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Guest dan w

Is getting rejected almost everywhere normal?

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Guest dan w

I have to be honest, I'm extremely upset right now. I had a 3.92 gpa in undergrad, ok gre scores (620 verbal, 620 quant, 6.0 writing), great recommendations, heavy extracurricular involvement, a good writing sample, etc., and I was rejected from almost everywhere I applied to. I applied to 5 top 25 programs in political science, and I fully expected to be rejected from most of those, but I figured I'd get into one or two of them. Instead, I am now on my way to the one school that I applied to that gave me funding, and they are not a top 25 program, not even close (usc).

What is up with all this? Just how competetive is this? Anybody else have as much trouble as I did? Is political science really that quantitative of a discipline that my one bad spot in the application would override everything else that was good? I guess I just don't get it, and now that I will not be going to a top program, I feel as though I might as well not even pursue a graduate degree since I will forever be handicapped in academia since I won't have the name brand of "ohio state" or "wisconsin" or "princeton." Is it even worth it to pursue a graduate degree from a non-top 25 program?

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I had a 3.8 undergrad, 4.0 in psych, 660 V and 710 Q, 5.5 W, great recommendations, lots of research and extracurriculars and was accepted one place. Yes, it was a top program, but alot of less prestigious programs passed on me. Many people get in NOWHERE! Yeah, I'd like to have a choice... But, I'm happy I got in anywhere and figure that so much has to do with "fit," number and area of applicants they are accepting, and funding issues that you really have so little to do with what programs accept you. May as well play the lottery with what the odds are (yes, a little bit of an exaggeration).

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Guest dan w

I'm in political science.

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Guest L again

Dan W, getting into a top program is great, but there are plenty of grads from non-top 25 schools who get jobs in academia. You just have to work a bit harder on your cv---get some publications and go to conferences. Maybe take a visiting professor job for a year or two. My undergrad was not even on the rankings scales, and we had grad students getting tenure-track jobs at small universities. Not at Ivy Leagues, of course, but is that really where you want to teach? Being on these boards can sometimes make you feel like prestige and rankings are everything. They're great, but there are plenty of ways to overcome your school's "disadvantage". There may even be advantages to being a big fish in a smaller pond--- at a lower-ranked school you might get more faculty attention (like co-authoring papers) and more attention when you go out on the job market (since they need you to place well in order to make their department look good!).

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Dan, take a look at where USC is placing people (in other words where grads of the program are getting jobs), and take a look at the faculty of some of your favorite departments and where they went to school. In my experience, people who aren't from the top programs, that fill a specific niche in their field, can get jobs.

I can't tell you if going to a non-top-25 school would be worth it or not . . . but I guess you can ask yourself that if you were to take a mulligan on your applications, what would you have done differently? If you think that there are things you can change, maybe give it a go again next year.

My advisor in anthropology didn't go to a top-10 school, but as a minority and a women, she was able to find a job, teaching about minorities and women and she couldn't be happier.

Sorry for the sloppy post, coffee hasn't kicked in yet. I hope you get the idea.

By the way, I was 3 for 3 in the UK and only 1 for 4 in the US.

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Guest shelly

yes, i think that's very normal. when i applied i also expected to get in at at least a few places, but i only got into 1 phd program and 1 ma program. i have a 3.85 gpa, 740 Q, 560 V, not so good AW 4.5. good letters, some research, work experience, etc.

it took rejections from 5 programs for me to realize that it's more competetive than i thought. each program gets maybe 200 applications for as little as 8 spots. they have to get rid of a lot of good applications.

i applied to 5 top 25 schools and i got into a top 50 school and i'm happy with that!...especially since i was originally wait-listed for that one.

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I agree, or at least I have had a similar experience. What I have learned is that the process is extremely random. My GPA was around 3.0, GREs were 650V and 630Q, and a 4.0 AW. I aimed a bit "lower" and applied to 8 schools. I am still waiting for 2 responses, but of the 6 that have I was rejected by 4 (including Southern Cal), waitlisted at one, and was accepted by one. What's interesting is that the school that accepted me was the highest ranked (@ 35) and for a variety of other reasons, my top choice.

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Guest Phil

Most of the time, it crap shooting. Someone I know applied this year to poltical science and got in 6 top 25 programs (with practically the biggest funding package available at each school), waitlisted at another 3 top 25 program, and rejected by another three also at top 25. Yup, she's having a extremely hard time just deciding where to go. I'm not saying she's not a good candidate, in fact, she was great, but just like the rest of you. Yet somehow, she stood out, and it must be her own doing, and not some fate/fortune thing, since she got in so many excellent programs.

My favorite professor always say, if you don't succeed, try, try, again.

Good luck to everyone

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Guest daphna

I also think that's pretty normal.

I applied to 7 schools, all of them the very best in my field. I got accepted at one school (and still waitlisted at another). It's a great school, and I'm happy, but I did get rejected from probably 6 other schools, and I think my application was pretty strong.

Grad school applications are very competitive.

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yeah, i do see the whole application process needs some luck too. aside from that, there are a lot of random factors. i got funding from one of the top programs in my field while one of my friends didn't, although my friend had far more conference papers and i personally believe my friend is a stronger applicant than me. i always believed she would get funding and i would be rejected. my strength (i guess) is that my current and future research interests/plans mesh more with what the profs in the top program are doing. it would be best if you could ask the top programs why you got rejected; that would definitely help you get an idea of your weaknesses.

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Guest dan w

You can ask them specifically why you got rejected?

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Guest guest

You can, but I doubt you'll get an honest answer if you get any at all.

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Guest a guest

actually, a lot of people get answers, sometimes it takes a while, but at least one or two of the schools would give you a reason why you were rejected and how to improve your application next time around (if you choose to wait and reapply). i also have no idea what the obsession is with top-tier schools and people thinking you can only get jobs if you go to them...it's not true. the work you accomplish in grad school and the relationships you make along the way will get you positions in the future. but let's not debate that, please...

anyway, they will often tell you that the research you wanted to do was too general/didn't mesh with the profs or program, or that maybe they only accept a certain number of students within a specific research topic each year and they chose someone else. what people find is that sometimes it's not about you, it's about the department. other times, it's about you, and despite thinking that your application was fantastic, your statement of purpose may have needed a lot of specification and work, etc.

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Guest guest

Those answers that you mention are just general standard answers they give to everyone. What you would really need to know are the specific reasons why you didn't make it, and in most cases that is incredibly difficult to say, let alone that sometimes school policies forbids them from telling you. I acknowledge that good feedback it may happen, but it is extremely rare.

I completely agree with your comment on the top-tier schools.

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Guest bruno

i am another one that was accepted by a Top 10 in my field w/ full funding, but was rejected by the other schools to which i applied, including my safety school that was close to the bottom of the ranking (but it would have been close by); i am sure that it was because of the "fit"; my accepted program is one of the leaders in new areas in the field, and the ones that rejected me were much more traditional. in effect, the schools that rejected me did not have any faculty that shared my interests and could have supervised research and a thesis adequately, even though i was quite a bit over the GPA and GRE numbers of their average accepted Ph.D. student

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I imagine the same thing happened for me at Oxford - I had a perfect gpa, top 5% GRE scores, and no lack of publishing credits, conference presentations, writing awards, internships blah, blah, blah to support my app. I cannot be absolutely certain, but the 'fit factor' was the only thing I could think of that would have held me back.

Interestingly enough, I later received a personal letter from UToronto saying exactly that -- they loved me, but my research didn't fit. =(

I was tempted to write back and say, "Fuck my plans! I'll study whatever you want!" Alas, pride forbade.

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