. https://www.thunderbirdstrack.org/longest-day-road-race

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  • 2 months later...

Hi All,
Sorry that I’m really late to the game here.  But, better late than never.  Thought I’d post this, as this site did help me a good deal during the application process.  Best of luck to you all.  I’ll probably check Gradcafe occasionally over the next several years, so feel free to PM if you have any questions (but it might take me a while to respond).    

 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts college
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science
Undergrad GPA: 3.3
Type of Grad: Top American public policy MA
Grad GPA: 3.8
GRE: V160/Q152/AWA5.0
Any Special Courses: Econometrics, American Foreign Policy, Quant Methods, Numerous IR courses
Letters of Recommendation: Three professors from grad school, all knew me very well, including one from a historian (two others were political scientists, although one worked primarily in law).
Research Experience: Master’s thesis, RA work for two years of grad school, including full-time RA work over summer for a very well-known professor in the field; no publications. 
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: International Relations, Security Studies 
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): University of Minnesota ($$), Cornell University ($$)
Waitlists:
Rejections: MIT, HKS, Princeton WWS PhD, UVA, GW, Georgetown, Duke University Sanford School, Columbia, UChicago
Pending:
Going to: University of Minnesota

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. First things first: fit matters.  Everyone has said it, but I’ll repeat it.  Not every school or even most schools will have two or three professors working on issues you want to study.  Think carefully about where you want to apply and what professors at that school could advise you.  You don’t need to have a dissertation proposal when you apply, indeed you shouldn’t, but it’s very helpful to think about your interests, how they could be structured into a research question, and how you can communicate that to admissions committees.    

2.  Second, mentorship and advisement matter A LOT.  I think a lot of people will say I’m crazy for choosing Minnesota over Cornell.  It was a hard decision.  But, I felt like the faculty at Minnesota were much stronger for my relatively niche interests.  My advice is do not blindly follow rankings and the overall prestige of the university.  Look at the advisers/faculty you’d likely be working with.  Do they place students at institutions that you’d want to be at?  Do they make time for their advisees?  Do they help students publish?  You can ask about these questions at admitted student’s day, but also consider directly asking the professors themselves.  Bottom line: look at the placement rate of the program and the placement record of professors you’d be working with.  Also consider your quality of life at the school.  I wanted to be in an urban area, so Minneapolis fit the bill better than rural New York.   

3. Next, GRE.  I took the GRE five times over a four-year period and the absolute best I could muster on the quant section was 152.  This was after two tutors and many Magoosh sessions.  (Note, I absolutely recommend Magoosh above all other test prep).  Some people would say don’t bother applying with that score.  I was still able to get into two top 25 programs.  Study hard for the GRE, but it’s not everything.  If you did the best you could, just take the plunge and apply.      

4. Try and get some research experience.  I think that really helped me.  It is a credible signal that you want to learn how to do research and aren’t just applying to a Ph.D. program because you don’t know what else to do.    

5. Consider doing an MA.  I did mine at a policy school, which I know many people on this forum strongly discourage.  I do not think I could have gotten into either Minnesota or Cornell with only my undergrad.  My college is well known and respected, but I was not a superstar student.  I didn’t write a thesis and had no research experience or even much idea what I wanted to study.  My master’s program (two years) really helped with this.  I narrowed down my ideas much more clearly, made connections with professors that were very active in the field and in research, learned a lot, built up a professional network, wrote a strong thesis (but it wasn’t my writing sample).  It wasn’t cheap, but with some savings and scholarships it wasn’t financially ruinous.  I’m glad I did it.

As an addendum to this point, I’d strongly recommend everyone work for at least two years after undergrad.  It can really help you professionally, personally, and financially.  I was in the working world for three years and then went into my MA.  The process of working, especially for two or more years, can really help you figure out if you want to commit to 5+ years of more schooling.          

6.  I didn’t really tailor my SOP to individual schools (other than talking about professors I’d like to work with,) but I did spend a lot of time on it.  I’d say the most important thing is try to develop some kind of research idea, so the admissions committee understands you’ve thought about what research looks like.  Send it to several people you trust, hopefully including at least one grad student.    

7. I applied to 11 schools.  Some people will apply to 15+.  I don’t know if that’s necessary or if there’s really a magic number.  Given the randomness of this process, I’d say consider at least 5-7.  Again, don’t look blindly at rankings when you’re making this determination.  Look at fit, the program’s placement rate, and the placement record of professors you want to work with. 

8. A lot of people on this forum might say don’t bother going to grad school unless you get admitted to one of the CHYMPS.  I clearly wasn’t.  I didn’t even bother applying to most of them, as they didn’t seem like strong fits for me (and applied to Princeton and Harvard’s public policy Ph.D., not political science).  This is of course a complicated issue and only you can make the right decision about where you attend.  The only thing I’d repeat is that you should look closely at acceptance rates for the programs you’re admitted to and also ask prospective advisers where they’ve placed students.  If some students from the program go to fantastic positions afterwards, were they in the field you wanted to study?  Also, consider your quality of life during the program.  Sometimes programs outside the CHYMPS have a lot to offer.  At the end of the day, prestige helps, but if you want a shot at a TT job you also need to write a strong dissertation, publish, and have influential people willing to go up to bat for you.  These things aren’t easy and without a great mentor(s) I’d say most people won’t be able to do them.    

9.  Consider reaching out to professors at the schools you’re applying to.  I did it and found it to be a helpful experience.  I’m not sure it helped me gain admission anywhere, but I found it informative.  I generally just reached out via e-mail and, said a few sentences about my interests, and asked if they were planning to take grad students.  Some e-mails were more helpful than others, but all were cordial.  One professor even flat out told me the program I was applying for wasn’t a good fit.  Others told me who at the department was retiring or moving (websites are often outdated).      

10. Lastly, remember this process is very random.  MIT was my top choice, but I later found out they only admitted 2-3 students for security studies this cycle, whereas in previous cycles they had accepted 10+.  It was hard watching rejections roll in, but I was ecstatic when I was finally admitted somewhere.  I’m very lucky I had two choices and that I don’t need to apply again.  But, if you weren’t admitted anywhere, consider applying again.  It seems students on this forum have had success.  Remember, it is possible to make no mistake and still lose (couldn’t resist a Star Trek reference).     

Edited by Mr_Spock2018
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3 hours ago, Mr_Spock2018 said:

Hi All,
Sorry that I’m really late to the game here.  But, better late than never.  Thought I’d post this, as this site did help me a good deal during the application process.  Best of luck to you all.  I’ll probably check Gradcafe occasionally over the next several years, so feel free to PM if you have any questions (but it might take me a while to respond).    

 

PROFILE:
Type of Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts college
Major(s)/Minor(s): Political Science
Undergrad GPA: 3.3
Type of Grad: Top American public policy MA
Grad GPA: 3.8
GRE: V160/Q152/AWA5.0
Any Special Courses: Econometrics, American Foreign Policy, Quant Methods, Numerous IR courses
Letters of Recommendation: Three professors from grad school, all knew me very well, including one from a historian (two others were political scientists, although one worked primarily in law).
Research Experience: Master’s thesis, RA work for two years of grad school, including full-time RA work over summer for a very well-known professor in the field; no publications. 
Teaching Experience: n/a
Subfield/Research Interests: International Relations, Security Studies 
Other:

RESULTS:
Acceptances($$ or no $$): University of Minnesota ($$), Cornell University ($$)
Waitlists:
Rejections: MIT, HKS, Princeton WWS PhD, UVA, GW, Georgetown, Duke University Sanford School, Columbia, UChicago
Pending:
Going to: University of Minnesota

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. First things first: fit matters.  Everyone has said it, but I’ll repeat it.  Not every school or even most schools will have two or three professors working on issues you want to study.  Think carefully about where you want to apply and what professors at that school could advise you.  You don’t need to have a dissertation proposal when you apply, indeed you shouldn’t, but it’s very helpful to think about your interests, how they could be structured into a research question, and how you can communicate that to admissions committees.    

2.  Second, mentorship and advisement matter A LOT.  I think a lot of people will say I’m crazy for choosing Minnesota over Cornell.  It was a hard decision.  But, I felt like the faculty at Minnesota were much stronger for my relatively niche interests.  My advice is do not blindly follow rankings and the overall prestige of the university.  Look at the advisers/faculty you’d likely be working with.  Do they place students at institutions that you’d want to be at?  Do they make time for their advisees?  Do they help students publish?  You can ask about these questions at admitted student’s day, but also consider directly asking the professors themselves.  Bottom line: look at the placement rate of the program and the placement record of professors you’d be working with.  Also consider your quality of life at the school.  I wanted to be in an urban area, so Minneapolis fit the bill better than rural New York.   

3. Next, GRE.  I took the GRE five times over a four-year period and the absolute best I could muster on the quant section was 152.  This was after two tutors and many Magoosh sessions.  (Note, I absolutely recommend Magoosh above all other test prep).  Some people would say don’t bother applying with that score.  I was still able to get into two top 25 programs.  Study hard for the GRE, but it’s not everything.  If you did the best you could, just take the plunge and apply.      

4. Try and get some research experience.  I think that really helped me.  It is a credible signal that you want to learn how to do research and aren’t just applying to a Ph.D. program because you don’t know what else to do.    

5. Consider doing an MA.  I did mine at a policy school, which I know many people on this forum strongly discourage.  I do not think I could have gotten into either Minnesota or Cornell with only my undergrad.  My college is well known and respected, but I was not a superstar student.  I didn’t write a thesis and had no research experience or even much idea what I wanted to study.  My master’s program (two years) really helped with this.  I narrowed down my ideas much more clearly, made connections with professors that were very active in the field and in research, learned a lot, built up a professional network, wrote a strong thesis (but it wasn’t my writing sample).  It wasn’t cheap, but with some savings and scholarships it wasn’t financially ruinous.  I’m glad I did it.

As an addendum to this point, I’d strongly recommend everyone work for at least two years after undergrad.  It can really help you professionally, personally, and financially.  I was in the working world for three years and then went into my MA.  The process of working, especially for two or more years, can really help you figure out if you want to commit to 5+ years of more schooling.          

6.  I didn’t really tailor my SOP to individual schools (other than talking about professors I’d like to work with,) but I did spend a lot of time on it.  I’d say the most important thing is try to develop some kind of research idea, so the admissions committee understands you’ve thought about what research looks like.  Send it to several people you trust, hopefully including at least one grad student.    

7. I applied to 11 schools.  Some people will apply to 15+.  I don’t know if that’s necessary or if there’s really a magic number.  Given the randomness of this process, I’d say consider at least 5-7.  Again, don’t look blindly at rankings when you’re making this determination.  Look at fit, the program’s placement rate, and the placement record of professors you want to work with. 

8. A lot of people on this forum might say don’t bother going to grad school unless you get admitted to one of the CHYMPS.  I clearly wasn’t.  I didn’t even bother applying to most of them, as they didn’t seem like strong fits for me (and applied to Princeton and Harvard’s public policy Ph.D., not political science).  This is of course a complicated issue and only you can make the right decision about where you attend.  The only thing I’d repeat is that you should look closely at acceptance rates for the programs you’re admitted to and also ask prospective advisers where they’ve placed students.  If some students from the program go to fantastic positions afterwards, were they in the field you wanted to study?  Also, consider your quality of life during the program.  Sometimes programs outside the CHYMPS have a lot to offer.  At the end of the day, prestige helps, but if you want a shot at a TT job you also need to write a strong dissertation, publish, and have influential people willing to go up to bat for you.  These things aren’t easy and without a great mentor(s) I’d say most people won’t be able to do them.    

9.  Consider reaching out to professors at the schools you’re applying to.  I did it and found it to be a helpful experience.  I’m not sure it helped me gain admission anywhere, but I found it informative.  I generally just reached out via e-mail and, said a few sentences about my interests, and asked if they were planning to take grad students.  Some e-mails were more helpful than others, but all were cordial.  One professor even flat out told me the program I was applying for wasn’t a good fit.  Others told me who at the department was retiring or moving (websites are often outdated).      

10. Lastly, remember this process is very random.  MIT was my top choice, but I later found out they only admitted 2-3 students for security studies this cycle, whereas in previous cycles they had accepted 10+.  It was hard watching rejections roll in, but I was ecstatic when I was finally admitted somewhere.  I’m very lucky I had two choices and that I don’t need to apply again.  But, if you weren’t admitted anywhere, consider applying again.  It seems students on this forum have had success.  Remember, it is possible to make no mistake and still lose (couldn’t resist a Star Trek reference).     

Congrats! Minnesota is an awesome school with great faculty. 

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5 hours ago, Mr_Spock2018 said:

2.  Second, mentorship and advisement matter A LOT.  I think a lot of people will say I’m crazy for choosing Minnesota over Cornell.  It was a hard decision.  But, I felt like the faculty at Minnesota were much stronger for my relatively niche interests.  My advice is do not blindly follow rankings and the overall prestige of the university.  Look at the advisers/faculty you’d likely be working with.  Do they place students at institutions that you’d want to be at?  Do they make time for their advisees?  Do they help students publish?  You can ask about these questions at admitted student’s day, but also consider directly asking the professors themselves.  Bottom line: look at the placement rate of the program and the placement record of professors you’d be working with.  Also consider your quality of life at the school.  I wanted to be in an urban area, so Minneapolis fit the bill better than rural New York.   

 

Wanted to whole heartily agree with this statement and sentiment. A great advisor/mentor can make or break a graduate experience. choosing a poor one because of the institution is a horrible idea. Additionally, i'll echo what you said about quality of life. I think this factor is often overlooked by many applicants. However, many fail to realize how important quality of life really is. If you are someone who loves the city, you'll hate living in rural NY. That will then seep into everything and ultimately negatively affect your whole experience. Additionally, mental health issues are rampant in grad programs and being in an environment that you do not like will only exasperate that issue. 

1 hour ago, sloth_girl said:

As an addendum to this point, I’d strongly recommend everyone work for at least two years after undergrad.  It can really help you professionally, personally, and financially.  I was in the working world for three years and then went into my MA.  The process of working, especially for two or more years, can really help you figure out if you want to commit to 5+ years of more schooling. 

I also agree with this section. While I did only work one year, I think it both made me a better applicant and I also think it'll make me a better graduate student. It provided me with the perspective for what a non-academic/grad School life can be. So now I have a reference point going forward. It showed me that this graduate school path is truly the one that I want to be on. Not to mention it allowed me to create a small financial cushion that will allow provide me the financial peace of mind that many grad students are lacking. 10/10 recommend taking a gap year/years to work and figure out if grad school is truly what you want. 

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Hi Sloth_girl and Dwar, 

Thank you for your thoughts and for reading my ramblings!  Much appreciated.  Wanted to briefly add two things that I thought about after posting my comment.  

First, I don't by any means want to criticize Cornell's program.  It's definitely fantastic and if it was the only program I was accepted to I would've gone there in a heartbeat.  Rather, I worried that for what niche fields I think I want to research, there wouldn't be enough mentors to supervise me.  Also, the location was an issue, as was traveling to and from Ithaca via my hometown.

Second, I think it's also helpful to try and look at the second, often more permanent institution, that students from the program place at.  Sometimes this information is challenging to find, as this placement isn't always updated on websites.  But still, I think it's worth searching/asking for.  These days a lot of younger academics will go on a job search 3-5 years after their initial TT placement, and these institutions can often be far more desirable than their initial placement (either because of geography, prestige, or whatever).  Consider if the department and your potential advisers seem like they help students do this.    

 

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4 hours ago, Mr_Spock2018 said:

Second, I think it's also helpful to try and look at the second, often more permanent institution, that students from the program place at.  Sometimes this information is challenging to find, as this placement isn't always updated on websites.  But still, I think it's worth searching/asking for.  These days a lot of younger academics will go on a job search 3-5 years after their initial TT placement, and these institutions can often be far more desirable than their initial placement (either because of geography, prestige, or whatever).  Consider if the department and your potential advisers seem like they help students do this.    

 

This is a great point to keep in mind. Specifically, a lot will do post-docs at good institutions so as to get TT jobs at the best of the best institutions. There are some schools that have more go this way, and if often (though not always) pays off. Additionally, it's also good to see the types of jobs people get who don't go into academia. Are the industries something you have an interest in? For me, I'm coming from tech, so Stanford has more connections there. If academia doesn't work out for me, or if I even prefer not to go that route upon PhD completion, it's good to have my foot in the door in an industry that I'd like as a backup plan. 

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7 hours ago, Mr_Spock2018 said:

Hi Sloth_girl and Dwar, 

Thank you for your thoughts and for reading my ramblings!  Much appreciated.  Wanted to briefly add two things that I thought about after posting my comment.  

First, I don't by any means want to criticize Cornell's program.  It's definitely fantastic and if it was the only program I was accepted to I would've gone there in a heartbeat.  Rather, I worried that for what niche fields I think I want to research, there wouldn't be enough mentors to supervise me.  Also, the location was an issue, as was traveling to and from Ithaca via my hometown.

Second, I think it's also helpful to try and look at the second, often more permanent institution, that students from the program place at.  Sometimes this information is challenging to find, as this placement isn't always updated on websites.  But still, I think it's worth searching/asking for.  These days a lot of younger academics will go on a job search 3-5 years after their initial TT placement, and these institutions can often be far more desirable than their initial placement (either because of geography, prestige, or whatever).  Consider if the department and your potential advisers seem like they help students do this.    

 

I will of course not say that you have made a mistake in choosing Minnesota. If Minnesota outweighed Cornell in your mind that is all that matters. And no doubt, both are good programs.

One thing I will say is that programs, in my experience, "act" in very different ways towards accepted applicants. I was in a program once where the visiting day was truly perfect; everyone were super friendly, professors engaging, and people spoke unanimously about how great the place was, etc. But once I got there it was very quickly clear that a lot of what the program had displayed itself to be was more surface than anything. Students were in actuality not supported well and it basically turned out not a great place to be for someone who wanted to be a political science professional. After the first year, a third of my cohort was gone and I think only about half the people stayed beyond the second year.

The program I am in now is no doubt far more reputable. But there was barely any communication between myself and the university the summer before, and the visiting event was low key overall. The program however has turned out to be outstanding and everything I was hoping for when I began my grad applications way back. In my experience it looks like "weaker" programs (not saying that U. of Minnesota is weak of course) do what they can to retain the best of their application pool whereas stronger programs do not need to make as active an effort to appeal as well to the students who got first round offers. After all, if only few of them showed up they would likely still have a bunch of outstanding candidates to choose among for second round offers. Have others experienced something like this - stronger programs not making a great effort to appeal to accepted applicants?

My point is that while I am sure Minnesota is a good choice for you, had I been in your shoes, knowing what I know now, I would be apprehensive about turning Cornell down. I would really look more at the more objective standards of the program instead of what I perceive the program to be (which really can be skewed), and think I think would have lent favor to Cornell. But I have no doubt that you will do very well in Minnesota.

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