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thanksbro

Only admitted to one grad school -- should I be worried?

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This cycle, I applied to nearly 20 schools, and only got into one. It's a top 20 school that is very highly ranked in my subfield, so I'm actually very happy with the result. But I have to ask -- is it common for people to apply to many schools and only get into 1? Is it a sign that there was some problem with my application, or that I am behind in some way that I will need to work hard to make up for in graduate school?

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From what I gather, no. Some applicants will be rejected from lower-ranked schools, but accepted at a top 10 school - the admission process is not easily predictable, and competitive applicants are rejected from schools for a variety of reasons (some of which seem arbitrary). Of course, some really brilliant applicants will get accepted to a whole bunch of top schools, but they're the exception, not the norm. So I don't think it's odd at all to only be accepted to one school - and even if it were odd, I don't think it's cause for concern.

The fact of the matter is you got accepted into a great school that's strong in your interests. I think everyone feels impostor syndrome to some degree, but they accepted you because you are a strong applicant.

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And some of those people who got accepted to a bunch of top 20 schools also had a degree from Tufts or Princeton. Others of us came from no name universities. Just because you got one and they got ten doesn't necessarily mean that you are behind or less smart. That isn't to underplay the strengths that those who got into ten will bring to the field; I'm sure they will be very very successful. But you can be too. 

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"Neither Here Nor There" makes a good point. Getting into a top 20 school at all may be an amazing achievement if you're coming from a school that isn't well-known to admissions committees. This point is worth reflecting on for people from that sort of educational background.

However, my personal situation is not of the sort that "Neither Here nor There" described. I came from a school that is a top school by any reasonable standard. So, "Neither Here Nor There's" comment may actually give me more reason to be worried. It may give me reason to think that I am underperforming given my educational background. Though, that depends on whether it is the case that people from top schools who are doing well usually end up getting into a lot of schools. Many, though not all, of the applicants I know from my school got into a lot of schools; but I don't know if that is generally true of either my school or top schools in general. Perhaps the other people in this thread can shed light on this matter?

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Hi, I just wanted to say that I was only admitted to one PhD program (though I applied to far fewer than you did, but I also think that PhD admissions were less competitive when I was doing them), and recently received tenure at an R1, Phd-granting department. Don't worry! No one remembers or cares who did what and while sometimes getting in everywhere tracks later success, that's also often not the case. (If anything, you just should consider yourself as having better practice at the constant rejection that you will receive from now on, from journals, jobs, etc.)

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4 hours ago, thanksbro said:

"Neither Here Nor There" makes a good point. Getting into a top 20 school at all may be an amazing achievement if you're coming from a school that isn't well-known to admissions committees. This point is worth reflecting on for people from that sort of educational background.

However, my personal situation is not of the sort that "Neither Here nor There" described. I came from a school that is a top school by any reasonable standard. So, "Neither Here Nor There's" comment may actually give me more reason to be worried. It may give me reason to think that I am underperforming given my educational background. Though, that depends on whether it is the case that people from top schools who are doing well usually end up getting into a lot of schools. Many, though not all, of the applicants I know from my school got into a lot of schools; but I don't know if that is generally true of either my school or top schools in general. Perhaps the other people in this thread can shed light on this matter?

For what it's worth, I came from the top school in the UK for my undergrad, applied to 15 schools, but only got into 3 (and that's probably it). However, they all rank really highly for the fields I'm interested in (general philosophy of science, physics), so I'm not too worried, especially since I know I was competing with lots of people with a science/physics/math background (none of which I formally had as an undergrad). Also, if it helps, one of my supervisors at my undergrad university came from the other top school in the UK but only got into one PhD program, and he's in one of the most prestigious junior positions in my university now.

I like to think about it this way: if people who are leading in your subfield thought you'd make a great addition to their department, it means that you are philosophically 'good enough'. What the other rejections could mean, though, is that you were not a great fit as a *PhD student* for other departments *based on your writing sample* and some other fairly arbitrary considerations, but I'm not sure these are reliable predictors for future success. In any case, I just want to say that you are not alone, and it's going to be OK (telling this to you as much as to myself) :)

Edited by eigenname

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This is what seems to filter process for admissions -

Coarse filter - test scores & grades

Medium filter - LORs

Fine filter - personal or purpose statements

Very Fine filter - overall fit for the program and faculty availability based on research interests.

It is that last filter that is the most important. If there is not a faculty member that is willing to take you on based on how well your interests match theirs then you probably will not get in. This is a pretty arbitrary decision in many cases, and hinges on what is in your personal statement and any interview you may have.

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11 minutes ago, avflinsch said:

This is what seems to filter process for admissions -

Coarse filter - test scores & grades

Medium filter - LORs

Fine filter - personal or purpose statements

Very Fine filter - overall fit for the program and faculty availability based on research interests.

It is that last filter that is the most important. If there is not a faculty member that is willing to take you on based on how well your interests match theirs then you probably will not get in. This is a pretty arbitrary decision in many cases, and hinges on what is in your personal statement and any interview you may have.

Looks like you forgot what is alleged to be the most important component of an application: the writing sample. Where does that fit into your theory?

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Having been here and on the previous WGI site for almost a decade now, I can assure you that it happens a lot. Don't worry about it. In fact, forget about graduate admissions entirely now, except when someone is soliciting your advice about it. It's time to focus your energy and anxiety on the next professional stage.

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Thanks to everyone for the helpful comments. It seems that both considerations of fit and a lot of randomness play a huge role in the process, especially because it's competitive enough that even completely qualified candidates can be shut out. With that in mind, I'm glad that things turned out as well for me as they did!

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23 hours ago, machineghost said:

Looks like you forgot what is alleged to be the most important component of an application: the writing sample. Where does that fit into your theory?

I was responding more generically for PhD admissions, and a writing sample is not required for all programs. I would probably put in the same place as the personal statement.

I am in Info Sci, and no writing sample was required, but I also did my undergrad & masters in the same department, so I was a 'known quantity' according to the faculty members I interviewed with. I do know that some folks were asked to provide a writing sample but it was not part of the main application package.

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3 hours ago, avflinsch said:

I was responding more generically for PhD admissions, and a writing sample is not required for all programs. I would probably put in the same place as the personal statement.

I am in Info Sci, and no writing sample was required, but I also did my undergrad & masters in the same department, so I was a 'known quantity' according to the faculty members I interviewed with. I do know that some folks were asked to provide a writing sample but it was not part of the main application package.

Most PhD programs in philosophy explicitly stress quality of writing sample.

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I wouldn't worry. The unpredictability of the admission process implies that one's quality as an applicant cannot be quantified on a linear scale.

PGR is an idol! Don't bow! :)

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On 3/15/2018 at 1:09 AM, thanksbro said:

This cycle, I applied to nearly 20 schools, and only got into one. It's a top 20 school that is very highly ranked in my subfield, so I'm actually very happy with the result. But I have to ask -- is it common for people to apply to many schools and only get into 1? Is it a sign that there was some problem with my application, or that I am behind in some way that I will need to work hard to make up for in graduate school?

No, it's more common for people to apply to 20 and get into none.

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Let's be honest: you got admitted to a grad school in philosophy -- be worried! Your attempts for securing a poor paying adjunct job or getting lottery ticket (tenure) are becoming a reality.

Gimme heart reacts if you don't mind staring into the void.

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34 minutes ago, lyellgeo said:

Personally, I think I underestimated the extent to which fit would matter—where "fit" here means not just having people working in my general AOS, but on the same specific people and/or problems. Among PhD programs that are a close fit for me, I have 1 acceptance, 2 waitlists, and 1 rejection. Whereas the other 9 or so are all anticipated to be rejections.

Just to add a little anecdotal evidence to this: I received one acceptance (into an MA program) and 2 wait listings (into PhD programs); all 3 programs have faculty members working in (1) my specific area of interest and (2) subjects closely connected to the precise topic my writing sample was on. I can't say the same with regards to any of the other schools to which I applied, and it appears that I can expect a rejection from all those schools at this point.

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