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Multiple PhD applications for 1 School


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I will be applying to 2 PhD Programs within 1 school. What is the process on this? Anyone have past experience or advice? The programs aren’t in the same department (i.e Sociology is in Arts, the other isn’t). I expect to do this for several schools



Please let me know if this could be a red flag. Thanks.

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Some schools won't let you do this (Berkeley wouldn't let me apply to their anthro and soc programs). Most universities, especially if the schools are located in different faculties, won't know and so have no way of caring. However, don't advertise this. When I was applying, I was considering applying to both Harvard's soc département and their committee on religion (in the end, I applied to neither). I emailed the DGS of the soc department to ask if this was ok, and he told me they would have no way of knowing, but that applying to different types of programs like that was the mark of an "unserious student". I had the same basic statement of purpose for every program I applied to with the same project proposal but I think that dude was right, in some ways. Though we talk about "interdisciplinary work", the disciplines still really matter. I would have been less happy in an anthropology or religion department, I think, even though my peers would have had projects substantively more like mine than my current colleagues do. As of now, I work on religion and politics so I see a lot of my colleagues as folks in poli sci departments. I like them, I like their work, but I am glad I'm in the sociology department because I think a lot of the things they have to care about are stupid. People on this board often say "oh I don't care where I go as long as I get a degree and teach!!!" but it's definitely not that simple. I think it's fine to apply multiple places but it will effect your work and your career in a very big way.

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Northwestern is another school that does not accept applications to multiple programs; they only let you apply to a single program in any given academic year. This is a common practice, so you'll want to do your homework and make sure the schools to which you are applying allow multiple applications. If they don't, pick the program that would provide the best home for the kind of research you hope to undertake and shoot for the moon. :)

Edited by La_Di_Da
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Some schools allow it, some don't.


I agree with some of the advice above - try to avoid it as far as possible unless you are a 100% sure that you will be equally great a fit at both the programs. If you are planning on applying in this manner to increase your chances, I think this is not a good idea and can possibly backfire, especially if the programs happen to be within the same broad department. Usually you should be able to figure out which program is the better fit and apply only to that.


The one exception to this is possibly when a professor is a faculty with multiple departments. If you are particularly interested in the work of such a professor and say the programs at both the departments seem to fit well you might want to contact the professor upfront, mention your interests and ask whether they think you should apply to both the programs given your interest or whether only one of these will suit your specific requirements. Their replies should hopefully provide you with a good indication. 


Finally - it might help if you clarify what kind of programs you are looking at - since this may well vary depending on the field of interest.

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I applied only to two schools, and did apps for 2 programs within each (for a total of four applications). I'm also in Canada, and I understand that, depending on the discipline, it can be more common in the States to do many more apps.


In any case, my experience doing the apps was positive and, for me, made sense. My background is sociology, but my specialization falls in the realm of crim. and socio-legal studies. So, I applied to soci and crim departments within two schools. I had a positive experience generally:


- I did four separate apps. Which means four app fees and four tailored letters/statements ect;

- Despite some of the advice above, which advises you to keep multiple apps on the down-low, I can say that I was actually fairly open about my intentions. Specifically, with prospective POIs (I didn't advertise in the actual apps or anything). I found it fruitful to speak with profs about straddling a few departments, it helped me to articulate what I would benefit from, and contribute to, in respective departments.

- Many of the profs I was interested in were cross-appointed. In speaking with them, I found out a few things that influenced my statements and decisions that I would not have known otherwise. For example, I found out that, while you can work with cross-appointed profs, some will only supervise you if you are in X department. So, while a few agreed to prospectively supervise me, I couldn't claim a uniform supervisor for all my apps.

- I feel as though, in the interest of being very diplomatic within these departments that work/speak with each other, I had to be very attentive to how I conducted my decision-making. For example, I had an offer from one of the departments within a school, but was waiting on the other. While you can sometimes "play" offers off of each other or leverage for more time if you're waiting on offers, I felt limited in this regard. I ended up accepting the first offer and sending a very polite e-mail to withdraw my app from the other. I was lucky in that, the offer I accepted was my first choice anyway, but you could imagine that that is sticky.

- Now, I am not only working well with cross-appointed profs, but I'm taking a course affiliated with the other department and am frequently hanging out with other department's students and attending their wine and cheese seminars - so I get my fix from the other discipline! But, I feel very secure in the decision that I made.


I would recommend talking to a current supervisor, or prof that you work well with, to identify any possible inter-departmental political minefields, and to see whom you might speak with. If you get the impression that speaking with profs openly about your dual app just isn't worth it, you can touch base with current students in the respective departments. It's possible that they were confronted with having to make a similar decision, and the discussions that you have with them are more likely to not reach the ears of addcomms that might deem you wishy-washy, if that is in fact a legit concern where you're applying.


Good luck!

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