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About three years out ... PhD Advice

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Hey there.

So, I'm about to graduate with an M.A. in Government (focus on American Government) at a well-regarded school. It was a terminal M.A. program, for the record - so I didn't just get the diet degree because I couldn't hack the full-calorie PhD :).

Anyway, I know this is a broad series of questions, but I'm looking for some general advice. I have a 2-3 year Presidential Management Fellowship beginning soon. After that, I'm seriously considering going for a doctorate in political science. My main area of interest is media and politics, but I'm also interested in political sociology and American political development.

With these particular interests, which schools should I be looking at? Reaches? Safeties? Etc? Any advice on what I can do over the next couple years to strengthen my chances of admission at a great program? Should I take the GRE again? ( don't really see why not; I have a few *years* to study, and I know I've expanded my vocabulary dramatically in grad school.)

Basic academic info:

GRE - V:660 M:750 W:6

MA GPA: 4.0

UG GPA: 3.95, summa cum laude (Tier 1 school)

Recs should be strong, especially if I make sure to stay in touch with my professors over the next couple years, and I have several solid writing samples.

Other things: Presidential Management Fellow. Passed M.A. comprehensive with distinction. Working on getting a streamlined version of my master's thesis published at a magazine (though not a journal). Several media internships under my belt.

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One school to consider, perhaps as a safety, although the nature of PhD admissions often makes it hard to call any school a safety, is University of Virginia. They have a growing American Politics department with several faculty who line up with your interests in media and politics as well as APD.

The best thing to do is look at the faculty at the top American Politics programs and see who lines up with your interests. Things could change by the time you are ready to apply, but this will at least give you a starting point.

Hope this helps!

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I'd say if you have the time to do a little studying, it'd be great to take the GRE again. It wouldn't be surprising to boost your combined score 80-100 points if you targeted your weak areas and did some effective sustained studying. That's not to say you don't already have a nice file, though. I don't know enough about media and politics to recommend niche programs (I think Wisconsin has some strengths there), but I'd just suggest you apply to the top 10-15 schools, see where you get in, and go the place that seems like the best fit once you've talked with faculty.

One thing you don't mention is what sort of work you're going to be doing during your PMF. Depending on the office, some fellows occasionally get the opportunity to go to the same conferences as political scientists. It would be be excellent for you to see some actual political science research (and particularly helpful for your statement of purpose) and talk to/network with some political scientists.

Good luck!

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