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k_198

Chances of getting into a top program w/ a low-ranked undergraduate institution? (Social psych/OB)

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I am interested in primarily organizational behavior programs and social psychology programs and would like to attend a top university. I am worried that my applications will be looked over due to the undergraduate institution I attended and wanted to know other opinions as to if I have a chance of admission at the (top) schools I applied to. I do want to note that I am attending the university I am because I wanted to graduate earlier, as I already had a lot of credits due to dual-enrollment classes. I’m not sure if it was a good decision, but I’d like to know my chances for the schools I applied to.

Undergrad Institution: Low ranked state university with an acceptance rate of ~65% and a graduation rate of 45% (ranking according to US News is >700)
Major(s): Psychology
Minor(s): n/a
GPA in Major: 3.97
Overall GPA: 3.97

Type of Student: US Citizen, Male, Caucasian

GRE Scores
Q: 170
V: 163
W: 4.5


Research Experience: 

History independent study, 25 page paper (was interested in it freshman year) — presented at regional Honors program conference

Behavioral Economics study — presented at regional economics conference

Attended a psychology REU — no publications as of yet

Independent psychology research project looking at how decision making heuristics can lead to unwanted choices (1 year)

Honors thesis also doing a study in regards to decision making heuristics — 30 pages, and presented at a regional psychology conference

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Featured on my local news channel and newspaper for a perfect SAT score, member of my college’s Honors Program, full-ride scholarship at my college, perfect SAT score

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA for introductory psychology class during 1 semester, member of Psychology Club

Miscellaneous: I have contacted potential professors who I would be studying under in all the programs I have applied to, and have taken a few business classes in management-related areas.

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding decision making biases and heuristics to improve how business decisions are made through structural changes, and am also interested in how our social environment and the people we are in touch with influence our decisions.

Applying to Where:

OB

U of Toronto Rotman — Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management

Harvard B-School — Organizational Behavior

U of Michigan Ross — Management and Organizations

U of Virginia Darden — Leadership in Organizations

Colombia B-School — Management (Organizational Behavior Specialization)

Stanford B-School — Organizational Behavior

Social Psychology

Carnegie Mellon — Social & Decision Sciences

UCLA — Social Psychology

Cornell — Social and Personality

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Posted (edited)

I’m wondering how you ended up at a “low ranked” undergraduate program with a perfect SAT score – I know the admissions committees will likely wonder the same thing.

Edited by JoePianist

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19 minutes ago, JoePianist said:

I’m wondering how you ended up at a “low ranked” undergraduate program with a perfect SAT score – I know the admissions committees will likely wonder the same thing.

Agreed, with those stats I think you're gonna need some explanation. 

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@JoePianist @andhowdoesthatmakeyoufeel

The short answer is that, by the time I graduated high school, I had around 90 college credits already and would have been only able to transfer about half of them to another college so I decided to stick to the college I had been attending for dual-enrollment. I also wanted to get my degree done fast for reasons ranging from wanting to gain compound interest at an earlier age to an enjoyment for advancing through “the levels” of education quickly. The prospect of getting a Bachelors as a newly 19 year old was an exciting prospect for me.

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Are you a new graduate, age 19?

 

If so, it's gonna be reaaaallly tough to get in with no work experience and hard to convince them you're emotionally/academically mature enough for this. 

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I would definitely recommend a 2 year post bac to gain more research/work experience. I didn’t go to a “top tier” undergrad institution but I did my post-bac at a R1. I also don’t know how much a PhD admissions committee would care about a perfect SAT score because it’s from high school, as opposed to a perfect GRE score from college but that’s just my two cents about that. 

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30 minutes ago, andhowdoesthatmakeyoufeel said:

Are you a new graduate, age 19?

 

If so, it's gonna be reaaaallly tough to get in with no work experience and hard to convince them you're emotionally/academically mature enough for this. 

You are correct about my age and situation.

I have asked a few professors about work experience, and the majority of them have said that, yes, it can help an application, but it is not needed. For example, I will quote a part of an email from a professor that I received: “Generally we don’t care AT ALL about work experience in the real world; research experience is far more important.”

 

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Actually I think that age 19 is an advantage. You're so young and you did really well in college. In my opinion, that means you have tremendous potential to succeed in college. The only concern is that I think you can add several not so fancy school  . Also, I study in U of T currently. In general, U of T hasv ery limited funding for non-canadians 

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16 minutes ago, k_198 said:

You are correct about my age and situation.

I have asked a few professors about work experience, and the majority of them have said that, yes, it can help an application, but it is not needed. For example, I will quote a part of an email from a professor that I received: “Generally we don’t care AT ALL about work experience in the real world; research experience is far more important.”

 

Yeah, that's what I meant by work experience. I've had very good luck on interviews this year and I strongly attribute it to several years after college working in research. It gives you a much more rounded CV, shows that you know you want to do research professionally, and gives you a chance to really develop the kind of research you want to do.

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Also, why are you applying to those schools? Is it just because they are "top" schools? Do you have a good research match there? 

 

School name doesn't mean a ton in psych, and schools that are perceived as "top" aren't always so in this field. 

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1 hour ago, andhowdoesthatmakeyoufeel said:

Also, why are you applying to those schools? Is it just because they are "top" schools? Do you have a good research match there? 

 

School name doesn't mean a ton in psych, and schools that are perceived as "top" aren't always so in this field. 

I realize that, and I did not only apply to the schools listed above because they are “top” schools. I looked for specific faculty that fit my research interests and applied to “top” schools where I found them. I want to go to a top graduate program because I want to increase my chances of getting a job in academia at a R1 university, and (on the OB side) want to try to become a faculty member at a R1 business school. By applying to programs near the top of the rankings in both areas (social psych/OB) which have faculty whose research interests align with mine, I am hoping that my chances of becoming a research-heavy (as opposed to teaching) professor will increase.

In regards to your previous comment, do you think my research experience is enough? I understand that I don’t have any publications, but I have spent around 3 years doing various research projects.

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To be honest, I personally don't. But I'm not an admissions committee. Research papers are pretty par for the course in undergrad and don't really count as research experience unless they're published in a journal. Honors thesis helps, but a lot of people are going to have that. It's very competitive. 

 

The way to increase your chance of getting a job in academia is to publish once you are working towards your PhD. Publish or perish. And network. 

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11 minutes ago, andhowdoesthatmakeyoufeel said:

To be honest, I personally don't. But I'm not an admissions committee. Research papers are pretty par for the course in undergrad and don't really count as research experience unless they're published in a journal. Honors thesis helps, but a lot of people are going to have that. It's very competitive. 

 

The way to increase your chance of getting a job in academia is to publish once you are working towards your PhD. Publish or perish. And network. 

I agree with andhowdoesthatmakeyoufeel, I get that it may be frustrating to push back your life plans by a couple of years but you're already way ahead of the game. I would seriously consider doing a postbacc research position in a lab with similar interests to yours for two years and really focus on increasing those hard skills and getting your name on some posters and presentations. I applied to PhD programs right out of undergrad and the question I continuously got was "why do you think you're ready when everyone else has put in more work than you" so put in the work and you'll be fine, applying beforehand is really just going to be a waste of money and time. 

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41 minutes ago, k_198 said:

In regards to your previous comment, do you think my research experience is enough? I understand that I don’t have any publications, but I have spent around 3 years doing various research projects.

I'll go against the grain here and say that non-published undergrad projects can still be enough experience, depending on your involvement in them. I'm applying out of undergrad with no publications, but I designed/implemented/analyzed two independent projects in my lab, one leading to a poster (presented at my university's undergrad research day). I was really concerned about not having enough tangible research products, but the application cycle has gone well for me regardless. I think as long as you can frame your research experience in terms of having seen as much of the research process as possible and how that prepares you to do similar work in grad school, you'll be fine. Great letters of rec also really help!

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, scared_and_a_freud said:

I agree with andhowdoesthatmakeyoufeel, I get that it may be frustrating to push back your life plans by a couple of years but you're already way ahead of the game. I would seriously consider doing a postbacc research position in a lab with similar interests to yours for two years and really focus on increasing those hard skills and getting your name on some posters and presentations. I applied to PhD programs right out of undergrad and the question I continuously got was "why do you think you're ready when everyone else has put in more work than you" so put in the work and you'll be fine, applying beforehand is really just going to be a waste of money and time. 

What is the number of psychology-related posters and presentations to get my name on to have a decent chance for the schools I am applying to, in your opinion?

Edited by k_198

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2 minutes ago, imemine said:

I'll go against the grain here and say that non-published undergrad projects can still be enough experience, depending on your involvement in them. I'm applying out of undergrad with no publications, but I designed/implemented/analyzed two independent projects in my lab, one leading to a poster (presented at my university's undergrad research day). I was really concerned about not having enough tangible research products, but the application cycle has gone well for me regardless. I think as long as you can frame your research experience in terms of having seen as much of the research process as possible and how that prepares you to do similar work in grad school, you'll be fine. Great letters of rec also really help!

Out of curiosity, was your GPA/GRE similar to mine? I probably have a little less/less-involved research experience than you, but thanks for giving me a some confidence!

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3 minutes ago, k_198 said:

What is the number of psychology-related posters and presentations to get my name on to have a decent chance for the schools I am applying to, in your opinion?

Honestly, none of us can tell you that. It's not a quantitative process. You can be an amazing applicant and still not get in. 

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3 minutes ago, k_198 said:

What is the number of psychology-related posters and presentations to get my name on to have a decent chance for the schools I am applying to, in your opinion?

There’s no “magic number” because of the many factors that go into it. 

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I realize that there is no magic number of presentations/posters to be guaranteed a place in any given graduate school, but I thought that was one of the stronger points of my application, as opposed to my undergraduate institution. 

 

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5 minutes ago, k_198 said:

Out of curiosity, was your GPA/GRE similar to mine? I probably have a little less/less-involved research experience than you, but thanks for giving me a some confidence!

Roughly, yeah. I also came from a top-10 school, but if I'm honest I don't think that matters as much as the quality of your research/recommendations.

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Posted (edited)

Hi! None of my following points are definite facts or professional advice, just my two cents (more like 6 cents).

1. Congrats on your successful undergrad performance. I think that if you cogently illustrate your time-efficient journey, it can vouch for your certain strengths.

2. GPA/GRE scores will mostly only help you to pass the very first bar (e.g., GPA>3.0 / each GRE section>65th %) of the admissions process (i.e., your application won't be immediately dropped) and adcom/faculties won't look at those scores again once you pass that first bar. Also, GPAs are evaluated regarding the competitiveness of originating schools (e.g., 3.5 from Harvard =/= 3.5 from X Community College).

3. Relevant research experience and substantial byproducts (e.g, specific statistics/clinical/programming skills, presentations/publications, grant approval, leadership roles, etc) are definitely the core factors that will help you pass further bars during the admissions process. Some people accrue enough research experience during their undergraduate, however, most people find it practically hard to gain a competitive research profile (not just a few lines under your CV's "research experience" section but YOUR competitive research profile) while committing as a full-time college student. That is why most people do Master's and/or post-bacc research training in labs/hospitals/etc with matching research/career focus. I also want to add that many of those who do Master's and/or post-bacc before applying to PhD are also the ones who actively worked as student RAs during undergrad, wrote senior theses, and were well-exposed to presentation/publication efforts during their undergrad. And that they (we) do Master's and/or post-bacc years to further advance and well-compete for the narrow PhD opportunities, not because they (we) lack certain qualities or were lazy during undergraduate. It is just that competitive and limited.

4. Strong recommendation letters are other important factors that will help you move forward during the admissions process. I believe that the strong letter not only speak for your research/academic achievements, but also your overall attitude/passion/work ethics/growth/and more which are all important characteristics regarded by grad schools to determine if you are a good fit for rigorous graduate curriculum (e.g., competitions, stress, mentor-student attitude, independence, etc). And for someone to strongly voice for your such characteristics, you need to maintain more professional relationship with the letter writer than a regular undergrad-professor one (e.g., Master's advisor, lab supervisor, etc). Of course, PhD applicants bring at least one strong letter from their undergrad, however, you need to submit THREE strong letters and you don't want these three to all sound the same. This is easily another reason why people often continue their research training after bachelor's.

5. I sincerely don't mean to be rude to you in this 5th point. But it seems like you don't fully understand why the replies on this thread (and everywhere else on the internet) emphasizes "research experience" for Psychology PhD application. Just as one can't ask, "How many coffee dates qualify me to kiss my date without asking her or considering the overall chemistry, etc?", I think it just out of touch to ask how many pubs/presentations you should have to qualify for a psych PhD.

6. Talk to your faculties about this stuff! It sounds like you have a few professors from college who are happy to chat about your plan for advanced education in psychology (and write your letters, I am assuming?).

I didn't mean to write so much initially but oh well. Wish you the best in your academic/professional career!

Edited by devpsych2020
typo

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, k_198 said:

I realize that there is no magic number of presentations/posters to be guaranteed a place in any given graduate school, but I thought that was one of the stronger points of my application, as opposed to my undergraduate institution. 

 

I have 11 poster presentations on my CV. I applied this application cycle and still do not know if I will even be accepted anywhere as I have not received any interview invites yet.. As others have already said, it's just a very competitive process. You can be a GREAT applicant and still get rejected. 

So, none of us can give you a magic number as to how many years of research experience or poster presentations you should have to be a competitive applicant, unfortunately. There's so many factors that play into which applicants stand out and which don't. 

Edited by lolhelp

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Posted (edited)

Although, possibly unpopular opinion, but if you can afford it, I don't think it would hurt to still give it a shot next application cycle if you REALLY wish to. As somebody else mentioned strong letters of recommendation also help your application a lot, and you already have great GPA and GRE scores. Do A LOT of research on personal statement kisses of death; make sure that you submit a strong statement and CV (have your mentors proof-read your application materials for feedback!) and I think that though a very slim chance, you could possibly be accepted your first round. 

Although emphasis on the fact that you have a VERY slim chance applying with barely to no research experience, so do not be disappointed if you need to try again. 

Edited by lolhelp

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, imemine said:

I'll go against the grain here and say that non-published undergrad projects can still be enough experience, depending on your involvement in them. I'm applying out of undergrad with no publications, but I designed/implemented/analyzed two independent projects in my lab, one leading to a poster (presented at my university's undergrad research day). I was really concerned about not having enough tangible research products, but the application cycle has gone well for me regardless. I think as long as you can frame your research experience in terms of having seen as much of the research process as possible and how that prepares you to do similar work in grad school, you'll be fine. Great letters of rec also really help!

I'll chime in and agree with this. I went to a small lib arts college for undergrad that generally has a good reputation but is not at all highly-ranked and has a high acceptance rate. This didn't seem to matter with my applications (2 acceptances so far, interviews at the rest, though I did not apply to ivy leagues), since my GRE/GPA was pretty good. I also don't have any pubs (though I have one in review and one in progress), nor presentations. I think post-bacc is particularly useful for clinical applicants, because programs do look for people a little older (as in, older than like 21), and these programs get so many more applicants that you have to have extensive research experience to stand out. Since you excelled in undergrad, I don't think the mere fact that your school isn't well-ranked will hurt your chances (it might if you fell middle of the pack there).Often, our achievement in high school (and financial situation as well!) determines where we go to college, and I honestly doubt that PhD programs care about that. As people said, you may need to gain a bit more research experience to stand out more, but I don't think all hope is lost as others have insinuated. If your recommenders make a strong case for you, and you write a convincing statement that shows focused research interests, an overall passion for the subfield/research, and knowledge about the program and what getting a PhD entails, I think you have a shot. That said, most of the programs you're applying to are top-top tier programs. Perhaps find one or two that's still highly ranked (top 25) but isn't you know, Harvard. Best of luck! 

Edited by Scared StringBean

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Sorry, but literally no one in a PhD program will care at all what you got on your SAT. It doesn’t come up, and if you bring it up, it would probably just come off as bragging. My personal feelings here are that you seem to lack the maturity right now for a PhD program. I believe you would come across as overconfident and perhaps even a little arrogant at interviews, and that would be a kiss of death. I’m a mom, so I am a bit blunt. I think you need more time to mature and get that research experience. Yes, the GRE scores are great, but that doesn’t guarantee acceptances. I see plenty of people with your stats get rejected. 
I mean people on here are giving you advice and you’re replying like a child with “exactly how much of this and how much of that do I need?” Even after it’s been explained there is no magic formula. I also suggest you get a post bacc or master’s before applying. I think schools will look at your current profile and wonder why you don’t have more research and research output. Your application fees would likely be more of a donation, especially at top schools. Most people applying to those schools have your stats AND much more research and pubs. The brutal reality is, currently you would not stand out to them with your current credentials. I say wait a year or two and get that experience. I also think programs will be reluctant to go with someone so young. Unfair perhaps, but a reality. I get it too with me being older. Good luck!

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