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Are PhD admissions more about fit w/ program than GMAT/GPA?

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Are PhD admissions more about fit w/ program than GMAT/GPA? [#permalink] New post 05 May 2005, 10:45
Just wondering about this, because when looking at the list of average GMAT scores posted elsewhere on the PhD forum, they don't seem to fit with the published "admit" rates. In other words, when you have schools with admit rates published of say, 2% or 5%, and the mean GMAT for this entering PhD class is 650 or less--as it is for even many of the Top 50 programs--this relatively low number doesn't seem to match the tremendous selectivity.

Or are the programs inflating--or deflating--the numbers? Just because the entering class is 6 for a given program and they had 300 applicants, I suppose that doesn't mean that they extended offers to only 6, they may have extended offers to 56, but many offers were rejected as the applicant got into a more choice program or received a more lucrative fellowship or assistantship elsewhere. Or perhaps when they discovered that a candidate is likely to be accepted at a more prestigious school, they reject them even though they otherwise would've accepted them. Is this what's going on?

Also, could it be a matter of schools rejecting an applicant with 750/3.8 in favor of one with 650/3.5 because the latter expressed research interests that were a nice fit with the department or a given professor?

Just trying to make sense of this. Is it really such that out of, say, a few hundred people or so who are accepted each year into doctoral marketing programs, that there are tens of thousands who are turned down?

Just curious.
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 [#permalink] New post 05 May 2005, 15:32
Here's my assessment of what's happening. I'm just done with my Ph.D. application process and will be starting my studies this fall. This is strictly what I have observed. I don't have any objective data.

In general, it is true that, as you guessed, some artificially lower percentages for aceptance rate are shown, especially in mid-tier schools, which are often back-up schools for top candidates. Most candidates apply to at least 8-10 schools and when they get an admission from a top school, they withdraw their applications to lower ranked ones. Because the number of seats in each program is so small, (informal) waitlist plays a huge role. Say a typical department A receives 100 applicants for 3-4 seats (most admission processes are conducted by department, the school only comes in for administrative purpose in the beginning and once an applicant is admitted), they might put 20 shortlisted candidates and reject the rest. They usually make a shortlist within that shortlist and start contacting candidates for an interview and making offers. Typically, the remaining 15+ shortlisted candidates won't hear a word. Once candidates are offered an admission, they are usually pressured to accept it asap but most wait til 4/15, so the waiting game for other cnadidates is long and frustrating. This is especially true for mid-tier schools which receive applications from very good candidates but those same candidates are often waiting for a decision from top schools. Depending on whether their first admitted students accept or reject their offers, the committee goes down on the shortlist and make additional offers. At this time, many actually assess probability whether a particular cnadidate would come if an offer is made. Therefore, if a particular candidate already has an offer from a "better" school as it'd be meaningless to extend an offer. What I just described is typical but very different across schools and even dependent on each professor's personality.

I believe low GMAt/GPA can be deal breakers but they aren't deal makers. They are normally used to pre-screen candidates but once you're on the shortlist, you're selected based on your recommendation, SOP and interview results. A typical 650/3.5 won't get an admission from respected programs but a 750/3.8 won't guarantee you an admission. Obviously, fit plays an important role as professors look for candidates they can work with for their own research agenda.
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 [#permalink] New post 06 May 2005, 14:07
hdp323 wrote:
Here's my assessment of what's happening. I'm just done with my Ph.D. application process and will be starting my studies this fall. This is strictly what I have observed. I don't have any objective data.

In general, it is true that, as you guessed, some artificially lower percentages for aceptance rate are shown, especially in mid-tier schools, which are often back-up schools for top candidates. Most candidates apply to at least 8-10 schools and when they get an admission from a top school, they withdraw their applications to lower ranked ones. Because the number of seats in each program is so small, (informal) waitlist plays a huge role. Say a typical department A receives 100 applicants for 3-4 seats (most admission processes are conducted by department, the school only comes in for administrative purpose in the beginning and once an applicant is admitted), they might put 20 shortlisted candidates and reject the rest. They usually make a shortlist within that shortlist and start contacting candidates for an interview and making offers. Typically, the remaining 15+ shortlisted candidates won't hear a word. Once candidates are offered an admission, they are usually pressured to accept it asap but most wait til 4/15, so the waiting game for other cnadidates is long and frustrating. This is especially true for mid-tier schools which receive applications from very good candidates but those same candidates are often waiting for a decision from top schools. Depending on whether their first admitted students accept or reject their offers, the committee goes down on the shortlist and make additional offers. At this time, many actually assess probability whether a particular cnadidate would come if an offer is made. Therefore, if a particular candidate already has an offer from a "better" school as it'd be meaningless to extend an offer. What I just described is typical but very different across schools and even dependent on each professor's personality.

I believe low GMAt/GPA can be deal breakers but they aren't deal makers. They are normally used to pre-screen candidates but once you're on the shortlist, you're selected based on your recommendation, SOP and interview results. A typical 650/3.5 won't get an admission from respected programs but a 750/3.8 won't guarantee you an admission. Obviously, fit plays an important role as professors look for candidates they can work with for their own research agenda.


Thanks for the advice. One other question: do you have any feel for how many candidates apply alltogether for the 100 or so AACSB-accredited PhD programs vis-a-vis how many are accepted?

Congratulations on your acceptance. Where will you be going?
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 [#permalink] New post 07 May 2005, 16:03
Let's make the following assumptions the consulting way:

Rank (# of applicants, class size)
Top 15 (600, 20)
16-50 (300, 15)
51-100 (150, 10)
--> (600*15+300*35+150*50, 20*15+15*35+10*50)
--> (27000, 1325)

If we asume a typical applicant applies to 10 schools, it gives us 2700 applicants for 1325 seats for 100 programs. That is, eventually half the people end up somewhere while the other half are rejected by all and pursue something else. I think these are fair estimates. It also means that if 2/3 of Ph.D. entrants eventually get their degrees, we have approximately 900 business Ph.D. produced each year. Others, please let me know if my assumptions are way off.

By the way, I'm headed to the Univ. of Washington - Seattle.
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 [#permalink] New post 07 May 2005, 17:33
hdp323 wrote:
Let's make the following assumptions the consulting way:

Rank (# of applicants, class size)
Top 15 (600, 20)
16-50 (300, 15)
51-100 (150, 10)
--> (600*15+300*35+150*50, 20*15+15*35+10*50)
--> (27000, 1325)

If we asume a typical applicant applies to 10 schools, it gives us 2700 applicants for 1325 seats for 100 programs. That is, eventually half the people end up somewhere while the other half are rejected by all and pursue something else. I think these are fair estimates. It also means that if 2/3 of Ph.D. entrants eventually get their degrees, we have approximately 900 business Ph.D. produced each year. Others, please let me know if my assumptions are way off.

By the way, I'm headed to the Univ. of Washington - Seattle.


It would appear as if you were quite well prepared for the GMAT Q based on your numerical analysis. You're probably in the general ballpark. Actually, the more assumptions one makes, the more likely they are to approximate something approaching truth--wrong tends to cancel out/offset wrong. So I'll bet you're close, though if I had to bet my bottom dollar, I'd bet it's somewhat less than 50%. Maybe 30 or 40%? But of course, that's just my hand waving guesstimate.

My primary reason is that I consider it unlikely that the average applicant shoots out 10, wouldn't that be on the upper end? For example, I applied to only one law school years ago, where I was accepted. My wife was doing grad work at that school, so it was really there or nowhere. I'd assume there'd be a number of those types applying to PhD programs, at least more of those than the obsessive compulsives with too much time on their hands who blast out 15 or 20 apps. Just a guess, but I'll bet you're close; they always make it look tougher than it is. My law school, a low-rent top-tier, advertised 17% admits. I'll bet they made offers to 30%.
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International vs. US [#permalink] New post 15 Jun 2005, 13:32
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Last edited by elhajoui on 06 Apr 2008, 13:07, edited 1 time in total.
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 [#permalink] New post 17 Jun 2005, 12:04
I've heard that there is pressure from schools(grad and undergrad) to admit more US citizens and locals than international students. Some of this might be due to the US government funding many schools, but some might also a mentality to help the "community". I had more data for undergrads where many of the top schools marinally admit a higher percentage of those from their state than those who are not. I'm speaking of both public and private schools. I believe it is worst for public schools for undergrads(eg. UC Berkeley, I remembered correctly, in-state was around 50%, while out of state was around 10%). I would imagine the same effect affects grad schools.

Ironically, through my own observations, many of the high profile profs are foreigners. It seems that the lower acceptance rate produces higher quality. And us domestic students are only here to be fillers and confirm the international students academic superiority. ;)
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 [#permalink] New post 17 Jun 2005, 13:22
As a native-born American, I'd be more than happy to be accepted into a PhD program and be living proof of the superiority of international applicants.
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 [#permalink] New post 21 Jun 2005, 09:25
Tunape: I don't think the pressure to accept a higher proportion of US-born students is that blatant at the Ph.D level (I should point out that I was born in Canada). The fact that many high profile US b-school profs are foreign is recognized in and outside academia, so I'm pretty sure admission commitees don't discriminate on the basis of research potential.

That being said, I've personally heard 3 senior faculty members in b-schools (1 Aussie, 2 Chinese) say that Ph.D programs are somewhat _forced_ to discriminate between native English-speaking and non-native English-speaking applicants, as Ph.Ds will teach at the MBA level after they graduate, and some schools are reluctant to hire Chinese and Indian graduates because they apprehend a culture shock in the classroom. (Add that to the fact that all schools want to look good for the MBA rankings, which often base part of their ranking on student/alumni satisfaction surveys.)
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 [#permalink] New post 28 Jul 2005, 17:18
Hi Cabro,

I was just wondering, would it be possible for you to tell me what b-school the Aussie was from (and who they are)? I am an Aussie who is looking to apply for 2006 admission and this is the first time I have heard mention of another Australian!

Thanks,
Mick
  [#permalink] 28 Jul 2005, 17:18
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