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Advice for an applicant (fall 2012)


Anna87
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Hello everyone :)

Im looking to apply to phd programs this upcoming fall 2012. However, I was wondering how many schools would be advisable to apply to.

Currently, I am attending an MA program and will graduate in 2013.

Honestly, being a grad student, I am really worried about the cost of the applications. I know I need to apply to a good number of schools, but I just want some advice from some of you that have been through the process before.

Also, if you have any other advice this early on in the application process such as: things to think about, things that you were happy you did/ didnt do, or things that you wish you would have done.

Thanks so much!

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Hello everyone :)

Im looking to apply to phd programs this upcoming fall 2012. However, I was wondering how many schools would be advisable to apply to.

Currently, I am attending an MA program and will graduate in 2013.

Honestly, being a grad student, I am really worried about the cost of the applications. I know I need to apply to a good number of schools, but I just want some advice from some of you that have been through the process before.

Also, if you have any other advice this early on in the application process such as: things to think about, things that you were happy you did/ didnt do, or things that you wish you would have done.

Thanks so much!

I'm applying this year too. While I can't really help I've found Prof. Monteiro's site useful http://www.nunomonteiro.org/advice/grad-admissions

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I only applied for MA programs, so far I have been accepted without funding to one school (where it wasn't really expected). rejected from a school I swore I should have gotten into too, where I already had funding.. I got so caught up in assuming I would get into the program. I am advised as an undergrad by an ex prof from that school. Way back when I asked him for a rec letter, he told me in 15 years he had never sucessfully sent a student here, and many had tried. He said he didn't want me to take it wrong because its not that he felt I was incapable, and I exceede their admissions standards and their program matched my research interests. He just didn't want me to get my hopes up too high. He mentioned that again, when I got the funding. Now, I am still waiting on several programs, one where I wanted to go more then this particular school i just wanted this so badly because incase the other school didn't work out or I didn't get funding, it really was one awsome back up plan.

I guess my adivce is too listen to your LOTR's, because they would know, and never ever pick a safety shool that one of your LOTRS, has not had sucess with sending students, because there is probably a reason for their lack of sucess. I just poured so much time and effort into that application, for nothing, and I garentee the rejection wasn't me it was where I came from and who I studied under. Sorry I am a little bitter, but thus far this application season, that is my only real regret.

Edited by wame0601
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Im looking to apply to phd programs this upcoming fall 2012. However, I was wondering how many schools would be advisable to apply to.

Apply to as many schools as you can afford and only to places that, for one reason or another, you would be happy to attend. Do not apply to "safety schools" because the system is so damn random that there is no such thing as a safety school. DO apply to schools other than/in addition to HYPS because there are dozens of strong and well funded programs outside the so-called "gold standard." Borrow money from your parents to help pay application fees, they may forget about this debt if you get into your dream school.

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I would strongly advise shooting for between 8-12 (maybe more if you can afford it). In my opinion, the more schools you apply to, the more you are able to maximize your chances. It is important to keep in mind that different committees are composed of different members and every application requires different materials. This variability can allow for a wide range in how competitive an admissions committee perceives your application to be.

Things I am glad I did:

1) Study for the GRE (though I presume you already did this as you are in a masters program). I studied almost excusively for the quant section and I think it is by far the most important part of the exam. You do not want your GRE scores to hold you back.

2) Get as many people to read your SOP as possible. I think this was the strongest part of my application and I really benefited from the advice given by several professors. Also, have someone else (beside a prof.) read your SOP before you do your final submission. I submitted a SOP with a typo in it to three schools. Not sure if it mattered, but you really do not want something so trivial to keep you out.

3) Apply to a lot of schools. See my note above for this.

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Thanks for all the advice! It’s extremely helpful to hear from people who have been through the process.

Another question I have, did any of you visit the schools you applied to and/or get in contact with professors at the schools?

For my MA program I was already in contact with a professor before I applied due to an open house I attended.

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Thanks for all the advice! It’s extremely helpful to hear from people who have been through the process.

Another question I have, did any of you visit the schools you applied to and/or get in contact with professors at the schools?

For my MA program I was already in contact with a professor before I applied due to an open house I attended.

I visited one school (a lower-ranked program closer to home), talked to several faculty members and..... got rejected. Despite getting into several much more highly ranked programs. So either I really sucked in those conversations, or at the very least it didn't help at all.

Basic point: it's not necessary, likely won't help and might even hurt. Even a positive visit wouldn't necessarily help b/c it's tough to predict who will be on the adcom. If a visit is easy, go for it -- I don't really think it hurts chances :) -- but I wouldn't go to any great expense to visit before applying.

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Thanks for all the advice! It’s extremely helpful to hear from people who have been through the process.

Another question I have, did any of you visit the schools you applied to and/or get in contact with professors at the schools?

For my MA program I was already in contact with a professor before I applied due to an open house I attended.

Lots of people have something to say about contacting professors. My two cents: do not "get in touch with" or "visit" professors that you do not already have a strong working/academic relationship with. You will be as transparent as a pane of glass.

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I would strongly advise shooting for between 8-12 (maybe more if you can afford it). In my opinion, the more schools you apply to, the more you are able to maximize your chances. It is important to keep in mind that different committees are composed of different members and every application requires different materials. This variability can allow for a wide range in how competitive an admissions committee perceives your application to be.

Things I am glad I did:

1) Study for the GRE (though I presume you already did this as you are in a masters program). I studied almost excusively for the quant section and I think it is by far the most important part of the exam. You do not want your GRE scores to hold you back.

2) Get as many people to read your SOP as possible. I think this was the strongest part of my application and I really benefited from the advice given by several professors. Also, have someone else (beside a prof.) read your SOP before you do your final submission. I submitted a SOP with a typo in it to three schools. Not sure if it mattered, but you really do not want something so trivial to keep you out.

3) Apply to a lot of schools. See my note above for this.

I agree with all of this. Also, try to get a fair reading of what your likely "range" of programs should be. A lot of people advocate applying across the range of schools, but that can be a poor strategy if you're a good candidate. If I have any regrets from this past cycle, it's that I was a bit too conservative in choosing my schools. I wish I'd tried for a few top-10s and fewer top-30s. Key, I think, is talking to advisors who can give you some idea of what your range should be.

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Lots of people have something to say about contacting professors. My two cents: do not "get in touch with" or "visit" professors that you do not already have a strong working/academic relationship with. You will be as transparent as a pane of glass.

Agreed.

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Lots of people have something to say about contacting professors. My two cents: do not "get in touch with" or "visit" professors that you do not already have a strong working/academic relationship with. You will be as transparent as a pane of glass.

Thats kind of how I felt too, dont think professors want to hear from hundreds of applicants each fall :)

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Apply to as many as you can afford, but don't apply to schools you wouldn't be happy going to. So if you think that you would want to try another application round if you only got into School X, rethink your priorities.

I'd also suggest you start a Fall 2012-2013 Application Cycle thread and post your stats there - that should help give you some feedback. I applied to 10 PhD programs and 2 master's level programs, and it worked out well, but I think the makeup of your list is just as crucial as the size. For example, applying to CHYMPS + the next 4 highest ranked schools is probably not a great plan if you're cash constrained, as you might end up facing another cycle. And since you're already in a master's program, that could be less than ideal for you. But again, apply to as many as you can afford and think you might go to, and structure the list carefully.

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I would strongly advise shooting for between 8-12 (maybe more if you can afford it). In my opinion, the more schools you apply to, the more you are able to maximize your chances. It is important to keep in mind that different committees are composed of different members and every application requires different materials. This variability can allow for a wide range in how competitive an admissions committee perceives your application to be.

[...]

3) Apply to a lot of schools. See my note above for this.

This advice needs to be qualified quite considerably. There simply isn't a magic number. If your interests are fairly conventional (which doesn't mean that your approach to them cannot be earth-shattering, e.g. by introducing new theoretical concepts or research methods to the literature, by making novel comparisons, by expanding the issue scope, etc.) and not too specific, then it might not be a bad idea to apply to 8-12 schools as you'll probably be able to find advisors at that many schools. But if you have a very clear idea of what research project you want to embark on, then it

will simply be a waste of money to apply to schools that do not align with your interests. E.g. good luck finding 12 schools to study feminist institutionalism at. I was in a situation like this: I was hard-pressed to find more than four schools that made any sense (my application to Princeton was a throwaway). So the number of schools I'd advise you to apply to is partly a function of the generality of your research interests.

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This advice needs to be qualified quite considerably. There simply isn't a magic number. If your interests are fairly conventional (which doesn't mean that your approach to them cannot be earth-shattering, e.g. by introducing new theoretical concepts or research methods to the literature, by making novel comparisons, by expanding the issue scope, etc.) and not too specific, then it might not be a bad idea to apply to 8-12 schools as you'll probably be able to find advisors at that many schools. But if you have a very clear idea of what research project you want to embark on, then it

will simply be a waste of money to apply to schools that do not align with your interests. E.g. good luck finding 12 schools to study feminist institutionalism at. I was in a situation like this: I was hard-pressed to find more than four schools that made any sense (my application to Princeton was a throwaway). So the number of schools I'd advise you to apply to is partly a function of the generality of your research interests.

This. I'll qualify this further by saying that fit isn't everything and some larger full-service departments might be able to accomodate you if you have a really interesting project that a set of their faculty could reasonably advise, but otherwise don't just apply to 5 top 10s because you feel compelled to; apply to them because they would be good schools for you.

This round was my second cycle for PhDs. My first cycle I applied to 10 schools, all within the top 20. Completely struck out. From that round my advice to you is: start now on your SoP. Take a day or a weekend and write about what interests you and what kinds of projects you'd like to work on. Make it simple and to the point. Then send it to your advisor(s)/mentor(s) and have them give you feedback. You want input on ideas and style, yes, but also with that statement, which schools they think you should target. If there are ideas and works that interest you, note down where those authors are currently on faculty and bounce those departments off your advisors to see whether they might be a fit for you (author X might have had some groundbreaking theory and be the coolest mind since sliced bread, but they could also be a complete jerk who cannibalizes the work of their grad students).

Make your advisors be honest with you. Cough up your transcripts and GRE scores and ask them to take a serious look and tell you where you stand. I had no guidance my first round, so I just applied to the top places that seemed like there were good faculty, with a completely incoherent SoP. Second time around, I had some faculty in my field take a look at my statement and help me refine it. Despite having struck out they took a real look at my stats and said that I could reasonably make it into a top 30 program, probably a top 15, possibly a top 10. From there I picked a set of 13 schools in that order: 2-3 top 30s, 4-5 top 12-20s, and 4-5 top 10s. To me, this was a worthwhile investment because I was not planning to make a go at a third cycle.

I didn't get in everywhere I applied this round either, but the places I did get in are great fits for me--and they're all places that I didn't apply to in my first round. So in spite of the caveat I laid out previously, you should think about what kinds of places can accomodate your work first and foremost, and then select a reasonable range within those schools.

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