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Profile Evaluation for PhD please---where should I aim for?

Liming Ma

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Undergrad: studied law at a top 5 national law school affiliated to an unknown university in China, GPA 3.3 (first two years I was top in my cohort, but then my GPA&rank dropped...probably due to break-up and my own immaturity...I don't know whether I should address this in my SOP)



Master in Law from a top 10 US law school, no GPA, but I got 3 HH (top 20% in the class) and 1 H (top 50%) out of 7 graded courses.

Master in IR from a world top 100 university in Hong Kong, majoring in International Relations, GPA 3.81, top 10%, including thesis and Research Methods Courses.

A graduate certicate program from a top 3 professional interantional affairs school in US with a 3.87 GPA, where I took 4 courses in International Law, 1 in Statitics, and 2 in IR, and audited Econometrics (reflected in transcript).



1 paper to be presented at ISA-West Annual Conference this year

2 papers presented at graduate-level conferences in China, and recieved paper awards for quality

Full-time RA at a world top 50 university in Asia since June this year

A funded undergrad research project in Law & Foreign Policy



Editor of an international student-run political science journal

Editorial Assitant of a peered-reviewed human rights journal published in Chinese

two internships in law industry when I was in law school


Potential Refrees:

an Israeli International Law Professor; a big-name US Public Law & Environmental Law Professor; a Hong Kong IR Professor (Head of the Department); a US IR Professor; a Hong Kong IR Assistant Professor




V 159 Q 168 AW 4.0


Area: IR

Interests: International Law & Relations, IR theory, International Norms, Great Power Politics (Quite divided...right?)


I applied to about 10 PhD programs in US (ranging from top 20 to top 50) last year (without GRE then) and got rejected by all. After a desperately unsuccessful application cycle, I now really don't know where (which tier) should I aim for, and am too afraid of being again rejected by every school and ending up with nowhere to go. Could anyone give me some advice on choosing schools and programs? Thanks!




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  • Liming Ma changed the title to Profile Evaluation for PhD please---where should I aim for?

I honestly don't know how you got rejected by schools outside the top-20, you seem a stellar candidate. That being said, have you thought about applying outside? National University of Singapore is really good, as is RSIS (part of Nanyang Technical University). You can also apply to universities in Canada (McGill and UoT) and UK (University of Warwick has a great IR program). UCDublin is also a great choice. Best of luck!!

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It's possible the lack of GREs might have hurt you last year. Since your scores are very good (esp. quant) and the rest of your profile is too, I'd say it makes sense to apply to a similar range of schools to the one you did last year. You should definitely have a shot at schools in the top 20-30 or even above that. Of course, it all depends on how strong your SOP, letters, and writing sample are.

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