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On 12/5/2017 at 8:52 AM, BFB said:

Again, I can only speak for myself, but this strikes me as actually being better than three faculty members from 10 years ago. It's very helpful to have one more up-to-date reference, at least.

Thank you for your response! Intuition tells me it shouldn't be a huge problem, but seeing the recommendation that LORs should come from people who can attest to your academic potential and that those coming from employers  are less helpful was really starting to stress me out! 

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A thread for faculty to post about our perspectives and answer prospective students' questions.   Topics covered elsewhere, so far:   Fit vs rank () () The admissions process: inside the sausage

OK, you got me. When I was on faculty at Harvard, we held regular pagan rituals in which babies were sacrificed on fiery altars, and the flames of those altars were fed  by the files of job applicants

Just a quick message for everyone on this thread: This is my last year as DGS, so I won't have my finger on the pulse of admissions enough to answer your questions going forward. I'll tell my successo

Hi everyone! I’m a junior faculty member who served on an admissions committee this semester. While it's fresh in my mind I thought I might share some thoughts in case it's helpful for future applicants. Of course, this is just my limited perspective. (And much of what’s useful has been said before by others.) For some context, I’m at a highly selective program that accepts around 5 percent of applications. I’m sorry not to be more specific but since I’m untenured I’d rather stay anonymous for now!

First and foremost, you are an extremely accomplished and well-qualified group! It was a real pleasure reading the applications. There were around two dozen applicants who had perfect or close to perfect GRE scores and around 100 applicants who had GPAs of 3.9 or above. More impressive than the numbers, to me, were the many applicants who had compelling research agendas, interesting work or research experience, strong technical and language skills, strong writing skills, or who overcame significant barriers to get where they are.

1. Numbers: We didn’t have a strict cutoff for the GRE. Many made it to the second round and received careful consideration with low GRE scores. However, our admitted students mostly had scores in the 160s in both sections. Similarly, GPAs were generally high. But we admitted a number of people with GPAs below 3.5 and by necessity could not take the vast majority of applications with near-perfect GPAs.

2. Recommendation letters: The content of the letters is out of your control, but the strongest files have three letters from writers who are all professors of political science and who taught the applicant in a seminar in which she got an A (not an A- or below). It often helped if the professor had significant contact with the applicant outside of class in office hours or, more rarely, RA work. By the way, if the course is not complete yet (for example, you are applying in Fall 2018 and taking your first course with that professor in Fall 2018) I would suggest you don’t ask unless you really need to. These letters are sometimes pretty weak.

3. Statements: In my case, I was looking at two things. First, I wanted to know your research interests. You don’t need one specific question, and in fact introducing a broad set of questions or general research area is most realistic since we know your interests will change in graduate school. It is important that you show you know what political science research is. It helps if you can tie that to previous academic work, professional experiences, or skills you’ve developed. Second, I wanted to get a sense if you’re a good writer. This is really important in our profession. By the way, so many statements start out with some kind of anecdote. There is nothing wrong with this, but most of the time I did not find these compelling so in my view you can skip these. Starting out with a set of research questions is a safe alternative. Finally, please help us out by flagging at the end of your statement who you’d like to work with. Not sure who is an active mentor in your area? Look at the Ph.D. placements page and check who is serving on committees. (Downside: some of these people are overburdened and some good advisers have joined the department too recently to have advisees on the market.)

4. Writing sample: I looked at the abstract and intro to see if you are a good writer, the tables and figures to get a sense of technical skills, and I glanced at the rest to see if you have language/area skills (I was mostly reading files in comparative).

5. Subfield: The subfield you select in your application can have a big impact on who sees your file and who you're compared to. So think carefully about your primary and secondary subfields.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck to all, you are an impressive group!

EDIT: Forgot to mention subfield.

Edited by encyclopediabrown
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16 minutes ago, encyclopediabrown said:

Hi everyone! I’m a junior faculty member who served on an admissions committee this semester. While it's fresh in my mind I thought I might share some thoughts in case it's helpful for future applicants. Of course, this is just my limited perspective. (And much of what’s useful has been said before by others.) For some context, I’m at a highly selective program that accepts around 5 percent of applications. I’m sorry not to be more specific but since I’m untenured I’d rather stay anonymous for now!

First and foremost, you are an extremely accomplished and well-qualified group! It was a real pleasure reading the applications. There were around two dozen applicants who had perfect or close to perfect GRE scores and around 100 applicants who had GPAs of 3.9 or above. More impressive than the numbers, to me, were the many applicants who had compelling research agendas, interesting work or research experience, strong technical and language skills, strong writing skills, or who overcame significant barriers to get where they are.

1. Numbers: We didn’t have a strict cutoff for the GRE. Many made it to the second round and received careful consideration with low GRE scores. However, our admitted students mostly had scores in the 160s in both sections. Similarly, GPAs were generally high. But we admitted a number of people with GPAs below 3.5 and by necessity could not take the vast majority of applications with near-perfect GPAs.

2. Recommendation letters: The content of the letters is out of your control, but the strongest files have three letters from writers who are all professors of political science and who taught the applicant in a seminar in which she got an A (not an A- or below). It often helped if the professor had significant contact with the applicant outside of class in office hours or, more rarely, RA work. By the way, if the course is not complete yet (for example, you are applying in Fall 2018 and taking your first course with that professor in Fall 2018) I would suggest you don’t ask unless you really need to. These letters are sometimes pretty weak.

3. Statements: In my case, I was looking at two things. First, I wanted to know your research interests. You don’t need one specific question, and in fact introducing a broad set of questions or general research area is most realistic since we know your interests will change in graduate school. It is important that you show you know what political science research is. It helps if you can tie that to previous academic work, professional experiences, or skills you’ve developed. Second, I wanted to get a sense if you’re a good writer. This is really important in our profession. By the way, so many statements start out with some kind of anecdote. There is nothing wrong with this, but most of the time I did not find these compelling so in my view you can skip these. Starting out with a set of research questions is a safe alternative. Finally, please help us out by flagging at the end of your statement who you’d like to work with. Not sure who is an active mentor in your area? Look at the Ph.D. placements page and check who is serving on committees. (Downside: some of these people are overburdened and some good advisers have joined the department too recently to have advisees on the market.)

4. Writing sample: I looked at the abstract and intro to see if you are a good writer, the tables and figures to get a sense of technical skills, and I glanced at the rest to see if you have language/area skills (I was mostly reading files in comparative).

Hope this is helpful! Good luck to all, you are an impressive group!

Thank you @encyclopediabrown! This is the most informative piece I've read in a while. It sounds like there isn't one thing that can make all the difference for an applicant. So in the end do applicants simply get a score based on GRE/GPA/SOP etc. and the top x percent get in?

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54 minutes ago, BobBobBob said:

Thank you @encyclopediabrown! This is the most informative piece I've read in a while. It sounds like there isn't one thing that can make all the difference for an applicant. So in the end do applicants simply get a score based on GRE/GPA/SOP etc. and the top x percent get in?

Hi @BobBobBob!  This is roughly how it works in our case. Each file is read by more than one member of the committee, and each reader scores the application. The files are then shown to the rest of the faculty who ruin all our hard work give us helpful feedback. The committee then works together to come up with a final ranking, and most of the discussion focuses on the marginal cases. My guess is that our assessment of these marginal cases is likely to be wildly off the mark but we do the best we can.

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On 2/20/2018 at 4:46 AM, encyclopediabrown said:

Hi @BobBobBob!  This is roughly how it works in our case. Each file is read by more than one member of the committee, and each reader scores the application. The files are then shown to the rest of the faculty who ruin all our hard work give us helpful feedback. The committee then works together to come up with a final ranking, and most of the discussion focuses on the marginal cases. My guess is that our assessment of these marginal cases is likely to be wildly off the mark but we do the best we can.

Thank you for information.

Q: If a POI wants an applicant to be admitted despite his or her moderate GRE/GPA/TOEFL etc..., how does adcomm respond the professor's demand?  

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  • 2 weeks later...

What is the general opinion of political science masters programs for admissions? Are they looked down upon? Do they credibly signal improvement? Are there any programs you regard higher than others?

 

I didn't get into any PhD programs this time around, but did get into Chicago's CIR program with full tuition. Is this something worth doing? What do you think are the best alternatives to improve your application? 

 

I know this is a lot of questions, so pick and choose at your pleasure! Thanks!

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2 hours ago, not@prof_yet said:

What is the general opinion of political science masters programs for admissions? Are they looked down upon? Do they credibly signal improvement? Are there any programs you regard higher than others?

 

I didn't get into any PhD programs this time around, but did get into Chicago's CIR program with full tuition. Is this something worth doing? What do you think are the best alternatives to improve your application? 

 

I know this is a lot of questions, so pick and choose at your pleasure! Thanks!

I know a fair amount of people who did CIR, and most of them got into their top choices for the PhD. The main downside is the cost, but that seems to be negated in your case :)

Feel free to PM me if you'd like any more details, or have any questions about the other UChicago stepping stone master's programs (MAPSS, MACRM, etc.). Overall, it seems like they can help boost admissions chances, but not always so much that they are worth the time and money costs. Cheers!

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3 hours ago, diter91 said:

@encyclopediabrown Question regarding waitlist. My top choice has put me on their waitlist. Is there anything I can do to advocate for myself? Would reaching out to DGS or POIs do any good? Thanks!

Jumping in, FWIW: The main purpose for a waitlist is to manage the risk of having a class that's too small, and it takes a fair number of early responses before you can meaningfully assess that risk. So a DGS who does go to the waitlist often does so late in the game and is hoping that the invitee will say "yes." If you truly know that you would come if accepted, therefore, it can be to your advantage to tell the DGS. If you're not sure, letting the DGS know where you stand can't hurt.

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3 hours ago, not@prof_yet said:

What is the general opinion of political science masters programs for admissions? Are they looked down upon? Do they credibly signal improvement? Are there any programs you regard higher than others?

 

I didn't get into any PhD programs this time around, but did get into Chicago's CIR program with full tuition. Is this something worth doing? What do you think are the best alternatives to improve your application? 

2

We bring in a lot of people from CIR, actually. Terrific program.

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1 hour ago, BFB said:

Jumping in, FWIW: The main purpose for a waitlist is to manage the risk of having a class that's too small, and it takes a fair number of early responses before you can meaningfully assess that risk. So a DGS who does go to the waitlist often does so late in the game and is hoping that the invitee will say "yes." If you truly know that you would come if accepted, therefore, it can be to your advantage to tell the DGS. If you're not sure, letting the DGS know where you stand can't hurt.

I was waitlisted at my top choice program. If admitted off the waitlist, I will definitely attend. I was informed on February 9 by the Director of Graduate Admissions at this program that I had been waitlisted. Would mid-March be too soon to email this person to inquire about my status on the waitlist? Thanks!

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29 minutes ago, deutsch1997bw said:

I was waitlisted at my top choice program. If admitted off the waitlist, I will definitely attend. I was informed on February 9 by the Director of Graduate Admissions at this program that I had been waitlisted. Would mid-March be too soon to email this person to inquire about my status on the waitlist? Thanks!

Speaking only for myself, it's never too soon, though I won't really be able to say much of anything until after most people have completed campus visits and had a chance to consider their options. My sense is that that's usually early April, but all of you know better than I do when your campus visits are.

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On 2/1/2017 at 6:18 PM, curvilineardisparity said:

Dear professors,
Thank you very, very much for all your posts here! They are extremely helpful!

I was accepted by two different universities. A high ranked one, which offered 5 years of funding, including two years of either TA or RA (second and third years), and the rest without any work obligations; and a low ranked one, which offered a renewable 1-year TA, 4 years of summer TA and an additional scholarship from the department. Both universities have at least one professor that I'd love to work with, and in both I'd earn fairly the same amount (the second one pays a little more).

 

Being a TA is basically cheap labor. It is useful to be a TA a couple of times so that you know what goes into preparing classes, dealing with students, etc. It is also useful when you get to TA a class in your own research area. However, most of your time should be spent doing research either assisting a professor or working on your own dissertation. So basically this,

On 2/1/2017 at 6:18 PM, curvilineardisparity said:

I really want to do a TA for as long as possible. I've been a lecturer before in my home country, and I believe that being a TA for longer increases my chances of being hired at a university afterwards.

makes no sense. That is because, as you are from another country, you believe that being a professor involves teaching. That is only true if you want to teach at a college (so no PhD program) with low research responsibilities. Even in that case, you do not want to be TA, you want to teach your own course while being in the PhD program.

In research universities, however, the teaching responsibility is usually 30% and research is like 60%. Meaning that the bulk of your work as a professor is research and you get evaluated on publications. As a graduate student you want to work on your research and publish. 

The high rank university is giving you a better offer. You have funding for 5 years. That is rare because some places (lower ranked) make you apply for funding and I've seen cases in which the dean cuts funding to department and, if you were not given 5 years of funding, that means you get no funding or you get a cut in your funding. Plus, you get funding without any responsibilities at the time that you have to write your dissertation which is fab.

The low ranked university is making you renew funding for the TA assistantship so that is dependent on how many TAs they need. You don't want that. Then they are offering being a TA in the summer. I'd never do that. During the summer you want to do something useful, like research, not TA. Plus, summer courses are usually intensive so classes are every day. I'm sure the high ranked place has some type of summer stipend that does not require to be a TA or professors have grants and you could do some work for them too. 

So to answer your questions, 

On 2/1/2017 at 6:18 PM, curvilineardisparity said:

1) Is it true that being a TA increases one's chance of being hired after graduation?

2) Taking into consideration the first case, do you see any chance of becoming a TA, let's say, in the first year, during summer courses, after the third year, etc, other than the two assigned years?

3) In case the answer to (1) is yes, does it make sense to prioritize the university with a lower rank that offered me more possibilities of being a TA?

1) No, it does not. I have friends who had a fellowship that did not allow them to TA (NSF fellowship) and they got top jobs. Nobody cared they were never TAs

2) The works stipends are the ones that make you be TA your first year. If you are TA your first year it means you are taking less classes. If you do not TA you take 4 classes each semester. Places that make you TA have you taking 3 classes each semester. Which you do you think it is better? I'd always go with studying than being a TA. 

3) Do not prioritize the better rank school. Between two identical people looking for a job, I'd prioritize high ranked program over "has been a TA a lot". 

 

 

 

 

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On 3/2/2018 at 6:32 PM, MrsPhD said:

If you are TA your first year it means you are taking less classes. If you do not TA you take 4 classes each semester. Places that make you TA have you taking 3 classes each semester. Which you do you think it is better? I'd always go with studying than being a TA. 

Is it generally possible to negotiate funding packages with public schools?

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2 hours ago, BobBobBob said:

Is it generally possible to negotiate funding packages with public schools?

Some with money do give more benefits to people they particularly want to recruit. I've heard of people that have negotiated at UCSD. But I'd be careful/very polite because some schools -- public and private -- make the same offer to everyone in order to promote collegiality and fairness.

That said, some public schools have special fellowships, but those are usually part of a special contest awarded at the university level and nominated by the department.

Some departments do have the possibility of putting you in RA duties rather than TA duties, or they might be able to give you like a small research fund to get reimbursement for books, travel to conferences, or field work. If there are centers affiliated to the political science department, those might be able to give you a bit more money, though that could come with strings attached. You could inquire about summer funding (most schools provide 9-month stipend, but you still have expenses during the summer). 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, BobBobBob said:

Is it generally possible to negotiate funding packages with public schools?

Simply put, the more people do it, the less possible it becomes.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I know I asked earlier about the CIR program (and have received generally positive reviews for it). Does anyone have any opinions about the MACRM program at Chicago Harris? The program is longer (1.5 v 1 year) and requires a heavy dose of PhD coursework, has a research apprenticeship, and has smaller cohorts. So it seems more appealing (especially since I have an interest in political economy), but I only have a partial scholarship (compared to a full tuition scholarship to CIR). Any thoughts?

 

Thank you! All of your advice has been so helpful!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 03/03/2018 at 3:04 AM, BFB said:

Jumping in, FWIW: The main purpose for a waitlist is to manage the risk of having a class that's too small, and it takes a fair number of early responses before you can meaningfully assess that risk. So a DGS who does go to the waitlist often does so late in the game and is hoping that the invitee will say "yes." If you truly know that you would come if accepted, therefore, it can be to your advantage to tell the DGS. If you're not sure, letting the DGS know where you stand can't hurt.

 

Edited by Victor xu
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  • 8 months later...

Hopefully this thread still has some viewership among faculty. I am wondering how common transfers from other PhD programs are, and what concerns faculty have when viewing these applications (and perhaps how to preempt them)? My circumstances are - perhaps - a bit unique. I'm at a University that isn't particularly LGBT friendly (but have had great mentorship) and it's not conducive to being able to focus on my studies (although my GPA is over 3.9 while in a dual MA/PhD program). My primary advisor mentions in his recommendation why I am transferring, so I have not addressed it in my SOP (although any school requiring a personal history or diversity statement is likely to pick up on why fairly quickly). Would it be advisable to include it and/or contact departments to ask about LGBT resources and mention that this is the reason I have applied elsewhere? 

Also as a caveat, I would ask that people not go through my posting history to determine what school I am transferring from, but if you are LGBT+ I am more than happy to discuss what your experience in graduate school might be like, and to share my institution and resources available there (many of which I and a small group have created).

Best!

Edited by schuaust
Punctuation, clarity...because phone.
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On 12/23/2018 at 3:54 AM, schuaust said:

Hopefully this thread still has some viewership among faculty. I am wondering how common transfers from other PhD programs are, and what concerns faculty have when viewing these applications (and perhaps how to preempt them)? My circumstances are - perhaps - a bit unique. I'm at a University that isn't particularly LGBT friendly (but have had great mentorship) and it's not conducive to being able to focus on my studies (although my GPA is over 3.9 while in a dual MA/PhD program). My primary advisor mentions in his recommendation why I am transferring, so I have not addressed it in my SOP (although any school requiring a personal history or diversity statement is likely to pick up on why fairly quickly). Would it be advisable to include it and/or contact departments to ask about LGBT resources and mention that this is the reason I have applied elsewhere? 

Also as a caveat, I would ask that people not go through my posting history to determine what school I am transferring from, but if you are LGBT+ I am more than happy to discuss what your experience in graduate school might be like, and to share my institution and resources available there (many of which I and a small group have created).

Best!

They're not rare, but they're not too common either. We get a handful every year.

As to your reasons for applying and application strategy, I'm sorry to hear that your experience has been bad enough to prompt relocation. Having your advisor mention it is wise and is probably the most common strategy. As far as doing more is concerned, it depends on how open you want to be. One position I've seen people take is, "It's my private life, it's unlikely to come up, and I don't particularly want others to know about it." Another position I've seen is, "I don't want to go anywhere where people would have a problem with who I am." Both are reasonable decisions, and it's not really for me to say which is best for you.

In any event, good luck.

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On 1/3/2019 at 12:22 PM, BFB said:

They're not rare, but they're not too common either. We get a handful every year.

As to your reasons for applying and application strategy, I'm sorry to hear that your experience has been bad enough to prompt relocation. Having your advisor mention it is wise and is probably the most common strategy. As far as doing more is concerned, it depends on how open you want to be. One position I've seen people take is, "It's my private life, it's unlikely to come up, and I don't particularly want others to know about it." Another position I've seen is, "I don't want to go anywhere where people would have a problem with who I am." Both are reasonable decisions, and it's not really for me to say which is best for you.

In any event, good luck.

Thank you so much, this is very reassuring. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
1 minute ago, Dwar said:

Hey all, quick question. 

Is it appropriate to email the faculty member who signed your rejection letter and ask why you were rejected, or what you can to improve your application for future cycles?

Absolutely.

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