Question about grad school

<p>Hi,
My son is a current junior at Swarthmore. He's almost completed a major in Economics (not planning on doing Swarthmore honors, though) and has made headway into a major in Political Science. He's debating what to do with his life and going to graduate school is one of the options that comes up. He is thinking of becoming a college professor but that is for later. There are other options is he is considering, but he is a quiet, bright (if I may say so myself) kid, very cerebral and this suits him a lot. </p>

<p>My question, though, is, he is planning to go to graduate school for either Economics or Political Science, but at the moment Political Science is hot with him. If he does not complete his major in Poli Sci, can he still go to graduate school for Poli Sci? He says he can....just want other people's opinions. He says he knows a kid who majored in Economics but is going to grad school for Physics. How does that work? Will he be able to do well in a GRE for Poli Sci? </p>

<p>The thing is, he might be a little short on completing the major in Poli Sci given the time he has left. Plus, he takes courses he thinks he will enjoy and if he does not enjoy it, he won't take it, even if it is in his major, that's what I have observed about him. Also, will not doing a Swarthmore Honors hurt him with his chances for graduate school?</p>

<p>For people not familiar with Swarthmore honors, as far as I know, it involves writing a thesis and then giving an oral examination with external examiners taking the examination.
Thanks.</p>

<p>Grad school admissions committees don't care at all what your undergrad major was. What they do care about is that the applicant can do the work. This is obviously a very different standard that can be met by some coursework, but also by other activities. </p>

<p>They also care about commitment to the chosen field, so if someone is ambivalent, that could show through and affect admissions chances.</p>

<p>BTW, he's almost 21? A junior? Maybe it's time to let him make the decisions? I suspect he's getting much better advice at SWAT than you're likely to get on these boards. :)</p>

<p>I don't know a whole lot about the nitty-gritty of grad school admissions, so take any of this with a grain of salt.</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Economics and political science are right next to each other on the academic spectrum, and there is a whole wing of the poli-sci world that is really doing very little different from what lots of economists do. I would think that an econ major with a good load of poli sci courses is fine for political science.</p></li>
<li><p>Recommendations from political science profs who are plugged in to the network would have to be a must for a good program, though. Whether or not he completes the major requirements, he should try to acquire some poli-sci mentors ASAP. Maybe asking advice about grad programs and how to shape his course load to be a strong candidate (and whether the second major would mean anything)?</p></li>
<li><p>Swarthmore honors is somewhat unique, and very impressive. I think it's hard to say that not doing it would hurt him, because no one coming from another school has a chance to do anything quite like it. But. Not doing it deprives him of a chance to do something unique and impressive, so it's a lost opportunity, and it would (and should) disadvantage him vs. another Swat student who went through the honors process. Also, for schools that are tuned in to Swat, it would certainly raise a question why he chose not to do it, one that he ought to have a really good answer for (other than "I didn't want to work that hard"). Finally, admissions strategy aside, I can't think of better preparation for graduate school than a Swat honors thesis (including the ability to network with profs from other institutions). If he is really interested in grad school and a possible academic career, he's turning his back on a great thing.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>As I recall, the GREs are like the SATs, not subject specific. He'll do fine.</p>

<p>Thanks, Newmassdad, JHS and bethievt. Yes, I guess he will get good advice at Swat. Just checking in with my friends here...:)</p>

<p>achat,
PM me with any specific questions. S is a senior poli sci major at Swat and took GRE's yesterday.</p>

<p>Hi,
I just sent you a PM. Thanks a lot!!</p>

<p>Achat:</p>

<p>I concur with JHS. Also, admissions committees like to see a writing sample for fields where writing is important. A Swat honors thesis would be ideal for that purpose, though another paper in a sufficiently advanced course and of substantial length would do (e.g not a 10-13 page paper).</p>

<p>JHS has it right. Much of poli sci research is a lot like economics. And unlike economics, there is still a shortage of grad applicants with high level analytic training especially in math econ. Unlike econ it is also much easier to specialize in fields that aren't so technical if you wish. Undergrad courses in Poli Sci are not a strong prerequisite for grad courses.</p>

<p>The secondary question is whether he will ever want to get a PhD in econ (which you mentioned). That usually requires a great deal more focus and preparation because admission to the top 20 departments is getting so intense. If his coursework isn't advanced enough and he takes some time off, he may find it nearly impossible to apply to a decent grad program in economics unless he's taken as much math as math majors at Swarthmore.</p>

<p>So the short answer is: It's not difficult to go to grad school in Poli Sci even with an Econ major and NO undergrad poli sci courses. </p>

<p>It is probably impossible to go from an undergrad major in Poli Sci to grad school in econ unless you've taken more econ and math than the typical Econ major. In fact, most of the time, it's nearly impossible for an Econ undergrad to go to a good grad school in Econ without taking more than the required minimum courses.</p>

<p>From what I have heard (it is not my field) from my son who majored in Econ at Stanford (but who is not planning to attend grad school is Econ), advanced math is very important for grad school in Econ (as Not quite old says above). My son's advisor at Stanford was an Economics Ph.D., but his undergrad major was actually Physics. Perhaps if your son is more interested in the policy aspects than the extremely quantitative aspects of the field, Political Science would be a better choice for him. I would assume that there is overlap in the types of problems issues addressed by researchers is the two fields, but from different viewpoints and methodologies.</p>

<p>Thanks a lot, Marite, MotherofTwo, NQO....as I said, I'm not interfering in anything...just a little concerned and doing some research/asking questions on my own. He will get good advice at Swat too.</p>

<p>Welcome back Achat! It is hard to believe that all the parents from the 2004 HS graduates on CC are back with the "next round"! :D</p>

<p>NewMassDad wrote:

[quote]
BTW, he's almost 21? A junior? Maybe it's time to let him make the decisions? I suspect he's getting much better advice at SWAT than you're likely to get on these boards.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>I would hope, that as my kid nears the graduate school admissions process (she is also a junior in college likes Achat's and your kid too), that I could come on here to learn more from parents who have been through it or know about it. It would NEVER replace my kid exploring these things on her own and she would not come to me to ask me to find out FOR her, let alone on CC. However, as an interested parent, as I know you are and most CC parents are since we do read CC, after all, I like to educate myself and be resourceful about an activity, experience, or educational path my kid is involved in. So, yes, asking here would be something I hope to do, having not been through graduate school admissions with my own kid yet. No matter how old she becomes, I'll always try to be informed and interested in learning more about her endeavors. That doesn't mean she doesn't take care of her own business at age 20 now, or later on either. If I learn something, I pass it onto her. I mostly find out about these things for myself. I do not view Achat's post as an effort to make "decisions" for her 20/21 year old son but more to learn about it for herself, and not instead of him looking into it at his college.</p>

<p>soozievt,
Thanks for your lovely reply to achat. Agreed that just because a parent asks a question and happens to have a 20-21 year old child, sometimes a parent "has just gotta know." ;) For themselves. Not for their child necessarily. I replied privately to achat because I had very specific knowledge of the situation for her, having a S at the same school, and I would like to maintain his privacy.
As for my "public" response in case anyone has an interest in more specifics about poli. sci grad school programs. There are "specialties" the student applies to within the poli. sci. program such as Political Theory, International Relations or International Political Economies. The latter might well be an excellent choice for economics majors/minors with a strong interest in poli sci.</p>

<p>As for the GRE's, in the USA they are only given on computer at special testing centers. They tend to be in places like Sylvan Learning Centers. There is a verbal section (reading comp/analogies/fill in the blank) as well as a quantitative section. There are also two essays-one of 45 minutes duration, the other 30 minutes in length. You can get your score right there for the verbal and quant sections as soon as you are finished. The essays are graded by college professors but you are still supposed to get your official score report for the whole thing in 10-15 days. Scored on the same 200-800 scale, plus each essay is scored 0-6.</p>

<p>If your son is thinking about getting a PhD in Econ, make sure that he loves math. Many Econ PhD students were math majors. It is no coincidence that someone might move between physics and econ. There are certainly non-quantitative tracks within econ, as there are quantitative tracks within PS, but most Econ programs expect a lot of caculus. It takes an econometrician about one page of calculus to explain an inch of reality.
But the hard question that needs to be asked is; if I want to become a professor, in what specialties are there jobs? Its horrible to suggest this, but I will. Get a phD in an area in which there is employment; i.e., Econ - money and banking.</p>

<p>Actually, one does not need a Ph.D. in economics in order to go into banking.
D.E. Shaw is currently recruiting math, physics undergraduate majors practically as I write.</p>

<p>What do you get when you combine Economics and social/political theory (or government studies)? Some very interesting alternatives. Look at the Industrial Relations programs at Cornell, Berkeley, Wisconsin, etc. You may be shocked by this next suggestion - get an MBA and then a PHD in Organizational Studies. I did my dissertation on the implications of affirmative action hiring and employment law. I am currently writing a book that draws from what all the Poly Sci professors are reading. Yea, I am a low-status prof (Business), but I have a lot of freedom and I certainly have a lot of options vis a vis 'making a living', which always becomes a front burner issue, even amongst that 'professoriate' that assumes that they are engaged in 'saintly labor'.</p>

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<p>It's both. There is a general test and separate subject-specific tests for these eight topics: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, English Lit, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology.</p>

<p>What you have to take depends on what your department wants. For PolySci or Econ I imagine it's just the general test.</p>

<p>Achat,
Just wanted to wish you and son luck on grad school. DD informed us in July that we will touch on the same topic next summer. Obviously, she has been giving it some thought and needs more time to have all her info together before presenting it to us. ;)</p>