The admissions process is inevitably arbitrary, and admissions committees often make surprising decisions. You can, however, get a rough idea of your chances of getting into a certain program.
Knowing Your Chances
The admissions process is inevitably arbitrary, and admissions committees often make surprising decisions. You can, however, get a rough idea of your chances of getting into a certain program. Find out the GRE score and college GPA of the average grad student; these figures are usually available, and they’re the only way to compare yourself to a large number of other people.
If your numbers are substantially better than a program’s average numbers, then your chances look pretty good, as long as the rest of your application materials are consistent with your scores. If your numbers are close to a school’s average, they work neither for you or against you, and the rest of your application will determine your competitiveness in the application pool. If your numbers are substantially lower than a school’s average numbers, consider that school a long shot.
The Rest of Your Application
Your complete application includes your essays, transcript, recommendations, work experience, awards and activities, writing sample, and publications, if any. There’s another, “invisible” part of your application: your conversations with professors at certain schools and the impressions you left behind — both vitally important. All of these factors affect your chances of admission. Even your ethnicity or region of origin can help you.
Your best source of information about your chances of getting into a school is a well-informed professor — one who knows you and the programs you’re interested in. Such professors can give you straightforward answers about how impressive your credentials look to someone in the field. They can also advise you about how best to present yourself and what questions to ask. These professorial insights are crucial to deciding how hard-hitting your applications are going to be.
If you have any kind of relationship with a professor at one of your prospective schools — or if you get to know any in the course of your research — then that professor is an ideal resource. Most professors can generally give you some idea of your strength as a candidate. The responses of professors at your prospective schools are more than just guesses; these professors may be able to influence admissions decisions directly.
Talk to Them
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of talking to the professors at the schools you’re considering. Admission to graduate school isn’t about standardized tests or GPAs. It’s about people: the people in the academic community you’re trying to join, and the people you’ve worked with in the past. The opinions of the professors in your prospective graduate program, together with the recommendations you receive from professors you’ve worked with, are the most significant determinants in the admissions process. When you’re trying to gauge your chances of success in applying to a program, nothing tells you more than the opinions of the professors involved.