The Road to a PhD Program

Hi everybody (both of you). Today it's time for a "real issue" of a different variety: my real-life road to a PhD program. I'll be finishing up my coursework for my master's in international relations this spring, finishing the thesis this fall. In December, my applications for PhD programs are due. Even though that seems like a long way away, I'm still a bit overwhelmed. So I decided to start writing about the experience, because perhaps some others out there will find it beneficial (unlikely) and because it has a calming function for me to get this mapped out and "out there" (the real reason).

I'm looking at applying to PhD programs in political science at the University of Chicago and Northwestern, perhaps also at Illinois University at Chicago. I have a rather unusual restriction in that I'm not applying all over the place and then just going where I get in (which would be wise). Instead, because my partner and I are probably moving to Chicago next year, and because he has to go there because he'll have a visa to work for only that company, I'm applying only to schools in Chicago. That limits my options. Thank god for antacids and Valium, right? Just kidding. Fatty foods and alcohol suffice as well. JK again.

So here's my plan:
  1. Start practicing for the GRE (it wasn't required for my master's program because this is Europe)
  2. Talk to my professors here and ask them for advice and if they know anything about Chicago universities specifically (like, am I fooling myself thinking I can get in there?)
  3. Take the GRE sometime this summer (there's a test center in Bratislava, apparently, which is a mere hour away by train).
  4. Talk to program directors at the University of Chicago and Northwestern and ask them about the program and what they're looking for in a candidate. This seems like a suicide mission to me, but I think I read it was actually a good idea. It's probably true that having made contact with them, they might remember you when they look at your application, which might make them more likely to say yes. Unless or course you made a complete ass of yourself on the phone, in which case I heard that Wendy's is hiring -- in Canada.
  5. Turn in my applications in December (U of Chicago is due on Dec. 28th, not sure about Northwestern).
  6. Find religion.
  7. Hopefully get accepted in the spring
  8. Move to Chicago (one way or the other)
  9. Hopefully start the grueling, several year task that is getting a PhD. Hopefully also transferring in as many classes from my master's as possible (the programs in Chicago are combined master/PhD programs).
So that's "it." Luckily, I've already ordered a GRE book from the Princeton Review on Amazon. Just 8 simple steps to go, on top of finishing my last master's class and writing my thesis.

Ahh, I feel more relaxed now, just as expected. No, wait, I feel worse...

To be continued...


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