So many rejections...

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

Qfields
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:48 pm

So many rejections...

Postby Qfields » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:47 pm

I obviously didn't expect to get accepted to all schools I applied to, but I really thought I would have a couple more choices.
When I look at other successful applicants, it doesn't seem like I'm behind in most categories.
I'm not complaining, because I'm actually really happy I have two great places to go to, but I wanted to have more opinions on why I wasn't accepted to some of these places.

Scotthew
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2012 9:20 am

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Scotthew » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:05 pm

I sympathize, and feel roughly the same way.
(I'll post the remainder of my profile once I hear from the Perimeter Institute)

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Skullgrid
Posts: 59
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2010 6:50 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Skullgrid » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:38 pm

I was shocked to see your profile! You obviously have the GRE and GPA components nailed, and it seems like you have strong research as well. I can't imagine you had mediocre letters either. The only other thing that could have gone wrong is your SOP; perhaps you didn't make a strong enough case that you would fit with each individual school? For each school that I was applying to, I made to research their faculty and preferences thoroughly so that I could explicitly tell them why I would be a good match for them. But I doubt that you didn't also do this, in which case we just have to accept that even for perfect applicants there is some element of luck, and it just happens that you were incredibly unlucky. That's not a very satisfying answer though. I've heard rumors that the really top schools like MIT and Harvard don't care as much about GRE scores, and more about personality roundedness as expounded in the SOP.

The other possible explanation is your recommenders themselves. As much as we'd like to believe in pure meritocracy, the word of your recommenders really matters, and having a big shot who is respected in the field on both a professional and personal level is sure way to get into top programs (assuming the rest of the app is up to par). I don't know who your recommenders are, so it's hard to say.

Either way, congrats on Cornell and Berkeley! All is not lost; far from it in fact.

Qfields
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:48 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Qfields » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:31 pm

Thanks for the reply!
For each school I actually did look at the faculty and mention some professors that do similar research to my previous experiences. For a couple of the schools I naturally couldn't find faculty with extremely similar interests, but even for those I still mentioned some potential projects and things like that. Overall I focused on my research experiences in my SOP.
I also can't imagine the letters not being strong. They were all from Professors I've worked with for a while. Especially since I come from a small school, they are all normally happy to find students who want to do research. Unfortunately they didn't have collaborators in these schools specifically (lots of international collaborations), but most of them are fairly well known in their fields.
Perhaps the fact that the school has a tiny department mattered, but I really did try and make a small department an opportunity to work closely with multiple professors.
It would be nice if the schools sent a rejection letter that was a bit more specific, but thankfully I still have two good choices.

Johnny Law
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Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:30 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Johnny Law » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:39 pm

Another thing that should be considered is that you've applied for theory, and theorists have to be a lot more selective because they don't get as much funding, and they have to work much more closely with students. Especially at places like MIT where they basically admit by what student they want in their lab. IMO if you didn't get in, you probably couldn't do your best work with those advisors anyway, so don't even worry about it. As the other guy said, it isn't always about stats, and letters and SOP is subjective.

Lavabug
Posts: 66
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:19 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Lavabug » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:14 pm

I'm starting to think there's just an increasing glut of qualified applicants wanting to go to grad school, tempting as it is for many to ride out the crappy economy with some additional schooling. It's not like most physics bachelors have the best prospects in the labor market right now, so I think that might be attracting more people to grad school who in other circumstances would pick up a decent job.

I've already heard it from the 3 institutions that I have been rejected/waitlisted at: "we received an unusually large amount of very strong applicants this year and we cannot offer admission to everyone". Even OSU's astronomy program had to pick 5 out of ~130 qualified applicants, and I think I've seen similar attrition years past with Berkley's program.

One of them even stated they were really impressed with my record, saying it was much better than most students they typically admit right on the spot (a famous summer research program), but they had to waitlist me this year because they got such an abnormally high number of good applicants.

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Skullgrid
Posts: 59
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2010 6:50 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Skullgrid » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:27 pm

Lavabug wrote:I'm starting to think there's just an increasing glut of qualified applicants wanting to go to grad school


I think this is true as well, which only intensifies the element of luck in the application process.

deathinacan
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:19 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby deathinacan » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:23 am

I thought I had a pretty good shot at getting into at least a couple of schools in the top 20, but now it looks like I was fortunate to get accepted anywhere at all. Apparently the GPA can really hurt your chances.

eraldcoil
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:39 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby eraldcoil » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:03 pm

People have even got paper admission letters while I haven't heard anything at all.

I wonder if the schools I apply to are done with sending admissions.

Lavabug
Posts: 66
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:19 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Lavabug » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:35 pm

deathinacan wrote:I thought I had a pretty good shot at getting into at least a couple of schools in the top 20, but now it looks like I was fortunate to get accepted anywhere at all. Apparently the GPA can really hurt your chances.

It has little to do with your GPA, there's just an oversupply of good applicants that are very similar and there isn't room for everyone.

Spoke with UMN on my status and they say it's unlikely they'll reach into the waitlist at this stage. No word from OSU physics by now and the last admissions were sent out weeks ago, so I think I better start to get to grips with not going to grad school. :|

samanark
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 4:53 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby samanark » Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:34 am

eraldcoil wrote:People have even got paper admission letters while I haven't heard anything at all.

I wonder if the schools I apply to are done with sending admissions.

Kind of similar for me. I got responses (rejections) from like half the schools on my list within a very short time period in late January/early February and since then, haven't heard anything from anybody else.

eclaire1
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:14 am

Re: So many rejections...

Postby eclaire1 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:46 pm

Same with me. A couple of rejections and nothing from everyone else so far. Just hoping for something......

Qfields
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:48 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Qfields » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:06 pm

I think the large number of applicants definitely influenced this year admissions.
But it really seems like one very important factor to get into the top schools is knowing someone in the department (either directly by having previously worked with them or if maybe through your advisor).

I asked Michigan about by admissions status and they said that they can't make an offer for me. I actually thought this was one of the schools I would definitely get in, and I think it's weird given that I have offers from Cornell and Berkeley (although I really wanna know what I did wrong to get rejected everywhere else)...

deathinacan
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:19 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby deathinacan » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:19 pm

Qfields wrote:I asked Michigan about by admissions status and they said that they can't make an offer for me. I actually thought this was one of the schools I would definitely get in, and I think it's weird given that I have offers from Cornell and Berkeley (although I really wanna know what I did wrong to get rejected everywhere else)...


Michigan did say in its rejection email to me that they were accepting a smaller class than normal this year.

SSM
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 10:57 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby SSM » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:57 am

Last year at UMich, there was an unusually large number of students who decided to attend. Previously every year Michigan sends out about 75 acceptances, and only expects 20 or so students to attend. The 2012 incoming had 35+ students. I'm sure you're very qualified to be a student here, but the theory groups especially are saturated with students right now. Don't feel bad about your rejection, it would be difficult to work for the person you really wanted to anyway I think.


Qfields wrote:I think the large number of applicants definitely influenced this year admissions.
But it really seems like one very important factor to get into the top schools is knowing someone in the department (either directly by having previously worked with them or if maybe through your advisor).

I asked Michigan about by admissions status and they said that they can't make an offer for me. I actually thought this was one of the schools I would definitely get in, and I think it's weird given that I have offers from Cornell and Berkeley (although I really wanna know what I did wrong to get rejected everywhere else)...

Lavabug
Posts: 66
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:19 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby Lavabug » Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:54 am

SSM wrote:Last year at UMich, there was an unusually large number of students who decided to attend. Previously every year Michigan sends out about 75 acceptances, and only expects 20 or so students to attend. The 2012 incoming had 35+ students. I'm sure you're very qualified to be a student here, but the theory groups especially are saturated with students right now. Don't feel bad about your rejection, it would be difficult to work for the person you really wanted to anyway I think.


Same thing happened last year at UMN, they considerably underestimated the number of students that would enroll. Looks like departments like to overshoot by a factor of 3, but they're probably going to have to change their habits because the supply of students is so high. This year Minnesota sent out 12 acceptances this year hoping to get 4, and by now I'm guessing they've got at least 2-3 in the bag, which squeezes my chances down to almost nil.

asdfuogh
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:21 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby asdfuogh » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:10 pm

It could also be due to the uncertainty of funding, right? I can't imagine that the departments would want the possibility of overenrollment and facing the wrath of the schools when they realize they don't have the money necessary to pay for the students..

eraldcoil
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:39 pm

Re: So many rejections...

Postby eraldcoil » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:34 pm

Yesterday, the app site of UC Davis showed all information, like app status 'submitted', the receipt of my supporting docs and so on. Today, it's just the app status 'submitted' and nothing else. No emails.

I... don't know what should I take this as. I only know that every smallest change can freak me out now, other than an admission offer.




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