How to get into graduate school

From time to time people ask me for advice about whether and how to apply to graduate school. I completed a PhD in political science at Harvard in 2004 and have thought a lot about whether, when and how people might want to apply to graduate school. Over time I’ve built up a standard set of advice that may be useful to other applicants, especially to people considering PhD programs and/or considering the Harvard program in particular.

Please note that I am not an admissions advisor. I do not speak for Harvard or for the Government Department. These pages are based purely on my own personal experiences and observations.

In the following pages you’ll find out:

Who I am: my faux qualifications for dispensing grad school advice
My story: how I survived the application process
My results: where I got in, and how I got funding
Questions to ask yourself: things to think about when applying
Questions to ask departments: things you need to find out for your applications
Acing the application: my tips for winning at the application game

For more information:

When I was applying to grad school the Internet was not yet the fabulous all-encompassing resource it is today, so I was cruelly forced to rely on paper-based information. My greatest guide was a book called Getting What you Came For by Robert Peters, which gives helpful advice on how to survive grad school as well as how to get in.

I’d be delighted to hear from people who have found this information useful, or have suggestions on how to improve the information offered here; please submit your comments via e-mail (to alex [at] alexandrasamuel [dot] com). Please note that I am not an admissions advisor, and can not provide advice about individual applications or programs. I do not speak for Harvard, nor am I able to help prospective students with their applications. I will not respond to individual e-mails asking for personal assistance with applications.