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small unknown school for undergrad = problem?


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I graduated from a small (~8,000 students) private school in Hawaii that isn't well-known. My GPA was 3.94 and my GRE scores were 750V 760Q 5.5 writing. I'm applying to grad schools like UChicago, Boston Univ, Georgetown, Tel Aviv Univ, UWashington, etc.- not Ivy League, but still very respectable schools. I'm concerned that my undergrad school will negatively affect my chances of being accepted because it isn't a big name or widely respected school. What do you think? Is there anything I can do to mitigate any potentially negative effects?

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I graduated from a small (~8,000 students) private school in Hawaii that isn't well-known. ... Is there anything I can do to mitigate any potentially negative effects?

Yes. Invent a time machine and either go back in time and attend a different school for undergrad or go further back in time and do something or get someone to make the school famous.

Or you could just not stress out about factors of your application that are completely beyond your control at this point.

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Awww, you didn't find that helpful? The answer is, yes, programs put stock in the undergraduate institution. How much depends on what kind of school it is. If you can get people to attest in your LORs that your undergraduate coursework is challenging and that you excelled (as evidenced by your GPA), then you should be fine. I mean, yea, they might be more impressed by a 3.9 from Princeton or Harvard but there's not too much you can do other than put forward the best application that you can.

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I'm going to agree with the above poster's earlier post. You can't do anything now to change where you graduated from. Now go do something that would help you out.

I've probably said this a bunch of times in different threads already, but here is a slightly different version. I graduated from a lesser known school in my major with a 3.11 gpa and I've been told directly from a Professor (who also happens to be my LOR and says he's going to write me a really good one) that it is difficult for someone from my school to get into a good graduate program. I also did not have any published research and no research experience upon graduating. If I were to apply with just this, my chances of getting into a decent school would be really tough.

So here's what I did after graduating. I applied for a research assistant position at Stanford and was hired. Now I had some kind of research experience to put on my CV/Resume and the Stanford Professor / Director of the Research Center agreed to write me a LOR. I don't think it will offset my gpa, but I hope it raises some eyebrows with admissions seeing a student from a lesser known school with a poor gpa working at Stanford as a RA.

What I'm trying to say is that you need to just forget about the past and try to do something now.

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I'm not sure about PhDs, but I'm from Israel, and I believe that when applying to TelAviv U, no one will care where you got your undergrad. I mean, unless you're from the top 10, you're regarded as equal. It's just that no one really knows any schools in the US other than harvard-princeton-yale and the sorts

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I'm not sure about PhDs, but I'm from Israel, and I believe that when applying to TelAviv U, no one will care where you got your undergrad. I mean, unless you're from the top 10, you're regarded as equal. It's just that no one really knows any schools in the US other than harvard-princeton-yale and the sorts

I think this is basically right here, as well. Obviously if you're a 3.9 student and you go up against a 3.9 student from Cornell, the Cornell kid wins. And you may even lose out if you have a 3.9 and he has, say, a 3.8. But a 3.9 from any school would probably beat, say, a 3.5 from any other school any day of the week -- provided all other things are equal, of course.

I don't think your school will be a disqualifying factor. Remember that admissions is a very holistic process -- they incorporate as much information as they can into their decision. (Admissions departments frequently make use of multiple regression algorithms to do this). As such there is probably never one factor, taken by itself, that will automatically disqualify you from getting in anywhere.

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I think this is basically right here, as well. Obviously if you're a 3.9 student and you go up against a 3.9 student from Cornell, the Cornell kid wins. And you may even lose out if you have a 3.9 and he has, say, a 3.8. But a 3.9 from any school would probably beat, say, a 3.5 from any other school any day of the week -- provided all other things are equal, of course.

Whoa! I would steer clear of numerical determinism in the application process. What will really matter are the subjective portions of your app, so why not worry about them? A 4.0 from Cornell means dick if the SoP and WS aren't amazing.

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Whoa! I would steer clear of numerical determinism in the application process. What will really matter are the subjective portions of your app, so why not worry about them? A 4.0 from Cornell means dick if the SoP and WS aren't amazing.

That IS why I said "all other things being equal." ;-)

Like I said, admissions is a holistic process.

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I am from a tiny, unknown school, too. The thing is, because I went to a tiny school, I now know my professors very well, and did lots of independent research with them. I graduated in 07, and we still email and meet up for dinner regularly. I will have really, really strong LoRs because of this. I also have a mentor willing to review my application at every stage of the process.

If I had gone to a big school or even a big name school I would not have these kinds of relationships, and I think they are invaluable.

SoP, Writing Sample, Perceived Fit, LoRs --> those are the criteria by which you will be judged most harshly. Maybe it's because I also went to a small, unknown school, but I honestly don't think it is going to weigh that heavily in the application process, considering all the other factors that are involved and are clearly so much more important.

Good luck!

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If I had gone to a big school or even a big name school I would not have these kinds of relationships, and I think they are invaluable.

What makes you so sure those kind of relationships are impossible at bigger/bigger name schools?

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What makes you so sure those kind of relationships are impossible at bigger/bigger name schools?

I don't think they are impossible at a bigger/bigger name school, but they are certainly harder to come by. My department was 4 full time faculty members and no TAs, and about 60 majors total. This made it very easy to get to know my faculty very well, in a way that would have been a greater challenge at a larger school.

I'm not trying to hate on the big/big name schools, but I do think an small, even unknown school can be a great asset, in and of itself. Just representing the SLAC alumni out there. :)

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