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Thread: Profile Review PhD Strategy

  1. #1
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    Question Profile Review PhD Strategy

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    I am looking to apply for PhD programs for Fall 2018 and I wanted to get feedback on my chances.

    Undergrad GPA: 3.85
    Degree: Finance, International Business
    Honors College Degree 4.0 GPA
    GRE: I haven't taken it yet, but my practice tests are lower 160s, higher in verbal. I still have another month for practice, so I'm hoping to push to mid/high 160s.
    Research: I don't have the "traditional" research experience, but I was hoping to push my time working as an archeology research student on a archeology dig and my honors college research projects. I have unofficially published online as I have written over 10 white papers for my consulting firm.
    Letters of recommendation: 1 from an Honors professor, second from a OB professor who has written glowing letters for me in the past. I am still considering my last recommendation.


    I am hoping to apply for Strategy programs with a focus in Corporate Social Responsibility. I am interested in Uni of North Carolina, Uni of Pittsburg, Northwestern and Duke (my two reach schools). I am still researching the last 2-3 programs to apply.

    Do I have a good chance of getting into a PhD strategy program? Is it worth it to apply to my reach schools or should I focus on more 25-50th rankings? Is 6-7 schools enough or should I aim for 10-12? I have read conflicting reviews about throwing a wider net vs more quality applications. I also don't want to bog down my recommendation writers.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

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    Eager! BrazilianPhD's Avatar
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    Re: Profile Review PhD Strategy

    My personal opinion is that usually 6-7 schools are not nearly enough for PhD. Ok, I agree about quality applications. You shouldn't waste time, effort, and money with bad applications. However, you should easily be able to find over 10 schools to apply, and still be high quality applications. You should be really confident about your chances to apply to only 6 schools.

    I also think it's always worth applying to reach schools, if it really is a match. If your research interests match, if your scores match, and so on, why not? But if you want to apply to Duke just because of its reputation, but there is no professor with similar interests among its faculty, for example, it's just a bad application probably.

    So, find as many schools which match your profile as much as possible. Then apply to them. If you can only find 6, ok. But it's usually not the case, unless you are interested in researching something very few schools are interested in (and that's a problem too). If you find too many schools, probably your research interests are too general and vague, you should define them better. Those schools will probably be with a wide range of rankings too. It's not common to find too many schools of about the same ranking doing extremely similar research.

    As I wrote in another post, professors are used to writing many recommendations. At least from my experience, they would be worried if there were too few applications. Basically, they write the letter once, and then copy and past when they get a link from a school.

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    A long long time ago XanthusARES's Avatar
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    Re: Profile Review PhD Strategy

    The number of schools that you should apply to is an extremely personal decision. That being said, the more you can apply to with a quality application the better. I generally suggest applying to at least 10 programs, but I know many PhD students who applied to 2-3 and got into one. They are not the average students, though, and I would not suggest this strategy.

    There is a certain feeling on this board that you can't write quality applications to more than 10 programs. Frankly I don'y buy this logic. If you started early enough and did a lot of research up front I don't know if there is really a limit to the number of good applications you can send out. As far as LOR writers go, don't worry too much about overstressing them. They'll let you know if it's too much. The bigger issue you will have is ensuring that they submit to all the schools they are supposed to. Create a spreadsheet to track this and you'll be fine.

    On to your specific area. I can't comment on your likelihood to get into a strategy program. It's not my area of interest. I can say that you should definitely apply to your 2 reach schools. I think that 2 schools that are highly ranked and possibly out of your range is a good number to apply to. You don't want to worry and wonder what would have happened. 2 allows you to say that you tried and if it works out great. Any more than 2, though, becomes a waste of your time and energy. I can't speak to your specific profile and program, but my general advice is to have 2 reach schools, the majority of your applications in the possible/likely category and 1 lower ranked program that you would definitely attend if you got accepted. It's important that this school is one that you would definitely go to if accepted. It's not a safety school. Just a school that you might have a little better chance of getting accepted to. Basically my advice for everyone applying to PhD programs is that you should only apply to schools you would go to. Applying to a school you definitely wouldn't go to is a terrible decision for you and everyone who would love to go there.

    Good luck!
    Til now I always got by on my own
    I never really cared until I met you...

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