Jump to content

Faculty perspectives


Recommended Posts

Thanks also for your incredible and generous help on these forums. I think I can speak for all in saying that it's truly appreciated, and I will do my absolute best to pay it forward to other applicants in future years.

I second packrats comment. BFB deserves to have a shrine built in his honor after all of his contributions on this forum. It may not seem like it, but you've doubtless helped make countless people's dream careers possible by helping us all figure out how, where and why to apply. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 396
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

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

Students,

 

When you are visting programs this semester you will meet a lot of graduate students. Keep in mind that the first and second year graduates students have very little idea of what it takes or means to be successful in a Ph.D. program. None of them have successfuly completed a program and many of them will fall victim to attrition at some point. Keep in mind that the first year graduate students you meet have only completed a single semester of graduate training. These people will want to give you all sorts of advice and try to speak with authority about graduate school. Try not to laugh at them, but listen to what they say with my comments in mind.

 

Good luck to you all.

Edited by ChillyP
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Students,

 

When you are visting programs this semester you will meet a lot of graduate students. Keep in mind that the first and second year graduates students have very little idea of what it takes or means to be successful in a Ph.D. program. None of them have successfuly completed a program and many of them will fall victim to attrition at some point. Keep in mind that the first year graduate students you meet have only completed a single semester of graduate training. These people will want to give you all sorts of advice and try to speak with authority about graduate school. Try not to laugh at them, but listen to what they say with my comments in mind.

 

Good luck to you all.

 

That is something a first year grad student would say.  =P

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...

Question: if I go massively over the writing sample word limit, how does it ultimately look? I was planning to send my master's thesis - which is about 35 pages of analysis (within the range of some programs but about 10 pages outside for others) - but it is about 75 pages (lots of appendices and references!). Cutting it at some section break makes little sense because it misses the argument but going way over probably is not ideal.  I imagine it just means they won't read the whole thing, right? 

2 & 3 were addressed above :-)  As to 1, there's no guarantee that every member will read every page of every file, but most people read a lot. I'd be very surprised if anyone tossed a file based on GREs alone. We certainly ask for a depth of comments from our adcom members that makes that pretty much impossible.

 

 

…? I don't understand the question. How do you know that you won't have been contacted prior to a decision if you haven't yet received a decision? And if you've received a decision, you should know whether you're in or out. What am I missing…?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Question: if I go massively over the writing sample word limit, how does it ultimately look? I was planning to send my master's thesis - which is about 35 pages of analysis (within the range of some programs but about 10 pages outside for others) - but it is about 75 pages (lots of appendices and references!). Cutting it at some section break makes little sense because it misses the argument but going way over probably is not ideal.  I imagine it just means they won't read the whole thing, right?

Hard to predict. I'd like to see the best sample you've got. I don't especially care how long it is, though I reserve the right to skim selectively. Others might disagree, though.

Regardless, I doubt it's a huge consideration. I'm not going to reject a promising applicant because his or her writing sample is too long.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Chiper91

Dear faculty,

 

I am sure lots of people have asked this question but unfortunately I have not found a post that could asnwer my question..so here it goes.

 

I have always wanted to pursue graduate studies in the United States but unfortunately one thing - GRE - stands in my way. I have taken the exam twice already. I have studied continuously for more than three months, I have tried all resources I had at my disposal, except for private tutoring but nothing seems to help me. My best score is 153 V, 150 Q, 4 AW. My problem is that (and I do not want to make it an excuse) I am an international student. English is my third language and even though I excelled in my undergraduate career (I studied at an American university), my professors tell me that I should forget about PhD and just do something else because my GRE scores are not going to make the cut off at any school. I believe that the rest of my file looks good, very high GPA, good LORs and  SOP, writing sample is  "ok".

 

My questions:

 

Is it worth applying to PhD programs with my GRE scores or should I just forget about it? Some people have told me that there are different GRE standards for international students but I highly doubt it. I know that there is no definite answer on this one but I just wanted to know a faculty member's opinion. If someone could reply to this post or message me in private, I would really appreciate it.

In other words, would you, as an admissions committee member, discard an international applicant because of such GRE scores or would you still take a look at their file and possibly give the student a chance?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it worth applying to PhD programs with my GRE scores or should I just forget about it? Some people have told me that there are different GRE standards for international students but I highly doubt it. ... In other words, would you, as an admissions committee member, discard an international applicant because of such GRE scores or would you still take a look at their file and possibly give the student a chance?

 

Most students with low GRE scores also submit poor applications (bad or incoherent SOP, low GPA, not so great writing sample, etc.) But that's not always true. At any conscientious department, all files will at least get a solid look. If I were to come across an outstanding application from a non-native speaker with those GRE scores, I'd put it on the medium list for further consideration. The GREs would be a consideration, to be sure, but I'd consider it to be a file worth talking about with my colleagues.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Chiper91

Thank you very much for the honest answer. This gives me some hope. I am currently working on my SOP and I am also polishing my writing sample. I am still going to apply to most of the schools I have chosen.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Hi everyone:

 

Does anyone have an idea that if the following GPA reach the threshold for getting in top PhD in Political Science programs in U.S.: a bachelor degree in Mathematics from a Top 5 UK university with a second upper class and an MPhil in Social Science degree with a GPA 3.8? 

 

Many thanks in advance!

 

There are many more considerations beyond GPA, but the GPA you describe wouldn't hurt you appreciably.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am worried because some people said UK grades are usually converted to quite low GPA, while others said US faculty members are familiar with UK grading systems and will not convert UK grades into GPA at all.

 

I can't speak for other institutions, but when we look at a file we see both the numerator and the denominator. So if it's a 6.0 on a 10-point scale, we'd see "6 / 10".

 

Some do come through as "5.6 / other," which is really annoying, but we always do the digging to figure out what "other" is.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't speak for other institutions, but when we look at a file we see both the numerator and the denominator. So if it's a 6.0 on a 10-point scale, we'd see "6 / 10".

 

Some do come through as "5.6 / other," which is really annoying, but we always do the digging to figure out what "other" is.

 

Do you typically think of grades in percentiles then?  I.e. the UK scale is out of 100 yet there is (1) decided non-linearity in marking (going from a 69 to a 70 is much more difficult than a 49 to a 50) and (2) a 69 out of 100 is (in my opinion) the equivalent of an ~93 percentile , where 94%+ would be an A, 90-93 is A-, as opposed to a 69%.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I do have a pair of questions that's related to GPA and the GRE that I haven't been able to find a definitive response either way to through these forums. If it has been answered somewhere else, I apologise profusely for wasting your time (and would question my ability to conduct thorough research if I haven't been able to to locate the thread). I'm an international student applying for graduate school in the US for the first time. 

 

My situation is really quite unorthodox, I'm applying from Asia, but I'm actually from the Western hemisphere so-to-speak. I didn't apply to OSU, but have done so to a total of 10 different programs where I have made contact with potential POIs, checked for fit, and all of which I received positive responses from and agreement that my interests and proposed research area are within the bounds of their department's focus and recommended that I should apply there. Most indicated that they would be happy to work with me if I gained admission. (Although I suspect they say this to all the potential students). I didn't apply to any schools where I didn't receive a reply from faculty, or I was given lukewarm signs of possible fit. I do have quite a well-formulated idea for potential research projects which I submitted to all POIs for perusal before applying. So I'm pretty sure that I'm not taking a stab in the dark here.

 

I graduated as an undergraduate with an awful GPA overall due to ill health and personal circumstances. This was explained in my SOP and one of my LOR writers was able to vouch for this as well. It would probably be converted to a 2.2 in the US scale,although my major GPA (comparative politics) was about a 3.2/4.0 keeping in mind that grading where I come from is significantly harsher than most US systems, and I actually managed to be admitted to the honours program. It is the top university in my country and is consistently highly ranked on international scales.

 

Although I know that this means diddly squat in the US, after I managed to get over my health problems and personal issues, I was fortunate to gain admission to a top university in Asia to complete my MA, in IR where I was admitted thanks to a great in-person interview. Having conquered my personal demons and recovered my health, I become a much better and focused student. My MA GPA is high, 3.9/4.0 and I was able to graduate as Salutatorian, wrote a highly lauded dissertation (by my evaluation committee anyway) and have been working as a researcher for a think-tank for nearly a year. I also have a paper that is very close to publication in a journal that is well respected in my research focus area.

 

So having provided some context to my situation, my questions are as follows:

 

1. In your experience as faculty members, and Adcom members, or students who have gone through this process before, can a record of strong or exceptional academic performance in your MA career help to atone for the misdemeanours of an undergraduate transcript that was ravaged by the challenges of your past during the admissions process? - My feeling is that the answer to this will probably be: it depends. Which is why I tried to provide as much context as I could.

 

2. My GRE quant score is low (147), my verbal is solid, but not exceptional (160), and my AW is excellent (5.5). In this case, does having a high AW score go some way in helping to limit the damage that 147 will do? I know that it has been mentioned here that the AW portion is often disregarded completely by adcoms in pol sci, and I may just be clutching at straws to try and give myself hope of not being flat out rejected.

 

I am so disappointed in my quant score as my dissertation actually used quant analysis. including regression, as a methodological approach to a theory that I have been developing. I used this also as my writing sample to try to demonstrate that I'm not a complete nong when it comes to quant methods. I even got an A grading in methods class for my MA. I guess I'm really bad at taking standardized tests, and it really showed on the GRE which I only took once, due to not having enough time to study for it.

 

Granted, the overall message seems to be that there is no way for sure that you can know whether you will be ruled out for any possible reasons. I think that I'm just becoming more paranoid now that the admission decisions are going to start rolling out in a couple of weeks, but any feedback would be most appreciated. -

 

And yes, I know that there's nothing I can do now, but it's in these moments of silence where I find that the noise of my past becomes the loudest! 

 

I think I'm just suffering from a crisis of confidence and perhaps this should be in the freakouts thread! 

 

Thanks in advance!

Edited by Hopeful21
Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you typically think of grades in percentiles then?  I.e. the UK scale is out of 100 yet there is (1) decided non-linearity in marking (going from a 69 to a 70 is much more difficult than a 49 to a 50) and (2) a 69 out of 100 is (in my opinion) the equivalent of an ~93 percentile , where 94%+ would be an A, 90-93 is A-, as opposed to a 69%.

 

More or less, we do—with the understanding that the percentiles don't translate well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

1. In your experience as faculty members, and Adcom members, or students who have gone through this process before, can a record of strong or exceptional academic performance in your MA career help to atone for the misdemeanours of an undergraduate transcript that was ravaged by the challenges of your past during the admissions process? - My feeling is that the answer to this will probably be: it depends. Which is why I tried to provide as much context as I could.

 

Yes, absolutely. I've accepted one or two people with files like that, and they've done exceptionally well here.

2. My GRE quant score is low (147), my verbal is solid, but not exceptional (160), and my AW is excellent (5.5). In this case, does having a high AW score go some way in helping to limit the damage that 147 will do? I know that it has been mentioned here that the AW portion is often disregarded completely by adcoms in pol sci, and I may just be clutching at straws to try and give myself hope of not being flat out rejected.

 
I don't pay a whole lot of attention to GREs, to be honest. But if I'm worried about a low math score, I'm worried about a low math score. Having a high analytical is great, but it measures something different.

Granted, the overall message seems to be that there is no way for sure that you can know whether you will be ruled out for any possible reasons.

 

Or ruled in  :D

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a quick question: do committee members take into consideration an applicant's matriculation of her/his law degree and passing of the bar examination? Would members also take into consideration the amount of times an applicant took to pass the bar examination? Also, do members, if at all, take into account the particular jurisdiction for which the applicant passed the bar examination for? For instance, some states' bar examinations are considered more difficult and tenuous, and therefore, the passage rate is lower. 

 

Do these factors matter at all for purposes of evaluating an applicant's prospective chances of succeeding as a graduate student in the field of political? Or are they marginally looked at when evaluating an applicant's credentials? 

 

Thank you!! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, absolutely. I've accepted one or two people with files like that, and they've done exceptionally well here.

 
I don't pay a whole lot of attention to GREs, to be honest. But if I'm worried about a low math score, I'm worried about a low math score. Having a high analytical is great, but it measures something different.

 

 

Or ruled in  :D

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions! Really appreciate it! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I obtained lower MA grades than I would have liked due to some life events and poor response to those events, but more importantly because I have bipolar disorder and did not realize or receive (some) treatment until after immediately after my MA. What do you recommend for situations where a problem that led to decreases in performance in the past has been somewhat addressed but could well affect the PhD experience, i.e. how should applicants and their letter-writers address this? My concern would be that by providing that context for the performance it might cause enormous concern by admissions over my ability to finish the program.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My advice here, and in general for situations in which the candidate needs to explain a serious problem with their file, is to consider letting a letter writer do so. This requires finding a letter writer you trust, confiding in them about the situation, and explicitly asking them to address it. They will know how to contextualize the situation, and it sounds less like an excuse or justification coming from them than it does coming from the applicant.

 

 

I obtained lower MA grades than I would have liked due to some life events and poor response to those events, but more importantly because I have bipolar disorder and did not realize or receive (some) treatment until after immediately after my MA. What do you recommend for situations where a problem that led to decreases in performance in the past has been somewhat addressed but could well affect the PhD experience, i.e. how should applicants and their letter-writers address this? My concern would be that by providing that context for the performance it might cause enormous concern by admissions over my ability to finish the program.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I obtained lower MA grades than I would have liked due to some life events and poor response to those events, but more importantly because I have bipolar disorder and did not realize or receive (some) treatment until after immediately after my MA. What do you recommend for situations where a problem that led to decreases in performance in the past has been somewhat addressed but could well affect the PhD experience, i.e. how should applicants and their letter-writers address this? My concern would be that by providing that context for the performance it might cause enormous concern by admissions over my ability to finish the program.

 

I am also transferring from a graduate program this year and dealt with complications from depression and anxiety during my studies. I spent a lot of time thinking about this issue, just as you have. The initial instinct is to feel pressure to disclose your mental illness, but also worry about what that signals about your ability to complete the program, and, more broadly, how it means you are damaged goods in a career where intellectual output is the primary determinant of success.

 

A few things to say:

 

1) Mental illness is a chronic disability. You do not need to apologize for having it. This is something I often forget or am hesitant to acknowledge. No one would give a second thought if you experienced complications from a physical disability. The more unapologetic you feel about your condition, the better you will be able to advocate for yourself.

 

2) Disclosing your mental illness is entirely up to you. Part of advocating for yourself is establishing boundaries around disclosure. It is your decision alone. You do not need to give into perceived pressures to explain yourself to professors at these graduate programs. In my materials, I simply wrote that I experienced complications from a chronic disability.

 

3) Do not assume that, because professors are very smart people, they understand the nature of chronic mental illness and how to deal with it in a healthy way. Professors understand the episodic depression that otherwise healthy people suffer as a result of the pressures of graduate school. They may view your chronic condition through that lens and simply encourage you to be tough. While graduate school requires tenacity, this is useless advice for dealing with your disability.

 

Similarly, professors with chronic mental illness may not be good role models for you. I had an advisor who was junior faculty and wildly successful (two highly acclaimed UP books, several top-3 journal hits within four years after the PhD, media attention on their research), yet they lived a miserable, unhealthy lifestyle. They gained 40 pounds their first year out of graduate school. You may accept that tradeoff to achieve similar levels of success, but do not assume that you have to make a tradeoff between self-care and professional success. I tried to emulate their example and suffered greatly for it.

 

4) When it comes to the application, your best move will be to demonstrate that you have a firm understanding of what the research enterprise means. Let your SOP walk through what your broad question is, any projects you have done, different questions you might explore. Showing professors that you understand this process and have interesting ideas will go a long way to trumping any concerns they might have about grades.

 

5) When you continue your studies, the first thing you need to do is build a support system and treatment plan. Find a therapist and psychiatrist in your new location. Register with your university's disability services center and discuss accommodations you might need for your coursework or assistanship duties. Write up a Wellness Recovery Action Plan and review it with your family, doctors, and disability services staff.

 

If you end up choosing to disclose to an advisor or department head, the support and treatment work you've done will likely diffuse a lot of the tension you may feel about disclosing. You're showing them you're proactive. They don't have to feel like they need to function as your therapist. They're in a better position to provide the type of support that advisors do for students through the ups and downs of graduate school, though perhaps with some empathy from knowing you have this condition and you are managing it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

@testingtesting I'm in the same boat. Depression was practically epidemic at Oxford, but I definitely lived through some pretty horrific stuff. I stated health problems without disclosing fully. Unfortunately stigma persists, and given the super-competitive applicant pool... Well, it's a risk.

It is unfair -- I'd rather strong regulations specifying both ex ante and ex post measures to prevent discrimination on grounds of health...

But applicants must be content, as Touchstone sez.

@slacktivist advice is all sound. One thing -- health insurance! See if you can upgrade your policy/the school will upgrade for better mental health coverage, and check the t&cs for details like co-pays on therapy, included providers. I pay 40% of my salary in medical bills and I earn far more than I hypothetically would in grad school...

On Letter-writers, this is unfortunately another stigma issue. I was hesitant about "coming out" to letter writers, because you never know quite how enlightened their views on mental health are. Again, another difficulty.

Edited by Sartori
Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow... I don't really have anything to add to the excellent set of responses to this question.

 

I do think the strategy of having one of your letter-writers mention the issue is a sound one. And I don't think most Departments would let disability be a factor. On more than one occasion, I've turned a disability around when it comes time to apply for funding from the Graduate School: "look what this person has accomplished despite adversity" can be a pretty compelling argument.

Link to post
Share on other sites

@testingtesting I wish you luck! It's a messy world out there.

@BRB -- I like my application, and my SOP goes into lots of detail about broad and specific areas of interest, plus interesting research questions. But, I didn't conceptualise the process as a marriage market of professors and students, and had never heard of gradcafe, or considered that serious candidates pick possible advisors in advance. I figure -- I'm interested in political leadership, ideology and political communication, so there'll be someone suitable at big faculties. I picked out a few people I'm interested in working with, but not for every application.

So:

Is not identifying PsOI in my SOP fatal?

Should I email some suitable faculty now to express interest/discuss compatability/propose marriage?

Your advice on this, as on all matters, greatly appreciated. You should have a syndicated column in student newspapers. I mean that sincerely -- bigger audience!

Edited by Sartori
Link to post
Share on other sites

Is not identifying PsOI in my SOP fatal?

Should I email some suitable faculty now to express interest/discuss compatability/propose marriage?

 

Fatal? No. There may well be departments that aren't strong in those areas that might put your file aside because they don't see a very good fit. The thing is, though, they'd be right to do so—you shouldn't go to a good department if it doesn't have strength in your area. So I'd say forget about emailing or trying to fix the application, but do focus on figuring out which departments have legit POIs for you to work with and which don't so that you can make the right decision in the end.

 

And thanks for the kind words  :D

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.