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My adviser says that he can get me a guaranteed admission into a top university fully funded, if I make significant progress in a project I am working


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My adviser says that he can get me a guaranteed admission into a top university (top 5 in my field) fully funded, if I make significant progress in a project I am working with him with on, with collaboration with a research group from that university. Can he possibly do that?
He also says that even my GPA, personal statement and publications (or lack of) wont matter, because he knows people in that research group.
Is it possible for him to do that or is it just a tactic to make me work hard?


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My opinion is that whenever anyone makes you a "promise" that they are not actually responsible for (in this case, your advisor is not going to be on the admissions committee at these schools), that you don't take their promise very seriously. It's one thing when a professor promises you something they actually have control over (e.g. they'll write you a strong LOR, or they'll ensure you are a coauthor on their paper etc.) but another thing completely when they are making promises on behalf of other people.


Sure, your advisor, through their connections and your demonstrated research ability, can do a lot to help you get into a top program. But some academics (actually, some people in general, academics or not) like to make themselves feel or sound more important by making these strong claims. Usually, they are exaggerating. Some people do this to exploit students by making false promises to get more work from them. But sometimes they don't even realise that they are making promises they can't really keep.


Either way, it is true that working hard and doing a good job will help you get a position at a top school. Don't do it because your advisor is making some claims. In the end, you are the only one responsible for your future and do the work because you want to, not because of what your advisor said. 

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A person can only make this promise to the extent that she has independent (grant-based) research funds and the admissions process at her university allows her to hire whoever she wants using these funds without going through official channels (or they are used basically as a rubber stamp). 


HOWEVER, a verbal promise is not worth the paper it's written on. What you have is a promise from someone that someone else will take you on as their student, no questions asked and without even talking to you or looking at your application materials. I wouldn't take that to the bank just yet. What I would take from it is that your advisor has connections and will use them on your behalf, which in general is good to have and will greatly boost your application. That said, I don't think it guarantees you anything, just improves your odds.

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