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PhD Question: Rankings or area strength?


ngogirl
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Sorry, if my title is confusing.

I am interested in applying for PHd programs in International Relations/Political Science for Fall 2017. I will take from January-June to prepare for the GRE's as my math skills are not that strong.

I did my MA in Government and Politics and received a 3.64 because of two B+'s on my transcript. My goal is to have a strong GRE score, but I would like to know does ranking of school make a difference, school name, or strength in particular area?

I am interested in Security Issues, my master's thesis was focused on a non state actor's relationship with the populace in a Middle Eastern country (I conducted 7 months field research in the said country), and in November, I will be presenting part of my paper at the NPSA conference.

I have been told to try and get a job focusing on research with a thinktank in my gap year (prior to hopefully starting the PHd) or to go back to the Middle East (which I have work experience in international development/international human rights).

So my question is what is better in identifying schools to apply to? Rankings? Name? Or strength in said area?

Thanks!!

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Let me rephrase your question for you.

Is it better to identify schools by their name, ranking, or their strength in my focus area?

With that said, isn't the answer kind of obvious? Is there any point in going to a highly ranked school where your research interests wouldn't be supported? Or in going to a brand name school with few resources to support your interests? If you can think of some benefit, then by all means go by name or ranking to pick schools. But the traditional wisdom when applying to grad school is that you want to go to a school where your research interests will be supported, which often means choosing a program that is strong in that area. 

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Let me rephrase your question for you.

With that said, isn't the answer kind of obvious? Is there any point in going to a highly ranked school where your research interests wouldn't be supported? Or in going to a brand name school with few resources to support your interests? If you can think of some benefit, then by all means go by name or ranking to pick schools. But the traditional wisdom when applying to grad school is that you want to go to a school where your research interests will be supported, which often means choosing a program that is strong in that area. 

Thank you for rephrasing my question and for your input. Yeah, I kind of came to your reasoning when identifying schools that I would want to work at/in. Some of the schools I will be applying to are also because of the Political Scientists at that particular institution.

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