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Worried about chances at a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology


briellemarz
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Hello everyone!
 

I am a first generation college student currently studying at my state public school. I am in the fourth year of my study, and I am double majoring in anthropology and biological sciences. Because I am a first-gen student, I never really considered graduate school because I didn't even really know what it was, but once I progressed into my degree, I realized that I had to start thinking about it if I wanted a career in anthropology. I had decided against it for awhile, but recently discovered the PhD program at Duke for Evolutionary Anthropology, and realized that it was the program of my dreams, but I am worried that I have wasted too much time. 

I have taken a heavy course load of physical anthropology (primate behavior, human evolution, forensic anthro, paleopathology) and my biology coursework has included a lot of ecology, wildlife conservation, and animal diversity material. I do not have any research experience, but I have been quite involved. I have maintained a part-time job serving tables since I was sixteen to pay bills, but I also volunteered as a lab technician in my anthropology department's osteology lab for a year (identifying and cataloguing remains), did a year-long internship at a wildlife center that housed two species of lemurs, was accepted into a job shadow at a lemur conservation foundation (that was cancelled because of covid-19), and am currently employed as an intern at my state's division of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (although this is just as a data technician). I have fairly ok academic credentials (a 3.62 GPA and GRE scores 158/157 that I am retaking in a few weeks), and I could probably receive fairly strong letters of rec from both anthropology and biology professors. I was also elected the president of the anthropology society at my school, and was the treasurer the year before and secretary the year before that. 

I really want to apply for the fall 2021 cycle, but I am nervous about wasting time/money. I am also nervous because I have no sense of my strength as an applicant. I am also considered applying for an MS in biology in the fields of ecology, wildlife biology, etc. because my interests are very broad. I was just wondering if anyone had any advice or insight, or any other program recommendations, as Duke's PhD program is probably way out of my league ! I am talking to my professor this week, but this is something I can't stop worrying about! 

Thank you!

Edited by briellemarz
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  • 2 weeks later...

This is my first application cycle and I haven't been on the other side of an admissions committee, so please take my advice with a grain of salt.

I personally think you have good experience for an undergrad, plus I don't think your academic credentials will make you or break you. From all of the advice I've been given from irl grad students, and from what I've read on here, the best way to know if you're a good applicant is to actually reach out to the professors you want to work with. Good grades and GRE scores are great, but experience and specific research focus mean more especially for PhD application. Read a ton of research and figure out your passions, then talk to the professors doing that research. Contact them and ask thoughtful questions about their research and indicate your interest in their programs. Give a brief overview of your background, and ask if they would be interested in taking you on as a student - or perhaps if they think you should get more experience to bolster your application. I used this blog post to help me formulate my inquiries: https://contemplativemammoth.com/2013/04/08/so-you-want-to-go-to-grad-school-nail-the-inquiry-email/

Also fyi I've been told by grad students that the results postings on gradcafe tend to be skewed on the higher side of average for program admits, so don't let that fool you into thinking you're not good enough. Good luck!

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On 10/16/2020 at 5:47 PM, tundratussocks said:

This is my first application cycle and I haven't been on the other side of an admissions committee, so please take my advice with a grain of salt.

I personally think you have good experience for an undergrad, plus I don't think your academic credentials will make you or break you. From all of the advice I've been given from irl grad students, and from what I've read on here, the best way to know if you're a good applicant is to actually reach out to the professors you want to work with. Good grades and GRE scores are great, but experience and specific research focus mean more especially for PhD application. Read a ton of research and figure out your passions, then talk to the professors doing that research. Contact them and ask thoughtful questions about their research and indicate your interest in their programs. Give a brief overview of your background, and ask if they would be interested in taking you on as a student - or perhaps if they think you should get more experience to bolster your application. I used this blog post to help me formulate my inquiries: https://contemplativemammoth.com/2013/04/08/so-you-want-to-go-to-grad-school-nail-the-inquiry-email/

Also fyi I've been told by grad students that the results postings on gradcafe tend to be skewed on the higher side of average for program admits, so don't let that fool you into thinking you're not good enough. Good luck!

Thank you so much, I really appreciate your reply! 

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