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PhD chance me?


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I'm applying from Canada and we don't use 4.0 here. Canada has very deflated grades, in poli sci classes it's basically impossible to get an A+.  


  • Graduated in 2020 with Honours in Political Science from top 3 Canadian university.
  • Completed an Honours thesis equivalant in length and scope to the MA program at my school, thesis topic is related to my proposed graduate topic.
  • Strong base in quantitative methods using Stata and R. Also have already taken MA level courses. 
  • My graduating GPA was 85%, in poli sci 90% is the maximum grade you can achieve. I've been told by my professors that this is an outstanding GPA for poli sci. 
  • I was top 5% of the arts faculty and graduated first class honours with multiple scholarships and awards
  • 3 outstanding letters of reference from my research assistant supervisor, my thesis co-supervisor and honours chair, and my other thesis co-supervisor. All 3 tenured profs with reputable names in US/Canada with education from top US schools. I spoke to all of them before applying and they agreed to write strong letters for me. The honours chair prof said he typically writes an explanation on grade deflation for US schools, he was previously on admissions committees at Penn and said it was valuable.  
  • I also attended a summer French immersion in Quebec with an average of 4.0/4.33 and have multiple achievements for language performance. 
  • I was a teaching assistant for first year intro to Canadian politics as well. 

Research experience:

  • I worked for a research centre for just over a year at my university where I did RA work for a well known prof, it is related to my research field. This didn't result in publications though unfortunately. I also organized an international conference which brought together top scholars in the topic from around the world. This 3 day conference resulted in publications which I assisted in editing. 
  • My thesis is original research using novel methods and theory combining IR and sports. It was a quantitative based thesis using time series analysis.
  • I currently work (since October) at a top think tank in Canada doing research on topics related to my research interests. I will have publications later this year in April and plan to write some other original work before my end date in August


This is where things get dicey because I didn't do well on the GRE. I Got 154V 152Q 5.5AWS which I strongly believe was because I wrote it in August during a heatwave in an unairconditioned building. I couldn't focus on the test because I was so hot and dehydrated. I was also going through an intense breakup and job changes in August so I decided to restart my study plan with the schedule of re-taking the exam the first week of November. However, on the Tuesday before I was going to take the GRE (at home this time), my best friend was tragically killed in an accident. I was helping her write her grad school applications at the same time and genuinely writing my own was so painful. I do explain this in the personal/mitigating factors sections of my SOP, especially in applications which had a separate personal letter. I know beyond a doubt, I would have scored higher on the GRE had this not happened. My mock test scores a week or so before were 162V 158Q and I'm confident in my writing ability. 

I've mostly applied for top 20 US PhD programs as well as Canadian MA programs as a back up. I applied to Cornell as well which is a GRE optional school. 

I got a lot of feedback from my peers about my SOP and they said it was very strong. I have a unique, but relevant and interesting research topic that is part of an emerging field. I feel like my undergraduate academic performance and my research experience outweighs my GRE score. I had a really hard time finding relevant work experience since graduating during the pandemic. 

Does my profile seem plausible?

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Everything besides your test scores are great and many US schools don’t even require GRE scores anymore. I would say you definitely have a chance, but it will depend on fit, interested professors, which subfield you applied to, and who else applied to each department. Applications are still up from normal because of Covid, so your competition will be stronger. If you happen to not get in, don’t take it as a sign of being unqualified. Good luck!

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I mean no one here can give you the comfort that I think you're seeking. It's going to come down to how much particular schools (especially newly GRE optional schools) weigh the GRE and the explanation statement (let alone your particular own statement), which no one here knows/is willing to reveal. Obviously you know your academic record is good, and your GRE is (relatively) bad. If you don't succeed this year, obviously retake the GRE and get over 160/160 because that's probably what's holding you back. 


But yeah, I figured I might as well articulate what a lot of the non-response here implies. No one knows how much they'll weigh specific components for you, especially given the circumstances. If you're a total slam dunk aside from the GRE then you'll likely get in places. At the same time, we can't know if you're a total slam dunk because we're not reading your complete app (most importantly, not reading your rec letters) on here. Plenty of near-perfect GPAs apply from top schools to polisci phds every year, so your academic record alone doesn't guarantee that you're one of the tippy-toppest applicants (agnostic of the GRE). 

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