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Why interview me if my research interests were not a good fit?


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I fairly recently heard back from a program that I had previously interviewed with. I was rejected, and the grad coordinator said it was mainly because the adcomm didn't think my research interests were a good fit. However, I was very specific in my personal statement about my (fairly niche) interests, so they knew what I was interested in before I interviewed. Why would they bother interviewing me if they knew my interests weren't a good fit? Did they think they would change my mind or that I would have reconsidered in the two-ish months since I submitted an application? I'm not super crushed, just very confused.

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There's more to an applicant than the personal statement, maybe they thought your interests would be less specific when you described them in person. 

Edited by Bioenchilada
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To answer your question, I'll be honest and I'm sorry if it's a little harsh. But I hope the info from the directness is worth it.

In addition to what Bioenchilada said, "not a good fit" is also a way for schools to reject you without having to say exactly why, to avoid hurting people's feelings and to avoid an argument with an applicant.

Also, it's likely that the first cut (interviews) were made with little regard for "fit". They might choose to interview the most promising applicants and then decide later whether or not there is room for them in the department.

Finally, "fit" is a nebulous and subjective thing and I've learned that whenever schools say no for reason X, it doesn't always mean that "X" is the ultimate reason for saying no. In this case, it might not be that your interests aren't a good fit with the department, but the department only has so many spots for people with an interest in X and maybe they decided to admit the other people instead of you. What they said is still true, because now the department "needs" are already filled, so your interests are no longer a good fit for what they are looking for. (Note: I've seen this applied to other things too, a prof might say "I don't have funding for another student this year" but they might really mean, "I'm limited in my funding so I'm waiting for a really exceptional student" etc.)

In any case, I wouldn't worry about it---grad admissions are tough and a lot of the times, the decisions depend on factors you can't control, like who else is applying and what the department specifically wanted this year. It looks like you have at least one admission, good luck with the others!

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