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DO NOT apply to Wisconsin Madison


Justin123

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Hi everybody!

 

I promised to myself to let students who live outside the US know about the way Wisconsin Madison treated me last year.  Here's the story:

 

I applied to the Genetics program. My BS GPA is >3.7 and my MS GPA is >3.8. GRE scores: 93 for both the verbal and the quantitative sections and 54 for the AW. TOEFL: 106.

 

According to UWM's website, it says (or at least it used to say) that if we have GPA>3.5 and a percentile >90 on at least two sections, then we'll most likely get an interview.

 

Soooo as most of you will soon realize, the week before Christmas is one of the most stressful ones because some schools send invitations as early as that. On gradcafe I saw that some people got invitations to UWM during that week so I wouldn't stop refreshing my inbox. But nothing... So a few days later, I was almost sure that I got rejected. However, I wanted to be 100% sure, so I called the university. I was told that applicants who live outside of the US (internationals or Americans) still hadn't been reviewed and that we'd know around mid-January. But still nothing mid-January... So I asked them again and I was told that it was going to be late January. Then guess what? Late January I was told that it was going to be beginning of February. 

 

I sent an email beginning of February and here's the reply:

 

Hi X,

 

Thank you for your patience. We complete reviews, interviews, and admissions for applicants within the U.S. borders first. We then review external applicants. Frequently, this first phase fills the slots available. I will email you when a decision is made.

 

Thank you for your interest in our program.

 

X

This is honestly the most outrageous thing ever. Those who live outside the "US borders" basically don't stand a chance. However, we pay the same application fees (+the fees to send the GRE scores, TOEFL scores, and transcripts) as everybody else. We had to deal with the application procedure like everybody else and we had the same deadline. However, we are considered as second-class applicants. And it's not like they warned us... Basically, I consider it to be theft. They stole my money and wasted my time. They didn't plan to review these applications in the first place. We are directly thrown away or in best case scenario, they keep our applications in case they have some miraculous slots available.

So if you live outside the US, DO NOT apply to this school. You are just going to waste your money and time. As to those of you who live in the US, think about it: do you want to go to a school that has such an unfair admission procedure? 

I wish I was warned about this by previous applicants and it was important for me to let you guys know about it. A school shouldn't be allowed to get away such unfair policies. 

Anyway, if some of you need advice for your applications, don't hesitate to send me a message. I am happy to help. 

Good luck to all of you! 

 

 

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Move on, you shouldn't be surprised that a state-funded university serves citizens first. Are you also going to complain that the US government creates grants which require those it funds be US citizens? Besides, you got into plenty of top tier programs.

Edited by Vene
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???

 

1) I said students who live outside the US so it could be Americans too... 

2) If they serve international citizens second, they should write it on their website. 

3) Berkeley and Davis are public schools as well. Berkeley rejected me but they were fair about it. They mentioned on their website that they can only take 1 international student per year to this program. They rejected me at the same time as everybody else. UC Davis told me from the beginning that they didn't have money to fly me in. Nothing wrong about that as long as they warn us first. 

4) The problem with UWM is that they weren't honest at all.

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???

 

1) I said students who live outside the US so it could be Americans too... 

2) If they serve international citizens second, they should write it on their website. 

3) Berkeley and Davis are public schools as well. Berkeley rejected me but they were fair about it. They mentioned on their website that they can only take 1 international student per year to this program. They rejected me at the same time as everybody else. UC Davis told me from the beginning that they didn't have money to fly me in. Nothing wrong about that as long as they warn us first. 

4) The problem with UWM is that they weren't honest at all.

 

1) I think when they say "applicants within US borders first" they really mean Americans, unless there is something really weird going on here.

 

2) They don't write it on their website because it's considered something applicants should know. That is, it's not each school's job to tell every international applicant that (for reasons listed on other posts in this forum--mainly that state universities have limited funds and international students cost a lot more) they can only accept a limited number of international students because of funding limitations. I agree that there isn't a lot of ways for a non-American student to know about how difficult it is for international students to get into public schools though. I only found out from talking to profs at my undergrad school. But I think it's a little far to say that any school is committing fraud if they don't say this ahead of time.

 

3) I agree that these UC schools definitely acted better than schools that are not as transparent. While I do think they should tell you these things ahead of time, I don't think you can say that your fee means that they *must* do so. 

 

4) I don't think UWM actions were intentionally dishonest, unless there are more details not shared here. Their procedure sounds like how most state schools operate. Let's use some semi-realistic but made-up numbers. Let's say an American student will cost them about $50,000 per year (after including tuition, stipend, overhead) while an International student will cost about $100,000 per year. And let's say the department this year has $1,000,000 to spend on new students. They can choose to take 20 American students or 10 international students, or some fraction in between. But, how can they decide this fraction ahead of time? It would be foolish to say "let's always take 14 Americans and 3 Internationals every single year" and publish this on their website because what if one year, there are 16 really good Americans and only 2 good International students (or some other ratio). Since Americans cost less, one potential strategy would be for the program to review Americans first and maybe even make offers to the really good American students to determine exactly how much money they have left. Then, with the remaining budget, they can then make the hard decision of choosing a great International student vs. 2 less-good American students. Or, maybe there are different subfields and maybe there is a very good International canddiate for a particular subfield but there also exists a good American candidate too. They might prefer to make the offer to the American candidate first and then make the hard decision whether or not to spend more on an international student later.

 

Obviously, this is not the only "good" way to do admissions, and Berkeley and Davis surely shows that it's possible to return decisions all in one "wave". However, it's not at all unusual or unethical for departments to "triage" their applications and review them and make decisions in waves. It can be especially important for a department with limited funding to be very careful in how they maximize the return (on student quality) of their investment.

 

I agree that it's too bad that after all the work you put into the application, it is terrible to find out that the department prioritize other applicants over you. But this is the nature of academia and what happens when there are limited funds. We cost a lot more money so it's not just the quality of our applications that they have to consider, it's also the cost of their investment on us!

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I agree with what you are saying but that is not my point. It is totally ok to have separate pools for international students and Americans. I think that all schools do that. Yale sent two waves of invitations. One before Christmas for Americans and one after Christmas for international students. 

I am aware that international students cost more and I consider myself lucky to be fully funded for my PhD. I am really grateful for this opportunity. 

 

HOWEVER, what UWM did is not ok because they haven't even reviewed our applications. The fees that we pay are for the reviewing process. I'm ok with them reading my application and deciding that they'd rather invest their money on students who cost less or students who are better. That's the game. But that's not what they did.

 

And about the within US borders thing. They don't mean international vs American students. I was told on the phone that the distinction has to do with the fees for the interview weekend. There were supposed to be 2 waves. One for those who live in the US or not too far because they can fly them in for the interview weekend without paying too much and those that live far from the US because they can't afford to fly us in (as was the case of UC Davis). They prioritized those who live in the US because they needed to plan the interview weekend. The problem is that there was not a 2nd wave like they told me on the phone and via email. They didn't even bother to look at our applications. How is this fair? 

Edited by Spike
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I think it is very unethical for a school to take someone's application fee without ensuring that the application is reviewed. Should be illegal.

 

Good to hear you got into other programs.

Thank you :-)

That is exactly what I tried to say...

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Nowhere in the email does it say that *no* international students were accepted to U-WM this year. It only says that they were reviewed after the domestics. For all you know, several international students may well have been accepted.

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Nowhere in the email does it say that *no* international students were accepted to U-WM this year. It only says that they were reviewed after the domestics. For all you know, several international students may well have been accepted.

I should have been clearer from the beginning. They do accept international students. But only if they live in the US... 

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But the only thing you can infer from that email is that "US-residents" were looked at first, followed by the "Internationals". Maybe the committee set aside x number of spots for Internationals from the beginning of their application process. The proportion of international students they were willing to accept was probably lower than for the US-residents...but that doesn't mean they had no intention of taking on internationals or that they tossed your application into the bin. For all we know from the evidence provided, your application got as much careful consideration as the domestic students, and the only reason you feel upset is because you got rejected.

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But the only thing you can infer from that email is that "US-residents" were looked at first, followed by the "Internationals". Maybe the committee set aside x number of spots for Internationals from the beginning of their application process. The proportion of international students they were willing to accept was probably lower than for the US-residents...but that doesn't mean they had no intention of taking on internationals or that they tossed your application into the bin. For all we know from the evidence provided, your application got as much careful consideration as the domestic students, and the only reason you feel upset is because you got rejected.

Listen, Wisconsin Madison was not my dream school. To be honest, if I got accepted (which is by definition impossible because my application hasn't been reviewed), I would have chosen any of the other 7 schools I applied to. But if it was the only school that accepted me, I would have been very happy to attend (otherwise I wouldn't have applied...). 

I was very disappointed that I got rejected from Berkeley but you won't hear me criticize it. 

 

But that is NOT my point...

 

Please read this sentence again: "Frequently, this first phase fills the slots available.". It means that "frequently" they don't even review the applications of those who live outside the US. This is what this sentence means. That's the outrageous thing here.

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How can they predict how many quality domestic (or close) applicants they have in a given year? This seems pretty standard to me. And where does it say the application fee is for review of the application, and not just the processing (which is being accepted by the program coordinator)?

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The problem here is international-student specific, and it's difficult for domestic students to understand the woes of navigating the hellish application process as an outsider. I think the OP is indignant for a pretty good reason: they could have been more clear about their international student policy. In retrospect, I really respect what schools like UCSD-BMS did. UCSD required all international applicants to fill out a pre-application with only GPA, GRE, and short research experience, and only after the pre-application was approved was one able to file the real application. Although I was initially incredulous when they denied my pre-app (my stats aren't bad), I later understood what they did was right, not taking advantage of my application money or wasting my time. I think UWM could have handled this a little differently.

 

That being said, OP did you try contacting their offices before applying? It should have been expected that different programs have different international student policies, and that state schools would generally be more stingy. So when the policy was not clearly stated on their websites, I contacted the offices individually, and they were all surprisingly open about their funding for internationals and how it would affect admissions. Some told me that they have plenty of external funding, that x% of the current students are international, and that I should definitely apply. Others told me that the program has very limited funding for internationals, and pretty much straight-up told me that I would I have an extremely slim chance at admissions.

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How can they predict how many quality domestic (or close) applicants they have in a given year? This seems pretty standard to me. And where does it say the application fee is for review of the application, and not just the processing (which is being accepted by the program coordinator)?

Why should people who live outside the US be considered after those who live in the US? 

Imagine there's an American guy from a top American school who has a GPA of 4 and perfect GRE scores. This guy wanted to work in a lab in a foreign country before doing a PhD. Let's say that this guy found an internship at the Max Plank institute in Germany. So when this guy applies to UWM he puts his German address. 

However UWM will not even review his application if they are able to fill the slots with applicants who live in the US during the admission procedure. How is this fair?

 

What a school (that doesn't have a lot of money) should do is invite those who aren't too far and interview via Skype the rest. And at the end of this process, offer admission to those they like. Just like Davis and other schools do...

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The problem here is international-student specific, and it's difficult for domestic students to understand the woes of navigating the hellish application process as an outsider. I think the OP is indignant for a pretty good reason: they could have been more clear about their international student policy. In retrospect, I really respect what schools like UCSD-BMS did. UCSD required all international applicants to fill out a pre-application with only GPA, GRE, and short research experience, and only after the pre-application was approved was one able to file the real application. Although I was initially incredulous when they denied my pre-app (my stats aren't bad), I later understood what they did was right, not taking advantage of my application money or wasting my time. I think UWM could have handled this a little differently.

 

That being said, OP did you try contacting their offices before applying? It should have been expected that different programs have different international student policies, and that state schools would generally be more stingy. So when the policy was not clearly stated on their websites, I contacted the offices individually, and they were all surprisingly open about their funding for internationals and how it would affect admissions. Some told me that they have plenty of external funding, that x% of the current students are international, and that I should definitely apply. Others told me that the program has very limited funding for internationals, and pretty much straight-up told me that I would I have an extremely slim chance at admissions.

 

It's not an international-student specific because if you are American and live abroad, it's the same scenario. 

Here's what they say on their website "Typically, we receive about 130-150 applications. About 65% of these applications are from domestic students and 35% from international students. Generally, we extend offers to about 20% of these applicants and 40-50% of the students receiving an offer decide to accept."

They accept international students as long as they live in the US (or not too far).

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Why should people who live outside the US be considered after those who live in the US? 

Imagine there's an American guy from a top American school who has a GPA of 4 and perfect GRE scores. This guy wanted to work in a lab in a foreign country before doing a PhD. Let's say that this guy found an internship at the Max Plank institute in Germany. So when this guy applies to UWM he puts his German address. 

However UWM will not even review his application if they are able to fill the slots with applicants who live in the US during the admission procedure. How is this fair?

 

What a school (that doesn't have a lot of money) should do is invite those who aren't too far and interview via Skype the rest. And at the end of this process, offer admission to those they like. Just like Davis and other schools do...

Well Spike, while it seems unfair, it's actually not. A typical grad student costs roughly $70k-80k per year. If that is funded a NSF funding grant, which a lot of programs opt to do, that means that the money is coming directly from the U.S. taxpayers. Did your parents pay for that money? The parents of U.S. citizens did. My parents did not, and the tougher application game was the price I had to pay to study in this country.

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It's not an international-student specific because if you are American and live abroad, it's the same scenario. 

Here's what they say on their website "Typically, we receive about 130-150 applications. About 65% of these applications are from domestic students and 35% from international students. Generally, we extend offers to about 20% of these applicants and 40-50% of the students receiving an offer decide to accept."

They accept international students as long as they live in the US (or not too far).

Ah, I see what you're saying.

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And about the within US borders thing. They don't mean international vs American students. I was told on the phone that the distinction has to do with the fees for the interview weekend. There were supposed to be 2 waves. One for those who live in the US or not too far because they can fly them in for the interview weekend without paying too much and those that live far from the US because they can't afford to fly us in (as was the case of UC Davis). They prioritized those who live in the US because they needed to plan the interview weekend. The problem is that there was not a 2nd wave like they told me on the phone and via email. They didn't even bother to look at our applications. How is this fair? 

That seems like a bizarre way to handle applicants from outside the U.S. I mean, if money is the problem, they could just cap the reimbursement at the rate of domestic students, which is what a lot of the schools did.

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I feel your pain OP. I felt the same way about Boston PIBS not being open about the process, and I'm domestic. Some programs do well handling apps, others fail miserably. Part of applying to school I guess.

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If I were in the OPs shoes, I'd probably be upset, too.  However it seems that the OP is more upset about not getting into his/her safety school than anything.  

 

Based on the few snippets of evidence provided, it seems probable that Madison has a preference for on-U.S.-soil applicants because of the weather associated with the upper Midwest during the time of the year they hold interviews. The potential for cancelled flights is high.  It is simply easier for someone within the U.S. to make necessary changes to travel if needed (inclement weather).  International travel will not be as easy.  Also, if they are paying to have you it is simply a heckofalot more expensive to fly in potential candidates from outside of the U.S.

 

The term "frequently":  The OP seems to think that it means always.  It doesn't.  

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Based on the few snippets of evidence provided, it seems probable that Madison has a preference for on-U.S.-soil applicants because of the weather associated with the upper Midwest during the time of the year they hold interviews. The potential for cancelled flights is high.

I used to live in that region of the US and have heard about weather disrupting flights to the point where so few people show up for the interview that they all are accepted. Granted, this is something I very much have heard second-hand so I can't guarantee that it's accurate.

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When I first read OP's post, I thought he was complaining about something unimportant, but reading his replies, I see what he's saying.

 

The application fee is supposed to be the fee for having the application reviewed. So if he pays the fee, but doesn't have his application reviewed, what is he paying for? He's essentially just paying for having his online application sent to the UWM servers, and never looked at. It's like paying a professional editor to look at your manuscript, and never receiving anything in return. I agree that's not fair. I think UWM is within their rights to not review an application if slots fill up from domestic students, but if they don't actually look at an application, those students should get a refund. Of course, UWM probably would never do that, but I think that would be fair.

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The application fee is not to have his application reviewed. It's to cover the costs of processing his application. This has already been said, several times. 

 

Similarly, the leap from "frequently" to "always" isn't a good logical one to make. The OP never got any direct confirmation that the admissions committee did not look at his, or other, international student applications. 

 

Chances are, they looked at them generally before the first round of invites, to see if there were any outstanding international students that they might want to make an exception for. 

 

Generally, schools can fall into tight spots because most extend more offers than they can take students, to start with, knowing that a percentage of the students won't accept. Most schools have the flexibility to take one or two more students than they had planned. If, for some reason, the acceptance rate was unusually high in their first batch of invites this year, they may not have had room anyone else. 

 

It sucks, but it's not particularly unfair. 

 

Also, I see a lot of logical gaps- you seem to be inferring that US citizens living abroad would not be considered in the first batch, but I don't see any evidence of that from what you've given of the schools policies. Domestic usually refers to US citizens, no matter where they're living. 

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