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Some process insight from a Grad Director


t_ruth
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Hi all.

I remember how tough on the nerves January and February can be, so I thought it might help to lay out a detailed timeline as to what happens after you hit submit with an illustration from my program. I know there have been other similar posts like this, but probably doesn't hurt to add another one. Not every program does it the same way, but this might shed some light on one way it is done and how long it takes. The dates are not the same every year, so I just chose dates *around* when we do this.

Context: My program is a mid-ranked R1 in our field with some top-ranked faculty. I'm in Education, but we have a lot of faculty who come from other social sciences: psychology, sociology, economics...

Dec. 15 Deadline for our apps (like many places)

Dec. 16 As grad director, I check all the applications, download them for the faculty who can't (or won't) access the online system, organize them into specializations, and create spreadsheets for faculty to review the applicants.

This is when I also have to note who has missing materials or a missing fee. Some people enter a fee code that isn't valid and think they are done (not sure why the system allows that and shows us fee is missing), others have entered a valid fee code, but slightly wrong, and these have to be hand-processed by the grad college. Similarly, some applicants who should get TOEFL waivers didn't exactly follow instructions, so these also have to be hand-processed. Others are missing reference letters...

So, I advise my faculty to review any of the applicants in these categories anyway while we work on getting things worked out, but not everybody does this. New (now complete) applicants trickle in for a few weeks.

Dec. 17-Jan. 16 Faculty are supposed to review applications in their small specialization groups. Some groups do this asynchronously, some set a meeting in January. Either before or after this meeting, faculty are supposed to informally interview (or at least have a conversation) with anyone they want to admit. Some groups leave it completely up to individual faculty to say yes or no on an applicant, other groups have more formal rating systems and rank and then try to match the top candidates with faculty. In all this, faculty are supposed to keep in mind our target cohort size (12-15), our typical rate of return on acceptances, and what funding we have (faculty with grants often get priority).

Keep in mind that this is happening during the holidays, so this month-long period really only is a couple weeks that people are working.

Jan. 17 Specialization coordinators meet to check their lists and discuss potential funding, etc. Final ranked lists of students for each specialization are due at this point.

Jan. 18 Admissions committee meets to make final decisions re: admits, ranking, and who will be submitted for university awards. The university award decision may consider things like how likely the student is to actually accept their offer (because we can only submit a few students and if one gets the award and doesn't come, we lose that money).

Jan. 19 Final decisions are sent to the College admin and also to the grad college for processing. Soon after this, faculty will be able to informally tell the students they are admitting that they have been "recommended for admission." These recommendations still need to be processed by the grad college and that can take a few weeks (at this stage, the grad college can also flag applicants that they don't want to admit, but this is rare). Meanwhile, the grad team is making sure that all students (current and new) have funding for the following year. This is a BIG puzzle!

Sometime in Feb Letters go out offering admission and funding packages (but may not have specific funding assignment)

Feb-July Specific funding assignments are still being sorted (faculty are still finding out about grants this late, etc.). Individual students will receive letters with their specific assignments. For some, this will be after they have to decide on admission (but everyone is guaranteed funding regardless of their specific assignment).

Hope this helps to demystify the process a bit. Happy to take questions :)

Edited by t_ruth
clarification
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I guess I just wonder why you lose out on funding if the first awarded student says no… seems awful that you don’t get the opportunity to extend the same award to another candidate. I assumed that a departments biggest fear was protecting the matriculation stats. Seems like a weird penalization to take the award away all together. 

Edited by cappuccino336
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18 hours ago, cappuccino336 said:

I guess I just wonder why you lose out on funding if the first awarded student says no… seems awful that you don’t get the opportunity to extend the same award to another candidate. I assumed that a departments biggest fear was protecting the matriculation stats. Seems like a weird penalization to take the award away all together. 

I agree! I wish we didn't lose the funding either. I believe in prior years, the grad college had let us go to the person next on the list for the award, but that practice stopped recently.

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10 minutes ago, clarowe1 said:

Would you say that having a Masters with extensive work history makes someone a more likely candidate than someone straight out of undergrad?

This is very PI-specific. For me, the important thing is the candidate is able to discuss how their masters and work history is directly relevant to the research they want to do with me. Someone right out of undergrad who published/presented might have a leg up on someone who worked in a non-research job (unless that person makes a very good argument).

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1 minute ago, t_ruth said:

This is very PI-specific. For me, the important thing is the candidate is able to discuss how their masters and work history is directly relevant to the research they want to do with me. Someone right out of undergrad who published/presented might have a leg up on someone who worked in a non-research job (unless that person makes a very good argument).

I've worked 1:1 for 7+ years with children that have intellectual and developmental disabilities (majority being autism). I applied to an IDD program and requested to work under a faculty who researches socioemotional assessment and communication methods among children with ASD. My greatest accomplishments -to which my LOR writers attested- has been communication and behavioral problems linked to language deficits. I had a 4.0 in my M.Ed program while working full time but a 3.08 in my undergrad BS psych program. 

Of course this is all specific to program and person, but I am finding it difficult to relate with anyone about this process. I know in my heart I am valuable and I can be a great asset given the opportunity. I guess the longer the wait continues, the more my confidence begins to decline. 

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49 minutes ago, clarowe1 said:

I've worked 1:1 for 7+ years with children that have intellectual and developmental disabilities (majority being autism). I applied to an IDD program and requested to work under a faculty who researches socioemotional assessment and communication methods among children with ASD. My greatest accomplishments -to which my LOR writers attested- has been communication and behavioral problems linked to language deficits. I had a 4.0 in my M.Ed program while working full time but a 3.08 in my undergrad BS psych program. 

Of course this is all specific to program and person, but I am finding it difficult to relate with anyone about this process. I know in my heart I am valuable and I can be a great asset given the opportunity. I guess the longer the wait continues, the more my confidence begins to decline. 

Some PIs will value applied experience more than others. Nothing in what you said above reads to me as if you are addressing research. Faculty will want to know you understand what research is, the process, what it takes, etc. You don't have to know everything yet (that's what research method courses are for), but you should know the basics (and be able to communicate them) about asking research questions and going about studying these questions. Have you read papers by your prospective PIs? Did you discuss how you were interested in extending or complementing their current research agendas?

That said, it is early days still, so I wouldn't let your confidence decline too much!

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2 hours ago, t_ruth said:

Some PIs will value applied experience more than others. Nothing in what you said above reads to me as if you are addressing research. Faculty will want to know you understand what research is, the process, what it takes, etc. You don't have to know everything yet (that's what research method courses are for), but you should know the basics (and be able to communicate them) about asking research questions and going about studying these questions. Have you read papers by your prospective PIs? Did you discuss how you were interested in extending or complementing their current research agendas?

That said, it is early days still, so I wouldn't let your confidence decline too much!

I took a few research methods classes in undergrad and in my grad program. It's not my favorite but I understand it. I have reached out to the faculty I want to work under most and briefly provided reasoning (reading publications and looking into her current projects) why I would be a valuable asset to her research.

 

I know it's early and I believe it's common that they're slower than their posted timeline. I am passionate about this and it's tough to wait!

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19 minutes ago, clarowe1 said:

I took a few research methods classes in undergrad and in my grad program. It's not my favorite but I understand it. I have reached out to the faculty I want to work under most and briefly provided reasoning (reading publications and looking into her current projects) why I would be a valuable asset to her research.

 

I know it's early and I believe it's common that they're slower than their posted timeline. I am passionate about this and it's tough to wait!

I'm curious why you are going for a PhD if research isn't your favorite? Did you only apply to the one place? If you happen to not get in and want to make another go of it, I'd be happy to read your statement and give you some general feedback re: direction.

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38 minutes ago, t_ruth said:

I'm curious why you are going for a PhD if research isn't your favorite? Did you only apply to the one place? If you happen to not get in and want to make another go of it, I'd be happy to read your statement and give you some general feedback re: direction.

I only applied to one school. I'd love some direction if that happens to be my situation. I put a lot of effort into my application and I'm proud of it. However, as much time and research I did making sure I had everything I needed, it would have been nice to have more eyes on it and input from people who understand the process.

 

That is a very kind offer and I greatly appreciate it.

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Thank you for your insights! 

I know this is program specific, but, I've been wanting to ask if writing samples can break an otherwise strong application. My writing sample is in a very niche area of the field and shows original research skills, but was also in the 3rd or 4th revision with my professor, and not complete when I sent it. I

I submitted the best work that I could for 2 programs, but have found that I needed to do some revisions to the theoretical argument of my paper and to paraphrase better. What I did submit to a top choice was not my best work. 

Do adcoms take into account that students (like myself) from undergrad may not have the best arguments or writing skills? 

Warmly,

S

 

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52 minutes ago, Sb7128 said:

Thank you for your insights! 

I know this is program specific, but, I've been wanting to ask if writing samples can break an otherwise strong application. My writing sample is in a very niche area of the field and shows original research skills, but was also in the 3rd or 4th revision with my professor, and not complete when I sent it. I

I submitted the best work that I could for 2 programs, but have found that I needed to do some revisions to the theoretical argument of my paper and to paraphrase better. What I did submit to a top choice was not my best work. 

Do adcoms take into account that students (like myself) from undergrad may not have the best arguments or writing skills? 

Warmly,

S

 

Honestly, we don't ask for writing samples, but people often submit them anyway. Unless I'm already really interested in a student, I don't read them. I can learn what I need to know about the applicant's writing by how the personal statement is written. If I'm really interested, I might read a writing sample to have more to talk about with the student, and at that point it is because I have turned to recruitment mode.

I will say that, because we don't ask for them, we don't have a spot in the application for them, and it does get a bit annoying when people slot them BEFORE the personal statement.

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On 1/16/2023 at 10:36 PM, goodluck2023 said:

Hi! It’s just so nice of you to describe what’s behind the scene. Somehow knowing what you are up to makes waiting less disturbing :)

waiting has been so difficult! This post has kept me a little more sane lol

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