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Advice for a 2nd-year Undergrad?


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Hi there,

I am a 2nd year political science student from Canada. I took a gap year and have done a lot of travelling and soul searching, so at this point I'd say I'm fairly sure that I want to go into academia. I am specifically interested in political theory, as well as the interplay between politics and culture. My question is this:

Do you have any advice for an undergrad student? My GPA from my first year is 3.71 but I'm hoping to improve that. I've been finding it hard to get involved with research at my university because I'm not a graduate student and they don't accept volunteers. What can I do to make myself a competitive candidate for grad school when the time comes in 2 years? I am really hoping to get some funding so that I don't drown myself in student loans. If you were to redo your undergrad, what would you change?

Thanks

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I'm in Sociology, not Political Science, but let me give my two cents:

1) Learn stats. Know the math as well as you can, even if you're not directly planning on doing something quant-y right now.

2) I know you did a gap year before college, but maybe do something that is not school between graduating college and going to school. I know what I did improved my application and proved to me that I wanted to go grad school.

3) You are in your third semester out of eight or so. I will admit to doing the same things you're doing right now when I need to procrastinate, but just like, really, you will change. For sure. In my second year of college, I was looking up things related to studying the topic I'm interested in, but in an entirely different academic field. Keep your grades up and your take interesting classes that you think you will do well in. Oh, and choose classes based on the professors. And know that you will need at least THREE professors to write letters of recommendation for you, so go to office hours, cultivate those relationships.

4) Research can be your own research, it doesn't have to be a professor's. Write a thesis. This is one of the purely academic reasons why #2 makes sense: you probably want your thesis to be your writing sample. It won't be finished December of your fourth year.

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Thank you for the advice. I was hoping that I could work under a professor so that I'd learn techniques for collecting my own data as at this point all I've done is term papers (aka reading academic journals and going through statistical databases). I guess I'd better just take a swing at this on my own and figure out what to do.

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