White_Summer wrote:My main concern with applying to the university in question has got to do with the fact that I do not really know where I stand with my GPA (which looks poor without context, with Indian universities having varying degrees of harshness in grading) and PGRE score. I clear their hard cutoffs on both counts but yeah, I feel a little hesitant with the application potentially being a nearly $200 investment, despite being quite enthusiastic about the prof's work.
Do potential advisors have a significant (or any) say in the admissions decision if they do not happen to be on the graduate admissions committee?
Canadian schools have plenty of applicants from Indian universities so the profs will be familiar with the different grading scheme. People know to not compare GPAs directly when considering international students since almost every country will have a different system.
At the Canadian Physics departments I have experience with, there isn't really an admissions committee like the United States. The committee may do some work to vet applicants and ensure they meet minimums to succeed in the department. But my experience has been that it's up to each professor to decide if they want a particular applicant in their group. One system is for the committee to clear all qualified candidates and then these candidates are forwarded to all professors. Then profs choose who they want, similar to hiring an employee, and then the admissions committee sends you a letter saying you are accepted to work with Profs X, Y, or Z etc. So it's more similar to the European system.
It's slightly more complicated with international student since usually the extra tuition cost for you is paid by the department, not the advisor. So, there may be discussion/debate amongst a committee on how to best allocate the funds set aside for the extra international student cost. Some factors that could be important are the number of profs who want an international student vs. the number of spots available. In addition, at one school I've been at, the international student tuition fund is contributed to by all professors, so the department would want to ensure international students are allocated fairly/evenly to all profs. That is, if the prof you're interested in recently got some extra money for an international student, it might be harder for that prof to convince the department that they should get you as well, especially if there is competition between profs to get an international student.
This is just based on my experience though and it's a few years old. I'm not sure if the schools I've been at (still) work in the same way as the school you are interested in. If you are not sure about spending $200, I think more conversation with this prof could be a good idea. You can judge their excitement/interest in you. You can also let them know the truth: you are very interested in this program but you are unsure about spending $200 on an application since you know how competitive it is for international students. If the conversation goes well, you might be able to ask whether they think an international student is likely to be accepted into their group this year. You may wish to send them your application materials if you haven't already.