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2015 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results


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eteshoe, at least turn down SOME of those acceptances.  It's not polite to hold onto so many when others might want in.

YES!! Got my first official offer today! Happens to be from the same school that rejected me two years ago.   

Adding to Ragneo's point, the process feels kind of like a crapshoot from our ends, but the programs do a very good job picking their students. Most professors at certain schools will be able to tell you whether or not you should apply to their program (i.e. whether you are a competitive applicant) if you can send them a short blurb (<200 words) about your background and research interests with an attached CV/resume. At some level of academic competency, it just comes down to your letters and your fit in the program, which will be obvious during an interview. There's a reason the same people are more or less at every interview you have. In fact, if you go through this thread, you'll see people earning admissions to almost exactly the programs you would expect from their profiles.The exceptions (either happy or sad) always cause the most noise, which is fair.

 

This process can be fairly transparent if you make the effort to sufficiently research every program that interests you and spend the time writing emails to professors and current students who might never get back to you (though I've only had one out of maybe ten faculty members not reply to me).

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Acetylcholine,

 

a lot of the "stats" for these programs are truly trivial. you have a high enough GPA and test scores to be considered at just about any school. there's a lot of chest puffing about the GRE and grades around here that is really meaningless and is zero indicator of a good graduate candidate. 

 

your research interest being "niche" can only be a problem if your essays make you come across as having a very narrow focus on what you want to do. programs are expecting your interests (and potentially even your field) to change. it could be that your writing is too technical/focused on your project and not enough on the broader implications of your work or the work you want to do. i doubt this is the case since you got interviews, but just a thought.

 

also, having your name on a publication is great and all...but it really is meaningless if you can't convey the significance of the work in written or spoken form. not saying this is the case with you, but just as a word of caution to not assume that a publication = acceptance. 

 

you are getting invited to interviews, so you're passing the "beauty pageant" portion of the application. it's gotta be something in your interviews. are you employed as a tech now? or still in school?

Edited by mvp713
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Based on my experience (which is pretty limited), I think that profs are looking for passion in interviews. They want people who get excited when discussing their own work and are jumping out of their skin to ask questions as the profs describe their research. My best interviews were the ones where we only made it through 1 or 2 of the slides on the ppt they had planned because the first slides sparked questions that led to awesome discussions.

 

Acetylcholine, I think my main question for you would be: Do you regularly read literature in your subfield? When chatting with professors, are you familiar enough with the literature to make comments like: "Your results are interesting. Prof X (big name prof in the field) has written quite a bit on this subject and come to the opposite conclusion as you. What makes you think that these results mean blah blah." You should be familiar enough with your subfield to talk extensively with professors like this and get into friendly scientific debates. I read a paper a day at least and I think that this is a good standard to hold yourself to. If you don't read a few papers a week at least then you probably don't know enough to engage in good discussions. This is the most obvious possible problem I think. If you do read alot though then there must be another issue.

 

I DO NOT think that they know which candidates they want ahead of time. I say this because I was offered an interview off the waitlist at one school (I was invited very last min... months after the other candidates) and it was a fairly competitive interview (~60% acceptance) yet I was in the first wave of offers. Once you get an interview, you have a fair shot at an offer. If you know the field and are super passionate about it (these things go together because you cant be passionate about it if you don't read a lot and know nothing about it...) then you should be set at interviews.

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It is true that there are  rankings ahead of time at some schools, and for a topped ranked person to have a poor interview and still get in compared to a lower ranked person to have have a poor interview, which would likely be rejected

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Acetylcholine,

  Email the adcoms at the schools you interviewed at and ask why you weren't accepted and what you can do to improve your app. They are usually straight forward.

  Your undergrad school ranking has no bearing on whether or not a schools will admit you into their grad program. WUSTL, Vanderbildt and other programs have class profiles for their incoming classes. A lot of the incoming students did not go to top tier institutions. I've never heard of most of them (Jackson state, Hendrix college, Truman state, Denison University, Murray state).

   As others have stated, you may be too specific in your research interests, the PI's you are interested in working with may not have the $$$ to take new students. If you appeared to be pretty set in your research interests that may have done you in when it came to admissions time. IF/WHEN you apply next time you are going to have to have broader interests.

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It is true that there are  rankings ahead of time at some schools, and for a topped ranked person to have a poor interview and still get in compared to a lower ranked person to have have a poor interview, which would likely be rejected

I'm pretty sure this is largely dependent on the school, but I think for the most part everyone being interviewed has a pretty good chance of being accepted (your paper app will get you an interview, your interview itself will get you an acceptance). For example, at UCSF Tetrad none of the faculty that interviewed me (6) had read my application before I met them. I'm not sure if this was planned or not, but a student said that they do this because they don't want to be biased before meeting you, the interviews literally and solely determined if you got in or not at that program.

I've also heard (from faculty) that they can tell if a student is good or not (aka if they are going be accepted or not) within 5 mins of talking to them one-on-one (this is kind of going back to a post someone made about people making decisions mid-way through an interview weekend, yes it happens but not because of your paper app, because of your ability to talk about research....aka explain yours clearly including why you did what you did, not only what you did....and be able to ask good questions when presented with a new research question, theirs....and also look interested/excited about the whole thing).

Oh, and also the school you come from does not matter as much as people think. I come from a pretty low-tiered institution (ranked around 140) and got accepted to programs that people from top 10 universities didn't get accepted to. It doesn't matter where you go to school, it matters how much you know. If you want to learn, you will find a way and if you do not, it doesn't matter if you went to the fanciest school, it will be pretty evident when you're talking to people.

Oh, and also everyone you talk to will have a say on whether you get in or not, not just adcoms (I'm pretty sure they play a much more significant role in determining if you get an interview than they do in getting you in).

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And from literally EVERYBODY I asked, faculty who were and were not on the adcoms, I couldn't extract an answer from them as to what, and I have no idea what it could have possibly been.  If that was the problem, nobody's being honest with me. 

 

It's a bit difficult with adcomms, since they'll only be able to give you information on the specifics of your application rather than the actual interviews.  I would also note that it might not be that you were "bad" at the interview, just that a lot of people did better in terms of making an impression.  Some programs also have students weigh in on an applicants fit as well.  So if you might have seem unsociable as a whole, it might made you seem not a good fit.  If you were just "ok" but nothing terribly wrong, there's nothing the school really can say specifically in terms of feedback, right?  They'll tell you that you were fine, and that's that.  

And unfortunately, if you're in the "possible accept" and not the "definite" category, you have to go out of your way to make an impression and bring your social A game.

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And unfortunately, if you're in the "possible accept" and not the "definite" category, you have to go out of your way to make an impression and bring your social A game.

 This might echo the point that one should always be on their A game during interviews, not knowing which category they actually stand in. Therefore, one should always assume they're in the worst category, and need to perform well to get that admission letter.

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 This might echo the point that one should always be on their A game during interviews, not knowing which category they actually stand in. Therefore, one should always assume they're in the worst category, and need to perform well to get that admission letter.

 

Agreed. 

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I'm pretty sure this is largely dependent on the school, but I think for the most part everyone being interviewed has a pretty good chance of being accepted (your paper app will get you an interview, your interview itself will get you an acceptance). For example, at UCSF Tetrad none of the faculty that interviewed me (6) had read my application before I met them. I'm not sure if this was planned or not, but a student said that they do this because they don't want to be biased before meeting you, the interviews literally and solely determined if you got in or not at that program.

 

I agree with this point. Every single interview I went to had at least one interviewer who had not read my application before they met me. I assume this was done on purpose (not b/c the professor was too lazy) but after you get to the interview, no one cares about your paper stats, but rather who you are as a person and your passion/enthusiasm for not only being AT the school you're interviewing at, but also for the field in general.

 

Addressing acetycholine directly, I remember a thread earlier in the season where you rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and from that thread I formed an impression that you're very self-centered. Your first impression to the people you interviewed with may have come across in a negative light and it could be something to work on. As someone recommended earlier in the thread, it may be a good idea to schedule a mock interview with someone you don't know personally and get feedback from them. If you've been through 6 interviews and haven't gotten a single acceptance, then there is something about the interview that rubbed adcoms the wrong way.

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I agree with this point. Every single interview I went to had at least one interviewer who had not read my application before they met me. I assume this was done on purpose (not b/c the professor was too lazy) but after you get to the interview, no one cares about your paper stats, but rather who you are as a person and your passion/enthusiasm for not only being AT the school you're interviewing at, but also for the field in general.

 

Addressing acetycholine directly, I remember a thread earlier in the season where you rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and from that thread I formed an impression that you're very self-centered. Your first impression to the people you interviewed with may have come across in a negative light and it could be something to work on. As someone recommended earlier in the thread, it may be a good idea to schedule a mock interview with someone you don't know personally and get feedback from them. If you've been through 6 interviews and haven't gotten a single acceptance, then there is something about the interview that rubbed adcoms the wrong way.

 

I had one professor tell me he didn't want to read my personal statement before he met me so that he could get the direct impression of my research from me. Which is funny, because he is one of the professors that I mentioned in my personal statement as one of my top POI's at the school.

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That's interesting. Congrats, anyway. What made you settle on UCLA, if I might ask?

 I had a very hard time choosing between UCLA and UCSD. Since both schools have fantastic research, it really came down to which school I think I would be happier at, since I will be spending the rest of my 20's at grad school. I liked UCLA a lot since it was much more personal of an experience, and I feel like the graduate students there gave off a happier vibe. I also felt that the labs at UCLA are more graduate student driven, and I think that as graduate students we really need the attention of the PI in order to get the necessary training. I think UCSD would be a place that I'd be more interested in when I am looking for post-doc positions. 

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So, I finally made a decision everyone. I'm officially going to be a grad student at Stanford University!!! 

Congrats! You made the right choice, I have a friend who goes there for Immunology and he loves it. Hopefully I can join you.

 

Currently stuck in waitlist limbo there. They interviewed only 12 people out of 400 applicants for SCBRM and wanted to take 5 or 6 from those 12. ~1.5% acceptance rate! Crazy competitive, everyone was outstanding. Hoping that I can get an NSF GRFP to get me off the waitlist.

Edited by mikef522
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Congrats! You made the right choice, I have a friend who goes there for Immunology and he loves it. Hopefully I can join you.

 

Currently stuck in waitlist limbo there. They interviewed only 12 people out of 400 applicants for SCBRM and wanted to take 5 or 6 from those 12. ~1.5% acceptance rate! Crazy competitive, everyone was outstanding. Hoping that I can get an NSF GRFP to get me off the waitlist.

 

Wow, those are absurdly low numbers. Best of luck. Stanford's absolutely amazing.

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So, I finally made a decision everyone. I'm officially going to be a grad student at Stanford University!!! 

Congratulations!!!! So happy and excited for you!

 

Congrats! You made the right choice, I have a friend who goes there for Immunology and he loves it. Hopefully I can join you.

 

Currently stuck in waitlist limbo there. They interviewed only 12 people out of 400 applicants for SCBRM and wanted to take 5 or 6 from those 12. ~1.5% acceptance rate! Crazy competitive, everyone was outstanding. Hoping that I can get an NSF GRFP to get me off the waitlist.

Oh, wowza. I'm applying to SCBRM next year. I knew it was a relatively new program, BUT DAMN. Those admissions statistics are rough. Wishing you the best with that. Out of curiosity, since you can indicate 3 different programs at Stanford, did you get waitlisted for the other two, or how does the biosciences umbrella actually work.

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Congratulations!!!! So happy and excited for you!

 

Oh, wowza. I'm applying to SCBRM next year. I knew it was a relatively new program, BUT DAMN. Those admissions statistics are rough. Wishing you the best with that. Out of curiosity, since you can indicate 3 different programs at Stanford, did you get waitlisted for the other two, or how does the biosciences umbrella actually work.

 

You have one application to the entire biosciences program. The three you list are programs that feature research and training you wish to take part in. The Stanford biosciences committee meets to recommend you as an interviewee for one of the programs you list. You do not get waitlisted by the other two. In rare cases (so I've been told), the committee will recommend you for a home program you did not list if they think your research interests are better met by another home program.

 

For example, if you're interested in biophysical problems in neuroscience, you can list both with the same application since your research interests make sense in the context of either. Stanford will likely place you in the neuroscience pool, since their biophysics program is largely focused on proteins and structure (side note: their biophysics program is very structure focused even though they have an entirely separate structural bio program which didn't recruit this year!). The program selections is just a thing that helps with flexibility and placing you with the correct training program and cohort for your interests, since programs vary so much from school to school. The three choices aren't so much for giving you extra chances at admission -- you basically only have one shot at the entire umbrella program and you'll only be passed between your choices if there's an issue with how you would fit in with your first choice program.

 

The final lab you join really doesn't matter since most research you'll be doing is so interdisciplinary anyway. You will be allowed to select basically any lab under biosciences or bioengineering regardless of your home program.

Edited by velli
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Congrats! You made the right choice, I have a friend who goes there for Immunology and he loves it. Hopefully I can join you.

 

Currently stuck in waitlist limbo there. They interviewed only 12 people out of 400 applicants for SCBRM and wanted to take 5 or 6 from those 12. ~1.5% acceptance rate! Crazy competitive, everyone was outstanding. Hoping that I can get an NSF GRFP to get me off the waitlist.

 

Wow, best of luck getting in!! Hopefully, I'll see you there!!!!

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You have one application to the entire biosciences program. The three you list are programs that feature research and training you wish to take part in. The Stanford biosciences committee meets to recommend you as an interviewee for one of the programs you list. You do not get waitlisted by the other two. In rare cases (so I've been told), the committee will recommend you for a home program you did not list if they think your research interests are better met by another home program.

 

For example, if you're interested in biophysical problems in neuroscience, you can list both with the same application since your research interests make sense in the context of either. Stanford will likely place you in the neuroscience pool, since their biophysics program is largely focused on proteins and structure (side note: their biophysics program is very structure focused even though they have an entirely separate structural bio program which didn't recruit this year!). The program selections is just a thing that helps with flexibility and placing you with the correct training program and cohort for your interests, since programs vary so much from school to school. The three choices aren't so much for giving you extra chances at admission -- you basically only have one shot at the entire umbrella program and you'll only be passed between your choices if there's an issue with how you would fit in with your first choice program.

 

The final lab you join really doesn't matter since most research you'll be doing is so interdisciplinary anyway. You will be allowed to select basically any lab under biosciences or bioengineering regardless of your home program.

Thanks so much for that detailed explanation. It makes much more sense now.

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congratulations to all that were accepted.  I only sent in 3 applications this year, it was sort of last minute, and received 2 interviews.  Unfortunately I did not receive an offer.  I have pretty decent academic record, especially my last 2 years, have been 2nd or third author on three pubs, and I have lab experience.  Though to be honest I am well removed from lab activities.  I am currently project coordinator at a CRO, preparing  gen tox reports for regulatory agencies and Sponsors.  Going back to the lab is not really an option.  After my interviews, for neuroscience programs, I realized that I really want this.  I was disappointed that I didn't get accepted, that being said I do plan on applying next year.  My question is "what can I do to improve my chance for acceptance next year?"

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