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Welcome to the 2012-2013 cycle


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Perhaps a little earlier than last year, but as the board is winding down I thought I might start this thread now for all those applying for Political Science programs this year :).

(Apologies to Balderdash for stealing the threat title, but Welcome to the cycle certainly sounds nicer

I've put together a little collection of threads to help first time applicants like myself with this daunting process.

2011-12 cycle thread. (Especially Balderdash's introduction)

Profiles and Results, SOPs, and Advice (Fall 2012)

Advice from an actual PhD (redux 2) & Admission Committee Notes

Nuno Monteiro 'Grad School Admissions' http://www.nunomonte...grad-admissions

Personally I'm an international student looking at applying everywhere (apart from Harvard) with the hope of studying International Security/IR Theory :ph34r:

Good luck to everyone.

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Thanks for creating the thread! Even though going through the application process again doesn't excite me, I look forward to sharing the experience with the wonderful people of gradcafe. =)

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Good idea, I am glad your starting it early.

So where is everyone in the process right now?

Im currently attempting to narrow down my list of schools a little more. Also, im slowly working my way towards studying for the GREs (again) something im not looking forward to :)

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Yeah, I'm studying for the GRE again, as well. Figure it can't hurt to boost my score a bit, especially Verbal.

I've mostly reworked my SOP, but I'm sure it'll undergo more changes once I figure out what I'm doing next year.

I also revised my CV/Resume. I'm pretty much ready to reapply and hear back from schools much sooner than reality actually allows. haha

Edit: Oh, and I'm revising my list of schools to include a broader range of rankings; increasing the number of schools I'm applying to in general; and looking for departments that better suit my interests than some of the ones I previously applied to.

Edited by CairoKid
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Yeah, I'm studying for the GRE again, as well. Figure it can't hurt to boost my score a bit, especially Verbal.

I've mostly reworked my SOP, but I'm sure it'll undergo more changes once I figure out what I'm doing next year.

I also revised my CV/Resume. I'm pretty much ready to reapply and hear back from schools much sooner than reality actually allows. haha

Edit: Oh, and I'm revising my list of schools to include a broader range of rankings; increasing the number of schools I'm applying to in general; and looking for departments that better suit my interests than some of the ones I previously applied to.

Do you have any thoughts about what you felt went wrong? Still let's hope this time you have better luck. Looks like quite a lot of people did a lot better on their second attempt last year.

I'm still researching academics within my broad fields of interest and using that to narrow down my choices.

Also I'm going to the British International Studies Association/ISA conference in June (luckily it's on my doorstep). The idea is to get a better idea of current research in which I can fit my own ideas.

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Do you have any thoughts about what you felt went wrong? Still let's hope this time you have better luck. Looks like quite a lot of people did a lot better on their second attempt last year.

I think my SOP was probably the weakest part of my application, and I only realized more recently when others started posting theirs. Of course, the SOP is one of the more important parts of your application because you lay out why they should pay you to study at their school. I was given advice that I didn't need to be so specific about my interests and didn't need to cater my statements too much to the specific schools. So I stayed fairly broad in my interests and my paragraph about fit was easily adjusted to each school (like insert professors' names here, and school name there). I definitely did not do a good job of connecting my experiences to my interests. I did not explicitly state what kinds of questions I wanted to address in graduate school. I could have been more specific about what I hope to do in graduate school, and why that specific graduate school was the best fit. It was just all around not what grad schools wanted to see.

So, in addition to fixing that huge problem, I should have higher GRE scores, a better writing sample (because my honors thesis will actually be done), and a better list of schools that fit my interests. My LORs will be the same (which were very strong), unless I go to a Master's program and then have one or more of my professors there write my LORs.

It's unfortunate that I thought I did enough research to put together a strong application only to later realize all the things I could have done better. But I'm glad I now know what I know. I think I'll be a much stronger candidate the next time around. Learn from your mistakes. =)

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What does everyone think about the new GREs? Did anyone take classes to study for it? If so, which one and would you recommend taking a class?

I feel as if the GREs is what would really stand in the way of any chance I would have of getting in anywhere, what scores are all of you aiming at? (realistically I mean) :)

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What does everyone think about the new GREs? Did anyone take classes to study for it? If so, which one and would you recommend taking a class?

I feel as if the GREs is what would really stand in the way of any chance I would have of getting in anywhere, what scores are all of you aiming at? (realistically I mean) :)

Judging by the scores most people have (and I mean most people on gradcafe that are getting into really high-ranked programs), and predictions as to what the "new 1400" score is on the new scale, you want at least a 160 in each section. It seems as though the writing section means less, but most people have at least a 5.0.

Generally, it's best to aim for 90th percentile or higher in all sections. You can find those exact scores on the ETS GRE site.

Edited by CairoKid
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What does everyone think about the new GREs? Did anyone take classes to study for it? If so, which one and would you recommend taking a class?

I feel as if the GREs is what would really stand in the way of any chance I would have of getting in anywhere, what scores are all of you aiming at? (realistically I mean) :)

Don't pay thousands of dollars for a class. It's honestly a waste of your money. I bought a few books from Kaplan (after survey friends about the best brand) and taught myself the things you need to know. Kaplan has a set of verbal flashcards that work well. There's 500 words, and I think I got 10 questions with those words (out of about 30 questions, that makes a HUGE difference).

Yes, it was definitely harder to stay motivated when I had to structure my study schedule...but hey. That's what grad school is about anyway. I went from an initial practice score of 540Q and 600V to 750Q 720V. So you can definitely do it.

(You're probably spending a lot on apps, so this is a place where you don't have to break the bank.)

Good luck!

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What does everyone think about the new GREs? Did anyone take classes to study for it? If so, which one and would you recommend taking a class?

I feel as if the GREs is what would really stand in the way of any chance I would have of getting in anywhere, what scores are all of you aiming at? (realistically I mean) :)

As a former GMAT/GRE instructor for Kaplan, I'll give my thoughts on the classes. For most people, I'd tend to agree with adblanche that classes aren't particularly useful (although how useful they are may depend somewhat on your instructor, and how much they're willing to work with you/respond to stuff outside of class). A big problem with the GRE classes is that people come into them with a variety of backgrounds, so you may have former engineering students and humanities students both taking a class on algebra GRE questions. The result is, people have very different goals from the class, but the class tends to roughly aim itself towards the median student. It can get a little weird in implementation.

However, I will say the class is useful if (1) You know you have difficultly getting yourself to study for this kind of thing/structuring your own time. (2) If you find that you just don't know how to approach the questions when you hit them. If you find you're frequently asking yourself "where do I start?" when doing questions on the GRE, the class focuses on building up a method for approaching questions so that doesn't happen. That can be useful for some people.

Beyond that, I think the most important thing is to do a lot of practice tests. Kaplan has an online service that you can purchase without paying for a course (and is much cheaper than a course) that gives you access to a "Quiz Bank" full of practice tests, and lots of verbal and quant questions - I think the online materials are a VERY useful set of resources. Outside the practice tests (and you should get the practice test the ETS releases which uses the "Powerprep" software as well) the Kaplan online service allows you to generate quizzes based on difficulty level and area; you could, for instance, just tell it to generate a 10 question timed quiz using only high-level difficult questions in probability, and thus do targeted practice in a specific area. I've found a lot of people can learn a lot faster by focusing on their weaknesses; the online service also gives you detailed information on your test performance that can be really useful for diagnosing what your weaknesses are. Personally, I think the online resources are well worth the money for most people, and are substantially better than just getting the books.

Finally, if finances are not a constraint, a private tutor can be more useful than classes (with the caveat being, of course, that the usefulness is VERY heavily dependent on the tutor in question). A tutor can help to force you to study/make the GRE a priority, can be good at directing to you to what you best need to focus on/diagnosing problems that may effect you on the test, and can help to figure out what precisely you're not understanding about a concept and explain things in a more directed fashion.

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@RWBG I wasn't trying to insult test prep services (I hope it didn't come out like that!). I think my personal opinion is that the GRE is much more general knowledge than say the MCAT or LSAT and is easier material to self-learn. [And for the record Iprobably spent about $150 on Kaplan materials to prep.]

I also just thought people should think about this: If you have trouble structuring your time to study for the GRE, how are you going to get through your largely self-structured time in grad school? Just a thought.

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@RWBG I wasn't trying to insult test prep services (I hope it didn't come out like that!). I think my personal opinion is that the GRE is much more general knowledge than say the MCAT or LSAT and is easier material to self-learn. [And for the record Iprobably spent about $150 on Kaplan materials to prep.]

I also just thought people should think about this: If you have trouble structuring your time to study for the GRE, how are you going to get through your largely self-structured time in grad school? Just a thought.

Heh, well I'm not working for Kaplan anymore, so I'm not too worried about whether you were trying to insult them or not! In any event, no, I didn't interpret it that way.

As to your second point, I thought about that as I was writing the part about structuring your time, and I think there's some truth to it. However, you may have an easier time being self-motivated when you're doing something you (presumably) actually care about (i.e. your research) than when you're doing something (the GRE) that you may very well think is a waste of time.

Online service sounds very useful, Thanks. Just wondering is this it? http://www.kaptest.c...-quiz-bank.html

I think so. I'd call and check to make sure they have all the practice tests and SmartReports (the diagnostic tool that tells you after practice tests what to work on). If it's JUST the quiz bank tool, then I think it will be useful, but you'll really want the practice tests. If you do this...

http://www.kaptest.com/GRE/Prep-for-the-New-GRE/On-Demand/gre-on-demand.html

...it comes with the books, flashcards, etc. that can be useful as well (though in my view, less useful than the quiz bank and practice tests). However, I think the recorded videos are pretty useless, and kind of unsettling in the way the instructors have a kind of soulless/scripted enthusiasm about them. So, I'd call to clarify the differences between the two options, and then decide whether the price differential is worth it to you.

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Usually, they're pretty good about allowing you extensions on the 3 months if you haven't written the test yet. However, I think if you're taking TOO much longer than that to prepare, you might start forgetting stuff!

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I think something that people struggle with a lot on the GRE is the structure of the exam. If you didn't do any math, econ, or hard sciences in college, it can be difficult to get back into the groove of taking tests with lots of very short questions. It's very different from writing an exam. So whatever tool people use, I would strongly encourage you to spend a fair amount of time taking timed practice tests and simulating test conditions. Also - the important thing about the GRE is that the computer format can be confusing, and the scoring requires a different strategy than the SAT or ACT, for example. So buy a book and read up on overall test-taking strategies. I took it twice and my second score was up 100 points - I didn't study the material, but I did crack a book after the first test that told me how the test was structured, which I think made much more of a difference for me. If you're not worried about your skill set, focus on the specifics of the test.

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Hey Guys,

I am excited to see that the F13 forum is already up and running. I applied to ten phd's for F12 and was unceremoniously rejected from each one. This goes without saying, but I am incredibly eager to begin applying for F13 (probably because I like to torture myself). This past cycle was a rude awakening for me because I was assured by members of my UG faculty (top 10 national university) that I would get in someplace, but didn't. I was naive in thinking that their assurances meant anything. This year, I am planning on focusing on my SOP and tailoring it specifically for each school, as well as applying to about 15, instead of 10. I am really looking forward to sharing this roller coaster ride with the rest of you, and I'm sure we will all be deciding between great programs this time next year!

xoxo,

balledematch

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Hey Guys,

Yay! I'm glad I'm not the only one from this past cycle who got "unceremoniously rejected" from all PhD programs and is reapplying for the next cycle! Well, what I mean is I'm glad I'm not alone -- not that I'm glad you got rejected everywhere. But my professors also assured me I would definitely get in somewhere, only to realize how very wrong they were and how much stronger my app could have been.

But balledematch, I see you're going to LSE? I just got accepted on Friday to SOAS at University of London. Looks like we may be following similar paths: Unfortunate 2012 app cycle + Master's in London... and hopefully super successful 2013 app cycle!

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Hi all,

I have a question about GRE scores for Poli Sci. When I took my GREs I was focusing more on my verbal. I scored a 710Q and a 750v, and 5.5 in the writing. Would it be worth taking them again or is my quantitative high enough and compensates by my verbal? I have a quant-heavy undergraduate degree (Econ) and am not applying to quantitatively heavy programs, although I intend to use some quantitative methods in my research. Thanks.

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Hi all,

I have a question about GRE scores for Poli Sci. When I took my GREs I was focusing more on my verbal. I scored a 710Q and a 750v, and 5.5 in the writing. Would it be worth taking them again or is my quantitative high enough and compensates by my verbal? I have a quant-heavy undergraduate degree (Econ) and am not applying to quantitatively heavy programs, although I intend to use some quantitative methods in my research. Thanks.

Hmm, they're reasonably high, surely high enough that it wouldn't be enough to get your app thrown out. How do you feel about your personal statement & research interests in hindsight?

*Then again the more I read about how admissions works perhaps it is worth it if you have the money and time to spare.

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Cairo Kid,

Congrats on your acceptance! I'm glad to know that someone else is in the same boat. A year in London is never a bad thing (except for maybe the cost, and I'm hoping that it will bode well for a strong Fall 2013 application.

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