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How to Communicate a School is Your First Choice


I am planning on applying to 8-10 Statistics Ph.D. programs, but one school is definitely my first choice. I am trying to keep this question pretty general because I am sure that other people are in a similar situation.  The program has everything I want: research in my specific field (applied Bayesian statistics), great funding, departmental focus on Ph.D. program, ideal funding, weather, you name it.  It's a program that I have a fairly good shot at getting into, but there is still a chance I will get rejected.  I want to make sure the admission committee at this school understands that I really want to go there.  I also can easily travel for a visit when ever I want.  I am thinking about applying in September/October (the deadline is December) and also making a visit in the fall to attempt to show my strong interest.  I also want to mention that the program is my first choice in my SOP.  I am worried that I will come off either as desperate or as a brown noser that probably told every other school they were her first choice. I am also worried that I may not get the best funding package (tuition waivers and a stipend of $23k are standard with this program but there are enhancements) because I gave the impression that I would attend no matter what they gave me.   How do I effectively show interest in a program and up my chances of an admittance and a good funding package? Will an early visit in the fall and mentioning that this program is my first choice help or hurt me?

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There's no reason to apply early, just FYI. All of the applications will be reviewed at one time, after the deadline, and I can't imagine anyone even bothering to look at when an application was submitted. I'm also not sure I'd visit as an applicant and not as an admitted student, even if it is easy for you. Maybe if you do visit you could schedule your visit to coincide with a colloquium, special invited guest speaker, or some other departmental event so that it's clear why you're there.

FWIW, you can just write tweak your SOP with one sentence/phrase. After pointing out why this program is a perfect fit for you and your interests, you could add something like "For these reasons, X is my top choice for graduate studies". 

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