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PhD public policy- please help- unsure of what rank schools to target

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I am an international student and I plan to apply for Policy PhD programs. Also, I plan to apply for a few masters (stats/econ) programs as a back up if I do not get into a PhD program.

Schools applying: 

Geographical preference: Colorado/Boulder/Denver area (low cost of living for me), however, I will apply to other schools throughout USA. A very preliminary PhD list I have includes:

PhD Pol Sci Colorado State (Environmental policy focus)

PhD Energy Economics Colorado School of Mines

PhD Environmental studies (interdisciplinary) University of Colorado Boulder

PhD Public Affairs (UC Denver)

PhD Engineering and Policy (Cornell)

PhD Public Affairs (Indiana SPEA)

PhD Policy UT Austin (LBJ)

PhD Policy University of Kansas


Masters: statistics/Economics (University of Colorado- Boulder/Denver, Colorado school of mines)


Undergraduate degree: Electrical Engineering 

Undergrad University: (university in top 20 in India- not IIT/IIM/NIT)

Undergrad CGPA 60/100 (2.88/4 as per WES- helps calculates GPAs but I think its an approximation and depends on how universities calculate it)


Grad program: Masters in Public Policy 

Grad university: Low ranked state university in USA (+100 rank, relatively newer program in USA but has placed students in Indiana, Cornell, UT Austin amongst a few)

Grad GPA- 3.75/4

Quantitative: Strong quant with engineering maths (3+ maths subjects with advanced calculus: grades are A, A-and C ) and some basic quant classes in policy analysis along with micro/macro economics. B+ and A- grades in quant  in graduate degree. 

Recommendations (strong letters):

University program director, thesis committee chair, boss at federal research lab 

Relevant Work Experience (6 years): 

Research work experience in India for about 3 years in a non-profit on climate change, clean energy policy, and implementation- local, national and international (researcher)

Full time research work experience in USA for about 2 years in a national research lab on clean energy policy and implementation, looking at markets, local and state policy, utility regulation etc.. published at the lab (research assistant) 

Part time research work experience at OSU on local clean energy policy issues for 2 years as a professors research assistant 

Research interests:

Varies but primarily state and local energy policy issues, urban sustainability, climate policies, developing country sustainability challenges (strong experience in this field) have a few publications at the national lab and in India

Interested in the intersection of economics and behavioral sciences, social policy

GRE: 155 v/ 157 q/ 4 analytical (will retake to strengthen profile)

Goals: Interested in a career in research in the policy world/government/international organizations/large think tanks. Also interested in academia.  

Questions: I am debating between a couple of questions and any insights would be helpful. I have read answers to similar questions on the forum and found them to improve my understanding. 

1) Is my profile a good fit for Ph.D.  Policy programs? what is the range of ranking of institutes I should target to get a funded PhD program? Any suggestions for safety schools?

2) Is my profile a good fit for Masters (stats/econ) programs? Any other program and range of ranking of institutes I should consider? 

Thank you for reading through my profile. I look forward to receiving your comments. 

Edited by secondtimegrad

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Hey there.  You might want to post this in the Government Affairs sub-forum, if you don't get any answers here.  That board seems to be a little more policy focused.

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Thanks for the suggestion. I did that already but did not hear any comments there so posted here too. That forum seems to have a large focus on the masters level I believe. I would be happy to hear if someone had comments here too. Thanks!


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While I am applying to PhD programs in political science, I might be able to offer you a bit of advice. I think your profile is strong, especially in terms of your quantitative background. If you are able to increase your quantitative and verbal GRE score, I think you'll be golden. 

In terms of the programs that you're applying to, I know that IU-Bloomington's SPEA is top notch. You might also look at the public policy PhD programs at UNC and Duke. 

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I think that you have a good chance at top 10 and top 20 programs given your quantitative background, though I think a lot hinges on your GRE scores. If you can get your scores in the 160 range, I think you'll be fine.

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Thanks deutsch1997bw. That is encouraging. 

I am still making my list of universities to apply to so it is helpful to have these insights!

If anyone has safety school suggestions that will be helpful too.


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There is a relatively new PhD program at University of Minnesota's Humphrey School. I believe they are into their third PhD cohort, and the very first PhD just defended this week. The school itself has a fairly strong international fellows program at the master's level.

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