Does the "Other schools you're applying to" section affect anything?

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Does the "Other schools you're applying to" section affect anything?

Postby pgrethrowaway » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:40 am

Hello, as the subject states, I'm wondering what affect on my chances this section has. Specifically, I'm not sure how schools which are low on my list see this. If they can clearly tell that they're #9 out of 14, and believe me likely to get into one of the schools in a higher tier, would they reject me even if I qualify? Or will they simply accept me and accept another student as well, on the assumption I probably won't attend?

On one hand I don't want to lie, but I can't see how admitting a school is a safety helps my chances, and I'd obviously like to get in and have that safety net.


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Re: Does the "Other schools you're applying to" section affect anything?

Postby thehairupthere » Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:54 am

Firstly, I'm assuming this question is optional, and if you don't feel comfortable answering it, don't!

Schools claim that this question will not affect their decision, and I personally believe them, but definitely do not list 14 universities on the list. I advise only listing universities that have very close programs to this one (and at least some are in the same league).

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Re: Does the "Other schools you're applying to" section affect anything?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:12 pm

I don't think the question affects your admission decision. Why would a school reject a good student because they are afraid the student might accept another school?? If you want this student, then there is a non-zero chance they will take your offer if you make one and definitely a 0% chance of getting the student if you reject them!

Instead, I think the question is used for purposes like determining who the competition are. It's important for schools to know what other choices that their applicants have. If you reject (and sometimes if you accept too) an offer, they will often send a follow-up survey that asks what your final choice was, what the other school's stipend offer was, and ask about some reasons.

Also, I think the school uses the answer to this question to determine the initial number of offers made. They can determine some probability that you will accept their offer based on past data. For example, if a school has 5 spots, they might make something like 10 or 11 offers if all 10 or 11 applicants are determined to have say, a 30% of accepting their offer. But if their top 6 applicants have an 90% chance of taking the offer, they might only make 6-7 offers at first. But if you are a lower ranked applicant, having a higher chance of accepting their offer won't help you get in.

Schools also don't make decisions on the same timelines. Usually schools that are typically safety schools make their decisions later, because most students who are applying to them as a safety would not have heard back from top choices yet. So, if they know that you are applying to a lot of other high ranked schools and they recognize your profile as having a good chance of getting into that school, this can help the safety school do a checkup on you in say, late February and ask if you are still interested in their program. If you already have another offer you intend to take, then they will know they no longer need to consider you and it saves everyone time! Or, knowing that a big group of students are visiting the same set of schools might help coordinate some kind of travel (maybe to avoid conflicting visit weekends for example). Having this information could make things more efficient.

My advice is to just answer honestly. You will be asked this when you visit/interview anyways. I also agree that you should not list 14 other schools! Usually, they only ask for names of 3-5 schools, so I'd choose 3-5 schools that are representative of your entire list.

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Re: Does the "Other schools you're applying to" section affect anything?

Postby astroprof » Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:32 pm

We do not use the 'Other schools you're applying to' section as part of our admissions decision, but we do use it to identify our 'competition.' Specifically, while we know where we rank amongst other schools, having such information in writing (so to speak) from graduate applicants helps us convince the Dean that our financial packages need to be competitive relative to that grouping. We also use the information to judge the likelihood that you will accept our offer. That will not affect our admissions decision on you, but may impact the number of offers we make in total. Thus, if you only list schools that are significantly better than us (i.e., it looks like we are your safety school), we will make a judgement as to whether we think you can get into those schools and count you as a likely 'yes' (i.e., we think you have over-shot) or 'no' (i.e., we think you are as good as you think you are). Conversely, if we are the top school amongst your list, we will assume that you are likely to accept our offer and therefore (possibly) make fewer offers in total. Thus, this question does affect something, but not you directly. We appreciate when students respond to this question honestly and completely. We also appreciate students letting us know where they have been accepted, once admission decisions have been made, so that we can run the percentages (as TakeruK outlined above), but we try to avoid asking directly during the visit since it lends itself to impromptu (and often inappropriate) comparisons of why we are better than school X. However, we hope that you will tell us out right, or at least tell our graduate students during the student dinner, so that we can factor that information into our decisions as to how many (if any) wait listed applicants we decide to admit during the second/third round.

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Re: Does the "Other schools you're applying to" section affect anything?

Postby pgrethrowaway » Sun Dec 20, 2015 5:05 am

Thanks for the answers guys. Due to what astroprof said I'll probably just answer in full since that was what my gut said anyway.

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