Confounded by admission yeahs and neahs

<p>So, Im trippin on the recent admission news. To date, I had gotten into master's programs at both U of Chicago and U of Michigan in social welfare. Their programs are tops in the nation. To sweeten the deal, they offered generous aid packages and fellowship opportunities. I am definitely thankful for my good fortune.</p>

<p>Today I got my letter from UW in Seattle and found out I have been waitlisted. Their program is strong and reputable, but it is not on the level of the aforementioned schools. I got waitlisted. </p>

<p>Now, my point is not that my poo dont stink (sorry, couldnt resist) but more so, to illustrate the oddities of the admission's process. Are there some instances where it is more arbitrary than it should be? On paper, I was a very strong applicant for Seattle's program.</p>

<p>Anyone else had this happen to them?</p>

<p>I got into Cambridge, the LSE and King's College London for a masters and got rejected by the University of Florida!!! It is an odd admissions world out there.</p>

<p>For the MA, I got into Columbia, UVa, and Hawaii (all for RSEA), and American SIS and Elliott for IR, yet rejected at Cornell East Asian Studies. </p>

<p>PhD admissions were far more predictable. I got into Univ. at Illinois-Chicago and rejected at Penn, Northwestern (my undergraduate alma mater) and NYU.</p>

<p>Who the professor wants to work with is a big part of Grad. School admissions. Much less of an index system than Undergraduate.</p>

<p>I've seen stranger in undergraduate</p>

<p>I know a guy who did not get into the honors program at UVa, but got into MIT.</p>

<p>It's called "fit," folks. </p>

<p>Your standardized test scores can be through the roof, your letters can report that you regularly push the level of class discussion on current methodologies in your field into the stratosphere, your grades can be frighteningly perfect, and your personal statement can be elegantly written and reflect an uncanny awareness of your strengths and a ringing clarity regarding your intended academic focus. </p>

<p>But if you wish to do postmodern feminist interpretations of gender dynamics in Elizabethan theatre, there had better be more than one faculty member in the department who likes to deploy postmodern feminist methodologies, and at least one who does Elizabethan theatre, at least as a subspecialty. And both of those faculty members should have the rank of at least associate professor. And neither should have research leave scheduled soon. And one should have a clear enough plate to supervise your dissertation when that time comes. And that same one should have a solid record of shepherding his or her students through to the bitter end of the defense, and on to the job search thereafter, because if s/he doesn't, no other faculty member is going to vote to send a student to a lousy supervisor.</p>

<p>See? It's not you. Really. ;)</p>


<p>This is all true. It's just such an interesting process, though I look at it more as applying for a job than for an academic program, per se. </p>

<p>I applied to four PhD programs and was admitted to one (admittedly the one to which I was admitted is a bit lower profile than the others, but no less selective in terms of pure numbers). </p>

<p>I was denied fairly unceremoniously from three, even though there were faculty at all of them who share my interests and could have been potential mentors. </p>

<p>The one that offered me admission, though, pursued me quite aggressively. The department head did not hesitate to contact me often and was completely open about the fact that, supposedly, I was (one of) the first to whom they had offered admission, and that final decisions on other finalists were contingent upon my acceptance or denial of their offer, as they wanted to fill the cohort with students who have corresponding interests. He literally came out and said that they would do everything possible to recruit me to the department, etc., etc.</p>

<p>Consider this in contrast to the fact that the other programs obviously had little or no interest (one never even mailed a denial letter. I only found out when I contacted a faculty member regarding my status). It's amazing that, literally, one department's trash is another's treasure. I tend to wonder what the one program found so valuable that the others either didn't see or didn't need.</p>

<p>And some departments in big cities or on beautiful coastlines have unassailable reputations and can afford to rest on their laurels, and other just-as-unassailable programs with inland, small town locations have to work to court the students they want.</p>

<p>What I am trying to express is that there are hundreds of variables in admissions. It's not just a numbers game. And admissions (or rejections) are not reflections on your VALUE. You are not TRASH, but neither are you TREASURE. You are a potential colleague.</p>

<p>And FYI, denials always seem cold, because we, as Directors of Graduate Studies, are prohibited by University lawyers from contacting students who are not admitted. The administrators have to send those boilerplate letters. And some administrators are lousier at their jobs than others. (Hence, your missing letter.) Therefore, admissions are always warm in comparison! We WANT admitted students to choose our programs, and if they don't, we move down the list to the plethora of (usually) just-as-qualified candidates.</p>

<p>Interesting info, and thanks. I know that I was hyperbolizing when I used the words "trash" and "treasure," but it's helpful to know the dynamic. The school that admitted me is in the heart of a big city but is not quite as well-established in the field as the heavy hitters, and hence, probably has to work a bit harder to attract the students it wants. </p>

<p>They did a good job, as I accepted my offer rather than hold out and try again next cycle, and I feel very comfortable with that choice.</p>

<p>Interestingly, when I applied to MA programs a couple of years ago, I also applied to the PhD program in the department that housed my undergraduate major. I received the standard denial letter but was later told in detail by the Director of Graduate Studies (who was my mentor as an undergraduate) that I had been selected as a finalist but ended up not making the final cut for funding (and, as a result, for admission). </p>

<p>At any rate, I'm super excited about starting my PhD program and am glad that the admission process is behind me.</p>

<p>I hear what you're saying about fit, but the cynic in me wonders if some schools will reject well-qualified applicants on the basis that they presume those applicants will choose more well-regarded programs. Declining admission to these students would help in their ascension in the Holy Grail of grad school rankings, the USNWR.</p>

<p>Stepping out of the streaming pile of conjecture, I can only hope that the process does indeed match the right applicants to the right programs, and that in the end deserving applicants end up at programs where they can add as much as they receive in the education process.</p>


<p>In my experience, that is simply not the case. When I was a PhD student, I was the student rep to the admissions committee in a top program. The faculty NEVER passed over a candidate on the grounds that s/he would probably go elsewhere. Neither do the faculty in the program I now direct. </p>

<p>While the USNWR rankings seem unbelievably significant to students, (and to some administrative types at some universities -- but by no means all) they mean absolutely nothing to faculty. Absolutely NOTHING. (Okay, sometimes we do scoff at their most egregiously off-base evaluations of particular programs.)</p>

<p>The only program assessments we care about are those within our own discipline (usually performed by our scholarly associations), and our recurring program reviews, which are performed by internal and external reviewers (other scholars) within our own field and cognate fields. We also care about our graduation rates, and our placement rates.</p>

<p>Very interesting. I recant my cyncism and concede defeat :)</p>

<p>I actually find that graduate programs are far more concerned with their NEH funding numbers in relation to competing departments (this was the major stat that was repeated to me during the "courtship" phase of the admission process). The graduate school culture is far less admissions-obsessed than the undergraduate scene, so US News seems to be more or less outside the radar screen of most faculty in the PhD-granting disciplines, as well it should be.</p>