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Political Communication: Worth it? And a couple other q's


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Hi, all. Longtime lurker, first time poster here.

 

 

I'm rather early in the process of looking at government grad programs--I'm a second semester junior in college, and I'm trying to set myself up to be competitive in grad admissions, and studying for the GRE. 

 

I have a black mark on my future application. I went to a small state school right out of high school in 2008, and was unready and immature--not at all able or willing to take on a full-time school workload. So I stayed for two years, and accumulated a 1.3 GPA before leaving in 2010. 

 

After working 2+ years in various menial jobs, I got back into school in January 2013 at a local community college, thanks to the encouragement and support of my former boss, with whom I still keep in touch, and I feel I've turned the corner academically. Last year (spring 2014) I transferred once again to a large public university, and since I've been back in school my semesters have been 3.4, 3.2, 3.4, and most recently, 3.7. So, one question I have is, how will this be handled by government affairs programs? My cumulative GPA is likely horrible, but I've heard that there is some degree of emphasis placed on the last 60 credit hours--is this true?  If so I think I could keep up my grades and prove my ability to succeed in a rigorous academic setting.

 

Additionally, I have a keene interest in working in DC, though from all I hear, there are far more people in Washington who want to work there in Public Affairs, than there are such jobs. I am especially interested in Public Affairs/policy, and Political Communication. I am not really interested in the international affairs side of things. Does it make sense for me to go to grad school? If so, where should I be aiming, knowing that I want to work in Washington? How much debt, do you think is too much for my goals? 

 

Sorry--I know I've presented a number of questions here--any help would be much appreciated. Happy to answer more questions via pm. Thanks in advance. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Very little actually-- I have several writing seminars within my political science degree but that's about it, apart from a few film projects I have done for fun. My interest within poli comm is mostly in the area of campaign management, along with public opinion research. Should I look at different programs for these fields?

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You should take some bonafide comm classes. Otherwise I fear that you will be hard-pressed to demonstrate your preparedness to schools. Also, it will help you decide whether you might like it and how to narrow down. 

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I think your story is far from a black mark -- told the right way, it's the story of how you got back on your feet and showed that you are capable of serious work. Graduate schools will look not just at your GPA but at your transcript, and if your grades really have steadily improved since community college and transferring to a four-year, it will speak volumes to your true potential. 

 

You still have a lot of time in college. Use the rest of your time to take some quantitative classes -microeconomics, statistics- and courses like an introduction to public policy or public affairs, to see if it's for you. Meet and talk with professors who have this sort of background. Go to career services and ask to be connected with alums who work in political communication or public policy, or volunteer at some organizations that sound neat. This forum can help you apply to graduate school: writing SOPs, handling recommendations, how to compare offers. But what is better is developing mentors right now at and through school who can give you personalized advice on your career. If you've kept in touch with former bosses, you already know the value of that. While you still have a school and network to draw on, use that as much as you can, and come back here when you're ready to apply. I promise people will be here. =)

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Some programs look at the total GPA, and others look at the total and the last two years.  If the required minimum undergrad GPA is a 3.0 for a program, you will have a very difficult time getting past that screen.  

 

First, calculate your total GPA with all of your college courses. Then calculate the combination of courses that are actually going towards the credits that will qualify you for graduating. That will give you some base to judge how to move forward.  A great GRE can sometimes make up for a terrible GPA.  It sounds like you have a decent narrative for your personal statement. At worst, you can register for some graduate courses as a non-degree seeking student to show you are prepared. 

Edited by WhatAmIDoingNow
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Thanks for everyone's thoughts-- If taken in total my GPA definitely falls below that 3.0 threshold--but if calculated using only credits that will go toward graduation, I'm around a 3.2.  Hopefully AdComs will look at the decisive upward trend favorably, despite the aggregate numbers being so-so.

 

Insofar as quant classes are concerned, I'm taking a quantitative research methods course this semester, which is looking like an A, and I took Micro last semester and got an A. Should I take stats as an elective, or maybe Macro? I've never been a math person but since I've been introduced to its use in the social sciences like Econ I've really begun to enjoy it. 

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Thanks for the GRE advice--that's something I know I'll have to crush. 

 

I've begun to study for the GRE, but I have a long way before I'm ready to take the exam. If I were aiming for a school like American SPA or GW Trachtenberg, what kind of score should I be shooting for? I know law schools are much more straightforward in terms of disclosure of stats like median LSAT/GPA, scholarship stats, etc. But I haven't seen that at all when it comes to policy schools--are admissions really that much more holistic?

 

 

Some programs look at the total GPA, and others look at the total and the last two years.  If the required minimum undergrad GPA is a 3.0 for a program, you will have a very difficult time getting past that screen.  

 

First, calculate your total GPA with all of your college courses. Then calculate the combination of courses that are actually going towards the credits that will qualify you for graduating. That will give you some base to judge how to move forward.  A great GRE can sometimes make up for a terrible GPA.  It sounds like you have a decent narrative for your personal statement. At worst, you can register for some graduate courses as a non-degree seeking student to show you are prepared. 

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I would aim for mid 160s for verbal and 160 for quant. You may not need those high scores, but it is worth aiming for them. I would also expand the programs you apply to, you'd be surprised at what opportunities are out there.

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