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PI bringing me down to visit and telling other students I'm waitlisted.


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I went to a recruitment weekend at a school for my master's in microbiology this past weekend.  I'm applying specifically to a lab, and have been in light contact with my potential mentor.  I was super excited about her work and meeting with her.  It turns out there were two other people at the recruitment weekend who were also applying to her lab, one of them being my roommate (who I happened to get along really well with).  Once I stepped into my potential advisor's lab, she right away told me that she had already accepted 3 new students into her lab (2 of them being the students I had met during the visit) and that I'm on the waitlist for the next spot, and there's a good chance I'd get in since not everyone will accept.  While I understand that those students must have been better qualified than I am (or better fitted), I couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed.  

 

Anyway, the thing that made it even more weird was that the PI told the other two girls that they had already been accepted... and even told one student that she had waitlisted me.  This made me VERY uncomfortable.  These people are my future colleagues.  I'm really uncomfortable with the thought of joining the lab and having another student know the only reason I'm there is because a better qualified student rejected the offer.  This situation made my weekend visit pretty sucky since the PI wasn't showing much interest in me and was talking to the other students about funding, potential projects, TAships in front of me and I kind of just felt super awkward hanging around.  Bah.   On the one hand, it's clear from the little amount I talked to her that she wants to help develop her students into strong scientists.  On the other hand, I kinda hate her now.  Haha.  (But seriously, I'm not even sure if our personalities are compatible since I was feeling negative during the visit and we didn't speak much). Is this 'okay' or am I overreacting?  I know there's no real advice anyone can give me, but I kinda just wanted to vent and see if anything similar has happened to anyone else.

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Many people don't accept an acceptance after being waitlisted because it can feel awkward and the school didn't have them as a top choice. You also mentioned that the PI didn't show much interest in you.

Your situation seems a bit more shady. You may not want to work with people that you don't trust, regardless of the reasons that you feel that way.

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man most people won't care what your status was or how you got in. once you all get drunk as a skunk together it will all be well. PIs often accept students whom they come to hate. being a first choice or a waitlist matters not. The person had to use an objective criteria for making a decision - not making the cut says nothing about you. hell, it could have simply been first come first serve.

Edited by selecttext
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Being wait listed does not mean you aren't qualified, and an eventual acceptance off the wait list simply indicates that you ARE what they want. Try to think of it that way. If that doesn't work, certainly go where you feel you are appreciated, because starting off such an important academic career in a negative mindset is probably not the way most people want to start things off. Honestly, I couldn't imagine why the other candidates would give two hoots that you may have been wait listed. Many times they have to make that list simply because a limit in the number of spots.

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If you're in, you're in. Unless they're assholes, I don't see why being a "waitlist admit" would cause them to treat you any differently. And if they're assholes, well they weren't going to be nice in the first place.

 

That said, I'd be very wary of working with this professor for a PhD, as she seems to be pretty lacking in basic social decency. You said it's for a Master's program, so maybe the lesser time makes it easier, but the warning signs are there!

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I don't know who in my program was waitlisted and who was accepted straight away (though I know some in my cohort came off the waitlist). Who cares -- we're all colleagues. For the professor too - you need to make a choice somehow and everyone knows that good applicants get on waiting lists and are also sometimes rejected. No one will think less of you because you were on a waitlist, certainly not the professor. You prove yourself once you're there, and that's all that matters.

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I'm in an identical situation as you are with UMich, however the PI was much better about telling me, and I don't think he mentioned anything to the other student. His email to me said that I and the other student were his top picks, would love to work with both, but he only had funding for one and decided on the other student. He encouraged me to keep an open mind about the school and stressed that he would enjoy working with me.

 

It sounds like your PI is the same way, but had trouble expressing it. She wouldn't have invited you to her lab and stressed the fact it is likely you will be admitted if she wasn't interested in working with you. A waitlist admit is still and admit, and no one will treat you differently because of it (and most likely wouldn't know).

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I'd like to point out that there is a HIGH probability that the other students that weren’t "wait list admits" were wait listed at other places or flat out rejected. Most people don't get into every school they apply to. Just because you are looking at attending a school they were admitted to doesnt mean that they are automatically more desirable in the objective sense. Any reasonable person would realize this and be slow to judge another applicant. Additionally, any decent human being wouldnt care in the first place. There will always be someone on the planet that looks better than you on paper. It doesnt to anyone any good to pretend life is a game you can win.

 

That being said, I think it was very rude of your potential adviser to say anything. That would make me very uncomfortable as well. Maybe she didnt mean anything by it. It sounds difficult interacting with both admitted and waitlisted students at the same time. She might have been put in an uncomfortable situation as well. I'd give yourself some time to sit with it and see how you feel after its less fresh. I doubt anyone will really even remember anyway, but if its a lasting issue with you then maybe there is a better option. I know it would upset me, but sometimes I just need some time to cool off and let it go.

Edited by spacezeppelin
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Thanks everyone for their points of view.  I should probably just chill out for a bit and realize that I'm still lucky to have been waitlisted (and flown down to visit expense-free).  After all, the only thing that PI had to go on was what was on paper, and this says nothing about who I am as a scientist (or person, for that matter). And it must have been awkward for her to interact with me while engaging with the already admitted student. :-)

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Cool off for a few days. If you still feel the same way after that, consider your other options. How she acted could reflect her mentoring style. Being said, if you're still excited about her work and think you would develop into a strong scientist, go.

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