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Hello all!

I have been lurking around the forums for a bit now, and while I find that most comments and posts here are very helpful, I feel like my situation is kinda "unique"? Basically, I just need to hear it from you all about my profile, just to get a clearer picture.

Context: I am looking to apply to a masters program in the UK this fall. My main plan is to go back to my country (in Southeast Asia) and join a public policy think tank. I don't plan to do a PhD straight after college, and I prefer not to continue grad school in the US. US has been great, but I just need a change in scenery. I am looking at Top 10 UK schools minus Oxbridge (just because).

Type of Undergrad Institution: A university in the Midwest that rhymes with shenanigan
Major(s): Political Science, Economics
Undergrad GPA: 3.8 total, 3.93 major gpa in political science.
Type of Grad: N/A
Grad GPA: N/A 
GRE: Taking in Sept. Does GRE really help elevate my application in UK universities, considering most of them don't require GRE scores?
Any Special Courses: Political Economy of Developing Nations (A), Govt Institutions (A), Econometrics (A-), Qualitative political methods (A), Statistics (A-), several political economy and SEA-related classes (A to A-).

Letters of Recommendation: OK, this is one of my biggest concerns. I never really maintained a connection with my professors after the semester finishes, so I feel a bit awkward asking for a LoR. However, I've decided to just email my profs and see how it goes... (worst case, I'll get a "who are you" reply?).

I'm looking at my political economy & qualitative political methods (distinguished prof), and public economics professors. I took their classes within the past year, got As and actively participated in their classes (kinda?), so that would help, no?

Research Experience:  Another slight concern. only had one summer research position with the Political science department.

Teaching Experience: N/A
Subfield/Research Interests: Democratization, regional SEA political economy, public policy, developmental policies
Other: University Honors for 4/6 semesters, very active in student orgs (one is related to urban planning and public policy), internship with a representative from back home.



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As someone doing the reverse (doing my MSc in the UK and applying for PhDs in the US) most of the UK lecturers aren't even aware of the GRE so it really doesn't help your application.

Your GPA seems fine to get into most masters programmes - they normally require a 2:1 entry (which ranges from a 3.3 - 3.7 depending on where you convert, and each uni looks at these differently).

At the postgrad level, university prestige is less of a thing - look for where you'll be happiest (research, course content, location etc).

We tend to require two letters of recommendation - when I was applying I asked my personal tutor and my dissertation supervisor. Have you had a professor you've taken multiple classes with? To be honest, a distinguished professor isn't going to help your case if they don't know you. You need to have that personal connection, with someone who knows you, knows how you work, and knows your capability for continuing on with academia.

You're fine with the research experience - I was accepted without any experience at all, no publications either but I did have very strong LoRs. 

Basically, my experience is that as long as you can prove you're capable of the work required for the masters you should be fine to get it. It's well known that international students get priority over local ones at the MSc level over here, just because they pay more (hey I may be wrong, but that's the general consensus). Hope that helps a bit.

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Any reason you aren't applying to Oxbridge-is it a bad fit, or just a don't want to? At the MSc level, I would think you would have a very good chance at Oxbridge/LSE. MSc admissions standards are substantially lower than both PhD and undergrad standards.

I would disagree with the above that university prestige is less of a thing at post grad level..at least in the social sciences/politics world, where jobs are scare, it really does help to have the right name on your CV. Beyond that, if you do want to do a PhD eventually, it will look great to have gone to a top school for the master's, and you will have better letter writers as well. If you are really averse to Oxbridge that is fine...and I think the LSE in particular could also be a great fit (its where I did my MSc....), but no if you reason for not applying is doubt over whether you could get in, you should go for it.


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Hey piglett33, thanks for the reply. Actually I took several classes with the distinguished professor, and I was somewhat active in office hours, discussions, etc. so I might be underselling myself here. Also, I have a unique name, so I think that might help with his memory? haha. I hope so too - from my grades, type of classes, etc., I think I might be able to do the programs that I am interested to.

rwillh11, I think it is more of a bad fit from a personal perspective? Very top and prestigious school seem to turn me off (one reason I didn't apply for ivies for undergrad) for some reason. Thanks for the reply!


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Duck_Masters I think you've got nothing to lose by getting in touch, remind him of your work and you, and say you're contemplating applying to programmes and starting to think about references, but don't immediately ask him to be one. Work up to it! 

I'd also add that I hate Oxbridge, I've seen too many passionate, intelligent people get disillusioned there. It works well for a lot of people but there is no way I'd be happy there (and I'm certainly Oxbridge material - I was offered a full scholarship at undergrad). Different strokes for different folks and all that. In the UK at least, there are better unis for different subjects (Oxbridge doesn't even offer my area) but they do not have the international cache that Oxbridge does. I've explained in my SOP that my undergrad and MSc universities are the oxbridge of the field in the UK (I mean seriously - they're ranked 1 and 2 every year as long back as I can remember). Wow okay sorry...I got lost on a tangent there.

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I'm also curious for a review, I am trying to get into a mid-ranked PhD political science program in the United States for fall of 2016. Funding is extremely crucial for me, but I want to aim for programs that I actually have a shot at getting into.

Type of Undergrad Institution: Mid-Ranked Liberal Arts School in the Northeast. Higher than Hobart, lower than Bates 
Major(s): Economics, Canadian Studies, Government (Minor)
Undergrad GPA: 3.37 Cumulative
Type of Grad: Masters in Education from relatively unknown State University
Grad GPA: 3.93 
GRE: 170 Q, 161 V, 4.5 AW
Any Special Courses: Quantitative Methods, Statistics, Intermediate Micro and Macro Economics

Letters of Recommendation: One from my Masters advisor, two from Undergraduate poly-sci profs. A bit concerning since I have been out of undergrad for about 4 years. 

Research Experience:  Just my Masters in Education Thesis, which I presented at a Conference.

Teaching Experience: 2 Years High School Teacher at a boarding school, including AP and other college classes (Primarily in history)
Subfield/Research Interests: Immigration, Economic Development, Public Choice Theory

Right now my priority is getting in, with funding. Program rank is not a deal-breaker for me, as my goal is to be an educational professor rather than in some esteemed research position. 

My big concern is my undergrad GPA and AW score. I am hoping for boosts from my Q GRE score, completed grad degree (albeit in an unrelated subject) and teaching experience. 

Schools applying to: Oregon, Buffalo, Albany, Uconn, others TBD

Edited by cgfren08
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