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Figuring out my chances (mostly DC area, political comm research interest)

haileyhensley1haileyhensley1 19 replies6 threads Junior Member
Hello all,

I'm a current junior in college, graduating a year early after also finishing high school a year early.

I have a 3.9 GPA and am a public relations undergrad with a minor in political communication.

I'm coming for a relatively non-competitive small private liberal arts school.

I have yet to take the GRE (I was supposed to in April, but my session got canceled due to COVID-19.

I have no doubt my letters will be very good, with one coming from my academic advisor, one coming from the NJ governors office, and one coming from the advisor to the newspaper, who is an alum of my top-choice school.

I have interned with the governor of New Jersey, as well as at several offices around campus. I also have won an award from the NJ Press Foundation, served as a section editor (a paid position) at my university's newspaper, which competes on a national level. I have also served as president or other executive board positions in many organizations on campus.

Along with that, I am currently working on a research paper in the hopes of presenting it at conferences with my advisor next year. I think the topic is incredibly interesting and contributes very heavily to the field of political communication.

I have also attended various professional development conferences put on by Student Veterans of America and the Public Relations Student Society of America.

I will be applying to the University of Maryland for a PhD in public relations, which is by far my top choice and I am very invested in going there. I also intend to apply to Georgetown for an MPS in Public Relations, American University for an MA in political communication, The Annenburg School for Communication at UPenn, Cornell University, and Rutgers University for their MA in Communication and Media Studies.

I'm just trying to figure out if I'm aiming too high or if I seem to be a good fit for these places. I know graduate school admissions can be somewhat unpredictable, but just some thoughts from people with experience would help me a lot. No one in my family has done any college at all, so I'm feeling a bit alone in the process.

Thank you in advance if you take the time to read and give me some insight.
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Replies to: Figuring out my chances (mostly DC area, political comm research interest)

  • juilletjuillet 12767 replies163 threads Super Moderator
    Master's and doctoral admissions are different animals, so I'll talk about them a little separately.

    For a professional master's program - one intended to prepare people for industry/the work force - your activities during college make you a relatively competitive candidate. At many programs, though, it's common for students to have 2-5 years of work experience before returning for the master's, so you may be competing with people who did most of what you did in college and have some post-college professional experience. I'd look at the class profiles of these programs (if they have them) to try and see what % of the incoming class had work experience. That doesn't mean that you won't get in if 80% of students have it, but it will help you think holistically about who you are competing for admission with.

    Also consider who programs are tailored for and whether that's a fit for your goals. The MPS at Georgetown is in the School of Continuing Studies, and offers it part-time, full-time, online and in-person. That means you will likely be with mostly students who are older and more experienced than you, many (potentially most) of whom are working full-time while doing their master's, and many of whom may not even live in the DC area. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to decide if that's what you're looking for in a program.


    For a PhD program, research experience is key. I'm assuming that if you are currently working on a research paper with your advisor you've been doing research with them for a year or two, so that's good. For your recommendation letters, you may want to rethink - as you'll want people who can speak to your academic prowess and ability to do research. Can the advisor of the paper speak to that? You may want to consider having two research professors give you a recommendation here, but talk to your advisors and get their take.
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  • sciencenerdsciencenerd 1598 replies236 threads Senior Member
    What are you trying to do with your degree?

    For most people a Masters is enough to get and then use those skills in the working world.

    A Phd is more research focused. Is that what you want to do?
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  • haileyhensley1haileyhensley1 19 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Hi, I suppose I should clarify that I would like to eventually become a professor and I definitely have a vested interest in research. I am aware that I could work in most political or PR jobs with just an undergraduate degree but I am much more interested in a career in academia. Thanks!
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  • haileyhensley1haileyhensley1 19 replies6 threads Junior Member
    @juillet So, I really want a PhD and if I did go to a masters program, it would only be because I was denied from all the doctoral programs I applied to, and I would continue to apply for PhD programs while working on my MA.

    I definitely see your point about tailoring my letters more closely to research and I think you are probably right on that. This is only my second year of undergrad, and I am graduating next May at 19 years old, so I suppose I mostly worry that I lack the years of experience it seems most programs want. I should have at least one completed paper by application season though and am applying to quite a few conferences. I will also hopefully be working as a research assistant on another political communication study.

    I just want to make sure I am doing enough to be an applicant worth considering because I am quite determined to get my doctorate.

    Thank you!
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