Strong letters of recommendation from professors. Where should I go? Non-academic letters are discounted, since they can seldom speak to your ability to do what a PhD expects of you: Enter with open eyes. Professors typically specify in their letter how and how long we have known you and often give a sense of ranking relative to previous students we have recommended. Getting from the attractive candidates down to the 30 to 50 you admit is very idiosyncratic. Become an RA in your department, or start looking for RA jobs with professors in top departments in areas of your interest. Especially if it involves a child in a poor country.
But this is something I think applicants ought to know about. This is different than psychology or some of the humanities or sciences where you are expected to have a specific advisor and relationship in advance. Okay, so what does it take to get into a top school? Please point everyone to other sources of PhD advice in the comments. Applying to more programs might not change your expected probability of admission very much, but it will reduce the variance. For entry into the top 10 or 15 schools, it is exceptionally competitive. A compelling research statement. I would love to see and will post numbers on this if anyone has it for political science or economics. This includes the ethnographers, who often want to do multi-method work, integrating insights from game theory or run regressions. A big piece of advice: If your goal is to be a professional researcher and instructor, then a PhD makes sense. This varies by discipline, but in the US the top 10 to 20 schools tend to staff the top to US universities. Professors typically specify in their letter how and how long we have known you and often give a sense of ranking relative to previous students we have recommended. What about policy school PhDs, such as Harris? Also, make sure the people you focus on are core faculty in the department, not adjuncts or someone in the law school, since these people seldom advise PhD students. There are a lot of fulfilling research careers, and I am willing to bet that rates of job satisfaction are pretty high. The American PhD is designed for smart people to come with only undergraduate training. If your registrar or an online site can convert your GPA, do so. We like to see effusive letters from professors who know your coursework and research abilities well. These are a great fit for people interested in very applied work. If you are applying to economics or public policy, you absolutely must heed the following: Most are weak in one or two or three. Even so, we faculty can get bombarded by emails from prospective students in the months before applications are due. In short, focus on getting good recommendations, experience, grades and GRE scores. A PhD means you are sacrificing several years of valuable work experience and as much as several hundred thousand dollars in income. And please do not start with the story about an epiphany, such as the day that you knew you wanted to study the subject. My thoughts are are on economics and political science together, with the most relevance for those doing applied empirical work and my fields:
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