starformationrate wrote:I know that in the past, some departments have automatically moved applications over to another department if they feel an application is strong but better suited elsewhere (e.g. according to previous applicant profiles, Caltech's astro department has transferred applications to the physics department). I realize this is probably not the norm--Caltech is small enough that maybe this is a feasible strategy for them--but does anyone know if there are other schools that do this? I've tried checking websites, but no dice. I'm guessing most places wouldn't want to advertise that they'll do this for free?
This depends on the school. Based on what I remember from applying and what other students have told me, these are the options I've heard of:
1. The school allows you to apply to more than one department (usually a max of 2 though) and you submit separate application packages and will receive offers independent of each department (i.e. you can get accepted to both and have to decide).
2. The school does not allow more than one application. You will be expected to apply to your first choice department/program but the application package will ask if you have a "second choice" and if the first choice does not accept you, they will forward your application to the second choice. However, the application usually notes that by the time you get forwarded to the second choice, the second choice may already made (most if not all) of their decisions.
3. The school doesn't ask you about a second choice but they will instead inform you that they have transferred your application if the department you applied to does not feel you are a good fit for them. Or they will reject you and ask if you would like your application transferred.
I'll send you a PM about your specific question!
Edit: Oops I kind of left it off without saying the one thing I wanted to say: If the website doesn't tell you the information you need, you can just start an application. Most applications will let you skip through pages without answering all/any of the questions. Look to see if the application asks about multiple departments. And if that doesn't answer your question, sending an email to the appropriate person in the department would be the next best step (let them know that you are interested in both and what the school's policies are on applying for more than one program).