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Profile Evaluation - PE Focus


ArtVandalay
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Goal: Getting into a poli sci PhD program with a focus on political economy and methods

My plan is to continue building a quant/qualitative tool set, with the end goal of attacking societal questions of interest in a way that blends an understanding of economics and politics. Ideally, I'd like to approach things from an unconventional point of view (which in my case means questioning the status quo and conventional politics - I don't mean Marxist). Some topics could include: inequality, distribution, regulation, interest groups.

My background:

Masters in statistics from an Ivy-ish university, GPA 4.0 so far
GRE: combined score of 338.
Undergrad major: political science
Some additional interests: causation, explanation/prediction, quantitative methods

Research experience:

4 years as an analyst in industry
summer doing some basic social science data analysis/cleanup

I need:

Suggestions for particular programs with a focus in PE, good funding, tolerant of an outside-the-consensus view/approach (or with some radical faculty)
An evaluation of my chances at getting into a decent program matching these criteria

Top 30 in poli sci would be great, but I'd be willing to forego that if funding was guaranteed (though I'd wager that most programs outside the top 30 don't provide generous funding). Any thoughts / suggestions would be appreciated.

 

Edited by ArtVandalay
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It seems the atypicality of your profile is important for your decision of where to go, but you don't provide any information besides the typical profile. What makes you atypical? (It is clearly important to you because you put it in the title and you asked for suggestions based on that. But without further information, you'll receive 'typical' responses). 

My typical response is: My BF finished his PhD at Emory, where they have a strong department in Quantitative Methods and digital humanities. He didn't have stipend the 12 months, but apparently that changed since he graduated. 

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Perhaps I overestimated the unique-ness of going to work in the financial industry for 4 years, then getting a Master's in Statistics and wanting to do a PhD in Poli Sci, but these facts have ramifications. I spent a significant amount of time doing things that aren't at all related to politics. Furthermore, my letters of recommendation will be coming from statisticians, not political scientists. My research experience in the social sciences is scant.

I guess I'm just looking for a profile evaluation given my background and interests. Apologies if I didn't demonstrate enough atypicality.

 

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5 hours ago, ArtVandalay said:

Perhaps I overestimated the unique-ness of going to work in the financial industry for 4 years, then getting a Master's in Statistics and wanting to do a PhD in Poli Sci, but these facts have ramifications. I spent a significant amount of time doing things that aren't at all related to politics. Furthermore, my letters of recommendation will be coming from statisticians, not political scientists. My research experience in the social sciences is scant.

I guess I'm just looking for a profile evaluation given my background and interests. Apologies if I didn't demonstrate enough atypicality.

 

I also have a sort of atypical profile.  I have both my JD and MBA, and was a history major in undergrad.  So I'm in a similar position as you in some respects.  But I've been doing an extensive amount of research, including speaking to students from both Stanford and UCLA.  Here is what I've found:

1)  There's really not much you can do about your letters of recommendation, as far as your ability to get letters from political scientists.  But this doesn't mean you're doomed.  It's important that you get letters of recommendation from people who really know you, your ability to do research/be successful in grad school, and who have seen growth in your academic abilities.  Naturally, top schools are risk averse and need to see evidence in your application profile that you will not only be able to pass comprehensive exams, but conduct original research, graduate, and get employed at a research oriented institution.  One stanford poli sci PhD student told me that it's crucial that your letter writers really ham it up for you, basically along the lines of "this is the best student I've had in the past 10 years" or something to that effect.  If you can get enthusiastic writers like that, I feel it will make you competitive, especially against people who have letters from high profile scholars but who wrote a very generic LOR.  Accordingly, I think it's important that you think carefully about which letter writers can do this for you, and to have a frank and honest discussion about how you want your letter written.  Here is some excellent advice someone gave me on this forum who is currently attending a top 5 poli sci program:

                              "When it comes to your LORs more generally, be sure to have discussions with [your letter writers] about your applications and what you want their letter to do for your profile. You don't have a standard letter template - you want them to be able to speak to you as a person, student, researcher and as someone who is eager to learn/apply yourself when at first glance your previous grades might not reflect that. I know a lot of people who were admitted with letters from all sorts of people outside of political science, so I wouldn't worry there. They were largely running up against the same issue of having been outside of school for so long that they opted to have references from people who knew them better than their undergraduate advisor from six years prior."

2)  Most of the CHYMPS schools (Columbia/Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Michigan/MIT, Princeton, and Stanford) all have faculty that do work in political economy, although I have heard that Columbia in particular is very strong in political economy.  However, I think it is critical that you research faculty in top 30 schools that are doing work that you are interested.  This will be key, because fit is everything.  Programs will not except you if you're not a good fit.  That's why you need to do your due diligence and read faculty member's work in political economy and see if they have similar interests.  I know people like Barry Weingast at Stanford and Carles Boix at Princeton do a lot of work in Political Economy.  

As for a profile eval, you're 4.0 GPA is excellent and will definitely look good.  You're GRE score is hard to contextualize without seeing the breakdown of your score for each section of the test.  Overall, for someone in your particular situation, your letters of rec and statement of purpose will be crucial to contextualizing your situation and demonstrating your fit and ability to be successful in one of these programs.  

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