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Question about PhD applications

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Hi everyone,

I'm a new user of this forum, and I was wondering if any of you might be willing to offer input on my situation.

I finished my undergrad degree last May, and am working on applications to Comm Master's and PhD programs right now-- specifically schools that are strong in the areas of political communication and/or new media. I've done a decent amount of research already-- a thesis (an experiment on user-to-user online interactivity and political emotion), two research assistant positions with prominent professors in my field (one of which led me to be an author on a conference presentation), and a research associate position at the U-M Institute for Social Research. Most of my work is in political communication, though some is in survey methodology as well.

My top two schools are UPenn and Stanford-- both strong in my areas of interest, both well funded, both with excellent faculty, and both extremely selective (obviously). I have been advised to seek out programs that allow students to start in the PhD program rather than getting a Master's first, but I'm a little nervous about not having a Master's degree or a lot of outside experience (right now, I'm a survey manager for a private organization). I'm also applying to the programs at Wisconsin, U-Washington, USC, UCLA, Michigan, Illinois, and UC-Santa Barbara (some of which are Master's-first), as well as a few others. I have strong grades, pending GRE scores (2 weeks to go...), but no published articles (though a paper from my thesis is under review).

Knowing all of this (sorry for the long post!), do you think any of these programs are realistic? In your opinion, how much does post-undergrad experience matter? Thanks! :) I would love to hear from anyone with an opinion!

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Hello Commreader and welcome to the board. I am curious, is your undergrad in political science or communication? I ask because if it is in poli sci you may NEED a masters program to bolster your overall comm credits. I have also found that there are very few programs in comm or mass comm that are "straight to PHD" type programs. I can only think of a few and even those seem to waffle a little bit in their "encouragement" for such a route (they all tend to say we will look at you if you are strong but we LIKE people with a masters degree first). I know that in political science, most of those programs are bachelors-to-PHD, but for some reason, our fields (comm & mass comm) are traditionally adamant about having masters degree work. Your background for an undergraduate is pretty impressive and I think that you might find a program willing to take you on with a PHD in mind. However, this is an extremely competitive admissions season, so I'd say look for masters degree programs. On that note, I also recommend researching schools that have a history of funding masters degree students. I specifically chose a masters program that didn't have a PHD program, because I wanted funding/TA possibilities, faculty attention, etc (and many programs in our field frown on students staying at the school for both a masters and a PHD but some people do it successfully so that isn't a rule set in stone-nor is it impossible.) So when I researched masters programs I looked at schools with a masters only graduate program and a robust undergrad teaching requirement (like the basic comm classes or basic media writing/culture classes). Those schools have numerous funding possibilities, if not on sheer necessity alone. However, the counter argument is that a program with a PHD and masters may have more prominent faculty and research possibilities, but those may go to PHD students first.

But that is what I did, no need to follow that particular advice, but I know that some of those schools that you wish to apply to tend to admit people with a masters degree and then for their masters degree program itself, funding is less available because PHD students get first stab. At the same time, as my professor tells me "go to the best school that you can." SO props for Stanford and USC and UPENN. Those schools rock. I think you would be more successful though and more chances for PHD funding and :D more school choices if you get your master's degree first. Plus with your prior papers and research you can easily make those into conference papers when you get to your masters program and make your future PHD apps even more competitive (many people don't do conferences at the master's level because of the short duration of the program and TA duties, there isn't much time to get them in, but if you can it makes you stand out).

Ok I have babbled long enough. Good luck

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