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Schools playing off each other?


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Has anyone ever heard of two schools with comparable programs playing off each other's acceptances?  For example, if they can't admit more than a few students for each specialty and they have a lot of shared applicants, would the prof. of institution A talk (off the record) to those of institution B and maybe decide on certain students based on their acceptance or rejection from institution B?


Perhaps I'm just trying to heal a slightly wounded ego, but I'm curious if this is allowed/possible or if anyone else has thought about this.  I personally think it would make sense/don't blame them for needing to make sure they only let students in if they are probably going to attend. 


Grazie a tutti :)

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I don't think this happens and I think this would be a breach of confidentiality. Applications are confidential. Maybe different fields may have different norms, but I don't think this happens from what I know.

Schools in my field will often ask the student about their other offers. I don't see a good reason for a school to reject an otherwise good applicant just because they have an offer from another school. However, it makes sense for some schools to ask the student if they are still interested in an offer before coming forth with one. You're right, schools don't want to make too many offers to students that aren't going to attend because these students take up offer spots and by the time these students say no, they might miss out on other applicants. Note that for most funded PhD programs, only about 30% to 50% of accepted students actually matriculate.

So, schools usually employ one of the following tactics to avoid missing out on good candidates that are just below their cutoff:

1. Schools with more money might just accept everyone they are willing to fund, i.e. if they are looking for 10, instead of just accepting 20 and losing out on #21 through #25 (who may also be good candidates), they might just accept all 25 qualified candidates. If it so happens that a larger than expected number matriculate, then they will take a smaller class next year. These are schools with enough money in the bank that they only worry about long term averages and can handle an odd year or two with additional people.

2. If a school is not going to be someone's "dream school", they might choose to wait until March to make offers (in my field, the top schools have already finished making offers around this time). So, if someone applied to this school plus a "dream school" and got into a dream school, they might decline right away so the spot stays open.

3. Schools may ask students if they are still interested in an offer before extending it. If they have one spot left to fill and two applicants are qualified, they might ask both to see who is more likely to accept and offer it to that one. I don't think they will make an offer (or not make an offer) based only on the fact that a student has another offer, without talking to the student first.

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I don't think this happens very often, as it would be illegal (by Federal antitrust law). What does happen is speculation on where else a candidate is likely to be admitted (are they likely to be admitted somewhere else which would be a better fit? offer a lot more funding? in the location they obviously prefer? etc.), which can have an impact on the outcome, though it doesn't always.  

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