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What Ph.D. programs are realistic?


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I'm trying to get an idea for which Ph.D. programs I could realistically get accepted to.  I have not had a lot of luck in finding hard statistics on admissions (I'm sure a bunch of schools don't release them), but since I had a little time to burn, I thought I'd post on here and see what people say.


I'm looking for a Ph.D. in C&I, maybe with some form of emphasis in urban ed. I'm open to anywhere in the US, but would like to attend the best program possible (also would prefer one with full funding lol).


These are my education stats: (they are not the greatest)


M.A. - Teachers College, Columbia University - Computing in Education, 4.0

M.A. - Louisiana College - Teaching - 3.55

B.S. - University of Houston - 2.2


GRE score - 301 - 155 verbal, 146 math, 4.0 writing


3 years of teaching, 2 at an urban charter school, 1 at a college prep academy

Worked as an IT head for a year, department chair at my school, won teacher of the year.


So which colleges are in my range and which are dreams?

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Hi texasteacher,


Regardless of one's "greatness" in terms of academics, which can be measured in different and sometimes conflicting ways, I think anyone who responds to you and says you can attend this university or that university for sure is blowing smoke to say the least. Graduate school admissions vary greatly by university, or even by department or program, so there are no absolutes. It seems like most grad schools use a holistic approach, choosing candidates who have a number of strengths (or perhaps strengths in certain highly regarded areas).


That said, you're in control of a number of the creation of several variables, even if you aren't the one who is actually evaluating them. The masters from Teachers College certainly is a positive CV item, as is the teaching experience you mentioned. Your GRE score is also something within your power to change, and you may want to consider putting some time into GRE prep and retaking the test since you have the summer to do this before the application cranks into gear again. Again, how much the GRE weighs in to the admission decision varies greatly from program to program, but you can retake the GRE and use the best scores, so it's at least worth considering.


The biggest things in my mind, and I suspect some of the readers might agree, are the more subjective elements of your applications, namely your statement of purpose and your fit with the programs to which you apply. Your statement is hugely important, as it should outline your experiences and your research/career goals. Departments will use this evaluate your fit with the program and the school, in a manner that is much more engaging than a silly GRE school or university GPA. If you can use your statement to demonstrate that your research interests match well with one or more faculty members affiliated with the program, I have to believe that this is going to carry more weight than the difference between a 2.5 and a 3.0 alone, just to name one arbitrary statistic.


If "big time" is what you're after, I would recommend vetting a number of schools that meet your general criteria, and then applying to a number as well. In my own search this past year, I only applied to three schools, two of which were highly selective (University of Pennsylvania, Teachers College) and one that is far less so (University of New Mexico--I was admitted there previously five years ago). Given the chance to repeat the application--and the desire to put up with the waiting and everything!!--I would surely apply to additional schools to increase my chances of making something work out. As things stood, I was interested only in certain schools, and I was fortunate that something worked out for me. I wouldn't leave things as much to chance if I applied again.


Rather than list schools "in your range," I think you should pick schools that YOU want to go to, that are a GOOD fit, and that encompass a range of different institutions--be it highly selective, moderately selective, and maybe even schools you like that are not selective. People here may give you their opinions, but few if any of them are admissions officers or affiliated with graduate departments and their admissions decisions, so what they say is only worth so much. It definitely isn't worth your interests and what you feel is a good fit.

Edited by wjdavis
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You have to define what you mean by "best." Do you mean the U.S. News and World Report rankings? Do you mean respected by academics in the field? Do you mean best for job prospects?


So many factors go into admissions decisions, and at this level, numbers like GPA and GRE scores may be good for fellowships or scholarships but not for assessing whether you'd complete a PhD successfully. Five years (or more) for a PhD program means that perseverance counts more than intelligence (measured any which way you can think of).


My question to you would be... what is most important to you? What will you need from your advisor, your program, and your community in order to be a happy and healthy grad student? I figured out all those things before I started looking at programs. For me, it was important to have a good mentor and be in a well-respected program. I have certain hobbies that suffered a bit by moving to my new community, but it wasn't anything that was going to keep me from staying sane. It was also important for me to be well-funded and have opportunities to do both research and teaching (you should really look into this because some institutions aren't able to offer you both).


Off the top of my head, I believe USC has a C&I program focused almost exclusively on Urban Ed.


Ultimately, you won't know unless you apply. But, given that PhD apps take time and money, I'd limit myself to the ones that truly fit my needs. If possible, I would also highly recommend contacting current grad students or recent grads of the program to get their take on the program--you can usually find students' email addresses on the department's webpage. I haven't had any problems with students not wanting to talk to me, and they provided me with invaluable information that helped me make my decision.


Good luck!

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