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Question regarding my Profile


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Hi everyone. I hope everyone is ready and for the new application season. I previously applied PhD programs in Political Science two years ago (2011 for 2012) out of undergrad. At that time, I had done pretty well (3.82 undergrad GPA with a double major in Political Science and International Relations) and a decent GRE and excellent letters of recommendation. I applied to many programs in the top 20; however, I didn't get into my top choices. I got into two programs, both of which I turned down, one due to lack of funding, one due to it not being a good fit with the overall idea of doing my masters and applying again afterwards. 


This was where I perceive I may have a bit of an issue and would appreciate some advice, especially from faculty. In the end, I ended up choosing a master's program that was not a good fit for my interests and career goal, a "terminal" masters that focuses on Security Studies and deals largely with bureaucratic/military issues. It is also not very closely related to classical political science questions and issues and is mainly geared towards people who want to advance their government careers. I am not attempting to make excuses for myself, but much of this material was totally new to me and beyond my knowledge/interest and was not like the graduate level political science courses I took in undergrad (both of which I did well in). I notice a lot of people's profiles have higher graduate GPAs than undergraduate GPAs; however, my case is the opposite. As mentioned before, my GPA was 3.82 in undergrad but is around 3.62 at the moment. 


My statement of purpose this time is a lot more particular and focused, my letters will be good, and I have a publication. However, I am unsettled by my graduate school GPA and wonder how this aspect would impact my overall application for a PhD. All of my previous and potential research for the future is on topics that don't have anything to do with my masters (though certain classes I took in my program touch on these topics, and these were the classes I got A's in) but I realize that a committee looking at my transcript also looks at grades in terms of potential. I am still aiming for a top 20 program plus a couple here are there though. 


I would appreciate any honest advice. Thanks!

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There is really no use stressing over your GPA, given that you have the GPA you have and you can't change it. I would not go out of your way to use space in your SOP to explain your graduate GPA (which isn't bad, it's just not as good as your undergrad GPA). Instead, focus on your SOP and writing sample, and make sure the faculty who you select for LORs will write truly great letters. You should have at least one or two of your letters from your graduate program and then you could reuse one or two letters from undergrad (If possible I think it would be better to have at least two letters from your graduate profs, but most importantly, make sure those faculty will write great letters). Assuming the letters are truly great and you've improved your SOP and writing sample, I would expect that you'll be competitive and can hopefully have better results than two years ago. Good luck!

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Thank you, I appreciate the advice. I think I can get two excellent letters from undergrad, from the same people who wrote my initial letters. I should also be able to get one from grad school, though I'm not sure about two. My adviser recommended I get letters from people with PhDs in political science, and as I pointed out, my program has many professors who are retired diplomats, soldiers, and the like. 


I should also mention that when I applied last time, I choose IR as my main field and Theory as my subfield although now I'm considering comparative instead. Definitely my strongest questions and ideas come from Comparative at the moment. I also did very well in theory, my undergrad thesis is on theory, and my strongest letter is coming from a professor I did theory with. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much sense it makes to play up IR anymore, though it was my undergrad major. IR is the most similar to my current practice-related masters that I haven't comparatively well in. 

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