Similar applications to same grad program

tamaghna
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:27 pm

Similar applications to same grad program

Postby tamaghna » Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:33 pm

Hi,

I'd really appreciate it if you folks could shed some light on a certain rumour that I've heard from several quarters now. In its most general form, it consists of the thesis that if an admission committee receives two similar profiles from the same program at the same univ, and if the two applications are equally eligible then the committee will overlook both applications and admit the next most eligible unambiguous choice. I have heard various versions of this idea, which share the common thread of advising against applicants from the same univ applying to the same graduate program, but variously relaxing the criterion of their having similar profiles, similar interests, or being in the same program at the previous university.

I am an Integrated M.Sc. student of Physics at IIT Kanpur. I expect around 9 of my batchmates from Physics to apply to the US for grad school.

I have heard this from people within academia as well as some of my friends so I am inclined to think there might be a definite possibility that it is true. Has anyone else heard the same rumour in his/her time? Can anyone confirm this?

Cheers and warm regards,
Tamaghna
Last edited by tamaghna on Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

TakeruK
Posts: 817
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby TakeruK » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:34 pm

Are you asking that if two very similar applicants from the same school apply to the same US program, the school will choose to accept neither student and instead choose someone else less qualified than either of the first two students?

I don't think this is true because it makes no sense. What might be true is that a school may not want to admit multiple students from exactly the same program because they might want to bring in a more diverse class. But, this can be accomplished by admitting one of the "similar applicants" (instead of none). Another thing might happen is that a school may not have the budget to admit many international students (which generally cost a lot more, but this depends on the school and whether it's public or private) so I can see cases where it is possible that all 9 students from your school won't be admitted but a lesser qualified US student may be admitted instead.

I know that in big programs (where they admit 40-50 graduate students per year), there are multiple students admitted from the same undergrad program. In smaller fields (<5 people admitted per year), the school might purposely try to avoid having 2 or 3 students from the exact same undergrad programs. However, I don't know if this is actually true, or it's just lower probability to get 2 equally qualified people from the same program in smaller fields so I just haven't encountered it yet.

In any case, I would not assume the rumour is true and I would definitely not use it in the application process. That is, I don't recommend picking the schools to apply to based on where your classmates are (or are not) applying!

tamaghna
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:27 pm

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby tamaghna » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:09 am

Thanks, Takeruk. That sounds reassuring... :)

You said you know of cases where more than one applicant from the same univ was admitted to the same grad program. Could you clarify whether they were international students?

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby TakeruK » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:03 pm

Yes, applicants from the same international university have been accepted to the same US grad program in the same year before. Many programs actually list their students. For example, here is Caltech's Physics department entering classes: http://www.pma.caltech.edu/GSR/gradclasslist.html

If you click on the 2011 class, http://www.pma.caltech.edu/GSR/gradclass2011.html, you can see that there were two students accepted from MIPT (Moscow) and 4 students admitted from National Taiwan University. In the 2010 year, there were 2 students from IIT Kanpur and 1 student from IIT Delhi.

Disclaimer: This is not the department I work in, so I don't know any of these people. There might have been other circumstances, but if you look through the many years there, I think there is enough data to convince me that it doesn't matter if there is more than one applicant from the same school!

However, you should keep in mind what I said above, that graduate students from international locations tend to cost more! For example, I know that many of the UC schools (e.g. Berkeley) only has a 10% international student population. So even if the entering class is something like 20-30 students, that is only 2-3 international students, and just because of numbers, this means it's much less likely for both the 2 international students will be from the same school! In contrast, at Caltech, there is no cost difference between an international and domestic student (usually true for private school). In 2012, when I entered Caltech, 40% of the new grad students were international (including me)!

Basically, it is probably pretty rare to see multiple students from the same international undergrad/masters school entering the same program in the US in the same year, but this is mostly because of limited space/funding for international students, not because of any active decisions to not accept students from the same school.

tamaghna
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:27 pm

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby tamaghna » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:23 am

Thanks a ton, TakeruK.

I am convinced.

hermitw
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:11 am

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby hermitw » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:48 pm

TakeruK wrote:Yes, applicants from the same international university have been accepted to the same US grad program in the same year before. Many programs actually list their students. For example, here is Caltech's Physics department entering classes: http://www.pma.caltech.edu/GSR/gradclasslist.html

If you click on the 2011 class, http://www.pma.caltech.edu/GSR/gradclass2011.html, you can see that there were two students accepted from MIPT (Moscow) and 4 students admitted from National Taiwan University. In the 2010 year, there were 2 students from IIT Kanpur and 1 student from IIT Delhi.

Disclaimer: This is not the department I work in, so I don't know any of these people. There might have been other circumstances, but if you look through the many years there, I think there is enough data to convince me that it doesn't matter if there is more than one applicant from the same school!

However, you should keep in mind what I said above, that graduate students from international locations tend to cost more! For example, I know that many of the UC schools (e.g. Berkeley) only has a 10% international student population. So even if the entering class is something like 20-30 students, that is only 2-3 international students, and just because of numbers, this means it's much less likely for both the 2 international students will be from the same school! In contrast, at Caltech, there is no cost difference between an international and domestic student (usually true for private school). In 2012, when I entered Caltech, 40% of the new grad students were international (including me)!

Basically, it is probably pretty rare to see multiple students from the same international undergrad/masters school entering the same program in the US in the same year, but this is mostly because of limited space/funding for international students, not because of any active decisions to not accept students from the same school.


Hi TakeruK, I also remember that some website said berkeley has fewer internationals than other top programs. Does this mean that for us internationals, berkeley or even UCSB is harder than MIT to get in? On the other hand, I know a chinese university sometimes have 3 offer from berkeley but only one from harvard and princeton.

TakeruK
Posts: 817
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby TakeruK » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:24 pm

hermitw wrote:Hi TakeruK, I also remember that some website said berkeley has fewer internationals than other top programs. Does this mean that for us internationals, berkeley or even UCSB is harder than MIT to get in? On the other hand, I know a chinese university sometimes have 3 offer from berkeley but only one from harvard and princeton.


I think so, but we have to remember to be careful with statistics when dealing with small numbers! For example, the programs that I applied to only accept 5-6 students per year, which means probably only 1 international student every other year. At these places, I would be confident to say that it is harder for an international student to get into e.g. UC Berkeley Astronomy than a private school like Cornell or Harvard. My advisors predicted I would not get into any UC school, but I would do okay applying to private schools that might be higher ranked, and they were right.

If you are comparing slightly bigger programs, e.g. physics, between schools like Berkeley and Harvard/Princeton, I think again, small numbers statistics play an important role. For instance, is 3 offers from Berkeley really statistically significant from 1 offer from Harvard/Princeton? Maybe that year, Harvard/Princeton made more offers to international students at different Chinese university or different countries. Also, bigger schools will tend to work on long term averages. A big department may have the ability to take on extra international students one year and then take fewer in later years.

So I think we should be careful trying to apply broad, long term averages to specific schools at specific times. If you see a program that interests you, don't worry about the long term averages -- apply to it anyways. I think the most useful conclusion from the above trend is that on average, it is harder to get admitted as an international student and we should be aware of that. Also, it might be a surprise (it certainly was for me) to find out that because of the funding costs to public schools, it might be easier for an international student to get into a private school than a public school. So, don't let the big fancy name/reputation scare you.

hermitw
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:11 am

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby hermitw » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:10 pm

TakeruK wrote:
hermitw wrote:Hi TakeruK, I also remember that some website said berkeley has fewer internationals than other top programs. Does this mean that for us internationals, berkeley or even UCSB is harder than MIT to get in? On the other hand, I know a chinese university sometimes have 3 offer from berkeley but only one from harvard and princeton.


I think so, but we have to remember to be careful with statistics when dealing with small numbers! For example, the programs that I applied to only accept 5-6 students per year, which means probably only 1 international student every other year. At these places, I would be confident to say that it is harder for an international student to get into e.g. UC Berkeley Astronomy than a private school like Cornell or Harvard. My advisors predicted I would not get into any UC school, but I would do okay applying to private schools that might be higher ranked, and they were right.

If you are comparing slightly bigger programs, e.g. physics, between schools like Berkeley and Harvard/Princeton, I think again, small numbers statistics play an important role. For instance, is 3 offers from Berkeley really statistically significant from 1 offer from Harvard/Princeton? Maybe that year, Harvard/Princeton made more offers to international students at different Chinese university or different countries. Also, bigger schools will tend to work on long term averages. A big department may have the ability to take on extra international students one year and then take fewer in later years.

So I think we should be careful trying to apply broad, long term averages to specific schools at specific times. If you see a program that interests you, don't worry about the long term averages -- apply to it anyways. I think the most useful conclusion from the above trend is that on average, it is harder to get admitted as an international student and we should be aware of that. Also, it might be a surprise (it certainly was for me) to find out that because of the funding costs to public schools, it might be easier for an international student to get into a private school than a public school. So, don't let the big fancy name/reputation scare you.

Thank you!

tamaghna
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:27 pm

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby tamaghna » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:09 pm

It's been two years since my application season, and I thought it might be useful for anyone finding this thread if I weighed in with my opinion now. Short answer is that as TakeRuk has mentioned as stated, the rumour does not make sense. If there are five similar applications from the same school, any sensible adcomm would choose the marginally better candidate(s), if they can.

I think the case where the question may be of relevance is when one application is clearly better than the others from the same institute. It's difficult for adcomms to choose between applications from different international universities, because the confounding factors are often not well known. But it's easier to discard a bunch of applications from the same univ if there is another in the pile that is clearly better and from the same univ. If you and four other friends apply to the same set of six universities, then if one of you is better, it's a no-brainer that that person will get between zero and six offers and the rest of you will get none (since none of the univs know that the better candidate has offers from the other places, they have to try to get him/her). In this case, splitting up the choices is beneficial for the group, but there's really nothing the best candidate has to gain from this. I have done something similar for friends I cared about, but it's important to know that you stand to gain nothing except friendship from doing this.

Dishsoap
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2015 12:31 am

Re: Similar applications to same grad program

Postby Dishsoap » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:53 pm

This is very useful information, thank you. I just wish that we would have known this earlier!




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