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When to reapply for PhD programs...?


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I thought this year was my year but turns out it wasn't. Now I am left trying to decide if I should reapply. Do I pick new schools? Look at my original choices and nail down what they are really looking for (got some really nice constructive feedback). How would a committee feel about seeing my application again? Can I reasonable show growth within a year's time?

What are others doing?

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Yes, yes and yes! It would not hurt for you to look at the schools to which you applied and decide which ones you really want to reapply to. Then, look at a few schools you didn't apply to, and see if you think you would like/fit at those schools. If you would, it would not hurt at all for you to change up your list a little (especially if you had too few middle or safety schools). I think a good balance is 3 reach schools, 4 realistic schools, and 3 safety schools (others may have their own numbers, and this may vary by field).

If some of the schools you applied to this round are truly dream schools, then I think examining your application and trying to present yourself as what they are looking for is a great idea. See where you are lacking, what you can change, and what you are willing to change in order to enhance your fit at the school. If you have been in contact with a POI at the school, try to stay in contact with that person, let them know (politely and without being annoying) your intention of reapplying and your continued interest in his or her work.

Committees most likely will not be annoyed at you if you reapply. Most likely, it will be quite the contrary. You see, in recent years the numbers of applications that they get are astounding and they can't admit everyone, no matter how qualified. I'm sure that they would not mind a second chance at some of the promising students that they wanted to accept, but could not because of space/funding/etc. Also, some schools may be flattered that you apply again and reward your persistence. Obviously, we can't read the minds of the adcoms, but the worst thing they can do is reject you, and you have already survived that once so there is nothing to fear!

In response to the last question, you can absolutely show reasonable growth in a year's time! Find out the weak points of you application (GPA, GRE, SOP, LOR?) and work to improve it. Aside from that, you can also look for an opportunity to intern, work in a lab, write a publishable paper, or whatever tactic is relevant to experience in your field. This shows the adcom that you are devoted and serious about your field, and that you can and do make contributions in your area of study.

I hope this helps a little, and I hope you have better luck next season.

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