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2020-2021 Application Thread


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13 minutes ago, PolNerd said:

Guys, anyone know what an actual starting salary range of a tenure track political science AssProf is? I have years of work experience and an MPP and I think I am starting to weigh the pros and cons of giving up my current policy career and going back to school (now that I am in a few programs), especially because I think I am already making the salary of a tenure track professor at the moment. 

EDIT: No family or kids - so pretty flexible to give it all up.

It's usually between 50k-100k depending on the institutions - private/public, LAC/research unis, etc. But other than salaries there are other much more important considerations, the first of which is opportunity cost, i.e. there will be 5-7 years where you are not really making any money. Tenure track jobs are also shrinking quickly, esp. in social sciences and humanities, where more and more scholars are migrating from one temporary position to the next. Precarity is becoming increasingly the norm. As my advisor used to say, if academia is not the only option for you, do the other thing. 

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JUST GOT A FULLY FUNDED OFFER FROM CONCORDIA!!!!!

I just got a call from the program director for Government & Social Policy at Harvard letting me know I've been accepted! Really can't believe it, I had completely given up hope for this cycl

I JUST GOT AN OFFER FROM USC WITH FELLOWSHIP AAAAH (still have to put it in the survey) 

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5 minutes ago, PolNerd said:

I love research (and honestly research that have policy relevance - maybe a TT position at the IR policy schools like Elliott or Denver will be a great fit) and I have very strong "independent" streak to put it lightly, haha so academia seems like the place I will be happy in. But the horrible TT market and the financial aspect part of not only giving up 5 years of salary equivalent to a TT position is giving up second thoughts.

This is fair. I think its really important to consider what the future will hold in terms of job prospectives, but so much can happen in 5 years time that might change the world as we know it (i.e., COVID). I know this sounds really cheesy, but I would say follow your heart and your passion, and trust that something will work out for you! Especially if you are admitted to a pretty good school or a place that you would be able to really thrive in - these will definitely help you in the future during your application process for TT jobs.

Ultimately, the future is uncertain for everyone. So just do what feels right for you.

Edited by polisci_gal
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@BrownSugar Glad to hear you got accepted into UChicago - it's a great school with some incredible faculty, especially if you are interested in authoritarian politics/political economy of dev/theory. To echo some of the other people on this thread I would strongly consider going there if your final choices is USC vs UChicago, only because as much as 'fit' matters, you ultimately have to optimize for prestige if the job market is an outcome that is important to you. Not to discourage you in any way from USC, I'm sure it's a great program, it is just unfortunate how clubby/ranking-obsessed academia can be.

P.S - I say this knowing only too well that Chicago can be cold and brutal and SoCal is beautiful and warm. 

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Just now, poliscihopeful2021 said:

@BrownSugar Glad to hear you got accepted into UChicago - it's a great school with some incredible faculty, especially if you are interested in authoritarian politics/political economy of dev/theory. To echo some of the other people on this thread I would strongly consider going there if your final choices is USC vs UChicago, only because as much as 'fit' matters, you ultimately have to optimize for prestige if the job market is an outcome that is important to you. Not to discourage you in any way from USC, I'm sure it's a great program, it is just unfortunate how clubby/ranking-obsessed academia can be.

P.S - I say this knowing only too well that Chicago can be cold and brutal and SoCal is beautiful and warm. 

Thank you :) I really appreciate everyone’s insights and I’ll certainly take them into account if USC v Chicago end up as my final decision!
 

To be completely transparent - I don’t have any fixed plans to stay in the US long-term (partner is European) or necessarily pursue the tenure track. I have decided to pursue a US PhD in the first place given its overall strength and career flexibility on an international scale, so that’s why I was prioritizing fit over prestige. But like I said, I WILL take into account your insights. 

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7 minutes ago, BrownSugar said:

Thank you :) I really appreciate everyone’s insights and I’ll certainly take them into account if USC v Chicago end up as my final decision!
 

To be completely transparent - I don’t have any fixed plans to stay in the US long-term (partner is European) or necessarily pursue the tenure track. I have decided to pursue a US PhD in the first place given its overall strength and career flexibility on an international scale, so that’s why I was prioritizing fit over prestige. But like I said, I WILL take into account your insights. 

@BrownSugar I'll probably get trolled pretty bad on here for saying this but I think you should go to USC. Based on your stated goals, you don't really plan on trying for a TT job in the USA anyway, so ranking and networking/connections aren't nearly as important as it might otherwise be. Yes, Chicago is higher ranked by everyone in just about every metric. With that said, USC is no slouch. It's not like it's a bad school. You know what else? This is 5 years of your life that you'll never get back. It's a huge investment in time. Quality of life is so important. Chicago is a beautiful, great city, but it can't match the quality of life of Southern California. You'll never have to shovel snow in the winter or worry about slipping on ice covered streets, you can spend your Christmas break a few miles from the USC campus at the beach in Santa Monica or Malibu, and you'll be able to see palm trees from your classroom. You'll be living in a place where you can go skiing/snowboarding and surfing in the same day this time of year. You can't do either in a day anywhere near Chicago most of the time. 

I'm not trying to take away from what everyone else is saying on here because they're right. Chicago is the best choice if you plan on staying here and going into academia. If you don't, choose the place you want to spend 5 years of your life in the most. 

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43 minutes ago, BrownSugar said:

Thank you, I appreciate you insight :) One of the main reasons is really fit, and for me that matters most right now. Would you say prestige is more valuable than fit generally? I’m genuinely curious since you’re already in the process of doing your PhD. 

Probably kinda rambly so I apologize: 

 

I mean it depends on what your goals are. I'm assuming you applied to Chicago for a reason, and they accepted you for a reason, and that at least partially has to do with the fact that there are faculty there with whom you have mutual interest with. IMO that's most of the academic fit you need. I personally think that we read a little more into "fit" on this forum than is necessary as a means of explaining seemingly-random admissions (and because we're not personally privy information like "oh you're the 2nd best in XXX field but we're only accepting 1"), like it's a big deal sure, but for the most part, like 80% of us can have good enough "fit" with any top 20 school excluding Rochester. 

I struggle to think about "fit" being of paramount importance, especially thinking back to what I thought I'd be researching as a prospective student because interests change. I took one class on what I wrote my SOP on and was miserable! I met with someone I wrote about in my SOP and I think they're a psycho! These days I'm just plain bored with so much of what I wrote about in my SOP! I think it's important to go to a school that is broadly strong in a lot of areas, and where if you change your mind, or if someone or two moves, or if someone dies, then you'll still be okay. 

Fit can impact who is on your diss committee and what classes you take and who your initial advisors are. However, you'll eventually learn that classes are more of a hassle than a plus, that people can give out good advice beyond what they publish in, and that in this day and age, connecting with people who are in your subsubsubsubfield can be done online and you don't have to physically be their student (though of course, you're somewhat advantaged if you're their student). 

On the other hand, prestige impacts how seriously people take you on the job market, especially for R1s. You can win the {whatever your subfield's equivalent of the EE Schattschneider award is} and have an APSR but some job committees will still think an unpublished CHYMPS kid has more "potential." Unless you are a massive exception (and it's always best to assume you're not), a UChicago PhD can be competitive for a USC job, but a USC PhD cannot get a UChicago job. I think I've said this a few times on this board, but one of the most helpful exercises when trying to decide where to go to is to compare the schools' placement. If you're not super interested in a TT job, I'd think long and hard about why a PhD because damn doing a PhD is a lot of suck. 

Prestige is often associated with a lot more implicit benefits as well (though this is a little less of a concern because USC has money more than somewhere like Wisconsin does). Summer funding, money floating around for surveys, subsidized housing, teaching loads, conference travel funding, etc. are often so much better at better-ranked school. The less time you spend worrying about money and doing things that are not research, the more time you have for research. This is very important. 

P.S. CA might be sunny, but you can actually afford to live in something more than a glorified box in the midwest. We spend all our time working anyways :((((( 

Edited by BunniesInSpace
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27 minutes ago, BunniesInSpace said:

Probably kinda rambly so I apologize: 

 

I mean it depends on what your goals are. I'm assuming you applied to Chicago for a reason, and they accepted you for a reason, and that at least partially has to do with the fact that there are faculty there with whom you have mutual interest with. IMO that's most of the academic fit you need. I personally think that we read a little more into "fit" on this forum than is necessary as a means of explaining seemingly-random admissions (and because we're not personally privy information like "oh you're the 2nd best in XXX field but we're only accepting 1"), like it's a big deal sure, but for the most part, like 80% of us can have good enough "fit" with any top 20 school excluding Rochester. 

I struggle to think about "fit" being of paramount importance, especially thinking back to what I thought I'd be researching as a prospective student because interests change. I took one class on what I wrote my SOP on and was miserable! I met with someone I wrote about in my SOP and I think they're a psycho! These days I'm just plain bored with so much of what I wrote about in my SOP! I think it's important to go to a school that is broadly strong in a lot of areas, and where if you change your mind, or if someone or two moves, or if someone dies, then you'll still be okay. 

Fit can impact who is on your diss committee and what classes you take and who your initial advisors are. However, you'll eventually learn that classes are more of a hassle than a plus, that people can give out good advice beyond what they publish in, and that in this day and age, connecting with people who are in your subsubsubsubfield can be done online and you don't have to physically be their student (though of course, you're somewhat advantaged if you're their student). 

On the other hand, prestige impacts how seriously people take you on the job market, especially for R1s. You can win the {whatever your subfield's equivalent of the EE Schattschneider award is} and have an APSR but some job committees will still think an unpublished CHYMPS kid has more "potential." Unless you are a massive exception (and it's always best to assume you're not), a UChicago PhD can be competitive for a USC job, but a USC PhD cannot get a UChicago job. I think I've said this a few times on this board, but one of the most helpful exercises when trying to decide where to go to is to compare the schools' placement. If you're not super interested in a TT job, I'd think long and hard about why a PhD because damn doing a PhD is a lot of suck. 

Prestige is often associated with a lot more implicit benefits as well (though this is a little less of a concern because USC has money more than somewhere like Wisconsin does). Summer funding, money floating around for surveys, subsidized housing, teaching loads, conference travel funding, etc. are often so much better at better-ranked school. The less time you spend worrying about money and doing things that are not research, the more time you have for research. This is very important. 

P.S. CA might be sunny, but you can actually afford to live in something more than a glorified box in the midwest. We spend all our time working anyways :((((( 

Thank you immensely!! I really appreciate you taking your time to share this with me :) I’m definitely not going to disregard this advice in my future decision. 

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5 minutes ago, PolNerd said:

Hi @BunniesInSpace, what program are you attending if you don't mind me asking? What is your take on OSU vs Rice (17 points difference in rank)?

A T10. Not trying to doxx myself here lol. 

Harder to say on OSU (assuming Ohio and not Oregon lol) vs. Rice. My immediate reaction is OSU but largely because I know very little about Rice/their faculty. For AP it's for sure Ohio State. Other subfields may be less clear idk I'm not an expert there. Again, the ceiling for jobs you can get from OSU is higher than the ceiling for jobs you can get from Rice. Plus (assuming you get funded), Ohio State pays well enough unlike say UNC. I'd highly recommend looking at placement and comparing the kinds of jobs (like especially the median job, not the one time OSU placed someone at Harvard kind of job) that people are getting from each program. 

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48 minutes ago, BrownSugar said:

Thank you :) I really appreciate everyone’s insights and I’ll certainly take them into account if USC v Chicago end up as my final decision!
 

To be completely transparent - I don’t have any fixed plans to stay in the US long-term (partner is European) or necessarily pursue the tenure track. I have decided to pursue a US PhD in the first place given its overall strength and career flexibility on an international scale, so that’s why I was prioritizing fit over prestige. But like I said, I WILL take into account your insights. 

With regards to working outside of the US, how recognizable a school is is also key. I am an applicant too, but at least where I live, the University of Chicago is one of the most well-known universities in the US (after Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Berkeley, I think). I do not know how perceptions are elsewhere, but my feeling is that non-academic job prospects for a UChicago grad are better than a USC grad. (Sorry to butt in!)

Edited by Barry B. Benson
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2 hours ago, Paulcg87 said:

Everyone calm down, it's not a big deal. Seriously. Cal/GSPP is definitely more of a research MPP, but many others are not. It isn't enough of one or the other to really say "all MPP's are research based" or "all MPP's are professional/terminal degrees". Here in Canada, MPP's tend to be more professional based but we do have research-based MPP's too (see "The MPP is a research based degree" under courses at: https://www.schoolofpublicpolicy.sk.ca/programs/graduate-programs/master-of-public-policy.php). It really goes both ways. No need to argue so much about it. And personally, I'd rather have an MPP in the current economy, but if you'd asked me a year ago, I'd rather have had an MBA. If it's from a good school, MPP's are more marketable in recessions when there's a surplus of MBA's, and MBA's are more marketable when the economy is good. Don't believe me? There's literally tonnes on this right now...

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/09/elon-musk-on-the-problem-with-corporate-america-too-many-mbas-.html

https://www.ft.com/content/f2d91aca-8933-11ea-9dcb-fe6871f4145a

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/there-are-officially-too-many-mbas/266880/

So I can only access CNBC and The Atlantic since I ran out of Forbes subscriptions. You need to understand these articles in context.

CNBC - Elon is essentially saying the there is too much hiring of MBAs. That is basically saying hey, MBA demand is super strong right now, and he disagrees with it. Funny - Tesla does directly MBA hiring all the time despite all the talk about how they don't care for the degree (I have friends who worked there), so that isn't stopping Elon. 

The Atlantic - That is from 2013. Yes, the was height of MBA excess. But that changed. MBA schools became decommissioned (such was Virginia Tech's full time program) and Tech companies began recruiting for MBAs. 

The reason why MBAs are so valuable is that although the economy has grown, class sizes for the top 30 or so schools haven't really. However, MBAs have so many more recruiting opportunities now than they did 7 years ago. Government and non-profit now aggressively recruit for MBAs (and often prefer them over MPPs/MPAs). Of course, the big change is Tech. They started off as anti-MBA, but now can't get enough. I should give credit to how MBA schools have really expanded their curriculum and experience to cater to a wide audience as well. 

 

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2 hours ago, irinmn said:

Yeah I'm thinking I'll stick with the MPP being more marketable right now bit. Say whatever you want. If you come from an ivy or somewhere like Michigan or Berkeley, in this economy and with the surplus of MBA's, I'd still rather have an MPP. As far as the research bit, I guess some are, some are not. Seems pretty clear that some are explicitly calling themselves research degrees. This entire discussion has gone way beyond what I intended, which was to say that an MPP from UCSD is a great option to have and I'd rather be doing that than going through an MBA, law school or some other kind of terminal professional degree. 

You have it backwards. There is actually a shortage of top MBA candidates, as you see 97 to 99% job placement at pretty much all top 30 schools. Policy schools don't advertise their job placement rates for a reasons (or put lots of qualifiers on it - a popular one is among those that responded). About a 1/3rd of my MPP class graduated with no job. I often meet MPP graduates as my waiters (just recently while out door dining).

The reason behind this is that MPP suffers from supply and demand problem. In regards to demand, it suffers from increased competition from other degrees encroaching on their space (J.D.s, MBA, other grad, data science, and even undergrad. Although MPP has only marginally increased their value in the private sector. The size of US government also hasn't changed since the Obama administration, so its not like there are more government jobs to cater to MPPs to float around. On the supply side, there have been class size growth among MPP programs like at CIPA in Cornell and UVA Batten. 

The only reason why this is such a big deal to me is because I meet so many people like you who think an MPP is rising demand (for various reasons) and find that their career and salary prospects to be absolutely disappointing because they never took stock about the economics limitations of an MPP. 

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2 hours ago, BrownSugar said:

Actually, I prefer USC over Chicago (controversial, I’m sure haha, but it’s for a few reasons). Depending on the remaining ones, I think I’ll actually be confirming USC in the end.

I do hope one of you on the forum here can get my place at Chicago :) 

Does weather factor into that? As a current fellow Caribbean resident, not sure I'm up for lake effect cold weather thanks to Lake Michigan 😂 all jokes haha

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2 hours ago, PolNerd said:

I love research (and honestly research that have policy relevance - maybe a TT position at the IR policy schools like Elliott or Denver could be a great fit) and I have very strong "independent" streak to put it lightly, haha so academia seems like the place I will be happy in. But the horrible TT market and the financial aspect of giving up 5 years of salary equivalent to a TT position is giving me second thoughts.

Again, don't want to be the Debbie Downer here, but I remember you mentioning having several years of prior work experience and an MPP (?). If the market is even worse six years down the line than it is now, there's nothing wrong with doing ac-adjacent work while job searching in academia. Continue writing papers, attend policy-themed conferences, maintain professionalization in research while doing the PhD and you should be relatively safe afterwards. I can't speak to the income hit during your PhD though, that's a very personal decision.

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Hey guys, up to now all I've gotten is rejections and I'm missing to hear back from around 6 programs. Would it be wise to just assume if this top programs rejected me that the outcome will prolly be the same? Lol Id rather grieve for a while and start taking some decisions. I'm not trying to be super negative but trying to assess. Any thoughts would help!

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After reading the previous discussion, guys, here my 5 cents: Academia is not about money. No. It is about love-love to science, to the breathtaking feeling of discoveries and understanding that one is developing, doing something noble. It is about a fit between an inner (often innate) avid desire to learn and accumulating something that will always be with you. It is about a permanent journey and the spirit of the eternal youth. 
I'm not preaching, do not get me wrong: While having challenging stats classes, I'm asking myself quite often: " should I have swapped my highly paid job and quite relaxed way of life for the sleepless nights of a Ph.D. program?..." - But, when "that" paper is finally done, the semester is over, and I'm drinking a cup of coffee with a few sips of cognac, I feel fabulous. I feel I was right when I made a decision. And I understand that otherwise, I would be self-flagellating until the rest of the life if I did not try the taste of Academia.
Academia is tough, transformative, and quite often painful, but the majority of you, I believe, will love it too. :)
And yes, money...- In short: Be a good scholar, and you will have a well-paid job.

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27 minutes ago, kestrel18 said:

After reading the previous discussion, guys, here my 5 cents: Academia is not about money. No. It is about love-love to science, to the breathtaking feeling of discoveries and understanding that one is developing, doing something noble. It is about a fit between an inner (often innate) avid desire to learn and accumulating something that will always be with you. It is about a permanent journey and the spirit of the eternal youth. 
I'm not preaching, do not get me wrong: While having challenging stats classes, I'm asking myself quite often: " should I have swapped my highly paid job and quite relaxed way of life for the sleepless nights of a Ph.D. program?..." - But, when "that" paper is finally done, the semester is over, and I'm drinking a cup of coffee with a few sips of cognac, I feel fabulous. I feel I was right when I made a decision. And I understand that otherwise, I would be self-flagellating until the rest of the life if I did not try the taste of Academia.
Academia is tough, transformative, and quite often painful, but the majority of you, I believe, will love it too. :)
And yes, money...- In short: Be a good scholar, and you will have a well-paid job.

I understand what you mean and I appreciate that perspective, but unfortunately, academia has changed since many of our advisors went on and got their PhDs. During my very short time in college, I got to see how contigent faculty can be treated -- as much as we love academia and so many in this career love teaching students, doing research, and the whole nine yards, you still need to put food on the table. The most disheartening thing I've ever witnessed, although from afar, was faculty on "revitalization" committees having to decide which of their peers' faculty line(s) to cut. Seeing the light go out from the eyes of faculty whom many have dedicated years of their life to a university/faculty once they learn their tenure line was cut is another world of hurt. I cannot imagine how painful that process was for them. I do not want to be a Debbie Downer but unfortunately, academia is extremely sucky beyond the PhD these days, and as eventual/current wage workers in this higher-ed business model, we have to survive, and being a good scholar or teacher =/ good pay or even job security.

Edited by icemanyeo
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5 hours ago, polisci_gal said:

According to this website https://academicpositions.com/career-advice/phd-professor-and-postdoc-salaries-in-the-united-states it is around 70k. 

I think whats more important to ask yourself right now is - in the long term, what career will make you the happiest? 

I agree with this whole heartedly. I currently make A LOT more than I will ever make as a Professor. But I’m not happy doing what I’ve done for the past decade or more. 

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