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Is this a trick question?


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It depends on how you look at it.

Most schools simply look at the other choices you list as a sort of benchmark to get a sense of at what level they stand among students' choices. For the most part, listing other schools should not affect the adcom's decision to admit you or not. At least, this is how a respectable adcom would act.

On the other hand, I did hear of one incident where a school that was "low ranked" did not grant admission to a candidate who listed all "high ranking" schools in the list of other schools he applied to. They probably did so because they felt like a safety choice and that the student was unlikely to attend the program. This is probably not common.

Go with your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, then do not list your other choices. I did not list them on any of my applications.

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