SocGirl2013 Posted March 1, 2014 Share Posted March 1, 2014 (edited) While I was sorting through my list around October - feels like eons ago now - I got some of the most brilliant advice from Grad Cafe, and I will be forever grateful for that. One thing that kept coming up; however, was the idea that there is no such thing as a safety school when it comes to Grad Apps. Now that I am somewhat on the other side of the fence, I think this isn't entirely accurate. Sure, it's true if you simply pick the lowest ranked school or an unranked school in your field and assume it's a "safety" because of your stellar stats. However, a well calculated assessment of programs based on not one but all of the following factors can, in fact, make admission into at least one program highly likely. I got into my safety school with funding, plus two more, but because I was under the impression that safety is an illusion in the process, I needlessly spent months in anxiety, even though in my heart of hearts I knew that there was no way I would get denied from this one program. There will, of course, never be any guarantees, but here are the steps you can follow to be as safe as you can with this process: 1. Forget about top 20. Apply to top 20 all you like but forget about them being safe in any way. Even if all the stars align, this is where the pool of the best of your bunch is aiming. Chances are there will always be more people for whom all of the stars align just as perfectly, more people than they can accept. 2. Create a chart that records the average stats from programs on your list outside of the top 20. Now compare that to your own stats. This is how you can pick how competitive your safety school can be, by making sure you are solidly above the average. For my safety, I was outside of the top 50 really, owing to a pretty crappy quant score. Yours can be a T30, depending on your stats. This alone, however, does not guarantee a safety in any way. 3. After criteria 1 and 2 are met, the third, and perhaps the most important step is to identify the ideal fit. What is the ideal fit? Let's say you want to study cars (bear with me), and THE greatest living professor of car studies ever teaches at University A; there are also one or two assistant professors studying cars at A. However, at the core of institute A itself lies the study of Light Bulbs. Is A a great fit for you? Yes. Is it an ideal fit that will make it very hard for you to be denied? No. Now University B, on the other hand, may not have a single most high profile celebrity scholar of cars, but most of it's faculty studies cars in someway, and the core of the department is all about cars. The "About" or "History" page of Uni B will most likely mention something about cars within the first paragraph or 2. University B is your ideal fit and the best choice to keep as a safety, provided that you have followed steps 1 and 2 in choosing it. 4. Those are the three most essential factors in choosing a safety, but you can have an additional advantage if you are able to find personal connections with your safe choice. Perhaps a Prof. at your alma mater attended this grad school and can write you a good letter, or your neighbor's aunt currently teaches there and she can connect you for a cup of coffee prior to applying. This step isn't necessary, but useful. 5. Goes without saying, don't forget any of the great advice you get on Grad Cafe about crafting the perfect SOPs, your writing samples etc. In order for this to work, your application must be presented at it's best. Choosing a safety is not just about ranking or stats or fit, it's about finding at least one program that is THE perfect combination of all of these things. It worked out for me exactly as I'd hoped, so I am passing along what I learned this season with hopes that it will work out for others as well. Edited March 1, 2014 by SocGirl2013 Gvh, comp12, GeoDUDE! and 1 other 1 3 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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