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Acceptance into competitive, "top-tier" programs without a publication


anatotitan
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Well - is it possible? I've worked very hard in the lab that I'm currently in (I have somewhere in the range of 1.5-2 years of experience in multiple labs), but I probably wouldn't land a publication within the next several months. My project turned out to be a great deal more challenging (read: soul crushing) than my faculty and graduate student advisors anticipated. Has anybody here had success in the graduate school application process without any publications?

Edited by anatotitan
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I'm an undergrad at a school with many top-tier programs, and the grad students with whom I've spoken say that they and most of their peers didn't have publications coming in. It seems pretty rare to have been published in undergrad, even at these top programs. 

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I did two summers of research at what would be considered a top 5 tier research university and from speaking with professors I was told that publications are rarely seen as a must for admissions. One professors, who is part of the admissions committee, even told me that less than 10% of the accepted students have some sort of publication. 

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Just curious, do manuscripts help? I'm second author on one me and some other RA's are doing, but it's been kinda on the back-burner cause we're all post-bacs who have other jobs, and the first author and I are both applying to grad school.

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So if publishing as an undergrad is so rare, would that mean that it's viewed by adcoms as being very significant / helpful (for your app) or is it so rare that adcoms view it as a 'fluke' that doesn't really reflect on your abilities (because e.g. you joined a project at a good time, your PI was especially prolific in publishing, etc)?

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I'd say that having a publication can only help you, no one will think of it as a fluke. They'll just view it as a great opportunity you had to publish. I will say that if you do have publications, you should know every aspect of the paper, in case a hard professor asks you about various aspects of the paper. I see this happening at competitive schools (Hopkins).

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Adding onto everyone else's comments, I'll be willing to bet many of those publications are in undergraduate research journals. I've heard that publications are rare as well(across several fields, universities and programs - both top tier and bottom rank)

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