I've got to kick myself off this autobiographical track, but upon popular demand here is one more (and for the moment, final) installment.
In my senior year at Harvard, I applied to six different graduate programs: a business school (HBS), a program in international relations (Fletcher), a doctoral program in political science (Harvard), a doctoral program in economics (Yale), and two public policy schools (HKS and WWS). In other words, I was as confused about my career goals as you can imagine. Once again, I was the beneficiary of extraordinarily lenient admission committees who failed to narrow down my choices for me.
Being forced to make a decision, I decided to go the WWS route for several reasons: (i) they were extraordinarily generous with their financial offer; (ii) they had a nice Turkish student (an occasional commentator on this blog) give me a call to sing me the praises of the program; and (iii) it didn't limit my future career options in any way. (I might have gone to HKS instead if the nice personal note that the faculty chair of the admission committee sent me had not confused me with someone else...)
I had a great time at WWS, but I had simply put off the decision. By the second year in the master's program, I knew that I wanted a career in research, but what was it going to be: economics or political science?
I remember well what settled it for me. One day in the library, I picked up copies of the flagship publications of the two disciplines--the American Political Science Review and the American Economic Review--and put them side by side. One was written in English, the other in Greek. I thought that if I did a PhD in economics, I would be able to read both journals, but that if I did a PhD in political science, it would be goodbye economics. That was my epiphany. (I should add that many political science programs now provide solid technical training that no longer leaves the AER beyond reach--but that was not true at the time.)
But my luck with admissions committees now had (almost) run out. With unjustified cockiness, I applied only to three doctoral programs: Harvard, MIT, and Princeton. Harvard sent me a nice rejection letter, MIT did not give me money, and Princeton... Well, I didn't hear from Princeton for the longest time. I was encouraged to go work for a year, which I did at UNCTAD (quite a story for another time!), and when they eventually admitted me the following year, I imagine it was more out of compassion than conviction...