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I'm an undergraduate student in University of Hong Kong directly go for PhD in elite universities in the US without MA degree. I'm wondering if I am aiming too high here.

Double major in Politics and Sociology. Applying for Comparative Politics in Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Duke, Michigan and Cornell. Major field is discourse analysis in authoritarian regimes.

GPA 3.69/4.3 (we've got very harsh marking system, so this is first honour already); GRE V167, Q165, AW4 (Terrible writing score); TOEFL 119/120.

Working experience: RAship for 2.5 years in HKU, 3 months in LSE, 5 months in Chinese academy of Social Sciences, 3 months in a local Hong Kong think tank. Independent researcher for 40 days in Nepal.

One semester exchange in King's College London.

Reference: one from a tenured professor in LSE; the other two from my undergraduate supervisors, non-tenure but know me really well.

Publications: 'Revise and resubmit' from a peer-reviewed journal, but I did not contribute the manuscript: instead I re-engineered it as my thesis. I highlighted this experience in my SOP

Conference: presented at a low-rank not-famous conference; invited as attendee for a more famous one (but attendee only)

Awards: Undergraduate Awards: Regional winner of Asia; HKU Undergraduate Research Fellowship Programme; 2017 Rhodes Hong Kong finalist; and two other smaller scholarships.

 

I am wondering if I am aiming too high here. Lack of an MA degree; undergraduate from an oversea university; shitty GRE writing plus no peer-reviewed publication... I fear that my evaluation of myself was totally wrong, and that I am not competitive for any of the universities I am applying for at all...

Thank you in advance.

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I wouldn't say that you're aiming too high - you should absolutely apply to all of those schools if they all have at least a couple professors who you would like to work with. It sounds like your profile is very solid, assuming your letters are very positive and your SOP is good. I would advise you to apply to a few more schools outside the top 5, though; the PhD admissions process is very idiosyncratic, and this is only magnified at CHYMPS programs. If the schools that you listed are the only ones you would be happy at, then that's fine and I wish you good luck. However, adding a few more T10/T20 programs with which you have good fit to your list would probably increase your chances of getting in somewhere.

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For political science,  you will be up against a lot of competition from people with MAs from other top-tier schools. You have relevant experience, but not enough to say that you're an expert. That being said, nothing is impossible, so go for it. Judging from the credentials of people I know who did get into 'elite' schools in the U.S., I'd suggest applying to a few MA programs as a back up plan. 

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16 hours ago, Warelin said:

Do you know if your non-tenure professors have a PHD? Oftentimes, writers without a PHD don't have their letters weighted as much.

Thank you Warelin. I think I didn't express it clearly. All of them are tenure-tracked professors and have PhD degrees. But two of them are quite young, and are assistant professors (not tenured yet).

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16 hours ago, dagnabbit said:

I wouldn't say that you're aiming too high - you should absolutely apply to all of those schools if they all have at least a couple professors who you would like to work with. It sounds like your profile is very solid, assuming your letters are very positive and your SOP is good. I would advise you to apply to a few more schools outside the top 5, though; the PhD admissions process is very idiosyncratic, and this is only magnified at CHYMPS programs. If the schools that you listed are the only ones you would be happy at, then that's fine and I wish you good luck. However, adding a few more T10/T20 programs with which you have good fit to your list would probably increase your chances of getting in somewhere.

Hi dagnabbit, thank you for your reply. Which are the T10/T20 schools you would recommend please?

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4 hours ago, DBear said:

For political science,  you will be up against a lot of competition from people with MAs from other top-tier schools. You have relevant experience, but not enough to say that you're an expert. That being said, nothing is impossible, so go for it. Judging from the credentials of people I know who did get into 'elite' schools in the U.S., I'd suggest applying to a few MA programs as a back up plan. 

Thanks DBear. It is curious, though, that most MA degrees are not on political science (comparative politics, in particular). Many schools only have MPA or MPP programme. And in political science there is but doctoral programme.

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True, there are not many terminal programs, but there still are some programs that off MA or MA/PHD instead of just PHD, the first two might be good contingency plans. Also, depending on what subfield you're interested in there are quite a few int'l relation MA programs. If you're interested in theory, like you want to read Kant and Hegel all day, and read Foucault in your free time, yeah.. you might not find a MA program... :(

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8 hours ago, groundcontrol said:

Hi dagnabbit, thank you for your reply. Which are the T10/T20 schools you would recommend please?

My advice would be to look through the U.S. News rankings in your subfield, go to every program's website, and look through their faculty. Apply to the places that are strong in your area of interest/have professors that you would like to work with. It's been said on here many times that attending a T25 school that is strong in your area of interest may be more beneficial to you in the long run than attending a CHYMPS school at which nobody can adequately advise you. However, it seems like many programs assume that their students' research interests will change substantially by the time they achieve ABD status, so YMMV.

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