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Tips please (higher ed phd)


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I am planning to apply this fall to higher ed PhD programs.  Do you think I have a shot at my dream schools and if not, what can I do to strengthen my application?


Berkeley, BA, Econ 3.4/4.0

Hopkins, MSc, Urban Ed, 4.0/4.0

GRE: V156/Q163

Involved in 2 research projects (financial aid (co-author, presenting at a conference), summer program evaluation)

Teach For America (secondary math)


Research interests: college access, retention rate, financial aid policy, quantitative methods

Dream schools: Havard, Stanford, USC, UPenn, UCLA, Berkeley


I started looking at each school's faculty members to find professors whose research interests seem to fit mine, but is it helpful to reach out to them? (I plan on meeting one professor at one of the dream schools this summer to introduce myself and ask questions since I'm already making a trip to that area).


Any tips will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Edited by thdus82
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  • 3 weeks later...

I recommend reaching out to faculty members who have similar research interest. When applying, it helped to actually have a faculty member I could reference in my statements (since many require it). Once I reached out to the faculty members, they were encouraging and helpful with my application. I didn't apply to any of the schools that you are considering so it could be different for those particular schools. However, I think that if you can draw a specific connection between yourself and that particular faculty member (i.e. your research interests and experiences line up), they would appreciate hearing from you to at least know that you will be in the applicant pool.

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I'd argue that contacting faculty isn't just helpful, but pretty essential - at least when I was researching schools. They were able to elaborate about the program, the research fit, and some were pretty upfront about a lack of funding/resources or poor research fit, which saved me some money on applications and campus visits. You can also ask them about comparable programs or other faculty working in your area of interest, as it can be difficult to find and gauge programs which are outside of the top 10 Universities

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