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How much stock to put in the enthusiasm of faculty?


lotf629
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Among the schools I've been accepted to, I've seen a tremendous range in the enthusiasm of faculty for my application. Some schools have tried to recruit me very actively. Other schools have let me in but treated me with indifference (in one case to the extent of not returning my email: !). I would have expected that the least selective schools (the schools for which I was the strongest applicant, relatively speaking) would have been the most active, while the most selective schools would have been the most blase, but that hasn't been my experience either. In particular, I'm on the verge of writing off a somewhat less selective school that I would otherwise be interested enough to visit simply because I feel ignored :6 (see email not returned, above). Conversely, of my two strongest programs (on paper), one has pursued me pretty actively (i.e. very interesting faculty have been in touch and clearly took a couple minutes to thumb through my file before writing the email), while the other has not been in touch at all. On the other hand, I've been much more proactive in getting in touch with people in the former program for one reason and another, so they might be responding to my perceived interest level.

As this crazy season wears on, I find that I'm really swayed by the level of attention I'm receiving, and I'm wondering to what extent this is a good idea. Of course it's human nature to be flattered, which I obviously am. But some people are doubtless just better recruiters than others; that doesn't mean their programs are stronger (or does it)? How much stock should I put in the level of interest shown by these programs? Ideas?

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I just had a conversation about this exact same topic with a faculty member at the university I'm currently visiting. I was telling him how some schools have been very aggressive in trying to recruit me, while this school was relatively nonechalant and had previously even ignored an email I sent. He told me it was school policy not to actively approach the students so as to avoid putting any pressure on them to attend that school. Rather, they thought that the fact that they offered you admissions should be enough of an indication that they are interested in you, and if you wrote or visited and had any questions, they would be more than willing to answer them. I've actually been pleasantly surprised by how warmly I was welcomed at this school, since it has a reputation of being very cold. So, I think you should investigate some more before you write a school off just because they aren't friendly enough. They might have a different take on things.

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I've been wondering about this myself. Program X jumped on me the instant that the applications were released to faculty-members, with three professors emailing me within days. Program Y surprised me with an out-of-the-blue acceptance-letter full of praise (which I realise may be included with every application they get). Both were unexpected.

This was a bigger issue for undergraduate studies for me, though. I was accepted to several colleges, amongst them P, Q, and R. P was easily the most selective, but they didn't even send me a viewbook, and their website wasn't particularly helpful; where the heck was I supposed to actually learn about them? Q had been sending me a lot of materials, almost to the point of spamming me - I'd received an introductory poster, at least one viewbook, and lots of postcards and things from them - and R had been somewhere in the middle, but with the flashiest website and most personalised acceptance-letter as well. By the time I visited all three of these places, I still had absolutely nothing from P except the piece of paper with an acceptance and my name on it; in fact, I ended up wandering around the campus at random until I found a tour-group for younger high-school students, which was the best I could hope for, and I bought a viewbook at the campus store. Meanwhile, Q and R had both been sending me tons of congratulatory materials, and I had no trouble feeling welcomed to their campuses. Anyway, I ruled out P partially because it had come to feel so stand-offish, and partially because I didn't like the feel of the city it was in; R I eliminated because I didn't like the student-population much, though I thought the college deserved better. Q it was, and I've loved the place so much that I'm half-dreading my graduation from it in May. The poster they sent me at the beginning of twelfth grade is still on the back of my bedroom door at my parents' house.

Anyway, moral-ish thing from that overlong anecdote: I wouldn't turn down a program only on the basis of coming across as remote, but if one makes you feel wanted, that sounds like a plus for it to me!

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I definitely have preferred schools that made me feel more welcome there. One of the stranger acceptance letters I got was actually very nonchalant about the whole thing. The tone of the letter was more of a "just tell us when you plan to say no" rather than a "we you think you should really come here." I was equally surprised that the less prestigious the school the less actively I have been courted. I think it will likely have some impact on my decision, though it helps that some of the schools that are not courting me are in less than desirable locations (read very high murder rates and costs of living when compared to other large metropolitan areas). But then again, I'm also the girl who went to the school who sent her the poster as well and haven't regretted the inviting atmosphere I found at undergrad for one moment.

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The program I'm in is pretty hands off when it comes to recruiting. That said, I've been nothing but warmly welcomed since I got here (and I didn't visit so I have no clue what the reception then would've been).

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Interesting topic. I've been thinking about this actually,in my case my application results matched the enthusiasm shown by faculty members when I emailed back in November before my applications were even in. The faculty members who were really excited about my application and who emailed back and forth about it, their schools were the first to accept with very kind words and generous funding. The ones who seemed uninterested or didn't reply to my email sent their standard rejections much later.

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It makes a big difference to me. It signals the investment of the faculty in the success of its graduate students. If no one bothered to reply to emails or were indifferent, I would think they are too wrapped up in their research to give a shit now, or give a shit while I'm looking for guidance on my diss.

Based on a few programs I visited/spoken with/talked to undergrad advisors about, I think there are big differences in how much attention grad students are paid and how important PhD training is to various programs. You will have to be around/work with these people for years. It will be good to know if they care about your success.

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It makes a big difference to me. It signals the investment of the faculty in the success of its graduate students. If no one bothered to reply to emails or were indifferent, I would think they are too wrapped up in their research to give a shit now, or give a shit while I'm looking for guidance on my diss.

Or it could be that it's a lot of time/energy to email with 15 prospective students on top of doing your research, teaching, preparing for conferences, and advising your current students... It's not like the only job of a faculty this time of year is to roll out the red carpet for prospective students. I say that as someone that has an advisor who is VERY invested in his grad students but often takes 24-48 hours to reply to emails and, even then, the response is usually brief (and exactly what you needed to hear). His emails often come across as indifferent but that's the way he is over email. If you met him in person, you'd realize that he cares about his graduate students a lot and, to use your terms, always gives a shit when we need guidance on the dissertation.

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Ha! I just posted a similar topic (and deleted my own topic as my first mod act when I realized I should just write a reply here).

It's swaying me too, but I'm also feeling that after my visit, the level of enthusiasm of a particular school diminished and now I feel I've done something awful to make them not like me :(

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Can you ask current students? I've definitely had a wide range of recruiting efforts from the schools to which I was admitted. For the ones who were really going the proverbial extra mile for me, I tracked down some former and current students. (That sounds stalker-ish, but they were actually contacts I got through my letter writers, friends, or alums from my undergrad university.) I asked them if this was just a dog-and-pony show or if the advisers were also this involved throughout the year, once you signed on the dotted line, basically. To my surprise, the cool reception I got at school X corresponded to a supposedly not terribly supportive environment for students; the much warmer reception at other schools did speak to a much higher level of support for students, according to the feedback I received. Most important to me has been knowing my name and interests, clearly having gone through my file before talking with me, and being ready to address my questions, not just give the party line. For me personally, this speaks to a level of future involvement. I should mention that the programs to which I've been admitted are on the whole relatively small, so this may not be the case for either larger cohorts or Master's programs, which are also often larger.

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It's interesting, but every school has different policies. The school I ended up choosing (Yale) definitely was probably the most proactive and enthusiastic about my application going as far as calling me twice about my application, flying and lodging me for a big interview day. It was quite flattering because I Yale had been one of my reach schools. But my research was a great fit with the department and I identified several faculty I was interested in working with and it's all working out :D

My guess would be that there are reasons why there's such an active engagement process with that faculty members: they think you're a great fit or they see lots of potential in you. Either way, I'd consider it a form of flattery if a school wants you that badly.

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This is a very interesting topic. I have chatted with my former professors, and one of the main things said to me is that they are "hesitant" to become too invested in a student without a commitment of coming, mainly because they don't know if they'll ever see you again, and they don't want to fall head over heels in love with someone they can't have.

That said, the overwhelmingly lovely reception I have received from some programs is going to make it extremely hard for me to call the chair and decline. Oddly enough, it is the school that was the least in touch that has given me a ridiculous amount of funding, and will probably get me.

I think it comes down to personality types and investment. However, if a professor is ever nasty, then thats when you should be concerned.

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