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Any advice appreciated?


PoliSciLaw
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Hello all,

I realise everyone finds these posts exceedingly annoying and apologies in advance for it but I would really love some advice/opinions as I'm applying to grad school pretty much solo and it's a very strange system!

I'm an international student from Western Europe who's currently doing a masters at a good private institution in LA. My UG is a law degree/JD equivalent where I got a 3.5 GPA from a top 2 University in my country, though our system works exceedingly different so this was top 10%. I have a 4.0 here where my thesis focuses on the social constructions of gender and sexuality by the law. My GRE scores are decent though lower than expected ( I was really ill on the day but have left them too late to re-sit for most of the school's I am applying to) - 160 V, 150Q, 5.5 AW. I have extensive leadership positions, and lots of college involvement. I've worked for three years in a public defenders option and on the ground in a lot of European Political Campaigns. I am also on a full ride debate scholarship here in LA, they contacted me and I have had extensive international success in this area. Been published once or twice though not extensively and not solely in poli-sci. I have really good letters of rec from the president of the uni and two well published professors; one in poli-sci and one who I do a lot of research for. Will the fact that my UG is not in poli-sci be an issue? I want to continue the general theme of my ma in gender/law/politics relationship.

What type of school should I be aiming for? I had a list but as it's now deadline time I want to make sure I'm not wasting my time/money. Currently I'm looking at Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Brown, Columbia, Michigan, Georgetown, Rutgers and UCI though any suggestions/opinions are more than welcome. Any advice at all would be really appreciated. I realise that it's all subjective and that nothing is guaranteed but it's a very strange, new system to me so anything at all would mean a lot!

Thanks a million in advance :)

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I'm guessing you are at USC because that's the only good private institution in LA haha It doesn't matter what your undergrad degree was in as long as you show focus in your statement of purpose. However, considering some of the schools you've mentioned, it seems like you are lacking focus on your research interest. The type of schools you should be aiming for depends on your research interest.

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I'm guessing you are at USC because that's the only good private institution in LA haha It doesn't matter what your undergrad degree was in as long as you show focus in your statement of purpose. However, considering some of the schools you've mentioned, it seems like you are lacking focus on your research interest. The type of schools you should be aiming for depends on your research interest.

Ha I'll refrain from commenting.... I have a very specific research focus in mind but unfortunately it's not a priority of most departments (with the exception perhaps of Rutgers) most of the school's above have at least two tenured professors who specialise either in gender or in the relationship between minority groups and the law. Any advice on other programs I should be looking at is beyond appreciated though; it's often exceedingly difficult to figure out where niche issues fit!

Thanks for the help though :)

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The schools on your list seem like an appropriate mix of levels, which should give you a good shot. I don't know about your specific area of study, so I can't comment on specific programs, but I wouldn't be afraid to add a couple more schools to the list if there are others that might have a close enough research matches. Since you'll only attend one school, and it only takes one acceptance, I don't think it hurts (except your pocket book) to apply to more programs. Best of luck.

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I am worried that your Q-GRE score is too low for top 20 schools. I have never seen someone with such a low score being admitted to a top program. Otherwise, you profile looks great!

Thanks I appreciate the honesty! Do you think it's a good idea to re-sit the GRE and send in the scores a little later than the deadline with a note of explanation? One of LOR talks about how sick I was during the test but even on a good day the max I would be aiming for is a 156 being realistic. I have done lots of math heavy research but the last math course I took was age 16 for the IB. I completed all math reqs here by then and it just isn't a particular strength.

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Thanks I appreciate the honesty! Do you think it's a good idea to re-sit the GRE and send in the scores a little later than the deadline with a note of explanation? One of LOR talks about how sick I was during the test but even on a good day the max I would be aiming for is a 156 being realistic. I have done lots of math heavy research but the last math course I took was age 16 for the IB. I completed all math reqs here by then and it just isn't a particular strength.

I had the exact same problem. Out of high school for 6 years and did not remember any of the GRE-Q stuff. It takes a while until you learn the math concepts again. Actually, I am still struggling with the Q-part of the GRE because of the time constraints and the stress-factor.

I suggest that you apply next year. This option really sucks - I know! But last year I was rejected anywhere. I'm 100% sure universities did not even look at my file because of the GRE score. I had a verbal score that was identical to your quant score - 150. I am reapplying with this year with much better scores: v:163 and q:161 (and believe me: I am still insecure whether my scores are good enough for Columbia etc.).

If this is no option for you -> retake!! However, even with q:156 there is a good chance that top programs weed out your application. If I were you, I'd definitely add some safety schools (check GRE averages on webpage).

I apologize if this sounds very harsh. But being rejected sucks. I just don't want someone else to make the same mistakes as I did.

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I had the exact same problem. Out of high school for 6 years and did not remember any of the GRE-Q stuff. It takes a while until you learn the math concepts again. Actually, I am still struggling with the Q-part of the GRE because of the time constraints and the stress-factor.

I suggest that you apply next year. This option really sucks - I know! But last year I was rejected anywhere. I'm 100% sure universities did not even look at my file because of the GRE score. I had a verbal score that was identical to your quant score - 150. I am reapplying with this year with much better scores: v:163 and q:161 (and believe me: I am still insecure whether my scores are good enough for Columbia etc.).

If this is no option for you -> retake!! However, even with q:156 there is a good chance that top programs weed out your application. If I were you, I'd definitely add some safety schools (check GRE averages on webpage).

I apologize if this sounds very harsh. But being rejected sucks. I just don't want someone else to make the same mistakes as I did.

This is not harsh at all but exactly what I want to hear thanks! I appreciate the feedback and the honesty, it's rare to find in this process. Unfortunately as an international student I'm actually not allowed stay in the country if I don't get accepted, so I may well take your suggestion as to adding some safety schools and possibly looking at reapplying next year again. Can you suggest the type of safety school I should be aiming for?

Really thank you I can't explain how much I appreciate this!

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Let me have a look at some schools tonight. I'll PM you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can't express my gratitude adequately, this entire process is just incredibly overwhelming! Thank you so very much :)

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I suggest that you apply next year. This option really sucks - I know! But last year I was rejected anywhere. I'm 100% sure universities did not even look at my file because of the GRE score. I had a verbal score that was identical to your quant score - 150. I am reapplying with this year with much better scores: v:163 and q:161 (and believe me: I am still insecure whether my scores are good enough for Columbia etc.).

If this is no option for you -> retake!! However, even with q:156 there is a good chance that top programs weed out your application. If I were you, I'd definitely add some safety schools (check GRE averages on webpage).

You know you can get a (very rough) idea of what scores work at schools by going to the results page, right? There's selection bias, etc. in the reporting of the scores, but it's still better than absolute guess work. You guys mentioned Columbia so here's what the reported GRE scores if you search Columbia Political Science (and ignore all the Missouri and UBC results). It's a small, self selected sample, but if you do it for a couple of peer institutions (and you guys could crowd source it easily) you should get an idea of what the "lower limit" is, if there is one. If you have no idea what I'm talking about or what the "results page" is, I explained it

Columbia accepted (this is all that reported--the last score is from 2008 before Grad Cafe even included the red rhombus option on the results page):

GRE-V: 670, 800, 800, 720, 680

GRE-Q: 800, 800, 730, 720, 650

GPA: 4.00, 3.70, 3.64, 3.80, ---

[For easy conversion, 670V=164, and 650Q=151 FWIW. I bet with the new numbering system, lower V scores will be accepted because 164 looks absurdly high compared to 151, though it might also result in people wanting higher Q scores, as well. AdComm members are human like the rest of us so they are prone to be affected by how the results are presented. I bet howthe new GRE scores are factored in at each school hasn't reached an equillibrium. So @SwissChocolate, OP's 150Q is technically only a smidge lower than the 650Q that was accepted. I don't know what other schools are "top programs" in Poli Sci but put your heads together you could make this kind of table for all the schools.]

Columbia rejected (there are a lot more rejects I'm not including, check for yourself, this is only like half of last years):

GRE-V: 161, 740, 700, 155, 690

GRE-Q: 150, 690, 800, 147, 790

GPA: 3.58, 3.78, 3.78, 3.50, --

[From the two tables, it appears that Columbia has a preference for absurdly high GRE scores, but absurdly high GRE scores appear to be neither necessary nor sufficient. Just normal high GRE scores seems necessary]

There is a lot of guess work, though, when a lot of subfields accept people individually. So my guess is if just theory people are looking at your app, you can get away with a lower q score, and if just methods people are looking at your app, you can get away with a lower v score. Non-native speakers, in sociology at least, can get away with lower V scores but that's at least in part because they normally have higher Q scores.

Edited by jacib
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There is a lot of guess work, though, when a lot of subfields accept people individually. So my guess is if just theory people are looking at your app, you can get away with a lower q score, and if just methods people are looking at your app, you can get away with a lower v score. Non-native speakers, in sociology at least, can get away with lower V scores but that's at least in part because they normally have higher Q scores.

Thank you for your response and the list of GRE scores you posted. I believe we should be very careful comparing scores from 2008 with 2012 scores. While 650 on the old format actually translates into a 150 on the new one, the percentile scores have changed substantially since then (even though it is probably less severe close to the mean scores). Just look at the 2011/2012 percentile score changes. A Q:159 was the 82nd %ile in 2011. Now, it is only the 77th %ile! That's a 5 percentage points change within one year!

Even if schools admitted students with lower scores, those were probably special cases (the student was on a sports team, son/daughter of someone famous/rich…). Thus, it is very unlikely that a 'normal' person will be admitted with very low scores. As poker player, I'd rather not play this hand because the odds are just against you :unsure: .

Just look at the statements/scores that are published on the universities' webpages. I really do not recommend someone with a Q-score of 150 to apply there. Both scores should be (at least) in the 70-80th percentile to be competitive for the top 20 schools.

Columbia:

The department has no required minimum GRE score, and since its applicants come from all over the world, actual GRE scores vary quite a bit. In general, persons offered admission to the Ph.D. program receive GRE scores in the ninetieth percentile, and students admitted to the M.A. program perform slightly less well. Verbal scores are sometimes lower for applicants whose first language is not English.

Berkeley:

Due to the highly competitive applicant pool we receive each year, the average scores of admitted students are typically in the 80th percentile or higher on each of the three sections of the GRE General Test.

NYU:

If your GRE scores are not in the 90th percentile we would be looking for other indicators of likely success in the program. We make allowances for lower verbal GRE scores for non-native speakers of English.

UCSD:

Average:

V: 165, Q:162, AW 4.9

Duke:

Average:

V: 164, Q:162

Wisconsin-Madison:

Of the applicants admitted, the average GRE verbal score was in the 93rd percentile, quantitative score in the 81st percentile, and writing analytic score in the 86th percentile.

Princeton: (for social sciences: admits)

V: 164, Q: 163

Ohio State:

The average combined verbal and quantitative GRE scores of admitted students typically is 82%. The average for the writing component is 76%.

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Man, well done! I'd heard about some people trying to judge based on percentages in the past, but when we were using the old score, they just never looked like they made sense because the distributions on the two sections were so different on. (I'm taking these numbers from this chart) 630 was a 90th percentile for verbal and 53rd percentile quantitive while the 90th percentile for quantitative was between 780Q and 790Q (out of 800). This meant that missing very few questions dropped your percentile badly on one section and minorly on the another. Having 162V and 163-4Q both be at 90% makes comparing based on percentiles make much more sense, and I apologize for being an old fogey and feebly trying to cling to the past. I was wrong, and it appears you were definitely right (this is likely no surprise to you).

Edited by jacib
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