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Acceptances without establishing contact with a lab?


LMac
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I'm applying to neuroscience programs for the first time and have repeatedly been advised to contact labs I'd be interested in working in at the school I'm applying to. The way it's been explained to me is that if no one is looking out for your application, you'll most likely go unnoticed (and unaccepted). I contacted labs of interest but there were a couple of programs where I didn't get a reply.

My questions are:

1. Has anyone been accepted to a school where they didn't try to contact or didn't successfully contact a PI?

2. How does this work with programs that have mandatory first year lab rotations? I got a couple responses from PIs who couldn't say if they'd be accepting students because by the time I finished rotations it would be late 2014.

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I didn't contact a single PI ahead of time and had a rejection-free season. I highly advise getting in touch with people since it can only help your chances, and in many cases the PI will advocate for your acceptance if you and he/she find common ground or you impress him/her.

It is, however, not necessary for acceptance to contact professors ahead of time.

If you are interested in one or two labs (and can't find anyone else who interests you) I would HIGHLY recommend getting in touch with the professors; you never know who is taking students and who has funding.

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Thank you, that is great to hear. I was beginning to wonder if I should bother submitting my apps to those schools. Worse, I've been amending my goal statement (just slightly) based on who I talked to. Here's hoping I don't have to, but if I have to reapply next year I will be really good at it. ;)

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I ended up not emailing anyone... I asked someone in my lab for advice and she said that while it couldn't hurt, it didn't really matter because the PI would just smile at the adorableness of an applicant thinking they wanted to study one specific topic. Though I think she got her phd in biochem,, so what does she know?? Maybe she's just trying to sabotage my apps because I'm the best benchmate ever and she doesn't want me to leave, hmmmm.

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I didn't contact anyone (though I should've) and got into the majority of my schools. We don't have formal lab rotations.

The schools that rejected me were ones that really weren't good research fits for me. I shouldn't have applied to them in the first place. In my experience, lack of contact won't get you a rejection, but poor research fit will.

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There are some schools that will require you to establish a connection with someone as they don't do formal rotations, some schools don't care since they do rotations and some places don't expect students to know what they want to study, and then there are some schools that want you to drop potential thesis advisers into your SOP and it's a good idea to check and see if those advisers have the funding to accept students for rotation. I would say look at the program and what they want you to do. If they require that you connect with a PI prior to your admission, you should do that.

Research fit is most important, though.

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Most people do not contact faculties, and they do fine getting into programs. I know people that contacted faculties and had phone interviews with them and position interactions before the application deadline, but they were still not granted an interview. The process is a lot of random luck I think.

I recommend that you do contact a lot of faculty during the process for your own decision making process. You may love 10 faculties at school x, but then when you get there you find out that none are taking students or they are bad graduate student mentors.

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