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PhD (Fall 2017) in Marketing?


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Hi there!

I have been rejected by pretty much all of the schools I applied to. With a 3.95 GPA (MBA from a reputed school in Asia), LORs from senior academicians (from non USA based unis, though), a 700 GMAT, and decent SOPs (I had them reviewed by my references, too), a 100% rejection rate has caused significant shock (and depression). I was wondering if someone might be willing to take a shot at demystifying the following?

1. What is the most important criterion in a Marketing PhD application? (To me, it looks like research experience)

2. Can someone who has been away from academics (and working in industry in a non-research position) for many years, and has decided to try to get into academia, actually ever have a chance of making it into a top 10 PhD program in the USA?

3. Anyone out there who has in the past battled the depression arising from rejections and rallied for applications all over again next year? What's your secret?



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Hi dreamer33,

I understand your frustration and I will try my best to answer your questions. First thing first, are you on the CB or Quant?

The following responses are based on my experience as a quant candidate. No one really know what is the most important criterion in Marketing Phd application. It varies by schools. It does vary by school. But I guess there are three common factors to get into the top schools:

    1) GPA (above 3.5+)  and GRE/GMAT (above 90%) .

    2) A strong plus if your LORs are from professors who are known by the admission committee. 

    3) It is hard to tell whether research experience and work experience is important or not. Relevance is the king! There is no single recipe because everyone is different.   

I am working in the industry for a few years and have been wanting to get into academia for a long time. It seems that work experience is not critical in the PhD application since a lot of admitted students are straight out of school. However, they might have very cool research experience during their undergrad or master's education. 

I am very lucky to make it into a top program probably because of my unique background in machine learning. Previously, I have some rigorous training in both econometrics and statistics. Yet, I don't know what the committee likes about me. I don't have any academic connection with marketing programs. Although I got interviews from two top5 programs, I was rejected by all the other lower-ranked schools I applied. I don't think I am overqualified for schools in the range of top10-20 but they didn't even give me an interview. That said, rejections don't mean anything. If you have solid background and still want an academic life, you should hope for the best and reapply next year. 





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  • 3 weeks later...

1 - I guess the most important criterion is their perception of your potential to become a researcher who they are willing and able to support. Each applicant may have a different way to show potential to become a research and how he/she will fit into the program. Research experience is one of the ways, but certainly there are others. 

I don't think there is such a thing as a specific criterion which is the most important in all cases. A very low test score may kill your chances. A lack of interest in research may kill your chances. A bad letter of recommendation may kill your chances. So, they are all of vital importance.

2 - Well, I had been away from academia for some time. But then, I wasn't accepted by any top 10 school. 

But if you only applied to the very top schools, you really underestimated the competition to get into those programs. It's extremely hard to get into a top 10 program, even for extremely qualified people. A GMAT score of 700 for example may be impressive for MBA programs, where hundreds of applicants are accepted, but I don't think that's the case for PhD, where many times only 1 or 2 applicants are accepted for a specific concentration (Quantitative Marketing, for example). There are lot of awesome applicants.

My GMAT score is 750. I have a bachelor's degree from the #1 university in Latin America. I have both an MBA and a Master of Science. I presented my research paper at the most important business research event in my country. I have years of teaching experience. For the average Joe, my profile may seem outstanding. But not when compared with the best of the best of the whole world. So, I really wasn't surprised when I was rejected by the schools I applied to which were ranked in top 10 or even top 20. I was accepted by a lower ranked school, the only offer out of 20 applications. And I consider it a great, great achievement. 

3 - I didn't battle depression. But, if you got really depressed because of rejections, maybe a PhD and a life as a researcher may not be the best for you. Because, as far as I know, dealing with failures and rejections is an important part of doing a PhD and research. When your research seems to go nowhere, when you reach a dead end after a long time doing a research, when you try to publish a paper and is rejected by journal after journal. To me, failure and rejections are just a natural part of the life I chose. How to deal with that? Learning with your mistakes, facing the challenges, overcoming obstacles, and trying again.

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  • 10 months later...

Hi haiwanglei and Brazilian

Thank you, and sorry that I am responding a year later. To read your responses now, after a year has passed, puts a lot of things into perspective. The experience of the past year has quite literally opened my eyes to some critical aspects of what 'having aspirations for a research career' really entails. On the basis of this, to your excellent points, I would like to add the following (hoping that this thread helps other PhD applicants who might be in a similar situation):

If out of touch with academics and research for a significant period of time (in my case, it's 9 years, and I think it well qualifies for 'significant'), it is imperative to get some experience before applying to grad school. You will gain the following as a result:

a) a feel of the fact that dealing with failures and rejections is as important as anything else (as Brazilian mentioned). If you come from a corporate background, as I did, you get used to seeing results instantly. Failures aren't quite as common (at least in the sector where I worked), and failures are almost never attributable to an individual. You need to lose all that baggage

b)a feel of the networks within your area of study: you won't quite get to dabble with such networks this early on, but at least you will know who are the star professors, which are the top schools (school rankings are NOT important, the school's activities and research output in your area are)

c)a flavour of academic writing! Not just reading, but actual writing. In my case, I contacted my master's supervisor and asked for his help in getting me started in academic writing. We wrote a couple of papers together. I erred, I even made a fool of myself the first couple of months on the assignment. But I learned. And I got better!

I applied to 7 schools this year, 4 in USA and 3 in Canada. I have interviewed with 2 of these schools already. And I am hopeful of getting a few more interviews. THIS is what a year of experience and 'bouncing back' from the rejections of last year have done: increased my confidence by several notches! I know, even if I don't get in this year as well, I have the drive to try again, next year :)


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