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This may be a little early, but I figured someone has to start one. This will be my second cycle unless a miracle happens and I get funding from the very last school I am waiting for. I applied to 7 schools. Got 2 wait-lists, 4 rejections, and 1 acceptance, but waiting for funding (wasn't wait-listed for funding. The school does this weird school-wide rolling admissions/funding thing. If I had turned in my application earlier I wouldn't be in this situation). 

 

I know that this has been discussed at length before, but what do you all think about emailing Professors ahead of time? I only emailed one professor and he replied back by changing the subject line to "PhD Applicant?" Yes, I know, extremely rude. There was no need for the question mark. I had decided that I would never email anyone ever again, but when I asked for advice about how to improve my application, a DGS suggested that I actually email a Professor about my research interests/questions I am interested in. 

 

Also, would it be a good idea to reapply to programs that you were wait-listed at? 

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In at UPenn. I'm at a loss for words. I'm hoping everyone else who has been shut out so far receives some good news soon (hopefully a few more today who also get into Penn).

That was me.   I've applied for 4 rounds.   Finally.

Sage advice for future appliers (2011-2012 forum post). If I wouldnt have read this, I am sure I would have completely struck out:

 

Hello all,

After four months' hiatus, I'm back for another cycle - good to see some old faces (handles?) around. To my knowledge, no applications are open for business yet, but with Yale's coming online Monday, I thought now would be a good time to wish everyone good luck. More importantly, to all the new applicants this year, I'm going to try and give some unsolicited advice. Here goes:

Last year, I went into applications humble yet confident. I had a 3.90 at a top-10 national university with a reputation for difficulty, research experience, was doing a master's at Cambridge, had worked in government for 9 months in addition to various internships, was awarded Phi Beta Kappa and other honors, had 3 good recommendations from tenured professors, submitted a capstone paper for a sample, and had a 1570 GRE.

I went 0 for 7.

So this year, I'm focusing on what actually matters: the personal statement. It is the single most important part of the application. Never mind what the departmental websites say about holistic approaches and solid backgrounds; that all matters, but only as an initial check on the candidate before the real admitting and rejecting happens based on the PS.

Focus on matching your research interests to specific professors, and write why they will want to supervise you and why your research will benefit from them. And spend some words doing so: I've been told about 40% of the PS should be discussing this (last year, I used about 15%). Don't just look at their subfield ("comparative politics") and confirm that their area focus ("Africa") matches yours. Read their bios, but then analyze their CVs. Find recent articles and/or books. Then read the works themselves. Quickly, you'll find the professor you thought was a perfect match is actually only tangentially related to your research.

Which is the second most important thing: have your research absolutely sorted out. Have a research question. Make sure you could explain to your grandmother it in 100 words or fill 10,000 words discussing its intricacies, because you'll have to do both at some point. They won't take you on interest ("I want to look at political violence") and credentials ("I have an MPhil from Cambridge") alone. They want to know that you can formulate and articulate a proper scholarly inquiry. This should also take up about 40% of the PS, according to academic advisors with whom I've spoken (last year, I spent about 25% on this).

Maybe these things were obvious to other first-time applicants and I just lost my way, or stupidly ignored it. But I certainly wish someone had drilled this into me before I started work on my applications. Perhaps I would have got an offer last year. Perhaps not. Either way, my personal statement was concise and well-written but completely useless for my application. I deserved my rejections. And so will you if you don't take this advice.

Best of luck.

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Guest hopefulfool

This may be a little early, but I figured someone has to start one. This will be my second cycle unless a miracle happens and I get funding from the very last school I am waiting for. I applied to 7 schools. Got 2 wait-lists, 4 rejections, and 1 acceptance, but waiting for funding (wasn't wait-listed for funding. The school does this weird school-wide rolling admissions/funding thing. If I had turned in my application earlier I wouldn't be in this situation). 

 

I know that this has been discussed at length before, but what do you all think about emailing Professors ahead of time? I only emailed one professor and he replied back by changing the subject line to "PhD Applicant?" Yes, I know, extremely rude. There was no need for the question mark. I had decided that I would never email anyone ever again, but when I asked for advice about how to improve my application, a DGS suggested that I actually email a Professor about my research interests/questions I am interested in. 

 

Also, would it be a good idea to reapply to programs that you were wait-listed at? 

 

Professors are like a box of chocolates. You have some nice ones and then there are others that you spit out immediately because they are just disgusting. 

I would say only email if you have unique research interests that intersect with those of a faculty member, but not exactly. I would hope that they would be 100% honest if they think you would be a good fit or not. Of course, do not expect anyone to encourage or discourage you from applying. 

 

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Focus on matching your research interests to specific professors, and write why they will want to supervise you and why your research will benefit from them. And spend some words doing so: I've been told about 40% of the PS should be discussing this (last year, I used about 15%). Don't just look at their subfield ("comparative politics") and confirm that their area focus ("Africa") matches yours. Read their bios, but then analyze their CVs. Find recent articles and/or books. Then read the works themselves. Quickly, you'll find the professor you thought was a perfect match is actually only tangentially related to your research.

Which is the second most important thing: have your research absolutely sorted out. Have a research question. Make sure you could explain to your grandmother it in 100 words or fill 10,000 words discussing its intricacies, because you'll have to do both at some point. They won't take you on interest ("I want to look at political violence") and credentials ("I have an MPhil from Cambridge") alone. They want to know that you can formulate and articulate a proper scholarly inquiry. This should also take up about 40% of the PS, according to academic advisors with whom I've spoken (last year, I spent about 25% on this).

 

 

Maybe it's just that I had blind luck, or maybe it has to do with my subfield (political theory), but I'll be starting in the fall without anything even close to resembling a research question or whatnot, and was told that essentially I shouldn't have anything too specific either.  The most specific I got was that I was hoping to study the History of Political thought in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment eras. 

 

My personal statement explained my past work and what I thought the role of political theory was, what it meant to me and why I want to dedicate my life to its study.  Truthfully, I spoke pretty broadly about the schools I was applying to and really only had about 2 sentences that I changed for each school to say who I wanted to work with and show that I knew what they studied and everything.  Maybe that was a mistake and that's why I was only accepted into 1 of the PhD programs I applied to, but I'm very happy with where I've ended up and am excited and satisfied with how this whole process went.

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First time applicant here, but currently enrolled in a M.A. program.

 

I am interested in IPE, emerging powers (particularly China), and formal modelling. I have a research question down (that will likely change over time), and will try to write the first draft of my Statement sometime soon, so I can "let it stew". Since I'll be abroad next semester, I already have to start planning, approaching professors for LORs etc.!

 

I am currently pursuing a M.A. at a well-respected European university, and will be spending my next semester in India to take some classes and do some research for my MA thesis.

 

Looking at Michigan, UCSD, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Warwick and LSE, and trying to find a couple more for a PhD in Political Science. Focus fields will probably be IR and CP, or IR and PE, depending on the school!

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First time applicant here, but currently enrolled in a M.A. program.

 

I am interested in IPE, emerging powers (particularly China), and formal modelling. I have a research question down (that will likely change over time), and will try to write the first draft of my Statement sometime soon, so I can "let it stew". Since I'll be abroad next semester, I already have to start planning, approaching professors for LORs etc.!

 

I am currently pursuing a M.A. at a well-respected European university, and will be spending my next semester in India to take some classes and do some research for my MA thesis.

 

Looking at Michigan, UCSD, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Warwick and LSE, and trying to find a couple more for a PhD in Political Science. Focus fields will probably be IR and CP, or IR and PE, depending on the school!

Look for 2 schools that are a little lower ranked. maybe a Penn State or something like that. Each of those schools get like 200 applications a piece. And LSE is iffy on funding.

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Look for 2 schools that are a little lower ranked. maybe a Penn State or something like that. Each of those schools get like 200 applications a piece. And LSE is iffy on funding.

 

How do you know that LSE is iffy on funding? I am just asking if this is out of personal experience or not, since rumor has it is that they are still making funding decisions, so if anyone is waiting on them they should sit tight. 

Every school is iffy on funding. LSE has more cash in the bank than most third world countries (no jokes about Gaddafi, please). There are 3 ways to be funded from LSE: 1) the Full Studentship Scheme 2) the ESRC and 3) then there is need-based funding, but if you are not from a commonwealth country this is difficult to come by (the British still feel guilty about their past). Plus, I believe that the IR and Govt. dept. each have 2-3 major scholarships. I know that they are not quite there, but they are slowly moving toward only accepting fully funded students not sure if they will make that move next year or not...

IRToni, I heard Prof. Chris Hughes is ridiculously nice and he is a China specialist. Before applying, it is imperative to send an email to someone at LSE/Warwick to see if they are willing to supervise your thesis. Admissions at European programs work differently. Your proposal will be read by 2-4 people who are not your proposed advisor to see if it "fits" with the program and if your grades are acceptable, then it goes to the supervisor that you suggested. If he/she turns it down, they will see if they can find someone else to supervise you. 

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First time applicant here, but currently enrolled in a M.A. program.

 

I am interested in IPE, emerging powers (particularly China), and formal modelling. I have a research question down (that will likely change over time), and will try to write the first draft of my Statement sometime soon, so I can "let it stew". Since I'll be abroad next semester, I already have to start planning, approaching professors for LORs etc.!

 

I am currently pursuing a M.A. at a well-respected European university, and will be spending my next semester in India to take some classes and do some research for my MA thesis.

 

Looking at Michigan, UCSD, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Warwick and LSE, and trying to find a couple more for a PhD in Political Science. Focus fields will probably be IR and CP, or IR and PE, depending on the school!

 

Are you an international student? If so, keep in mind that UCSD doesn't fund non-Americans.

 

Beyond that, I do IPE and formal theory, so if you want someone to bounce ideas off as you write your SOP, feel free to PM me!

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@RWBG: I am indeed international. and have heard that UCSD does not fund many non-Americans. But when I asked, they said they do have a number of fellowships for out-of-state tuition, and since it's one of the best fits for me, I thought I would risk it! If you have any more up-to-date information, I might rethink it though ;-)! Thanks for the offer regarding my SOP, I'll definitely be asking you at some point in time!

 

 

hopefulfool

IRToni, I heard Prof. Chris Hughes is ridiculously nice and he is a China specialist. Before applying, it is imperative to send an email to someone at LSE/Warwick to see if they are willing to supervise your thesis. Admissions at European programs work differently. Your proposal will be read by 2-4 people who are not your proposed advisor to see if it "fits" with the program and if your grades are acceptable, then it goes to the supervisor that you suggested. If he/she turns it down, they will see if they can find someone else to supervise you.

 

I do know about the European system. One question: When should I approach them? And should I send my proposal to them directly?

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@RWBG: I am indeed international. and have heard that UCSD does not fund many non-Americans. But when I asked, they said they do have a number of fellowships for out-of-state tuition, and since it's one of the best fits for me, I thought I would risk it! If you have any more up-to-date information, I might rethink it though ;-)! Thanks for the offer regarding my SOP, I'll definitely be asking you at some point in time!

 

 

 

I do know about the European system. One question: When should I approach them? And should I send my proposal to them directly?

 

Yeah, I just checked the website, and it looks like UCSD may have revised its policy. They used to have a note that said:

 

"INTERNATIONAL (non US Citizen) APPLICANTS: You should be aware that non-U.S. citizens are responsible for tuition and fee payments that total close to $28,000 per year for every year in residence. Unlike many other state universities, this tuition is not waived for students receiving teaching assistantships, which is the primary source of graduate student funding in the Department of Political Science. In almost all cases neither the University nor the Department of Political Science has the funds to cover these payments. As a consequence, very few non-citizens enroll in the program. Please keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to request the application."

 

Now it still seems like their funding for international students is limited, but it at least exists. They must have realized that what amounted to a blanket ban was a pretty ridiculous policy, and one that was hurting their program.

 

Wisconsin has a great IPE faculty right now; they might be a school to consider adding to the list. Also, you can't get better training in modelling than Rochester, although they don't have much of an IPE (or really PE) group to speak of. Maybe also WUSTL?

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I do know about the European system. One question: When should I approach them? And should I send my proposal to them directly?

 

I would recommend getting in your application at the latest by the end of November if not earlier. That way if you fail to get funding under one scheme, your application can be considered for another without missing any major deadlines. Contacting them early in September should be sufficient. This will give you time to contact someone else if they cannot supervise you. 

 

Sending your proposal: I know someone who just contacted someone without sending the proposal and he got accepted (and he never asked to see it), but he was also a former student of his so he already knew his interests, writing style, theoretical position, training, etc. I think it would be better to send an introductory email that includes your abstract and ask if they are interested in supervising your project and if they want to see your proposal. Some will tell you to send it, others will not. 

However, if you are interested in formal modeling, I don't know much about the IPE people at LSE, but modeling definitely is not one of their strengths. I really don't know much about the entire department, but I am pretty sure the most "mainstream" you are going to get at LSE is constructivism/english school stuff, but then again I met an LSE grad student working on Neoclassical Realism...  Just stuff to keep in mind. I say apply even if it isn't the best fit. The admissions process is crazy and you never know. 

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Hi guys,

 

I'm also going to be a first time applicant this cycle, too. I'm interested in American politics, especially Congress and Congressional elections. I haven't compiled the list of programs I'm applying to yet, but I will soon. I'm going to be working on my SOP and writing sample over the summer.

 

I'm a little nervous because I'm not a social science major, and my overall GPA isn't fantastic (my poli sci grades are good, though).

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It's early, but I plan to enter this cycle. I've posted/lurked on Grad Cafe for a long time now, and I think I'm prepared to take the plunge.

 

I'm planning to be a comparativist with an interest in political economy of development, regional interest in eastern Europe and Central Asia (CIS), mixed methods. My research questions have to do with informal institutions, natural resources, corruption, and ideology. If that sounds scattered, I'm still sorting that part out.

 

I completed my master's in area studies about a year ago, and by the time I expect to enter I'll have three years post-BA experience (both research and work) in my region of interest, with pretty strong language skills. Undergrad political science/IR, no quantitative training, and a handful of econ classes.

 

My decision to apply as a comparativist comes as both I and my interests have matured-- as an undergrad I thought I would go either IR or theory, and I wrote the equivalent of my senior thesis on classical theorists. I'm trying to stay true to the things that I've always been very passionate about, while following those interests that have grown by spending time in my region of choice.

 

I'm still compiling my list of schools, but I think I can make a good case for fit at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Madison, Michigan, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, and Yale. 

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Hello Everyone,

 

I plan to enter this cycle as a PhD applicant. I am finishing up my master's thesis this fall and will use the summer to develop my SOP and get my applications ready. My research interest are Civil-military relations and security issues in Latin America.  

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Yeah, I just checked the website, and it looks like UCSD may have revised its policy.
Well that sure is a step in the right direction. I considered applying to a few programs that I later discovered didn't offer funding/waive tuition for international students and promptly struck them off my list when I discovered that. Good luck to everyone who is applying this cycle. I hope you all get the desired results!
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I'm taking the plunge this year as well.  My research interests are primarily political communication, elections and campaigns and more broadly anything resembling UK/US comparative politics (I'm a UK Student)

 

Having lurked the boards for advice I've decided to go all in and apply to about seven schools - trying not to pick favourites too much to save a bit of heartache!

 

Currently studying for the GRE which I'm taking in August, also trying to piece together a draft SOP but not really sure where to start.

 

Looking forward to sharing the stress with all of you

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Hello there, I am also a first time applicant and its good to see so many people on board already!

 

My research interests are (1) the intersection between IR theory and foreign policy, (2) constructivist IR (right, job market is what I made of it), (3) IR and International Law. My empirical/regional focus, if any, is the interaction between the US and the Asia Pacific. While I am still working on my Statement, let me know if you have any thoughts on those topics!

 

After studying abroad at American University in D.C. for a year, I returned to Taiwan to pursuit a Master's degree. Just did the GRE and got V163/Q168/AWA4.0 (good luck to those who are taking this summer)

 

 

I am now looking at Princeton, Columbia, U Chicago, Cornell, Ohio State, GWU, Minnesoda, and American. (am I missing anything?)

 

Looking forward hear from all of you and go through this together!

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If it's possible to change your test date, I highly recommend taking the test in July so that you could have plenty of time to re-take if necessary without overlapping your test prep and school application prep.

 

Currently studying for the GRE which I'm taking in August, also trying to piece together a draft SOP but not really sure where to start.

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If it's possible to change your test date, I highly recommend taking the test in July so that you could have plenty of time to re-take if necessary without overlapping your test prep and school application prep.

 

Thanks for the advice, I am pretty worried about the time constraints but I work a lot so if I want to give myself a fighting chance of a good score the first time round I need the prep time now.

 

Bet you I will regret this come September!

 

Whats everyone doing now in preparation? (besides GRE prep for those who havent taken it yet)

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To Rainbow 0121:

I am now doing research to find the best "fit" of program/faculty and my interests. I also discuss with my undergrad professors who are really helpful in narrowing down my list.

Also, I guess it's not too early to inquire LOR candidates about their willingness to write? My reasoning is that professors might be busy once the semester starts they will have more reason to decline.

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Also, would it be a good idea to reapply to programs that you were wait-listed at? 

 

Generally speaking, yes.  At the PhD level (as opposed to, say, undergrad or professional school), being wait-listed is usually not a sign that you "just missed" the cutoff for admission -- those people are usually just rejected.  Instead, it means that someone thought you were a great candidate, but some other candidates were just better fits, or some other professors were higher in the pecking order this year.  Next year, against a new field of candidates, you may shake out differently (for better or worse, unfortunately), but it may also be that the professor who wanted you (and didn't get you) will be at the top of the list this year.

 

The biggest pitfall in re-applying anywhere is that you risk being "stale" -- that is, they've seen your application, and it's not as exciting or interesting as it was before.  I think the best way to combat this is to make sure that there is something new there -- your SOP should be new, and there should be evidence that you've done something productive with the extra year.  Good luck!

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