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Do lots of very specific homework, get to know relevant faculty's publications, and be as specific as you can when you're telling us who you'd like to work with. At our University, for example, it's very likely that if you name someone, that person will read your file (!!!)—so if you write that you'd love to study terrorism with Smith, but Smith studies American voting behavior, Smith will probably conclude that you're not really all that interested in coming here.

 

How often do you get the impression that applicants have really thoroughly done their homework? Is it that much of a rarity? 

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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

But it all works. And the main reason it works is that a whole lot of goodhearted people work their asses off to cover up its flaws and fix its problems so that we can do the best job we can. If you visit OSU, for example, you'll meet my grad coordinator, Courtney Sanders. Please bring her flowers. 

 

I appreciate the sincere response, and thanks to all the people putting the effort for us. If I am lucky enough to be at the admit weekend in March, I will make sure to remember the flowers.

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How often do you get the impression that applicants have really thoroughly done their homework? Is it that much of a rarity? 

 

You'd be surprised. I think people assume that a nameless, faceless administrator is reading their essays, rather than the person they've just named as being perfect to oversee a dissertation on topic X. It's a pretty substantial minus when that person has never written a word on topic X.

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I appreciate the sincere response, and thanks to all the people putting the effort for us. If I am lucky enough to be at the admit weekend in March, I will make sure to remember the flowers.

 

This would be absolutely delightful.

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Dear Professor,

 

I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on this conundrum. I am mostly interested in formal theory applied to political behavior (elections and voting) with a behavioral approach. There are some departments where I am applying where my POI's who study electoral behavior don't exclusively work with formal theory, or if they do they work on other substantive topics (IR etc.). While working on my "fit" section of the SOP I outline that certain POI's work on topics of my interest and others work with the methods of my interest, so suggesting that overall the department is a good fit for me, even though there might not be a POI who does EVERYTHING that I am interested in. Is this something that would make the admissions committee think that I am not a good fit for the program? Is it a good idea to apply only to the departments where there is someone who is a perfect fit to your interests?

 

Thanks a lot for all your help on this forum. I've been lurking around for quite some time and your posts and especially this thread have been very helpful!

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Dear Professor,

 

I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on this conundrum. I am mostly interested in formal theory applied to political behavior (elections and voting) with a behavioral approach. There are some departments where I am applying where my POI's who study electoral behavior don't exclusively work with formal theory, or if they do they work on other substantive topics (IR etc.). While working on my "fit" section of the SOP I outline that certain POI's work on topics of my interest and others work with the methods of my interest, so suggesting that overall the department is a good fit for me, even though there might not be a POI who does EVERYTHING that I am interested in. Is this something that would make the admissions committee think that I am not a good fit for the program? Is it a good idea to apply only to the departments where there is someone who is a perfect fit to your interests?

 

Thanks a lot for all your help on this forum. I've been lurking around for quite some time and your posts and especially this thread have been very helpful!

 

2. You're welcome :-)

 

1. Different departments might react differently. My own sense was that, if you've lined up a formal theorist who's willing to study electoral behavior and an electoral behavior person who's happy to supervise a project that involves formal theory, you'd be in good shape, fit-wise.

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2. You're welcome :-)

 

1. Different departments might react differently. My own sense was that, if you've lined up a formal theorist who's willing to study electoral behavior and an electoral behavior person who's happy to supervise a project that involves formal theory, you'd be in good shape, fit-wise.

 

Thanks! Just to clafiry, would you suggest that I contact them before-hand?

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Thanks! Just to clafiry, would you suggest that I contact them before-hand?

 

I don't see why not. I'd make it a quick note, though: Hello, I'm a potential applicant trying to assess my fit with your department, I'd just like to know whether you would envision working with me on ______. Thanks, me.

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I don't see why not. I'd make it a quick note, though: Hello, I'm a potential applicant trying to assess my fit with your department, I'd just like to know whether you would envision working with me on ______. Thanks, me.

 

Thanks a lot, Professor!

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Now it's my turn to ask advice from all of you.   :D

 

We are thinking about when to have our prospective student visit. We used to be on the quarter system, so our spring break was earlier, and we did our visitation weekends in mid-March. Now, though, our weekends look like this:

 

March 6-8: Beginning of spring break, people may be traveling

March 13-15: Spring break

March 20-22: Available

March 27-29: ISA

April 3-5: Midwest

 

Looks like March 20-22 is the obvious choice, right? Well, what we discovered last year was that it's the obvious choice for a lot of schools. We ended up having far fewer people visit than we had in the past. We tried to be accommodating, and in the end we had nearly as many individual off-weekend visits as we did regular ones, which was pretty chaotic and didn't give people a sense of one of the most important things about grad school—their cohort. In the end, we had a significantly lower yield than in previous years.

 

Now. One school of thought holds that putting the visiting weekend on the same weekend as those of other schools forces students to choose, and that choice is a good indicator of where they'll end up, so it helps us plan. A different school of thought holds that the visitation weekend is crucial, and that a fair number of fence-sitters have been won over by an awesome potential cohort, a surprisingly cool town, etc., etc.

 

So we face the same choice again this year. Would you rather we

 

a. keep the visitation weekend on March 20-22, knowing that it's likely to be very busy;

b. set the visit for (say) March 18-20, Tu-Th., so that more people could visit but would probably have to take more time off of work/jobs;

c. set the visit for late February (Feb. 27-March 1)—not my favorite, since February in Columbus is pretty unrepresentative, weather-wise; or

d. fill in the blank?

 

And why?

 

Thanks in advance for feedback on this.

Edited by BFB
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I would say b > a > c 

 

b --> I am guessing a significant number of admits will already be students (undergrad or grad). Taking time off is usually a lot easier for students, so you waive that problem for a chunk of the admit population. While taking more time off may be problematic for people who are working, if they have another admit weekend at the same week (which is plausible), taking that time off to attend 2 events in the same week may be easier and preferable than taking time off in different weeks. 

 

a > c --> if you think c will just not be a very nice time to give a good impression to the admits, then going with the flow and holding the admit weekend at its regular time might be better than having a bad admit weekend.

 

A thought: Since your deadline is one of the earliest, and since you notify people pretty early too, why not hold a poll among the admitted students and decide based on the results?

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I didn't apply to your school, but I'd also say b is your best bet. Speaking from experience, it can be nice to have these semi-official things happen on weekdays instead of taking up all the weekends. Also, having the visits then might make it possible ofr students to actually see how classes are being taught, how the campus works etc., all of which usually doesn't happen on weekends.

 

I find the february visit problematic, mainly because many schools only notify people in march, so chances are you'd have much more people attending the weekend than otherwise, since people that haven't heard from their dream school might just attend anyway. This can be useful, but might make expenses etc. for you guys really high.

 

Just my 2 cents, though!

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For me, option (a) seems like a distant third.  

 

If I am lucky enough to be admitted to multiple programs, I'd want the opportunity to attend each program's official visit before making a decision.  Meeting potential cohorts is a possible decision-changer.  Additionally, I feel like attending the official opening may give a better sense of the departmental culture than an individual visit designed only around my interests and the people I wanted to meet.

 

Maybe I am "out of touch" with the priorities of other potential students, but I wouldn't bat an eye at having to miss a few days of school or work to gain more information before making one of the most important decisions of my professional life.  Similarly, unpleasant weather is unlikely to dissuade me from attending a program I thought was my best choice otherwise.  

 

Also, Gnome's polling idea seems great, assuming you can wait that long before setting the date.

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I would say a>b>c

 

a: because it is a weekend, and I will be forced to go to the schools I really am interested in. So it's good for signalling purposes, win-win. Moreover, I work and I don't get much paid leave (and my financial position is not so great so if I can avoid unpaid leave, the better for me) so a weekend would be best in those terms as well.

 

b: because it's better than visiting in Feb. IRToni outlines my reasons pretty well.

 

c: Feb-end is rush rush at my work so for me personally it would not be a good time. Plus above reason.

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I'm not exactly representative because I'm stuck across the ocean through visitation season, but...

 

I would say A>C>B. Although, if it's really a dream school, I'm going to do what I can to get there regardless. However, if I were still in undergrad, missing half of the week's classes could create some headaches - not including work issues. 

 

Actually, I might put A and C together, even. I'd imagine if I went to a visit weekend in February, you'd get a chance to win me over and build up a sense of allegiance to the school before I've wandered over to the others. But that's just me.

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As someone who was working during open house season last year, I would have much preferred option B; I had a supportive boss and taking time off was no issue. Even for those with less understanding jobs, it seems like the trouble of taking time off is worth making sure you have as much information as possible when making a decision that determines your whereabouts for the next 5-7 years and likely impacts your career trajectory for long after.  

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Thanks to all of you. The answers and the reasoning are quite helpful.

 

And Gnome, polling our admits is probably a better idea, you're right—but we need to set a date as early as possible to ensure that as many faculty as possible are in town  :unsure:

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I visited one school in late February... I think they have a great turnout since they run their weekend so early. It's much more exciting overall since it's the first time prospective students are sitting through the talks and going on tours etc. If their visit had overlapped with another later, I probably would have never gone and wouldn't have seriously considered the school.

 

With many more working applicants, Tues-Thurs is incredibly difficult and honestly I think if someone really wants to go to a certain weekend visit and he/she is working... they may still skip out on your middle of the week visit to save up energy for the weekend on.

 

From a working applicants perspective, C regardless of weather. (And hey, people love a bit of snow for a day or two.)

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BFB: Although visitation weekends for all graduate students have many advantages, I'd also like to point out that individual visits shouldn't be frowned upon. In my experience, individual visits can be great experiences for admitted students. I appreciated being able to spend quite some time with the students already in the program(s) because it allowed me to get a sense of what the overall program is like (and not just my own cohort) and bombard them with questions for hours at end. The fact you might be the only one visiting at the time gives it more of a "rolled out red carpet"-feel as well. That said, I understand that it also may be stressful/chaotic for the faculty members.

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BFB: Although visitation weekends for all graduate students have many advantages, I'd also like to point out that individual visits shouldn't be frowned upon. In my experience, individual visits can be great experiences for admitted students. I appreciated being able to spend quite some time with the students already in the program(s) because it allowed me to get a sense of what the overall program is like (and not just my own cohort) and bombard them with questions for hours at end. The fact you might be the only one visiting at the time gives it more of a "rolled out red carpet"-feel as well. That said, I understand that it also may be stressful/chaotic for the faculty members.

 

I get the sentiment, and in principle I agree—for a few individual visits. When you have nearly as many people visiting individually as collectively, though, as we did last year, it becomes considerably more difficult to provide the red-carpet treatment that you hope to be able to extend to everyone.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks to all of you. The answers and the reasoning are quite helpful.

 

And Gnome, polling our admits is probably a better idea, you're right—but we need to set a date as early as possible to ensure that as many faculty as possible are in town  :unsure:

 

Wanted to voice my support for a date that falls farther out from when the bulk of admissions offers go out. For those of us with jobs where getting time off isn't easy and must work long-distance when away and/or find back-up, its really nice to have a date at least several weeks in advance to help plan (especially if the visitation will be held during the week).

 

I'm not sure what the norm is for graduate departments, but when I was deciding between law schools, several didn't announce the admitted students weekend  until two weeks beforehand, making logistics pretty difficult for those with jobs. A February date would probably put a few folks in a difficult spot (recognizing that most admits are undergrads). Definitely can't make the weekend ideal for everyone, but more time to plan will probably help a lot of people out, even if just on a financial level. That said, I'll definitely get to my top choices' events no matter what if I'm lucky enough to get accepted!

Edited by boazczoine
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Hello!

 

Great thanks to the faculty for their guidance on this thread.  Thank You!

 

I am trying to understand the Admissions Committee’s (“AdComm”) deliberation process and I have a few questions, if I may:

 

1.  What’s the average number of members on the AdComm?

 

2.  Are AdComms limited to only faculty or a mix of faculty and graduate students?

 

3.  Are AdComms dominated by older faculty or young to mid-career faculty/

 

4.  Is every application read by every AdComm member or are applications divided across the membership i.e. every application read by n members where n is less than the total number of committee members?

 

5.  Are applications read on the computer screen or as hard copy printouts?

 

6.  Are selections made unanimously i.e. every member must agree to admit a candidate or is by majority vote or even by supervotes (held by senior faculty)?

 

7.  Can senior faculty on the AdComm veto a candidate that others support or ensure a candidate that others do not readily support is admitted?

 

8. How are decisions made?  Open forum debate to reach consensus, voting per candidate (majority), unanimous selection, ranking/scoring of candidates by committee members – with top ranked candidates being admitted i.e. the top n applicants with the highest total scores where n is th enuber of applicants to be admitted, etc?

 

9.  Is it true that many AdComm members routinely do not read certain areas of the file e.g. CV, SOP or writing sample and others generally just quickly skim the file.

 

10.  How do committees resolve internal philosophical differences:  some professors assess greater weight to GRE & GPA, while others rely on LORs, while others rely primarily on SOP & writing sample.  Given these differences it means that agreeing on the best candidates must be very difficult, so how are decisions ultimately made?

 

Thank you!

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I am trying to understand the Admissions Committee’s (“AdComm”) deliberation process and I have a few questions, if I may….

 

I'm afraid Neocon is right: the answers to all of these vary a lot from place to place. They may well vary from year to year. At OSU, for example, I've made the structure a lot more decentralized just in the past year or two in order to get more relevant feedback from people who are better able to assess your SOPs. I read every file and committee members read all files within their subfields, so most files get read by three people. If we want more input, we may pass files along to fourth (and, rarely, fifth) readers who aren't on the committee.

 

Then we come together to try to resolve all of the conflicting pressures that you mention. This person has a great GPA, that one has great GREs, this other one has a great statement of purpose. How much do you weight them? It just depends. You look for tiebreakers. This one would be a great fit with Professor Snodgrass. That one seems especially likely to come. This other one studies X and we're short on people who study X.

 

It's definitely not the case that we rank the candidates and then just take the top however-many candidates. If you're in the top ten, the odds are very good that we'll take you. If you're in the thirties, it's hit or miss, depending on things like whether Snodgrass has enough people working with him or whether lots of the other top applicants study what you do.

 

But again, I cannot speak for the process in other departments at all.

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