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MA Profile Evaluation- looking for some guidance!


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Hello everyone!

I'm just gearing up to finalize a list of schools to apply to, and just wanted some guidance on that, given my profile. I just want to make sure I'm being realistic. I'm set on applying to an MA program, and not a PhD, even though I will graduate with an MA in a few month in a different area- simply because I'm not sure if I'm ready to put in the commitment of  PhD level research just yet, but still want to kind of  dip my toes in the political science field. I'd just really appreciate knowing what I can expect, or where I should be applying realistically, and how competitive my profile is. Thanks!

Undergraduate +Graduate Institution: Number 1 ranked  (or within top three, depending on the ranking list checked) University in India by Ministry of Human Resource Development. 

Undergraduate + Graduate Degree: 5 year Integrated MA in Development Studies, minor in Economics (i.e. you do a BA and an MA  coursework in the five year period, but you graduate with an MA)

GPA: 8.57/10.0 (apparently converts to around 3.6 on a 4 point scale, roughly)- I'll improve it, but the 8.57 is what will go in applications

GRE: verbal- 163, quant-160, analytical writing- 5.5

TOEFL- 119/120 on the internet based test

internships/work- I'm a founding member of a small NGO that works in my country, i've interned at a tech start up, and at the World Bank.

Teaching experience: TA for my thesis guide

Research Experience: My MA thesis is just currently underway, and that won't get done till the end of the year. 

Letters of Recommendation: Will get from tenured faculty members- most of whom have their PhDs from top universities in India, or in the US.

Research Interests- American politics/ elections 

Just a note on the TOEFL- I've only taken it just in case. I'm an American studying abroad in an institution where the medium of instruction is english. So most schools seem to say it's unnecessary but it's also very unclear to me. So, just in case.

I'm looking at applying to terminal MA programs in the US- preferably around Washington DC/New York, and preferably top 20-30 programs. Is that at all realistic?

Thanks a bunch! Any advice at all will really help me decide how to go about this!


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  • 2 weeks later...

My only advice is to be open to MA programs in other countries. This has nothing to do with your profile - which is very competitive - and much more about the nature of standalone MA programs in the United States. For the most part, the vast majority of research oriented universities do not offer standalone MA's in political science as PhD students earn one along the way (after they finish generals in most cases). Programs like Georgetown's SFS, or Johns Hopkin's SAIS are public policy degrees largely built for mid-career government employees or those involved with NGOs or IOs in some capacity (i.e. the average entrant has 5-6 years of work experience, if not more, in public policy related areas). Because most of these are Masters in Public Administration or Public Policy degrees, they're also shorter (on average). Many don't have thesis or major research paper requirements because you only have a year to complete your coursework and required exams. There are exceptions, such as the University of Chicago's security studies MA - but they're rare. If you're looking to really get your feet wet with research oriented MA programs that are like PhD programs, then MA's in Canada or even the UK can be very useful (as well as being significantly cheaper). I say this as someone who applied to a lot of American MPA and MPP programs without recognizing the difference, and unfortunately I struck out (I had no work experience at the time). Your work experience does help you though. Just be sure to thoroughly research the programs you're applying to in order to ensure they're what you're looking for. :) 

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