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What's your opinion on "This is the only program I'm applying to..."?


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I don't think adcomms or POIs will particularly care one way or the other. The issue is more of a numbers game for the applicant. Clinical psych is incredibly competitive and safety schools don't really exist. It's also rare for there to be literally no one except for 1 POI being a good research match. The POI may be a little taken aback if they find this out, but it's also unlikely they would. Sometimes they may ask if you've applied to other programs, but it's not a guarantee you get that question. 

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As someone who has a similar situation, I can completely understand where you are coming from. But I'm applying to only one neuroscience PhD program, but not only one PhD program. According to what I heard from a professor from my school, some professors are less able to take in students they like than other professors (since a department can only take in a fixed number of students every year, so some professors may have to compromise).

So my guess is that, this "only program I'm applying to" may matter when 1) the POI really likes you; AND 2) the POI is short on graduate student in his/her lab, and has less say on whether he/she can take in the students he/she likes.

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It depends on why you're only applying to one program.

Personally I would be concerned that the applicant isn't serious about getting a PhD if they are putting the trajectory of their career on one school, especially since admissions is not strictly merit-based. I would also wonder why they can't find a good fit in more than one institution. Are their interests too narrowly defined? Are they not flexible/open to different advisors or specializations? If so, what if their interests change during grad school, or the advisor becomes unavailable?

Two good reasons I can think of are: (1) the training and research experience I want is only available at X so if I don't get in I'll just take my career in a different direction, and (2) geographic constraints.

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Thanks for these perspective, guys.

@PsyDuck90 Thanks for the reality check

@UnmotivatedNeuroApplicant So you're saying it doesn't really add anything?

@kineto is having me lean towards keeping it off the statement. It could potentially raise red flags and I guess it could be perceived as too picky (in a bad way).

I don't want adcoms to think that I think I'm destined.

I think the tone could be better conveyed if I meet the interview stage, at which point I would be honest and tell the truth and say why it was the only program. 

Any thoughts?

Edited by HopefulPsych2020
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Regardless of program, I think it would be a losing battle. My thoughts are similar to what @kineto has expressed.
 

Program interests are likely to change. You may or may not get along with someone who you were originally interested in. They may get sick. They may get a job offer elsewhere regardless of tenure status. They might have no interest in taking on grad students.

It's also possible that they don't believe you've done your research enough and are just applying to a program because you want the "name" associated with it. They might see this as not being open-minded enough to consider all your possibilities. It's also possible that they might question your ability to do research. If geography is a concern, professors could also wonder what will prevent you from completing your degree if your location was a factor. They might also question if geography is the only reason you applied.

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2 hours ago, HopefulPsych2020 said:

Thanks for these perspective, guys.

@PsyDuck90 Thanks for the reality check

@UnmotivatedNeuroApplicant So you're saying it doesn't really add anything?

@kineto is having me lean towards keeping it off the statement. It could potentially raise red flags and I guess it could be perceived as too picky (in a bad way).

I don't want adcoms to think that I think I'm destined.

I think the tone could be better conveyed if I meet the interview stage, at which point I would be honest and tell the truth and say why it was the only program. 

Any thoughts?

I was saying that the "This is the only program I'm apply to" argument may work for professors who are both hungry for new grad students and interested in you as a potential PhD student. This is because professors who are less able to retain potential grad students they like wanna ensure that if they give you an offer, you are more likely to accept the offer, so that they can secure a new grad student for their labs. Therefore, they are more likely to admit students who show genuine, intense interest in their labs. 

However, instead of telling them that "this is the only program I'm applying to", there might be other better ways of expressing your interest in the program, e.g. by sending inquiry emails before submitting your application, sending another email after you have just submitted your application, and showing enthusiasm during interviews! There might be repercussions associated with "This is the only program I'm apply to" argument, like others have pointed out.

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