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Post-Game Analysis


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For those that didn't get interviews, I've found that calling or e-mailing in and asking about weaknesses in your application to be extremely helpful. Not to hound about admissions, but to inquire about how a future application might be improved. Things I have learned:

- Be careful about listing potential advisors in your SoP. At one school, it looks like listing faculty with only secondary appointments in neuroscience (despite those faculty being listed on the Neuroscience website) hurt my application.

- Unexpressive letter writers can be misconstrued as being lukewarm. A lot of applicants have recommenders that will write effusive praise that is very clearly gushing. One of my letter writers sent me a copy (unsolicited, I waived). It was positive and used words like "impressed" and "highly recommend," but I was told in post-game analysis that the customary dryness of the recommender's writing style was unideal. Apparently, ebullience rather than clinicalness works in your favor. If you think one of your letter writers is dry, finding a fourth recommender is not a bad idea.

- Contacting potential advisors gets you out of the stack, but when the app hits adcom, everyone on the committee gets a say. If your potential advisor has a lot of heft in the department, it might get you further, but for the most part, it only does you good regarding the initial step.

- This year was a very difficult year for applying. While departments might normally take excellent students that don't exactly "fit"the department's major interests on potential alone, this year, things like fit were weighted more heavily than usual because of economic circumstances. This would also lead me to believe that a lot of programs plan to admit fewer students.

I have pretty good stats and am 0/6 this year. It's disappointing, but being stubborn and masochistic, I'm going to reapply next year. This was for Neuroscience programs so YMMV, but hope it helps.

Good luck to all!

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ma7eb4i, thank you for sharing that! But are you certain that you didn't get in anywhere? I'm with neuroscience too, so for us interviews are supposed to be early, but maybe some of your schools are not done with invitations yet? What schools did you apply to?

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I don't want to be a downer, and this may not be true for you, but one of my rec letter writers said that if I hadn't heard anything by now, it was extremely unlikely (snow ball's chance in Hell unlikely, though she didn't put it that way) that I would get an interview. I'm not holding my breath. If I hear something, great, but I'm kind of done stressing out about it and generally feeling moody, disappointed with myself, and freaked out.

I applied to Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Washington University in St. Louis, MIT BCS and Biology, University of Washington Seattle, Rockefeller, and Stanford. Have gotten official rejections from University of Washington and WUSTL.

My stats are 3.89 GPA, 710 V (98%), 740 Q (80%), 5.0 A (81%), Bio GRE 760 (79%). I have 3.5 years of research experience, one publication, and another manuscript in review as well as an REU Summer Fellowship. Those aren't bad, and to clarify so that people don't panic, it's very likely that the "fit" part, not the stats, are what sank my app. I have a very strong background in neuroethology and behavior, but I want to get into a "harder" brand of neuro research that isn't quite so black box. But I didn't market myself enough that way and probably overemphasized my background.

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I also applied to the MIT BCS, and got an email reply for the inquiry from the graduate admission coordinator,

We’re still in the process of making invitations. I’d say that most of the invitations have been sent, but the admissions committee has not yet finished. We had 415 applicants this year, and we will likely interview 40-50

I feel like rejection from this, :blink:

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I definitely agree with the comments about an uber-competitive environment and fit above--from what I've heard, the number of apps are WAY up (read, like twice as many for the same number of--or fewer--spots). And as for fit, since there are so, so many more applicants, adcoms have the luxury of striking someone from the interview list because they didn't say *exactly* what the adcom wants to hear in terms of fit. Also, since most PIs are really holding onto their funding in the current economy, many are going to avoid taking on a new student and/or be even more choosy about who they take.

Keep your chin up. I got rejected across the board two years ago, and it sucked--but I was a much better applicant this time around. Taking time off before grad school can be a really, really good thing.

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