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One was Enough

After being on this site for a while, I realized that applying to just one school made me one of the few, the proud, the...naive?

I felt confident about me decision until I logged on here and realized people were applying to 4..5..14!? schools. And I started thinking I might have screwed myself. 

But then the news came -- I was accepted! To say I was elated would be an understatement.  

 

To keep what could be a long story short: No, I don't advise just applying to one school even though it worked out to me, it's always nice to have a backup plan. But if just one school gets your blood flowing, you think it'd be a fantastic fit, and you realistically think you could get in, go for it! Don't let other people psych you out. You know you better than anyone else and this is your process and yours alone.

 

One was enough for me and I couldn't be happier with that decision.



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I'm happy for you, but there isn't really a reason to apply to a single school and hope for the best when you can apply to multiple schools and get in somewhere. Grad school appeals to people for different reasons, some just want the degree to stand out in the job market or for better advancement opportunities, some want it because they needed, then there are people like you that want to do a very specific type of research and pursue it for that reason.  I psyched myself out too and ended up only applying to masters programs and didn't apply to schools like M.I.T, Caltech, Stanford, or Berkley because I was so worried I wouldn't get into a good PhD program or a top masters program. For my undergrad I applied to 23 schools and was only accepted to 2, which left me very pessimistic for my grad school apps so I again applied to 11 programs. I've gotten into all the programs I applied to so far and 2 of the programs I got into were among the schools I thought were reaches. I've been very happy with the change from undergrad acceptances to grad acceptances and I actually now regret that I didn't apply to those other top programs or applied for a masters instead of a PhD.

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On 2/17/2016 at 4:37 AM, blacknighterrant said:

I'm happy for you, but there isn't really a reason to apply to a single school and hope for the best when you can apply to multiple schools and get in somewhere. Grad school appeals to people for different reasons, some just want the degree to stand out in the job market or for better advancement opportunities, some want it because they needed, then there are people like you that want to do a very specific type of research and pursue it for that reason.  I psyched myself out too and ended up only applying to masters programs and didn't apply to schools like M.I.T, Caltech, Stanford, or Berkley because I was so worried I wouldn't get into a good PhD program or a top masters program. For my undergrad I applied to 23 schools and was only accepted to 2, which left me very pessimistic for my grad school apps so I again applied to 11 programs. I've gotten into all the programs I applied to so far and 2 of the programs I got into were among the schools I thought were reaches. I've been very happy with the change from undergrad acceptances to grad acceptances and I actually now regret that I didn't apply to those other top programs or applied for a masters instead of a PhD.

I think what you're essentially saying is - don't doubt yourself, reach for the stars. I 100% agree with that.

The field I'm interested in, Student Affairs, is pretty different from research based fields though. While it makes sense for research focused applicants to apply to a lot of different schools because, after all, their research focuses and progress in that research is what really counts. But in SA, connections and networking matter a lot more than I think they do in those research fields. And obviously no 2 schools will have the same faculty members that teach the same way and focus on instilling the same ethical and personal values in their students because it is a very subjective field. So while applying to more schools may have made more sense in terms of increasing my probability of getting accepted, going to a school that was say my 5th choice and I was not completely thrilled with the culture of would not fulfill my wants and needs in a masters program. 

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Hi People,

I have applied to GWU for Fall 2016, PhD in Epidemiology. I have a GPA of 3.85, a great essay, great LORs, 3 publications, about a year of public health research experience, an innovation fellowship, volunteer work experience and a toefl score of 110/120. Unfortunately, my GRE scores are kinda abysmal (54 percentile verbal, 40 percentile quant and 56 percentile aw). 150 & 152 / 170 in both the sections. 

 

Should I keep my hopes up?

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1 hour ago, marie antoinette said:

Hi People,

I have applied to GWU for Fall 2016, PhD in Epidemiology. I have a GPA of 3.85, a great essay, great LORs, 3 publications, about a year of public health research experience, an innovation fellowship, volunteer work experience and a toefl score of 110/120. Unfortunately, my GRE scores are kinda abysmal (54 percentile verbal, 40 percentile quant and 56 percentile aw). 150 & 152 / 170 in both the sections. 

 

Should I keep my hopes up?

How do you know you have great LOR? If you didn't waive your right to see them they generally don't take them as seriously, in addition even if you can read your own have you read LORs of others to know that yours are better than there's would be. Who wrote your LORs? Even if the content is good and it is from professors, if it is from professors that aren't well known or known to the members of the department you applied to, they will not be weighted as heavily as letters from more renown professors, so the undergrad institution you went to will play a hand in this. They won't really care about volunteer work/ things not related directly to research very much. The publications are good, but what type of publications are they (where, what lvl, etc) and what type of credit do you have in the publications (first author? etc). The research is good, but a year is short for many PhD programs which is why people will go to masters programs to add more research experience to their resume or improve their gpa to get into a better program.  Your gpa is good, but is your school rigorous? Did you take courses that are more difficult or less difficult than average? Is there an upward trend in your grades or did they decline over time? Were the courses you did worse on major or non-major courses? Are your non a grades a result of multiple b's or a single failing grade, etc? The point is that the way things are weighed is very complex and it is difficult to determine rejection or acceptance based upon stats alone. Sadly, your gre scores are not very good and the thing about the gre is that the point of it is standardization. The point is to say that ya, this person got a 3.85 gpa, but based on these gre scores getting a 3.85 gpa at this school is as hard as getting a 1.5 at this other school. As a result the gre is heavily weighed. That said, who knows, there is still a chance that they will accept you based on other qualities, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make back up plans, in case it doesn't go well.

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8 hours ago, marie antoinette said:

Hi People,

I have applied to GWU for Fall 2016, PhD in Epidemiology. I have a GPA of 3.85, a great essay, great LORs, 3 publications, about a year of public health research experience, an innovation fellowship, volunteer work experience and a toefl score of 110/120. Unfortunately, my GRE scores are kinda abysmal (54 percentile verbal, 40 percentile quant and 56 percentile aw). 150 & 152 / 170 in both the sections. 

 

Should I keep my hopes up?

I agree with the last point blacknighterrant made. All we can do is speculate, we can't get into the minds' of the adcom. It sounds like you put your best self forward in your application and that's all you can do. Now, you just have to sit and wait and hope. 

I also agree that lining up a back up plan isn't a terrible idea. Not because I think your application sounds weak but because you really never know.

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I also applied to only one program at one school. For me, personally, it helped me to focus and put more effort into that one application. During the interview, they actually caught me off guard by asking if I applied anywhere else. I answered honestly and told them that I didn't because I wasn't planning on doing grad school until I saw this program and couldn't resist because it was so amazing. I think that in my case, this actually made my application stronger. Of course, putting all your eggs in one basket doesn't work for everyone, but I'm glad it did for me. :) Fortunately, I was accepted and will start my program at MIT in a few months. To everyone else that's still waiting, all the best! 

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3 minutes ago, j118 said:

I also applied to only one program at one school. For me, personally, it helped me to focus and put more effort into that one application. During the interview, they actually caught me off guard by asking if I applied anywhere else. I answered honestly and told them that I didn't because I wasn't planning on doing grad school until I saw this program and couldn't resist because it was so amazing. I think that in my case, this actually made my application stronger. Of course, putting all your eggs in one basket doesn't work for everyone, but I'm glad it did for me. :) Fortunately, I was accepted and will start my program at MIT in a few months. To everyone else that's still waiting, all the best! 

This is such a great story! I'm glad it worked out for you too. Congratulations!

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6 minutes ago, vestigialtraits said:

This is such a great story! I'm glad it worked out for you too. Congratulations!

Thank you! Congratulations to you too! 

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I'm in the exact same boat- applied to 15 schools and had what I thought was a stellar PhD application package, 20 years military experience, solid SOP, great LOR's, transcripts are excellent to outstanding from three separate and accredited graduate programs and getting rejected left and right.  I had Univ of MN tell me flat out that GRE scores were the problem.  (157 V/ 154 Q)   I've taken it twice this past summer, used Magoosh and the 5lb Manhattan Test prep and cannot get my scores to elevate.  At this point, I'm guessing that there are five culprits:  1) GRE scores, 2) inability of the schools to translate military experience to academia 3) lack of research fit with the research department (I'm going for Business Strategy) and 4) lack of a university/professorial advocate at the school.     Anyone have any suggestions?  I'm out of options at this point.  

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3 hours ago, Navy_GRE said:

I'm in the exact same boat- applied to 15 schools and had what I thought was a stellar PhD application package, 20 years military experience, solid SOP, great LOR's, transcripts are excellent to outstanding from three separate and accredited graduate programs and getting rejected left and right.  I had Univ of MN tell me flat out that GRE scores were the problem.  (157 V/ 154 Q)   I've taken it twice this past summer, used Magoosh and the 5lb Manhattan Test prep and cannot get my scores to elevate.  At this point, I'm guessing that there are five culprits:  1) GRE scores, 2) inability of the schools to translate military experience to academia 3) lack of research fit with the research department (I'm going for Business Strategy) and 4) lack of a university/professorial advocate at the school.     Anyone have any suggestions?  I'm out of options at this point.  

Man, that's really rough.  Most of the people that posted on this entry though, including myself, only applied to one program so I think posting this on another thread would yield much better results for you. 

I'll try to be of some help though. I don't have much advice for the GRE because I only took it once and ended up not even using it to apply to the program I was accepted to. But if my memory is correct, there's at least one thread specifically about the GRE on the application part of the site. 

As for getting the schools to see that your military service is applicable, I would try explicitly stating that somewhere in your application, if possible. Whether that be in a statement of purpose or a cover letter. The program I applied to is more objective and qualitatively based as opposed to quantitatively based though so your application process may be completely different from mine and that may not be possible. 

 

Long story short, I'm not really qualified to speak on any part of your comment and suggest you post it in another thread to yield more helpful advice. 

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I also applied to only one program, and luckily, I was accepted with amazing funding! I could not be more excited. My husband and I have already bought a house and moved to our new city :) I put a TON of time and focus into this program and making myself as competitive an applicant as possible. Even so, it could have easily gone the other way, so I consider myself very fortunate!

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7 hours ago, sierra918 said:

I also applied to only one program, and luckily, I was accepted with amazing funding! I could not be more excited. My husband and I have already bought a house and moved to our new city :) I put a TON of time and focus into this program and making myself as competitive an applicant as possible. Even so, it could have easily gone the other way, so I consider myself very fortunate!

That's so fantastic to hear. I'm really happy things worked out for you. 

I wish you all the best in your academic and professional aspirations!

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4 hours ago, vestigialtraits said:

That's so fantastic to hear. I'm really happy things worked out for you. 

I wish you all the best in your academic and professional aspirations!

Thanks very much! Same to you :)

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