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Dear faculty,

As visit days for admitted students approach, I am curious to hear your perspectives on making the most of faculty-student conversations. Other threads -- and my correspondence with one program in particular -- have suggested that students may have the opportunity to have short, one-on-one conversations with specific faculty members during these visits.

I am genuinely interested in the research of many of the professors I hope to meet and could imagine spending the whole time talking about their work. However, this time is also an incredibly valuable opportunity to gather information about the program and gauge potential fit. 

I would love to hear your advice about how to approach these conversations. If you have examples of particularly fruitful conversations with prospective students, such anecdotes would be very welcome as well.

Thank you in advance!

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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

Thank you so much for all your valuable information and insights. They definitely helped me figure out what to focus on throughout the application process.

I have a question about getting in touch with the professors I mentioned in my sop. I usually don't freak out over something out of my reach, but I have been so occupied with the results in the past few weeks. I can't stop thinking about what I can do to increase my chances after receiving 2 rejection notifications last week.

I am an international student with a Bachelor's degree in political science from one of the Big 10 state universities. I have solid GPA, Letters of Recommendation, research experience, statement of purpose, and a decent writing sample, but I am really concerned with my GRE score. Even though my English is fluent especially in terms of writing and speaking, I couldn't get my verbal score as high as I'd like it to be--153, with the writing score of 4.0... I think that's mostly because I couldn't finish the sections in time. Well, I should have figured it out, but that's what it is now.

I really don't want the admissions committee to assume my English is not good enough to pursue a PhD degree, which might hurt my application, resulting in another disheartening rejection. I have a reason why I couldn't make a good GRE score though. Not to mention that I am a non-native English speaker, I needed to get a job first to maintain my visa status, otherwise I would have been deported. There were so many rules around the work authorization, like "your job should be directly related to your field of study," which made it even more difficult. Finding a job directly related to political science was just... hard. I graduated in May last year and found a job in September after doing approximately 100 interviews <_<

I really want to contact the professors with a video of me explaining these circumstances. Would it matter at all? I think it's worth a try, but I just want to ask the faculty here if they would even watch it... or at least read my email.

Thank you for reading my whiny jibber jabber. I am just so desperate for getting into a good program this year..

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On 2/2/2019 at 10:50 PM, american_methods said:

Dear faculty,

As visit days for admitted students approach, I am curious to hear your perspectives on making the most of faculty-student conversations. Other threads -- and my correspondence with one program in particular -- have suggested that students may have the opportunity to have short, one-on-one conversations with specific faculty members during these visits.

I am genuinely interested in the research of many of the professors I hope to meet and could imagine spending the whole time talking about their work. However, this time is also an incredibly valuable opportunity to gather information about the program and gauge potential fit. 

I would love to hear your advice about how to approach these conversations. If you have examples of particularly fruitful conversations with prospective students, such anecdotes would be very welcome as well.

Thank you in advance!

Such interviews are typical, though they might be two-on-one or something else, depending on scheduling.

My own sense is that, if the professor is doing stuff that interests you, talking about research interests is a marginally better idea, just because you can always email to ask about program information and fit. If you have an interview with someone who wouldn't be central to your research program, I'd lean more toward department questions. But in the end, asking about the things that you're most curious about (and that that person can answer!) is likely to be best. You're the consumer. Gather the information that's most useful to you.

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On 2/5/2019 at 10:44 PM, MidnightSkywalker said:

Thank you so much for all your valuable information and insights. They definitely helped me figure out what to focus on throughout the application process.

I have a question about getting in touch with the professors I mentioned in my sop. I usually don't freak out over something out of my reach, but I have been so occupied with the results in the past few weeks. I can't stop thinking about what I can do to increase my chances after receiving 2 rejection notifications last week.

I am an international student with a Bachelor's degree in political science from one of the Big 10 state universities. I have solid GPA, Letters of Recommendation, research experience, statement of purpose, and a decent writing sample, but I am really concerned with my GRE score. Even though my English is fluent especially in terms of writing and speaking, I couldn't get my verbal score as high as I'd like it to be--153, with the writing score of 4.0... I think that's mostly because I couldn't finish the sections in time. Well, I should have figured it out, but that's what it is now.

I really don't want the admissions committee to assume my English is not good enough to pursue a PhD degree, which might hurt my application, resulting in another disheartening rejection. I have a reason why I couldn't make a good GRE score though. Not to mention that I am a non-native English speaker, I needed to get a job first to maintain my visa status, otherwise I would have been deported. There were so many rules around the work authorization, like "your job should be directly related to your field of study," which made it even more difficult. Finding a job directly related to political science was just... hard. I graduated in May last year and found a job in September after doing approximately 100 interviews <_<

I really want to contact the professors with a video of me explaining these circumstances. Would it matter at all? I think it's worth a try, but I just want to ask the faculty here if they would even watch it... or at least read my email.

Thank you for reading my whiny jibber jabber. I am just so desperate for getting into a good program this year..

I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling.

First, don't assume that you know the reason you were turned down. Write to them and ask.

Second, for many programs it may be too late to do much of anything. But if your enquiries turn up actionable info, you might send a quick email to the DGSes at some places with later deadlines and say, "I found out that I didn't make the short list at place X because of reason Y, and I thought I should let you know the reasons for Y." It may not help much, if at all. But I'd be surprised if it hurt.

Good luck.

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Hi. I am quite desperate. Today I was accepted in my top choice in a Political Science Phd with funding (unofficial letter from the DGS) . the problem is that I am married and my spouse is applying for a PhD in Economics. Would it hurt to me that I talk with the people of my departament looking for some kind of help with my spouse application? 

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6 minutes ago, mathforthe said:

Hi. I am quite desperate. Today I was accepted in my top choice in a Political Science Phd with funding (unofficial letter from the DGS) . the problem is that I am married and my spouse is applying for a PhD in Economics. Would it hurt to me that I talk with the people of my departament looking for some kind of help with my spouse application? 

Hurt you? I really doubt it, if you've already been accepted. But I'm not sure how much it'd help, to be honest. Econ may already have made their decisions, or be very close, and their faculty don't really have any interest in making the political science department happy. But it's not impossible that it'd make some difference.

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  • 4 months later...

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 successor about this board and ask him or her to chime in as I have.

Thanks for being such a welcoming community, and best of luck to all of you, wherever you end up.

-Bear

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  • 6 months later...

Oh Great and Powerful BFB,

I have a few questions, now that my first cycle is starting to wind down.

1. In my senior year I failed a course. Thinking I had dropped the course I ceased attending, as the class was additional to my graduation requirements. Otherwise, my GPA would have been a 3.5, but because of the failure my final GPA was 3.35. How should I approach this issue in my applications?

2. I never wrote a senior thesis paper in my undergrad. Instead after graduation I found a coauthor and a research gap and I lead authored a research paper in a well-regarded (impact factor 2.5) peer reviewed journal (Water Alternatives). The paper is currently under peer review. In practice I lead the writing process, developing the thesis and research design, carrying out the fieldwork, writing the body, editing it, while my more experienced coauthor advised the writing and journal selection. I would like to use this paper as my writing sample, but some schools perfer a single authored paper. As an independent researcher, single-authoring doesn't really make sense. Should I use this paper anyway? Should I use a different paper? Should I seek a masters program to write a masters thesis?

Thanks,

Tim

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Hi 🙂

1. Contact the registrar and try to get it off your transcript!! Many schools (I think) will allow that if you can demonstrate that you never attended. Failing that, you should probably address it in your statement, but not to the tune of more than a sentence or two.

2. I'd use a seminar paper rather than a coauthored paper, pretty much no matter what. They want to know how you write and how you think. You have no idea what conclusions people will draw from a coauthored sample. I'd say it's just not worth the gamble.

Best of fortune to you!

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As fun as all of this has been, folks, I should probably make this my last post here. I stepped down as DGS at Ohio State this past summer, and it's better for all of you to have input from different people who have more up-to-date perspectives on the application process. Thanks for the opportunity to offer whatever help I could, and best of luck to all of you in getting to the job of your dreams.

 

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Thanks for the BFB for the response. More perspectives would certainly be welcome. In particular I have found a diversity of opinion about whether you should apply to schools where professors don't share your interests.

It's frustrating because I don't think my seminar papers were very good, but this article I did write myself. In seminars and honors thesis professors read their student's drafts and give comments, so the only difference (as I see it) is the publishing itself. That's just my frustration, I understand how an admissions committee  may simply not read it that way. I doubt I'll have time to write a new paper, but if I get into a masters program I could write a thesis.

One piece of advice I do have for someone in my situation is to reach out directly to DGS's and admissions staff and ask them how to represent this irregularity. On their advice, I now preface all of the samples with  cover letter explaining my responsibilities and my coauthors, and including a shorter single-authored paper for schools with particularly strict guidelines.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Could anyone offer advice on whether or not to take an offer from a non-top 25 program? The program I'm thinking of is the perfect fit for me, has a ton of professional development built in (including publication requirements/support), has a really large endowment, and has a really strong alumni network. I can see myself being so completely happy there that I really don't want its status as a non-top 25 school to dissuade me. I've heard some people say you should never accept an offer to a lower ranked school, and I've heard some people say that it depends. Could anyone help me sort of this mess? From a faculty perspective, how large of a role does rank play into the job market? Thanks!

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5 hours ago, billk said:

Could anyone offer advice on whether or not to take an offer from a non-top 25 program? The program I'm thinking of is the perfect fit for me, has a ton of professional development built in (including publication requirements/support), has a really large endowment, and has a really strong alumni network. I can see myself being so completely happy there that I really don't want its status as a non-top 25 school to dissuade me. I've heard some people say you should never accept an offer to a lower ranked school, and I've heard some people say that it depends. Could anyone help me sort of this mess? From a faculty perspective, how large of a role does rank play into the job market? Thanks!

What is the rank of the program? If you click back through this thread, you should be able to find an answer to this question. 

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5 minutes ago, billk said:

Thanks! It's mid/low 30s. I'll look back for an answer.

I know you want a faculty answer, but you should know that these will be very conflicting, so I am going to chime in out of turn. I have posed this question to a variety of faculty. Some have told me not to go outside the top 8. Others have suggested I think creatively about what I could do at programs that are well outside that range (even lower than a mid 30). I am more amenable to the latter. Go where you feel you fit, not somewhere where you may be molded into a particular type of boilerplate scholar and will be your advisor's 7th favorite student. When you go to market, your advisor will be writing your recs for postdoc/assistant jobs (and even tenure letter), trading you and his students informally on the professor bazaar. Going to a top program can also curse you in that way, whereas a program where you develop lasting collaborative relationships can make your career. Burn out is real. Go where you will feel supported in your projects. And go where you feel like you can pursue your intellectual goals. Don't let this entrenched gatekeeping dissuade you

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18 minutes ago, e2e4 said:

I know you want a faculty answer, but you should know that these will be very conflicting, so I am going to chime in out of turn. I have posed this question to a variety of faculty. Some have told me not to go outside the top 8. Others have suggested I think creatively about what I could do at programs that are well outside that range (even lower than a mid 30). I am more amenable to the latter. Go where you feel you fit, not somewhere where you may be molded into a particular type of boilerplate scholar and will be your advisor's 7th favorite student. When you go to market, your advisor will be writing your recs for postdoc/assistant jobs (and even tenure letter), trading you and his students informally on the professor bazaar. Going to a top program can also curse you in that way, whereas a program where you develop lasting collaborative relationships can make your career. Burn out is real. Go where you will feel supported in your projects. And go where you feel like you can pursue your intellectual goals. Don't let this entrenched gatekeeping dissuade you

Thanks e2e4. I think it's a perennial question. Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? Reading through the previous comments, there are some arguments for the former that I find pretty convincing.

1. It's hard to tell if people from top 10 programs get jobs because they're from a top tier program or because they're a top tier PhD. You can obviously be a top tier PhD in non-top tier programs. This probably depends, as you suggest, a lot on fit since that will set you up to be in an environment where you're doing the best research you can.

2. Making connections with top tier scholars (not all of whom are at top tier programs) is really important for job chances. Not only can they write outstanding letters, but they can also let you in on their research and co-author with you, which is good for job market prospects, and they can let you access their network, which probably includes faculty at top tier programs.

3. Relatedly, working in sub-sub fields (in my case, comparative climate change politics) means working and networking with a fairly small group of scholars. So, going to conferences, reaching out to people, etc. all increase one's chances of being placed, too, regardless of your program's rank.

I guess what I'm saying is that rank matters, but the question of whether it's better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond is a bad question. It's probably equally good, and how big of a fish you end up being depends a lot on personal initiative and ambition. (Of course, it's better to be a big fish in a big pond and worse to be a small fish in a small pond.)

From a faculty perspective, is this sort of how hiring committees consider people? I find it really hard to believe that applications from outside the top 25 are automatically shredded (and I probably wouldn't want to work at a university where that is the case). But, is it really that much harder for people from outside the top 25?

I should add that, while I obviously want to achieve all that I can in my career, my life's dream has always been to just complete a PhD and become a professor, no matter the where and how of doing so. I don't really care about being a professor at Harvard. I just care about being the best political scientist I can be.

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On 2/16/2020 at 6:13 AM, billk said:

From a faculty perspective, how large of a role does rank play into the job market?

Hey just want to let you know that I'm not sure you will get a faculty response. This thread was really active a few years back with multiple faculty input but it has since died down. BFB was the only faculty member that has even logged on in the past year or so and that was mainly to let us all know that he will not be coming back on here as he stepped down from the DGS role at OSU. 

BUT, if I may, i'll share what one of my faculty mentors (and LOR writers) told me regarding rankings. She said that rankings don't really matter, to a point, but what matters is the outcome/placement of students. She advised me to look at the placement of grad students and determine If I would be happy in the sorts of jobs that the grads get. So, in your case, I'd suggest that you take a look at the placement in the department that you are concerned about and see if you can see yourself in those sorts of jobs/roles and be happy about it. At the end of the day grad school is about getting a job and that should be the most important factor when deciding between schools. 

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4 hours ago, billk said:

From a faculty perspective, is this sort of how hiring committees consider people? I find it really hard to believe that applications from outside the top 25 are automatically shredded (and I probably wouldn't want to work at a university where that is the case). But, is it really that much harder for people from outside the top 25?

This is a really interesting question. I've been advised by faculty to not attend a program outside of the top 25.

It probably depends on how far removed from the top 25 one is, though.

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11 hours ago, Clintarius said:

Faculty, students, and applicants constantly speak of the top 10 schools, top 25, etc, is it an informally accepted ranking? Is it specifically referring to the USNWR ranking or another of the sort? I'm never too sure of what is meant 😬

I think it is explicitly USNWR. Other rankings might matter more or less to different constituencies. For example, I know QS and THE matter more in the UK for pretty obvious reasons. I have seen some people cite Hix's ranking system. Other niche ranking systems might be given a lot of weight in specific sub-fields. For example, IR folks might care very much about FP's ranking.

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On 2/18/2020 at 2:31 AM, billk said:

I think it is explicitly USNWR. Other rankings might matter more or less to different constituencies. For example, I know QS and THE matter more in the UK for pretty obvious reasons. I have seen some people cite Hix's ranking system. Other niche ranking systems might be given a lot of weight in specific sub-fields. For example, IR folks might care very much about FP's ranking.

Thanks! That's helpful.

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