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Just starting the process, could use a helping hand...

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Hello everyone.  I am brand new to this forum so please excuse me if this is in the wrong thread or if I ask questions that have been answered in other places.


Background:  I am 29 years old.  I finished my bachelor's degree last august from a top 50 (whatever that's worth) university (Yes, I was on the 8 year community college plan).  I received my degree in Political Science with a 3.97 gpa graduating summa cum laude, phi beta kappa, etc. (whatever that's worth - also gpa from CC is around 3.4ish.  I'm not sure how that factors into adcomm's calculations).  The plan up until recently was to attend law school.  For some time now I have been disenchanted with the idea of law school and have come to find a passion for career in political science as a result of my undergraduate experience.  The problem that I am having is that this revelation is rather recent, and I am very uneducated as to the admissions process and how to maximize my opportunities.  My ultimate goal, like many others on this forum, is a tenure-track professorship.  Here are a few questions if you would be so kind to lend a helping hand.


1.  I don't have any formal research experience.  I have completed 10-15 page papers for various undergraduate courses that I believe are well written, but they do not follow any formal research format.  How much is this going to hurt my application?  Is this a deal-breaker?  How much of a disadvantage do I have from the get-go?


2.  Considering my lack of formal research experience, would it be a good idea to perhaps apply to masters programs to gain the experience and build a resume more suited for PhD programs?  What are the pros/cons of taking this route?


3.  I took a year long introductory statistics course my junior year (just after transferring), and I also took a pre-calculus course in college (all of which earned "A" grades).  This is as far as I have gone math-wise.  Will this hurt my application?  Is this a deal-breaker?  I don't know of any options other than enrolling in a calculus course in community college to satisfy this.  Is that even worth doing?


4.  Much of my undergraduate work involved Russian studies.  Ideally, I would like my research to deal with soviet/post-soviet Russia and satellite states.  I am also interested in American politics as well.  Where do I go about finding POI's and determining programs with the best "fit?"  Is this as simple as just reading faculty profiles and recent research from tenured professors at the institutions to which I intend to apply?


I'm sure I have more questions, but this post is already rather long.  If anyone is willing to provide some input, it would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.




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1) Its unfortunate that you've already graduated college, which means you probably don't have access to online academic journal database/archives (usually your college purchases a subscription and makes it available to current students & faculty). You need to read actual [published] political science research - its a million miles away from any paper you wrote in undergrad classes.


2) It could be a good option if you find a Masters that has a heavy research component. The majority of masters degrees tend to be oriented for working professionals, with MPAs & MPPs being the prime culprits. There are some MPPs that do have a research component so they are not all bad. Your main goal when choosing a masters is to check to see if classes are taught by full-time faculty and whether a master's thesis is required. Neither of these two conditions will guarantee that you've found a good program, but they are necessary conditions of any good program.


3) Yes, math can fix this! (inside joke) - Going to a community college and enrolling in calculus is an excellent idea. In fact, you probably should do this before you even apply to Masters programs. Taking the full calc sequence (if you can stomach it) and a first course in Linear Algebra will definitely be useful.


4) See #1 above. Once you start reading actual Poli Sci research it becomes easier to identify POIs and determine "fit".

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Yeah what kameldinho said.


More importantly though, is why do you want to earn a PhD? I mean, why do you want to spend the rest of your life doing research?


Instead of getting a full blown masters, you could take math CC courses, and maybe a graduate political science seminar at the best local university. That could save you money and give you the opportunity to do actual research.

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