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Admission: How does it even happen?


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For the statistics I could find for the schools that I was looking at, most of the programs had around a 6% - 7% acceptance rate! How does anyone ever get into graduate school if this is the case? I'm blown away!

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My field has a similar acceptance rate too. However, this does not mean that only the top 7% of *all* students get into graduate schools. Remember that many students apply to anywhere between 5 to 15 schools. Even the best students do not get into every school they apply to (I'm sure there are the top 1% that do but not most of the "best" students). 

 

In my field, with a 5-10% acceptance rate for most graduate programs, I would say that the students that end up in grad programs are generally in the top 30%-40% or so of their graduating class. This doesn't mean that 30%-40% of undergrads go into grad programs of course, many do not do grad school. 

 

Getting into grad school is not "easy" by any means, but it's also not reserved only for the best of the best!

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My field has a similar acceptance rate too. However, this does not mean that only the top 7% of *all* students get into graduate schools. Remember that many students apply to anywhere between 5 to 15 schools. Even the best students do not get into every school they apply to (I'm sure there are the top 1% that do but not most of the "best" students). 

 

In my field, with a 5-10% acceptance rate for most graduate programs, I would say that the students that end up in grad programs are generally in the top 30%-40% or so of their graduating class. This doesn't mean that 30%-40% of undergrads go into grad programs of course, many do not do grad school. 

 

Getting into grad school is not "easy" by any means, but it's also not reserved only for the best of the best!

 

This is true. But I also want to add that when the top 7% of the applicants are accepted, it's not referring to the top 7% students per se, but applicants.  In other words, you could not be in the top 20-30% of your class (and with grade inflation, what does this mean anyway) and still be a top applicant  through your work experience, publication record, etc. Being a top applicant from my understanding, also means being able to present yourself well, being well referred, and so on. 

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There are so many more factors that go into an admissions decision than just your stats or qualifications. I'm sure that more than 6-7% of the applications to top institutions in a given field are qualified to get in, but there's other things to take into account, such as fit, which professors are retiring/moving away/not taking on new grad students, how much money the department has this year for stipends, whether the topic you want to work on aligns with the general mission and leanings of the department you're applying to, whether you have a connection to the university through your undergraduate professors, etc, etc. People are accepted for a variety of reasons, not all of which have to do with having a perfect record and being in the top 30% of your undergraduate class or even having awesome outside research or work experience post-undergrad. 

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To be clear, I'm not saying that we should all know that we are ranked X out of Y students in our class! And definitely not just in GPA but the overall "package".

 

There were something like 50 students in my graduating major so for me, it's not that tough to figure out where you stand roughly (i.e. which quartile) in comparison to your peers. 

 

The point of my post above was to say that you don't have to be the top 5% of your class to get into grad school. I think top 30%-40% is a fairly good estimate of the type of students that make it to a graduate program in my field, and it might be the same for you too!

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Honestly, it's a mystery to me...but I'm glad it worked out. It truly is a matter of connecting with professors, your recommendation letters, your fit with their program (which is eluded to within your SOP)...I'm still trying to figure out how I got accepted but don't let anything deter you from your dreams...persistence and dedication pay off.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's all about fit. Select the programs that best suit your research/academic interests, and email professors with whom you'd be interested in working. My relationship with my advisor was established very early on, and that was what helped me get in to my top choice school.

 

It's not always a guarantee though- I had early contact with a professor at a school that didn't accept me, as well.

 

Figure out where you could best see yourself and put your resources there.

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I agree with a lot of the feedback here - your SOP, your letters of rec, and how well your interests fit into the program are the most important aspects of your application. The great thing about the SOP being so important is that it's the part of the application that you have the most control over. So put your time and effort there and into contacting departments to find out if your interests fit, if the prof you're interested in working with is taking students, and to start a conversation with that person.

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And just to add one more note...don't apply to a school just because it offers your degree...there are some people on here who I noticed applied to 10 programs...It really made me consider applying to a few more schools for their historical archaeology programs...however, upon further investigation and serious consideration, I realized it would be a waste of my time and money, as well as their time to look at my application when I knew I wouldn't be a good fit...

 

I can't stress that enough like everyone here...to me, it really comes down to fit more than anything else. A professor who you connect with based upon your shared interests will benefit you the most and help you move forward in your academic and professional career.

 

I ended up only applying to four programs and was offered acceptance into three, and it was because I really narrowed it down, connected with the professors in each program and wrote a decent SOP...invest your time into your top choices and really construct an excellent application and maintain that communication with your POI, and you'll be fine.

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