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Those who have received interviews, what made you stand out?


Left Skew
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I’ve received four interviews and applied to seven programs (two programs do not do interviews, only recruitment weekends), and I think what helped me most was my letter of recs. Got a letter of rec from a big name in the field.  I also only applied to places with PIs who knew at least one of my recommenders personally. GREs were mediocre, but GPA was good (3.88) and research productivity looked promising (only 1 year of research experience but applied with 7 conference presentations in a span of one year, number will rise to 11 by May this year, no publications). POIs commented that I put together a strong application in general and specifically mentioned very strong recs. 

Edited by ilikepsych
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I'm not a current applicant, but I received interviews at 3 clinical programs last year. I don't think I was an amazing applicant- my GPA was pretty average for applicants, and I didn't have any pubs or many conference presentations. 

I believe what led to my interviews and eventual acceptances was fit. I had solid experience in my area of interest and interests that matched well with my POIs. I was told that my statement of purpose was well-written, and that they were impressed that I had experience in that area (because it is a pretty uncommon research topic compared to e.g. depression or anxiety). 

Edited by hsnl
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1 hour ago, hsnl said:

I'm not a current applicant, but I received interviews at 3 clinical programs last year. I don't think I was an amazing applicant- my GPA was pretty average for applicants, and I didn't have any pubs or many conference presentations. 

I believe what led to my interviews and eventual acceptances was fit. I had solid experience in my area of interest and interests that matched well with my POIs. I was told that my statement of purpose was well-written, and that they were impressed that I had experience in that area (because it is a pretty uncommon research topic compared to e.g. depression or anxiety). 

This is so helpful!

I haven't heard from any programs yet, but I feel peace knowing that I was very direct and specific with my research interests. Ultimately, fit is most important and if my POIs don't think my interests jive with theirs, there isn't much I can do. ??‍♀️

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My undergrad gpa was terrible and I also have terrible self-confidence, so I was convinced that I wouldn't receive any interviews this round.  But so far I've received 4 and they've all said that my application was strong.  I think that my redeeming factors were (a) I stated a very clear research interest and gave an example of a potential dissertation project that I could do in their lab and (b) I have very strong experience in my area of interest.  I've only been an RA for a year, but I've volunteered on a number of projects outside of my main one and gained tons of training and several 2nd author publications/posters.  So if anyone is worried about their GPA or a weak point in their app, don't give up! 

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the way I did it is by sending an email to someone I am interested in working with. If I get a reply, I request for an informal skype or phone call. I had one phone call interview with one professor before I applied. During the phone call I asked him if I can visit in person and maybe deliver an in-person powerpoint presentation of my previous research work. He agreed and I attended one of his group meetings and delivered a presentation. I did all this before I even applied to the school. 

Note that have external financial support so maybe this helped.
 

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I am still waiting to hearback on 4 schools (they wont get back till mid to late jan) but ive recieved one formal interview. Above everything, research fit is the most important. My gre quant score is below the 40 percentile but i still got an interview at a top 5 school because the fit was good and my letters of rec were very strong.

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I've gotten two interview invites and one rejection so far, still waiting to hear from the others. I think that my letters of rec and statement(s) of purpose did it for me. I made really good connections with faculty in the last year and a half (I'm a transfer student, which actually made applying really difficult). One letter writer was my mentor, who praised my writing ability and production rate (I'll have 3 pubs, 2 of which are first author), the other is the clinical program (masters level) director at my undergrad. 

I had also spoken to both POI's where I got interviews at length before I applied. It also didn't hurt that one POI has a student that came out of the lab that I'm in, and who I've done research with.

I was pretty much relying on those things. My undergrad GPA was terrible (like, actually bad. Around a 3.2?) and my GRE scores were right on average for the 2 programs that I've gotten interviews at.

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I'm also not a current applicant, and didn't get explicit feedback from my current advisor as to why she picked me of all people, but I do have insight from a few of the other interviews I attended. For one, I was told that my SOP was very well-written. I did not write a traditional SOP in the sense that it was purely about research. I did include part of my life/academic "story" and what inspired me to study the questions I want to study, so I think my passion really came through. 

Also, I very selectively chose which schools I wanted to apply to, purely based on research fit with various POIs, which it sounds like you also did so you're already ahead of a lot of people! And don't worry about your interests not being a perfect match; professors actually do not want to admit students whose research interests are perfectly aligned with theirs. They want students who will help them broaden their research. They're already the expert in their research, they don't need to produce a less-successful, less-known carbon copy of themselves. 

Third, having gotten in touch with your POIs at various schools ahead of time, like CHBE_M said is also very helpful. I however did not have phone or skype calls with the POIs I was able to get in touch with, and also if you did not it isn't the end of the world. The program I'm at now I actually never interacted with my POI prior to sending in an application. I tried to email them but never got a response! 

Pubs/posters definitely help, and having research experience in your area of interest also definitely helps, but I didn't have either of those and was still successful (so don't worry if you don't have them either). 

Edited by 01sonal
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