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Undergrad institution vs PhD institution


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How important did you find the "prestige" of your undergraduate institution to be in getting in to a PhD program? Are most PhD students in the most competitive programs also from competitive undergrad programs? I am a senior in college, and will be applying next fall so as to *hopefully* enter grad programs in fall 2015. Just wanted to hear some perspective from those who just went through the process.

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This is a very good question, and I will be interested to see what other responses you get. I attended a low-prestige commuter school for undergrad, but I worked with top notch professors there who gave me a number of opportunities to distinguish myself academically, and who gave me (according to PhD programs that have since admitted me) outstanding LOR. I have several good offers, including the two most prestigious public programs in my field. Not a single private PhD program admitted me.

 

I honestly do not know if this is a pattern or a coincidence, and in the end, I don't know if it matters. Institutional prestige (particular insofar as it's a proxy for academic rigor) obviously counts for something, but I am living, breathing proof that it's possible to get into highly competitive PhD programs from highly uncomeptitive undergrad schools if you work hard to set yourself apart as someone who will thrive in a more challenging environment.

 

Best of luck to you with your applications!

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I dont know, i was looking at stanford's past three year cohorts and 8/10 are from the top undergrad institutions in the US, mostly IVYs. And then there are the anomalies, usually the intl experience folks who you cant compare necessarily. So i definitely think the bias is there, top undergrads are more likely to lead to top grads - but certainly there are exceptions.

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Interesting topic... I go to a pretty decent public university, and have been accepted into pretty decent public university grad schools. So far been rejected from 1/2 private universities, and I am expecting 2 of 2 prestigious school rejections. So, I can't speak for everyone, but that's been my case so far. I can tell you, however, that one of my profs went to a public state university and got accepted to both Harvard (for MA) and Case Western (for PhD). 

Edited by CulturalAnth
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My undergrad institution is a pretty good school. It is considered prestigious for biological anthropology, though I don't know if it's prestigious in general. It's just a state school. It's one of the few undergrad institutions with a bio anth specialization and is home to some really well known professors in the field.

I was accepted to a relatively prestigious grad school (very high research and well known for sciences) to work with a well known professor in my field as well. I think my undergrad institution had a lot to do with my getting accepted.

Edited by strudelle
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I think it matters more what you did than where you went to undergrad. And some schools give more opportunities than others. I would say schools like east Carolina state, Arizona state, UNLV, UN- Reno, Michigan, and say Ohio state can give better opportunities than many of the private undergrads can

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Speaking from my own experience: no, it doesn't matter much. I went to a state school that didn't have any linguistic anthropologists when I started. When one came in, I immediately started working with him to start working on my honors thesis. There weren't any linguistic anthropology courses until my last semester, and I was done with my major classes, so I didn't officially take it (I sat in though). So what I did instead was minor in applied linguistics and worked on other stuff that could strengthen my application (letters of recommendation, excellent grades, strong statements of purpose, research, etc...).

 

So yes, I agree with other posters: it matters more what you do during your undergrad and after more than the "prestige" of the undergrand institution.

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