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How to make a "perfect" fit ??


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I think I got rejections all of the schools that I've applied, even though 8 left (but with over 10 rejections so far, there seems no hope for a miracle)

And I'm thinking challenging again for the next cycle.

Personally I think my gre scores were too low for top schools, given your comments on gre scores.

But even with the lowest gre scores(e.g. 153v 163q 3.0w), I've seen some cases of acceptance from top schools.

So I think the "fit" is what really matters, and I'm curious how to make a "perfect" fit.

Cause many rejections cases show that they thought it would be perfect fit for their research (and even got a high gre scores and gpa)

I was wondering the difference of perfect fit between what applicants think and what faculties are looking for.

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This is probably something you should talk to your advisors about - if they know you, your outlook on research, and your interests, they should be able to tell you where you have good "fit". In my opinion, fit is, at its most basic, a factor of the number  about the number of people who could feasibly be on your committee. Faculty leave, research agendas change, and so on, so you can't apply to places where there are only 1 or 2 people studying your topic of interest. I basically only applied to schools there there were 3 or more people studying my substantive interests, and then at least 5 people using experimental methods.  

A part of it is pitching yourself too - you need to describe your interests in a way that shows they have the right scope/breadth.

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There's really no "perfect fit" regardless of how you present yourself. And besides, at many top departments, faculty are large enough and diverse enough that they can cover lots of interests. Here's my take more generally:

1. Fit can lead to rejection if the department doesn't think it can help you in your career goals. "Poor fit" typically means one of three things: 

  • (a) Nobody here does work in your field; 
  • (b) Your interests are so specific that nobody here can help you; or 
  • (c) Your interests don't fit in the discipline or evince inflexibility

At most top departments, (a) is fairly unlikely. Problem (b) can happen if you choose departments poorly or define yourself too narrowly. If you apply to my department talking about studying the politics of Chinese environmentalism, you might be declined because nobody here does work related to that. The solution is to (i) pitch yourself more broadly as a comparativist with interests in environmental politics, and/or (ii) be more selective in where you apply.

Of the three, problem (c) is most common. If your interests aren't really in political science ("I want to study the gap between protestant ethic and Catholic social teaching..." or "the history of race relations in the U.S." or "organization theory in the U.S. military"), committees may conclude that you might fit better in another field. If you seem dogmatic and inflexible, like only wanting to use Bayesian statistics or only the realist perspective in IR or only the Straussian approach, a committee might justifiably conclude that you're not open-minded enough to make it in academia. 

Avoiding fit problems is more important than proving good fit. Committees want to know that you have genuine interests in political science, but also that you're flexible and willing to engage in many methods and theoretical approaches. Your research focus should evolve as you develop as a scholar. (That doesn't mean you want to be scattershot, e.g., "I want to study American public opinion and post-Soviet political culture and the definition of progress in Francis Bacon's canon and..." Some specificity is necessary.)

2. You can help a lot by guarding against common problems in applications. Make sure you have three good letters; make sure your writing sample is good, well-written, organized and addresses an interesting question. Be sure that your SOP doesn't have errors---common errors or more serious ones, like misidentifying the research interests of a POI you list.  A good GPA and GRE profile helps, obviously.

So, tl;dr: Avoid fit problems by relating your research to the broader discipline, and by not coming off as a dogmatist. But focus most of your energy on strengthening the rest of the application, since most rejections don't stem from 'fit' problems anyway.

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1 hour ago, brent09 said:

So, tl;dr: Avoid fit problems by relating your research to the broader discipline, and by not coming off as a dogmatist. But focus most of your energy on strengthening the rest of the application, since most rejections don't stem from 'fit' problems anyway.

Great advice — should make a "best of" thread.

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