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I am applying to PhD programs this fall and in the midst of my school search right now. I've found the task to be quite daunting. I've been looking through schools that I think I'm interested in, browsing their faculty and seeing what their research areas are. Many times they don't have them listed, or they are very vague. Any tips on a more economical (time wise) way to do a search would be a big help, or recommendations on schools would be very apprecated. 


For my undergrad I attended a regular state school. Graduated with a 3.93 with a major in Poli Sci. I assisted a professor with research for a book she was writing for one semester, but I didn't do much individual research. I have some writing samples that I think I could use. Finally, I took the GRE right after graduation and got pretty good scores--only my quantitative section was below the 75th percentile and it came in at 71. My research interests are US politics: interest groups, coalitions and LGBT voting behavior.


RIght now I live in South Korea and I plan on doing all my applications from here.


Like I said any advice would be a huge help. Thanks

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This is how i do it.

Top Down Analysis.

1. Look at the top 100 according to whatever ranking you choose (they are all pretty much the same name of schools, just in different rank)

2. Find some area of the country you may want to live (if this is not a factor, skip to step 3)

3. Look at each department and see what the schoars are doing work on

4. Try to find admission standards AND funding percentage (some schools are 100%, some may give 3 offers out of 15 accepted students)

5. Read said research of the scholars

6. If you want to, email the scholars SPECIFIC questions about their research OR email the grad assistant/DGS and ask for basic information about the program (If you dont feel comfortable doing this, skip it)

7. Fill out applications, financial aid info, etc.

8. Profit

*Note - In terms of school selection, you MUST have a fit with a prof..preferrably 2-3. Fit is most important in PhD admission. A political scientist work is no difference than a biologist work. You need to find someone who can teach you how to do the research they do. It is like an apprenticeship. ALSO, try to find FULL PROFESSORS who do what you want to do . AP's can leave while you are there and if there is no one else there who does your topic, you will have to transfer.

This should be a good starting point

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An easier algorithm:  look at the work you really like.  If it's by an assistant professor or a younger associate, consider the school where they got their PhD.  If it's by an older associate or a more senior person, consider the school where they currently work. 

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Don't be daunted.  This is a huge decision and you should take your time and make sure you're choosing the best places for you.


I worked on my list on and off for well over a year.  When I finally narrowed my "short list" of 15 or so down to 7, I decided I wanted a couple more options and researched some other programs that I hadn't given a close enough look.  In October, I added two more schools at what I considered to be the last minute, for a total of 9 schools.


Guess which two schools I got into and which 7 rejected me???


Life works in strange ways sometimes.  Point being -- don't overlook anyplace.  Be thorough, deliberate, and keep an open mind.  Good luck!

Edited by Quigley
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