Are my goals realistic? Watch

suzannataylor
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Hello!

I'm just about to go into the fourth year of my hispanic studies degree at King's College London, having just spent a year abroad (compulsory part of my degree) at UNAM in Mexico. I want to apply to do postgrad studies in the USA for entry in autumn 2015, I want to study anthropology and I think I will apply to NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, UC Berkeley and the University of Texas at El Paso. I am still planning and these aren't my certain choices but after doing some research I think that each offers a program that interests me. Several of these schools combine masters and Ph.D programs so you have to do both together which appeals to me as I would like to get a Ph.D.
However I'm wondering how realistic it is to apply straight out of an undergrad degree. I have decent grades (around 3.5 gpa) which I hope to improve this year and I have done various volunteering placements both locally and internationally, however I'm not sure that this is enough.
I would really like to apply for 2015 entry but I'm wondering if it would be better to wait until the year after, as I may have obtained a better final grade and I could try to do more volunteering/community work.

Any advice would be much appreciated!
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madamemerle
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(Original post by suzannataylor)
Hello!

I'm just about to go into the fourth year of my hispanic studies degree at King's College London, having just spent a year abroad (compulsory part of my degree) at UNAM in Mexico. I want to apply to do postgrad studies in the USA for entry in autumn 2015, I want to study anthropology and I think I will apply to NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, UC Berkeley and the University of Texas at El Paso. I am still planning and these aren't my certain choices but after doing some research I think that each offers a program that interests me. Several of these schools combine masters and Ph.D programs so you have to do both together which appeals to me as I would like to get a Ph.D.
However I'm wondering how realistic it is to apply straight out of an undergrad degree. I have decent grades (around 3.5 gpa) which I hope to improve this year and I have done various volunteering placements both locally and internationally, however I'm not sure that this is enough.
I would really like to apply for 2015 entry but I'm wondering if it would be better to wait until the year after, as I may have obtained a better final grade and I could try to do more volunteering/community work.

Any advice would be much appreciated!
The majority of unis on your list right now are exceptionally difficult to get into. With a 2:1 ish result, you will likely struggle to even be in contention for admission at NYU, Chicago, Penn or Berkeley. Only UI Chicago is a sort of reasonable bet...(UT El Paso would be too, but I would be a wary of doing a PhD there as it is not a research uni...could be great for a Master's though).

My advice would be to keep maybe two very elite institutions on your list but apply to a majority of places lower ranked on US News. There are many exceptional public unis that will be a bit more feasible for you, and also some mid ranked private unis. I'd also suggest looking more at the Southwest as I imagine Hispanic Studies has a stronger presence there (assuming your anthropology interests are related to your undergrad work), especially in public unis. A few places that come to mind: UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara (however, be mindful of the UC system's money issues and difficulty with funding international students), CU Boulder, U of Arizona, Arizona State, U of New Mexico, UT Austin (elite public uni, but still possibly attainable), Rice U, maybe Vanderbilt and Washington U in St Louis.

You're cutting it a bit fine for December applications, but you can probably do it. What tends to carry the most weight in applications is your personal statement and your writing sample. You need to work on these and make sure they are absolutely top notch to have a chance of overcoming middling undergrad grades. Also, to offset the undergrad grades, try to do really, really well on the GRE...it doesn't usually count for much, but it can help to bolster lacklustre grades and to just make your whole app a little more convincing.

I applied three years ago for English and Comp Lit and I regret applying to so many super elite schools - the numbers applying are just crazy and the probability of acceptance so low that it's practically burning the app fee to apply. I realize I would have been much better served by focusing the bulk of my apps on big public research unis (of which I only applied to two and was accepted to one). That is what I feel looking back on it at least, and so what I would suggest to the majority of applicants, especially if their academic record is a little spotty or imperfect.
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suzannataylor
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(Original post by madamemerle)
The majority of unis on your list right now are exceptionally difficult to get into. With a 2:1 ish result, you will likely struggle to even be in contention for admission at NYU, Chicago, Penn or Berkeley. Only UI Chicago is a sort of reasonable bet...(UT El Paso would be too, but I would be a wary of doing a PhD there as it is not a research uni...could be great for a Master's though).

My advice would be to keep maybe two very elite institutions on your list but apply to a majority of places lower ranked on US News. There are many exceptional public unis that will be a bit more feasible for you, and also some mid ranked private unis. I'd also suggest looking more at the Southwest as I imagine Hispanic Studies has a stronger presence there (assuming your anthropology interests are related to your undergrad work), especially in public unis. A few places that come to mind: UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara (however, be mindful of the UC system's money issues and difficulty with funding international students), CU Boulder, U of Arizona, Arizona State, U of New Mexico, UT Austin (elite public uni, but still possibly attainable), Rice U, maybe Vanderbilt and Washington U in St Louis.

You're cutting it a bit fine for December applications, but you can probably do it. What tends to carry the most weight in applications is your personal statement and your writing sample. You need to work on these and make sure they are absolutely top notch to have a chance of overcoming middling undergrad grades. Also, to offset the undergrad grades, try to do really, really well on the GRE...it doesn't usually count for much, but it can help to bolster lacklustre grades and to just make your whole app a little more convincing.

I applied three years ago for English and Comp Lit and I regret applying to so many super elite schools - the numbers applying are just crazy and the probability of acceptance so low that it's practically burning the app fee to apply. I realize I would have been much better served by focusing the bulk of my apps on big public research unis (of which I only applied to two and was accepted to one). That is what I feel looking back on it at least, and so what I would suggest to the majority of applicants, especially if their academic record is a little spotty or imperfect.
Thank you for your advice! I know that most of those schools are very difficult to get into but King's is pretty high on the league tables (higher than all of these I believe?) and I do hope to come out with a first. One of my concerns is wasting money on applications though because it isn't cheap! I think that UI Chicago would be realistic and I am almost certain I would get into UTEP although that is for a MA program rather than a route to a Ph.D. It isn't a brilliant school as such but it does a program that is very interesting to me.
Thank you for suggesting some schools, I will definitely look into those. Out of interest, where were you accepted into and where did you study?
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madamemerle
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(Original post by suzannataylor)
Thank you for your advice! I know that most of those schools are very difficult to get into but King's is pretty high on the league tables (higher than all of these I believe?) and I do hope to come out with a first. One of my concerns is wasting money on applications though because it isn't cheap! I think that UI Chicago would be realistic and I am almost certain I would get into UTEP although that is for a MA program rather than a route to a Ph.D. It isn't a brilliant school as such but it does a program that is very interesting to me.
Thank you for suggesting some schools, I will definitely look into those. Out of interest, where were you accepted into and where did you study?
King's is a great uni, but most Americans, even academics, have little to no knowledge of UK universities. The competitiveness of top American unis cannot be overstated, really. If you think you'll get a first, I'd wait for a year to apply as it will probably make quite a big difference to the way your application is received.

I did my undergrad at Oxford, and have a distinction in my MA from Essex. I was accepted at Rutgers and Boston College and waitlisted at UBC in Canada. But rejected from 7 other places, including some on your list.

I know of loads of Oxbridge and Russell group grads who were rejected across the board from the 10+ American unis they applied to. Honestly, it's worth spreading your applications out. CU Boulder or Austin or Arizona are amazing places, at least as strong academically as the Russell Group in most subjects, and stronger in some.
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suzannataylor
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(Original post by madamemerle)
King's is a great uni, but most Americans, even academics, have little to no knowledge of UK universities. The competitiveness of top American unis cannot be overstated, really. If you think you'll get a first, I'd wait for a year to apply as it will probably make quite a big difference to the way your application is received.

I did my undergrad at Oxford, and have a distinction in my MA from Essex. I was accepted at Rutgers and Boston College and waitlisted at UBC in Canada. But rejected from 7 other places, including some on your list.

I know of loads of Oxbridge and Russell group grads who were rejected across the board from the 10+ American unis they applied to. Honestly, it's worth spreading your applications out. CU Boulder or Austin or Arizona are amazing places, at least as strong academically as the Russell Group in most subjects, and stronger in some.
Yes, I have been thinking about waiting because I may get better grades and I could do some more extra curricular stuff but I don't really want to have to live at home for a year or something haha.
Thank you for recommending some universities, I will have a look at them
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madamemerle
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(Original post by suzannataylor)
Yes, I have been thinking about waiting because I may get better grades and I could do some more extra curricular stuff but I don't really want to have to live at home for a year or something haha.
Thank you for recommending some universities, I will have a look at them
No problem. Also check out CUNY graduate center in NYC.

Do you know http://forum.thegradcafe.com/ ? There's an anthro sub forum there where you'll probably be able to get some more focused advice.
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