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Taking a gap year before applying to political science PhD programs, what should I do?


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Hi everyone,

Hope you can help me. I'm currently a senior studying political science with minors in Spanish (did it for the language skills) and marketing (did it for the quantitative research skills). I want to get a PhD in political science eventually but want to spend (at least) a year working before applying to graduate school. I will likely apply this fall to PhD programs.

I applied to several fellowships and was even made a finalist for a couple of them but nothing has panned out so far, I've applied to a couple of jobs and have also been rejected from all of them and I feel quite. I'm a first-gen college student, and only child, and my parents don't even speak English so that's no help.

I just feel like there are no entry-level positions for me. I'm super interested in studying conflict and my research experience supports that but really I would take anything related to research or political science, at a think tank or something like that.

I have a good GPA (slightly above 3.75), and quite frankly a lot of research (honors thesis, independent research grant on a separate topic, and I work as a research assistant; have taken two graduate-level courses in quantitative research, one in the poli sci department and one in the marketing department) and student leadership experience.

I don't know where to continue searching, what to look for, or how to improve my luck. All of my friends have jobs and I feel very discouraged. Really any sort of advice would be helpful to me, I'm happy to share my resume or CV via PM. What should I be looking for in order to improve my profile?

I hope this post is okay and I'm sorry if I haven't been more specific, but like I said even being pointed in a good direction would be so helpful for me. Please let me know if there is any other information I should provide on here and I will edit accordingly.

Thank you in advance for the help!

Edited by fuzzylogician
edited to remove identifying info at OP's request
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If you haven't already, try these two things:

1. It might be worth inquiring whether or not you can continue your RA gig after you graduate. If not, one of your professors may be able to help you obtain an RA position with a different professor or at a research center. Many of the other prospective students I met at visiting weekends did this for a year or two before applying.

2. You should pay a visit to the career center, or whatever the equivalent is at your university, and see if they can help you out. I know that many schools have close relationships with certain companies, and as a result said companies will give preference to alumni when making hiring decisions. Northwestern is a very prestigious university, and I'm sure they have an extensive network.

Good luck!

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Don't feel discouraged! I agree with @dagnabbit, try and see if you can find an RA gig after you graduate; I did this for two years. After I read a book I loved I brought it up with my undergrad thesis advisor, turns out she knew the woman who wrote the book and sent her an e-mail with a LOR to see if she was looking for a RA. It was the BEST experience I could ask for. I am entering my PhD program with a paper ready for submission (crossing fingers) at a top journal, I have learnt how to work with faculty and got to network with faculty in my field from different institutions. 

Also, there is NO doubt in my mind that I would not have gotten into as many programs without this gig.


Hope this helps!

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