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Does a Quality M.A. Academic Performance Negate an Otherwise Poor Academic Record?


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As of now, my academic record is subpar (to perhaps put it kindly). My ambition is to perform well in an M.A. program (MAPSS, or Pol. Sci.), and then get a JD/PhD. Would a quality M.A. academic record negate an otherwise subpar academic record? For very highly ranked PhD programs? 

Additionally, I have a high GRE score (169V, 167Q, 6.0AW), which should give my M.A. and PhD applications a boost. 

Edited by secondarydefinitions
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From what I understand, in most cases a high MA GPA (3.8<) does in fact negate a lower undergrad GPA. Or at the very least decreases the damage that a lower undergrad GPA will inflict on an applicant. 

With that being said, I do think that if financially possible you should consider applying to PhD programs as long as your GPA is a 3.0 or higher with that GRE score. From my experience it seems that most Adcomms prefer students with a 3.5 or higher but will still consider students with a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5, especially if they have amazing GRE’s (which you do). 

the main reason that people will generally dissuade someone from attending an MA program in polisci is that they can be expensive and ultimately unnecessary. Meaning that they’ll often fail to provide substantial aid in an industry which is does not support Initial high salaries. In addition, most programs would still require a student to complete the coursework associated with their program and subsequently earn a second MA degree at their PhD granting institution. Meaning that a student would most likely not even gain a shortened time frame from their MA program. 

With that being said, I think a very good reason to attend an MA program is to prove to PhD Adcomms that a student does have the ability to succeed in grad classes and to make up for a poor undergrad GPA. With that in mind, I would caution against one year grad programs (I think the U Chicago program is one year) because it doesn’t allow you to show your MA grades or show the Adcomms that you can in fact succeed in grad classes. 

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14 hours ago, secondarydefinitions said:

As of now, my academic record is subpar (to perhaps put it kindly). My ambition is to perform well in an M.A. program (MAPSS, or Pol. Sci.), and then get a JD/PhD. Would a quality M.A. academic record negate an otherwise subpar academic record? For very highly ranked PhD programs? 

Additionally, I have a high GRE score (169V, 167Q, 6.0AW), which should give my M.A. and PhD applications a boost. 

Most JD programs will care much less about an MA GPA than they will the UG GPA. That said, is there a specific reason you want to get the JD/PhD? I think very few programs pay you to get a JD the way they do a PhD (I could be wrong), and JD tuition for three years typically runs in excess of $150K.

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12 hours ago, Dwar said:

From what I understand, in most cases a high MA GPA (3.8<) does in fact negate a lower undergrad GPA. Or at the very least decreases the damage that a lower undergrad GPA will inflict on an applicant. 

With that being said, I do think that if financially possible you should consider applying to PhD programs as long as your GPA is a 3.0 or higher with that GRE score. From my experience it seems that most Adcomms prefer students with a 3.5 or higher but will still consider students with a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5, especially if they have amazing GRE’s (which you do). 

the main reason that people will generally dissuade someone from attending an MA program in polisci is that they can be expensive and ultimately unnecessary. Meaning that they’ll often fail to provide substantial aid in an industry which is does not support Initial high salaries. In addition, most programs would still require a student to complete the coursework associated with their program and subsequently earn a second MA degree at their PhD granting institution. Meaning that a student would most likely not even gain a shortened time frame from their MA program. 

With that being said, I think a very good reason to attend an MA program is to prove to PhD Adcomms that a student does have the ability to succeed in grad classes and to make up for a poor undergrad GPA. With that in mind, I would caution against one year grad programs (I think the U Chicago program is one year) because it doesn’t allow you to show your MA grades or show the Adcomms that you can in fact succeed in grad classes. 

I may have to wait an extra year, and I am fine with that. I can always give applying to good PhD programs w/o a completed M.A. a shot. U Chicago's first quarter ends in sync with the deadlines of the top PhD programs, so I could relay first Q grades not long after the deadline, assuming that was permissible. The idea of getting a recommendation letter before the Q ends is not implausible either, and a good recommendation letter is in significant or full measure the same, functionally, as a quality grade. 

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1 hour ago, captmarvel said:

Most JD programs will care much less about an MA GPA than they will the UG GPA. That said, is there a specific reason you want to get the JD/PhD? I think very few programs pay you to get a JD the way they do a PhD (I could be wrong), and JD tuition for three years typically runs in excess of $150K.

I've got my reasons. Also, scholarships. I hope to have an LSAT in the very high 170's, knock on wood. 

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Can you share more about your supposedly poor academic record? With your impressive GRE scores you will be - on that parameter alone - among the most competitive candidates in the pool. You will stand out and any program will think twice before rejecting you. Even if your undergraduate record is poor, you will likely still be a serious contender for any program ranked 15-20 and below. Of course, you would still have to provide a great writing sample, quality SOPs, and most of all communicate very clearly why you would be a good fit at the programs you would be applying to.

The truth is that all adcoms know that MAPSS is a cash cow and I doubt it would actually improve your record.

I suggest either

1. that you aim for a program in the top top 15-35. Depending on how "bad" your record actually is you would probably have a decent chance many places.

of 2. that you attend an MA program somewhere other than MAPSS, which is incredibly expensive anyway. Why not either pursue a 1-2 year MA degree in Europe (preferably something like LSE) or even went to one of the other few international programs that would improve you chances of getting into an American phd. Or do an MA degree in polisci at any American program? The latter would require that you applied for the phd and then left after two years with the MA.

If you choose the first option you would likely be able to do well, become a great political scientist, and have the career you would want. If you choose the second and did really well in your studies, all the same is true except I am sure a top 10 program would be within your reach.

If you are looking at programs for theory (did you say that somewhere?), I may be able to provide some advise. Just PM me.

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Theory007: 

Very thoughtful post, and I appreciate your input. In respect of academic record and personal matters, there is more going on than meets the eye. There's also the J.D. consideration with which to grapple. Applying for PhD's in the fall is something to consider strongly. I am interested in theory. 

Regarding GRE scores: do you (or anyone) have a rough idea what percent of applicants at top programs have both very high V and Q scores? Obviously there are a substantial number of candidates with a high Q or V. 

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2 hours ago, secondarydefinitions said:

Theory007: 

Very thoughtful post, and I appreciate your input. In respect of academic record and personal matters, there is more going on than meets the eye. There's also the J.D. consideration with which to grapple. Applying for PhD's in the fall is something to consider strongly. I am interested in theory. 

Regarding GRE scores: do you (or anyone) have a rough idea what percent of applicants at top programs have both very high V and Q scores? Obviously there are a substantial number of candidates with a high Q or V. 

I think the consensus is that most programs have minimum GRE thresholds of what is necessary to be seriously considered for admission. It is usually also the case that a higher GRE score, even above the threshold, correlates with higher chances of admission. I do not know, and I suspect no one does, what percentage of applicants have both high V and Q scores. Typically, adcoms look for a higher verbal than quantitative score and I am almost certain that it is far more common for applicants to have higher verbal than quantitative scores (although there are some programs that emphasize the quantitative score - NYU and UCSD come to mind). In general, I'd say that a V of 165+ and a Q of 163+ will make one competitive for any program. Your scores are 4 points higher on both, which is what makes me think that your application will stand out no matter what.

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