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another "chances" thread - crucial for phd acceptance: publications, master's, GRE?

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hi everyone!

after a hiatus after undergrad, I've decided to pursue an anthro phd. after I graduated (2019), I wanted to make sure that a phd was what I truly wanted before applying. covid really extended that timeframe by a few years, I think, so I have a few questions as I'm getting back into the swing of things.

I'd prefer to apply in the 2025 cycle, but if the things below are crucial for a successful app, I'd push it back to 2026. but it'd be great to get started sooner rather than later!

  • are publications really necessary to the success of your app, especially at top schools? if so, I could probably workshop my undergraduate thesis over the next few months and at least get it submitted, but if it's not really that big of a deal, it would be great to allocate that time to strengthening other aspects of my app.
  • likewise, is a high GRE score still a big plus? many programs have GRE optional apps (UPenn, for example). not sure how truly optional they are? I haven't taken the GRE (covid), but i could try to prep for and take it in the next year.
  • finally, how important is having a master's? i remember my undergraduate advisor saying that many of the top programs will want to see either publications or a master's, but I'm not sure how things stand post-covid.

aside from those 3 things, I think (hope!) that I would have a compelling application overall:

  • graduated with 3.96 gpa in anthropology
  • 50+ page honors thesis, plus several research projects at my school and other institutions; I have presented research at conferences
  • I think my LORs would be strong & I received several awards through my school
  • received a fulbright eta to the country I'd like to do fieldwork in. i speak the language fairly well & plan to spend a lot of time improving over the next few months
  • i have a pretty good idea of what I'd like to study, though i still need to narrow (historical memory, nationalism, ecological change in country)
  • work experience after college (not sure if this really matters, though)

I know for sure that I want to apply to UPenn and UChicago, but other than that, I still need to do some digging.

very appreciative of any advice or insight anyone has!


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