jazzrap Posted February 25, 2014 Share Posted February 25, 2014 (edited) Guys, Hopefully my post will not start a ranking war. I apologize if it does. Perhaps there are already threads about schools where folks can discuss placement, but I still want to have a thread dedicated to this aspect of PhD programs, as it is the single-most important thing for our careers. This thread could help some of us fortunate enough to get into grad schools to have better educated choices to make. It might also be useful to prospective applicants. I want to start off with some of my observations made before and during this cycle. As any other applicant, I have been going to programs' websites to find information about placement, and trying to make an educated guess about what program has the better ability to land its ABDs into jobs. Thus far, these are my observations, and I really hope anyone here can comment on these things. First and the most obvious: a lot of programs that houses great faculty and seem to have wonderful resources do not participate in the "honest grad numbers" enterprise. My question is to what extent should a program's decision not to be a hundred percent transparent about its placement affect a prospective student's choices to attend. Second and still pretty obvious: some schools formally ranked between 10th and 15th that emphasize methods training have placement records better than any of the non-Stanford top fives (or top six). Their placement records are also better than many non-UCSD top tens. My question is why this is so. I have a few guesses, and hope you can comment on these. a) a lot of the programs at the very very top tend not to require too much methods from their graduate students, and instead stress "methodological pluralism." Many PhD students coming without prior exposure to advanced statistics tend to try to avoid mathematical training, and their programs' structures are not preventing them from doing so. These people pass the comps, and go on the market. Many top 10 and top 5 programs are pretty large, so faculty pay less attention to their students on average. This observation might be wrong, of course, because these programs may have larger number of faculty as well. However, I do feel that a relatively small program is better than a larger program in terms of sustaining a culture of working together to place well. c) Some of the very very top programs might tend to admit students from diverse backgrounds. Some students have wonderful grades and have a lot of extraordinary experiences outside of the academia. Their SOPs are professional enough to pass the cut-off, yet not as "nerdy" as some other folks in their cohort. Maybe one third of them go on to become the greatest thinkers in their subfield, but a lot of them find themselves into a discipline that they do not particularly enjoy. These two thirds pass the comps, decide to stay, and go on the market without a frontier-driven paper. I know of one student from previous cycle who got into a top 5 in the US but instead joined a British program, with "having a better opportunity to work for the Economist" being one of the primary reasons. These people exist, and many of them do attend "top 5" or "top 10" schools . I am less confident about this theory, though. d) Most importantly, as I found through some anecdotal evidence by some graduate students I know, is that top 5 or top 10 do not push students to work hard in comparison to some in the 10th-15th. Some of us lucky enough to be accepted into top 10 programs might decide to work hard anyways, and we will have pretty good endings. Others do not, and these folks go on the market as well. And top 5 or top 10 may not have intense job training, whereas one grad student from a top 15 literally told me that their DGS and Chair will tell job market candidates what kind of meals to order during office visits for job talks. In addition to my two observations and the guesses I made, I also hope to share with you one of my strategies to compare schools in terms of their records of placement. Hopefully people can come and correct me and offer their tips. One way to compare placement record is to find how many people who obtain TT jobs without first-authored publications. Say, if one school has a lot of these students, then this program must have a good ability to place. There are other programs that place their students very very well, but tend to place them through publications. I am not saying that we should go to the former kind and be lazy about research. My strategy is just to find out about programs' ability to place after controlling for the number of publications. This approach has a lot of caveats. One of them is endogeneity. More importantly, however, publications in general do not tend to be the sole decider on placement. Interesting dissertation presented in a job talk is much more important than a solo-authored piece in a top journal. Whether a student's dissertation is interesting cannot be observed, so I assume that these variables are randomly distributed, though they are not... I hope this thread has not offended anyone, and most importantly will not start a ranking war. Sorry if it does. One of the most urgent questions I and probably other applicants all have, is to what extent we should choose programs based on placement vis-a-vi fit or ranking. There is one school that provides me and other accepted applicants with information more thorough than the "honest grad numbers". From their information, calculated roughly by odds only, if anyone studying comparative politics goes on the market, he/she will have more than 70 percent chance to get a TT job as an ABD and 90 percent chance to get a TT job after a year of post-doc. NO kidding. There are better ranked schools that have much greater fit that also sent me offers. There must be other people here who have similar results and wonder whether they should attend based on record of placement. Edited February 25, 2014 by jazzrap Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now