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A Singapore law undergraduate's chances at top ranked Pol Sci programmes


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Hi everyone, I am a third year law undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (world ranked) and am planning on applying to Pol Sci programmes for the fall of 2012. In Singapore, law is taught as a four-year undergraduate degree. In law school, I am specialising in international law subjects and have done very well for those (was close to obtaining the subject prize for Public International Law). I intend to specialise in International Relations when I do get into a Pol Sci PhD programme. I am looking at the top ranked PhD programmes - Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale.

My key concern is with regards the GPA quantification for international applicants like myself. My faculty does not have a G.P.A. system nor will it provide students with their rank at the end of each year. However, at the end of the 4 years, the top 5% of the cohort (200+ students) will receive a First Class Honours, the top 10% of the cohort are placed on the Dean’s List, and the top 55% of the cohort receive a Second Class Honours Upper Division (definitely equivalent to a 2:1 in the UK system, maybe even better). Admissions to my law school is extremely competitive - entry grades of AAA for 'A' levels are required. My law school grades according to a bell curve - the average is right smack between a B and a B- (an equal number of Bs and B-s in any one class, and the spectrum of grades is from an A+ to a D/F - i.e. someone will get an A+ and someone will get a D/F). For my first 2 years, I was at the top 50%. Last semester, I did extremely well and have a very good chance at the Dean's List (10%) solely for my third year (I am aiming for top place for third year).

I have a year left before I apply at the end of 2011 for Fall 2012 programmes. I can only apply with three years' transcripts and not my fourth year because the results will not be released in time. My question is whether my mediocre performance (top 50%) in the first 2 years of law school puts me out of the running immediately for programmes in Harvard/Princeton/Stanford/Yale. These subjects were all compulsory law subjects, little to do with political science. Last semester, my subjects were all international law subjects which I aced. Does the admissions committee look at particular subjects in the transcript to determine whether to admit me, or will those Cs in the first 2 years (damn the bell curve!) compel admissions committees to toss my application aside immediately? Do admissions committees use the scale similar to that on the WES Conversion website? If so, that must mean with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, I have the US-equivalent of an A grade (http://www.wes.org/g...e/singapore.htm) thus far.

Next semester and the following. I will be doing Political Science modules in another faculty where it should be much easier to score As, and will be working as an RA for one or two of them, both of whom obtained their PhDs from top ranked PhD programmes in the US and are well respected in the American Political Science fraternity to this day. I will also be doing two directed undergraduate research projects in international law, and am seeking to get an international law article published in a refereed law journal. I have yet to take the GREs.

So, are my chances at Harvard/Princeton/Stanford/Yale still good?

Edited by singaporelawstudent
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Hi everyone, I am a third year law undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (world ranked) and am planning on applying to Pol Sci programmes for the fall of 2012. In Singapore, law is taught as a four-year undergraduate degree. In law school, I am specialising in international law subjects and have done very well for those (was close to obtaining the subject prize for Public International Law). I intend to specialise in International Relations when I do get into a Pol Sci PhD programme. I am looking at the top ranked PhD programmes - Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale.

My key concern is with regards the GPA quantification for international applicants like myself. My faculty does not have a G.P.A. system nor will it provide students with their rank at the end of each year. However, at the end of the 4 years, the top 5% of the cohort (200+ students) will receive a First Class Honours, the top 10% of the cohort are placed on the Dean’s List, and the top 55% of the cohort receive a Second Class Honours Upper Division (definitely equivalent to a 2:1 in the UK system, maybe even better). Admissions to my law school is extremely competitive - entry grades of AAA for 'A' levels are required. My law school grades according to a bell curve - the average is right smack between a B and a B- (an equal number of Bs and B-s in any one class, and the spectrum of grades is from an A+ to a D/F - i.e. someone will get an A+ and someone will get a D/F). For my first 2 years, I was at the top 50%. Last semester, I did extremely well and have a very good chance at the Dean's List (10%) solely for my third year (I am aiming for top place for third year).

I have a year left before I apply at the end of 2011 for Fall 2012 programmes. I can only apply with three years' transcripts and not my fourth year because the results will not be released in time. My question is whether my mediocre performance (top 50%) in the first 2 years of law school puts me out of the running immediately for programmes in Harvard/Princeton/Stanford/Yale. These subjects were all compulsory law subjects, little to do with political science. Last semester, my subjects were all international law subjects which I aced. Does the admissions committee look at particular subjects in the transcript to determine whether to admit me, or will those Cs in the first 2 years (damn the bell curve!) compel admissions committees to toss my application aside immediately? Do admissions committees use the scale similar to that on the WES Conversion website? If so, that must mean with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, I have the US-equivalent of an A grade (http://www.wes.org/g...e/singapore.htm) thus far.

Next semester and the following. I will be doing Political Science modules in another faculty where it should be much easier to score As, and will be working as an RA for one or two of them, both of whom obtained their PhDs from top ranked PhD programmes in the US and are well respected in the American Political Science fraternity to this day. I will also be doing two directed undergraduate research projects in international law, and am seeking to get an international law article published in a refereed law journal. I have yet to take the GREs.

So, are my chances at Harvard/Princeton/Stanford/Yale still good?

hi, currently, your academic performance sounds not bad. More importantly for you to get into Harvard/Yale/Princeton is your match, whether you share similiar research interest with the faculty there. Besides, you need to convince it to your committee through a solid personal statement. High GRE would be a bonus for you. As you said that you are doing some research project , if you can turn them out into some publication, I mean academic paper at least, your chances will be much higher! Last but not least, delve deeper to more programmes which match your interest, I think it is good for you to look around to know the width first and then decide where to go.

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Are you good enough to be competitive? Maybe. Your legal background might compensate for any gaps in quantitative classes. That said, it sounds like you are a bit late to the game: I don't know how flexible your program is, but if you were to tech up your coursework right now, you might not have grades in time for the Fall 2012 app cycle. If you did, I would retool for game theory. The other question is whether you have space to take substantive polisci courses _and_ methods classes (possibly in econ, math, compsci) when both would be electives in a law program. Coursework aside, I would focus on getting something decent published in your subfield.

Are your chances "good"? The reality is that admissions outcomes for the top 10 programs can be very random, and you should be aware that many "perfect" applicants get turned away every year. I would also consider substantive fit very carefully.

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