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TK2

Academics and Activism and Applications

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Hi all, 

There's probably no single correct answer here, but what do you think of describing activist experience in applications, especially PhD? I have a fair bit - some of it is directly urbanism/planning related (like organizing an anti-demolition campaign of street stalls), more of it is related to other intersecting stuff that fits within my research interests (like working with refugees), some of it might be vaguely relevant as teaching experience, and some is just other stuff. (I like protesting, I guess. Some people do yoga. I've also been at it since I was 12, so it piles up.)  I'm struggling to decide whether this is something to ignore, emphasize, mention in passing, describe as a motivation, assidiously hide all signs of? 

I reckon any application at PhD level has to be overwhelming about stressing research interests and ability, but my relevant professional experience will certainly be on there, and really my activism has sometimes shaded in and out of that anyway. Will it just sound oddball and self-congratulatory to list too much of this stuff, or will it give people a sense of what I'm about? Or do I not want to give them the sense that this is what I'm about? My research directions are not particularly social-justicey-focused, actually, but getting involved in that kind of stuff has been a valuable learning experience  - in my opinion. But maybe admissions will disagree?

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Activism is more important for Master's, probably less relevant for a PhD in planning. PhD's care more about your research and/or work experience, and your research proposal and grades. I think anyway...

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Research experience and potential to conduct further research is the key thing planning PhD schools are interested in. Describe your activism experience only inasmuch as it informs your research experience, interests, and plans. Describing activism/protesting you've participated in that isn't relevant to your research interests is wasted space in your admissions materials. The central question you should ask yourself when completing your application- does including this information provide adcoms additional evidence of my potential as a researcher? 

I just came off a successful application cycle for planning doctoral programs (receiving completely-funded fellowship offers to 4/5 programs to which I applied). The guidance provided to me by planning advisors and faculty (all of whom have served on admissions committees) emphasized research fit and potential above all else. 

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