But I do want to make the application process easier to understand, both to make it easier for people like me to decipher your application, and also to level the playing field. Undergraduates at the top research institutions have the advantage of advisors who already give them this advice. First, some caveats. My experience comes solely from my current role in Chicago Harris PhD admissions , two years on the admissions committee in Yale political science, two in Columbia political science, and one in Columbia sustainable development which is essentially an applied economics PhD in science, environment and health topics. You would be wise to get second opinions.