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Thinking about applying to grad school in Canada, what are good/decent programs that I can realistically gain admission to?

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Hi all,

I am currently looking to pursue an MA in international relations/political science/global affairs (different schools use different terminology). Since I have a relatively weak profile apart from my GRE score, I am trying to be a bit conservative and not apply only to top schools. 

Anyway, to the point of the post, I'm seriously considering applying to grad school in Canada, in large part for financial reasons. From what I have heard (and you can correct me if I'm wrong), tuition for international students at most Canadian universities is still cheaper than what I'd probably be paying out-of-state here in the US. So it's a pretty appealing idea to me to study in Canada.

So I have a few questions in terms of what programs to apply to and my admissions chances. 

So the basic profile which I kind of alluded to before: I'm 22, M, living in the Atlanta area. I graduated from the University of Michigan in May of 2020 with a BA in Political Science. My GPA was relatively poor (3.335 on a 4.0 scale). My extracurriculars and work experience are also pretty limited (just a couple internships during/after undergrad). My GRE is pretty good though, 168 verbal and 160 quant (I'm not aware how closely Canadian schools look at GRE).

So basically you have someone with a relevant degree from a top public university in the US, but with a pretty weak GPA and very limited work experience/extracurricular activities, good GRE score. 

Now, I don't really know a lot about Canadian universities, much less about specific programs in int rel/global affairs/polisci. So basically my questions are:

1) What Canadian schools are considered good for a masters degree in this field? Maybe if someone could give me like a Tier 1, Tier 2, 3 sort of thing. 

2) Given my profile and all the factors listed above, what are my chances of gaining admission to a Tier 1/2/3 Canadian grad program? Where do you recommend I apply?

Thanks all in advance. :)

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Hi there,

I'm Canadian and did my undergrad in politics at a Canadian university (would be roughly 'top five' in domestic rankings – not that rankings are all too significant here compared to the US/UK). I ended up going to the UK for my master's but was admitted to MA programs at Toronto, UBC, and McGill with SSHRC funding for each. To be honest, my impression is that Canadian MA admissions in political science aren't all too competitive to get into, and I think you'd be comparable to applicants at some decent programs - for what it's worth, my own undergrad had a reputable MA program in politics, and even then I knew of students coming in with a GPA similar to yours. Don't worry too much about extra-curriculars and work experience, as those don't seem to be really emphasized in the admissions process – you may be asked to submit a CV, but I'm not sure how closely they look at that, and your statement of purpose will otherwise be focused on your academic interests and objectives. Your internship experience sounds like more than enough either way. You should certainly submit your GRE scores if there's an option to do so (and I think certain programs like UBC require them for international applicants), and make sure to have a good writing sample, as these may help compensate for your low(er) GPA. If you were able to get higher grades in your upper-level courses, that would probably be seen positively as well – and I think Toronto asks for your upper-year GPA specifically on the application form. I imagine the fact you're coming from Michigan would get your file a decent look regardless, especially if you can get some good references from your professors there.

The one thing to consider (and which I'm not sure I can comment on fully, if anyone else on here may know?) is that I'm aware that Canadian programs are sometimes limited in terms of the number of international applicants they can accept – basically, the Department will have a set amount of funding that it can allocate for tuition remission etc. and only a couple 'spots' are allocated for international applicants as a result (for which they'll have to be more competitive than your average domestic applicant). This may be more of an issue for programs that have guaranteed funding for admits (versus say, McGill and Toronto, where MA funding is more scarce in general), and it may also depend on the particular province and how they set international tuition fees – but perhaps someone else on here would have a better idea about those specifics.

Speaking solely in terms of your academic qualifications, given your good GRE scores and the reputation of your undergraduate institution, I would still consider applying to Toronto/McGill/UBC – you'll be up against students with higher GPA's for sure, but your GRE (and Michigan references) might be able to put you on a better footing. Apart from those schools I'd maybe check out Queen's, York, and Ottawa depending on what your interests are – and if you're more interested in policy-oriented programs then it would be worth checking out NPSIA at Carleton, as well as the Munk School at Toronto. But if you're hoping to go back to the US after, it's worth applying to the 'top 3' even if you have doubts, given those departments are a bit more oriented towards American political science than the others in terms of methodological approaches and where they hire their faculty from, and in general they enjoy better name recognition internationally.

Hopefully this helps somewhat, though I'm sure there's others on here who'll be more knowledgeable about Canadian programs – feel free to PM if you have any more questions about the admissions process nonetheless!



Edited by Interpretivist
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  • 3 weeks later...

Seconding Interpretivist.

It doesn't much matter, unless you're trying to go back the USA for PhD.

Did you end up applying to Canadian schools for your MA?

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  • 1 month later...
On 1/22/2021 at 8:50 PM, KayCee said:

Seconding Interpretivist.

It doesn't much matter, unless you're trying to go back the USA for PhD.

Did you end up applying to Canadian schools for your MA?

Yes! Sorry for the late update. I ended up applying to U of T and McGill.

Apart from the two in Canada, I applied to American, George Washington, Georgia Tech, and IHEID.

I have already been accepted into American and George Washington, waiting to hear on the others. Wasn't expecting that to be honest! I'd honestly have been happy just to get into one or two of the six I applied, but I'm 2/2 so far! Now it seems like I may have the reverse problem of having to pick which one 😀.

Edited by Indo-American Polisci Dude
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