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Is my application that weak?


SunshineOnMe
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Hi everyone,

I'm a Canadian student planning to apply to US phd programs in sociology next year. I'm currently in my last year of study and expecting to graduate with a CGPA of 3.9. 

I've conducted several independent research projects, one of which has recently been submitted for publication (IF: 1.1X), based on the recommendation of the professor who supervised my research. I'm also working on my Honours thesis, which, again my supervisor (a different professor) tells me I should seriously consider publishing. I haven't taken the GRE yet, but I also know that the GRE is not a determining factor for admission. Nonetheless, I'm obviously going to do my best to get the best score possible. 

I also believe that I will receive at the very least decent recommendations from all my professors. 

The reason I decided to write on this forum is because someone told me that my application is weak and not even competitive for top 100 schools. His exact words were "you'll probably get rejected by most of the top 100 schools; you should look elsewhere." Please don't get me wrong, I would probably still be happy to go anywhere, granted that I receive funding and the research fit is reasonable. However, I really thought I had a shot at some of the top 20 schools or at least 30-50 schools, and what he told me really made me feel like I'm not good enough and someone who's "out of touch with the real world."

Is this really true? Should I really consider applying to schools outside top 100 to even have a shot? I know it was just one man's opinion but I felt so belittled. I'm a student-father and I've worked so hard (like everyone else) trying to juggle work, school, and family all at the same time. If anyone could please chime in and tell me where I stand, I would really really appreciate it. 

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On what basis is your application so weak that you can't get into a top 100 school? You have a great GPA, research experience and a published paper. As long as you attain excellent GRE scores and develop a strong SOP / writing sample, your chances of getting into a top 20 school are as good as anybody else's. Besides those general factors, no one can tell you exactly what your application has to look like in order to get in -- the circumstances of admission are more or less arbitrary. 

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As long as you are choosing schools based on goodness of fit, it sounds like you have a good chance of getting in (pending SoP, writing sample, and GRE). Was this a professor, a fellow student, or someone else? What are they basing this on?

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Someone is messing with your head, and if he's a permanent fixture in your life, you need to find a way to remove him. Not only was it an unhelpful and mean thing to say, it also doesn't sound like it's rooted in any fact. You have a good GPA and some prior research experience. You have two projects that two separate professors consider publishable and will presumably praise in their LORs. That should allow you to write a strong and targeted SOP. You should have a strong writing sample based on one of these papers. You should have strong LORs, from all I gather. If you write a focused SOP and choose your schools wisely based on fit (+ get a decent GRE score), I don't see any reason why you shouldn't aim high and be successful. Cut the hurtful person out of your life and look forward with confidence. No guarantees or promises, but no reason to be overly negative, either. 

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I also believe that this person is probably trying to undermine you. I don't know why, I find it strange (jealousy, who knows!) Apply anyway, you've got nothing to lose. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. When that happens, you can always try the following year. I am irritated that someone told you something like this when you sound like a great candidate. Whenever someone tells me I can't or shouldn't do something, I still manage to accomplish it and do it. But that's just me. You sound like a strong candidate. Don't let that person mess with your confidence. Good luck!

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I second what those above have said. I'm not going to attempt to understand why the person said what they did, or judge their character,(many potential factors), but from my searches, you're application is not only good, I'd say it's really good. I think if you get good GRE scores, you'll not only have a chance, but a pretty good one. In fact, I'd say don't look at lower schools. The general trend here appears to be, most people with really good applications (such as yours), actually end up getting rejected at some lower tier schools because the schools think you won't pick them (since you can get into better schools). Regardless, of why they said the statement, its bogus. 

Edit: I have a 3.00 GPA and low GRE scores, and no ones told me not to apply (even though I'm pretty sure I won't get into my top school picks). So gives you some perspective 

Edited by samman1994
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4 hours ago, StructuringStructures said:

On what basis is your application so weak that you can't get into a top 100 school? You have a great GPA, research experience and a published paper. As long as you attain excellent GRE scores and develop a strong SOP / writing sample, your chances of getting into a top 20 school are as good as anybody else's. Besides those general factors, no one can tell you exactly what your application has to look like in order to get in -- the circumstances of admission are more or less arbitrary. 

Thank you for your comment. I know admission into any school isn't guaranteed just because you have good stats; but what this guy told me really threw me off and ruined my day. I'm a bit relieved that I at least have a shot at these schools. Thank you! 

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4 hours ago, GreenEyedTrombonist said:

As long as you are choosing schools based on goodness of fit, it sounds like you have a good chance of getting in (pending SoP, writing sample, and GRE). Was this a professor, a fellow student, or someone else? What are they basing this on?

It was some phd student that I met on another online forum. What he was basically saying was that there are hundreds of students from Yale, Harvard, etc with a 4.0 and still struggle to get into top 20 schools and I, someone "from the country," meaning Canada, don't even have a shot at top 100 schools and should look elsewhere. He told me the reason I'm "so out of touch with the real world" is because I'm from Canada. I don't know why he was so hostile toward me, but I feel much better that apparently what he told me was bogus. Thank you for the comment! 

3 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

Someone is messing with your head, and if he's a permanent fixture in your life, you need to find a way to remove him. Not only was it an unhelpful and mean thing to say, it also doesn't sound like it's rooted in any fact. You have a good GPA and some prior research experience. You have two projects that two separate professors consider publishable and will presumably praise in their LORs. That should allow you to write a strong and targeted SOP. You should have a strong writing sample based on one of these papers. You should have strong LORs, from all I gather. If you write a focused SOP and choose your schools wisely based on fit (+ get a decent GRE score), I don't see any reason why you shouldn't aim high and be successful. Cut the hurtful person out of your life and look forward with confidence. No guarantees or promises, but no reason to be overly negative, either. 

Fortunately, he isn't. He's just some random phd student I met on another internet community. But there are a lot of phd students and even professors on this community so I thought I would get some real helpful advice, not belittling comments like that. He also told me my 3.9 GPA was "meh" for these top schools, as there are loads of people from Ivy with a 4.0 applying to these schools.  

However, what you tell me is exactly the case: I'm 100% certain that my professors will write great recommendation letters for me and I know this because I feel like I know them at a very personal level and think of them more as my mentors and teachers.

Thank you for your advice, and I'll just do my own thing to the best of my abilities and hope for the best. 

3 hours ago, Adelaide9216 said:

I also believe that this person is probably trying to undermine you. I don't know why, I find it strange (jealousy, who knows!) Apply anyway, you've got nothing to lose. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. When that happens, you can always try the following year. I am irritated that someone told you something like this when you sound like a great candidate. Whenever someone tells me I can't or shouldn't do something, I still manage to accomplish it and do it. But that's just me. You sound like a strong candidate. Don't let that person mess with your confidence. Good luck!

This is exactly what my wife told me: "don't listen to naysayers; just go your way." Thank you. Your words really make me feel better and that I can do it. I wish you the best of luck as well!

 

3 hours ago, samman1994 said:

I second what those above have said. I'm not going to attempt to understand why the person said what they did, or judge their character,(many potential factors), but from my searches, you're application is not only good, I'd say it's really good. I think if you get good GRE scores, you'll not only have a chance, but a pretty good one. In fact, I'd say don't look at lower schools. The general trend here appears to be, most people with really good applications (such as yours), actually end up getting rejected at some lower tier schools because the schools think you won't pick them (since you can get into better schools). Regardless, of why they said the statement, its bogus. 

Edit: I have a 3.00 GPA and low GRE scores, and no ones told me not to apply (even though I'm pretty sure I won't get into my top school picks). So gives you some perspective 

Thank you. People on this forum are really helpful and put things into perspective for me. I'm not going to try to understand why he said he said because now I realize that he wasn't even worth my time and energy. I truly wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours as well. Thank you. 

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I'm glad we could help out and it definitely sounds like that person is the one out of touch with reality. As samman eluded to, applicants sometimes get into the top 20 schools and rejected from their safety (usually due to goodness of fit). Write a great SoP, apply to the programs where you and your research are a great fit, and keep doing you. <3

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1 hour ago, GreenEyedTrombonist said:

I'm glad we could help out and it definitely sounds like that person is the one out of touch with reality. As samman eluded to, applicants sometimes get into the top 20 schools and rejected from their safety (usually due to goodness of fit). Write a great SoP, apply to the programs where you and your research are a great fit, and keep doing you. <3

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! Will take your advice to heart. I wish you the best of luck with everything!!! 

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For anyone reading this in the future, the 3.9 vs. 4.0 question is especially silly. I want to ask that guy, who cares? I'm nearing the end of my PhD coursework, and I can tell you that most of my undergraduate grades had nothing, zero to do with any ability I have to succeed (or not!) in graduate school. Who cares if I got a B in one of my required science courses? What does that have to do with my work in an anthropology PhD? Nothing! Okay, so maybe that guy from the other forum would respond that a lot of applicants have 4.0s in their major. Still!—who cares? Whether I got a few (horror) B+s or A-s when I was adjusting to college has nothing to do with my success or not as a professional researcher. Obviously, the ideal applicant profile is one that has a lot of As in the subject for which they're applying to graduate school, especially in upper-level courses where you will actually do some research. If my experience is any indication, however, 'having a lot of As' is a factor that's kind of independent of whether you got any other (pretty good) grades. ('Pretty good': C+s or below you're probably going to have to explain.) Above that line, though, "having a lot of As and that's it" and "having a lot of As and also some A-s" and "a lot of As and two Bs" seem pretty much totally equivalent to me. Also, if anything, there are 4.0s and 4.0s. Sure, I knew that one guy who, as a psychology or international studies major or something, seemed to also float into advanced poetry classes and the hardest possible neuroscience courses and get all As, because he was just that brainy. Maybe you knew a 'that guy,' too. (On the other hand, I believe my 'that guy' also failed a couple courses in economics or something, because he just couldn't make himself care, so he wouldn't have had a 4.0, either.) On the other hand, it is possible to get a 4.0—even (better: especially) from an Ivy League school—by working hard while never challenging yourself or taking a risk. A 3.7-9 kind of range GPA may sometimes be more competitive for PhDs than the latter type of 4.0, if that risk-aversion is reflected in any of their other application materials, e.g. SOP or LORs.

Edited by hats
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Put another way, sounds like your file won't give you a guarantee to anywhere, but you'll nevertheless be jumping over any reasonable hurdles.  

Now find a place you like, and that will like you.  At least a few of your options are likely to be very good.

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