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Profile Evaluation Request


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When I left undergrad (only in 2014) I did not consider going to graduate school. I have worked at a high level on a statewide political campaign  and then moved in political polling research (quantitative and qualitative). Work as a mid-level analyst at a top tier political polling firm currently. I am starting to put together my materials but not sure of what schools are reasonably in range for me.

Undergrad GPA: 3.6.  Honors program in American Politics/Public Policy with emphasis on campaign finance/education spending.  Uni is #20 in US.

GRE: 162 verbal, 164 quantitative, 4.0 AWA. Planning to retake to improve AWA

Writing sample: A sample taken from my BA honors thesis. My work post-graduation is all confidential unfortunately.

LORs: Decent letter from undergraduate advisor and very solid letters from my employers. Not sure if they are outstanding and show a unique perspective, but are a demonstration of ability to do high level work across different research methods.

Research experience: Honors thesis for my BA (received university award for it). Two papers published in undergrad 

I want to do my PhD in methodology and American Politics (emphasis on Southern American Politics). Right now my list includes UT Austin, Georgetown , Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, UCLA, Rice University, and UNC Chapel Hill.  Are these within reach? Are there some examples of programs that you'd say are within range right now?  

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The short answer is that all of these schools are within your range. They are all good programs, but they seem to be well-suited to your interests, and identifying such a good range of schools is an accomplishment in itself. So good job on that. If you really published two papers during your undergrad then that is impressive and that really will make you stand out as a great candidate. Very few people have one publication out of their undergrad, and no one has two. In fact I'd recommend that you add a few top 10 programs to your list. You will have a chance with your current GRE scores, but if you want to go for a top-10 program try to get each section closer to 165 or so. You're not far from these already and don't worry about the AWA (no one cares). Also keep in mind that a lot of schools are not requiring the GRE for the next admission cycle so if you decide not to submit your GRE score to a top-10 program that might be okay. In that case, your two publications will carry even more weight, which is to your advantage. Your GPA is a bit low, but I dont think it falls below the threshold at any respectable university.

I would be careful with submitting part of my undergrad thesis as your writing sample. Except if you believe it is truly outstanding you may be better off with one of the published papers. It just is rare that undergrad work is very good - although it does happen (I'm sure someone will correct me on this). I would begin working on my personal statement right now. It takes a lot of time; expect 15-20 iterations of it. There is some disagreement on if such statements must be catered to each program. I think it can only serve your advantage to do so but other candidates have had successful applications by sending out the same generic statement everywhere. There are few available examples of successful SOPs but the best, I think, contain very detailed information about what you are interested in researching, how it fits into the literature, etc. Anyway, hope that helps.

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