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Reaching out to rejected programs

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Hi all,

I was hoping to get some input on this subject. Unfortunately, I had an unsuccessful application cycle this time around. My professor/adviser said she was honestly surprised and suggested that I reach out to a few programs and see why they rejected me. She said I have nothing to lose and the worst thing that will happen is that they won't answer. What are your thoughts on this? Has anyone reached out to programs asking why they were rejected? If so, what did you say and what happened?

Thanks!

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Ive done so; the programs usually didnt give much input but reaching out to POIs helped! Some didnt answer, but the ones that did had some helpful advice/thoughts on why I had been rejected and what I could do in the future cycles to stand out.

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I also did this - I only heard back from one faculty who I actually interviewed with.  I will say it wasn't super helpful for me in terms of pinpointing specific areas to improve (I got a "you seemed really qualified, this was just not a good year for you," which was really frustrating).  However, she did emphasize networking before applying, and making sure to email all the faculty you want to work with to hear about 1)what their current research is, and 2)what they are looking for in a student.    

If you're struggling for what to say in the email, here's basically what I said: 

Dear Dr. XXXX
 
want to first thank you for reviewing my application for the XXXXX program for this admission cycle.  I enjoyed getting to meet you and the students in your lab on interview day (change this sentence if you did not interview, obviously).  Unfortunately, I had an unsuccessful admissions cycle this year . If at all possible, would you be willing to provide any feedback on my application?  Were there areas of weakness in my application (e.g. research experience, personal statement, or my letters of recommendation)? I would appreciate any feedback on how I might be able to improve myself as a candidate for the next submission cycle. 
 
Thank you for your time, 

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I too agree with the others that it doesn't do any harm to reach out and ask, but I would not exepect a response. These interview cycles are such a crapshoot sometimes, and it may have come down to something as simple as you being equally as qualified as another person but the advisor liked the other person more. One thing we often don't think about is that when we committ to an advisor and they committ to us, they are making a 5+ year committment (and really, a potential life-long committment) to be your mentor. That is pretty huge, so advisors (and trainees) should make sure the fit is excellent academically and personally, otherwise it could be a living hell. 

 

One other thing that might be the case is not stressing enough to a program during your interview that you actually want to go there. For future cylces, I would only do this for your top 1-2 choices. My advisor at my very well respected clinical program told me that me saying that I wanted to go to this school and train with them made a HUGE difference when thinking about me as the student she wanted to take on last cylce. If you are wishy-washy, people may be heistant to make an offer because if you hold onto that offer and don't wind up going there you may wind up screwing them out of a student that year (as all backups may have moved on before you let go). 

 

Just food for thought! I am always happy to talk more over DM if you have specific questions about either of those things.

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I would wait a couple of weeks and then reach out to POI's individually, rather than to departmental coordinators, as others have said. This can really work to your favor (especially if you had interviews and were waitlisted) because it shows POI's that you are serious about wanting to work with them and that you are willing to do whatever it takes, within reason, to enhance your credentials for the next application cycle. I took this approach last year and was pleasantly surprised by how helpful several professors were.

Don't let this round discourage you- keep your long-term goals in mind. Wishing you all the best.

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Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate your responses, this was really helpful. @H1ppocampus I didn't even think of it that way! That definitely helps especially because I was wondering what the protocol was on reapplying to the same schools.

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I reached out to the person that signed my rejection letter for SDSU's Psychology program and got feedback. The general guideline is to do it respectfully so that they don't think you're trying to argue with their decision and they will usually get back to you within a few days. 

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On 4/18/2018 at 3:02 PM, PsychedSloth said:

I reached out to the person that signed my rejection letter for SDSU's Psychology program and got feedback. The general guideline is to do it respectfully so that they don't think you're trying to argue with their decision and they will usually get back to you within a few days. 

That's good advice, thanks!

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When I teach, after every test I get emails saying, "Can we meet to go over my test and figure out how I can do better next time?" Three-quarters of the time they don't want advice for improvement on the next test, they want to grub for more marks on the last test. Don't be like them. i.e., as others have said, any email shouldn't have any whiff of argument with the decision.

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