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Admissions Possible admissions discrimination?

  1. Mar 11, 2009 #1
    Hello all. I am a senior undergraduate Physics concentrator at Brown U and I have just heard back from the grad schools I applied to. I have been accepted into UIUC with a 1 year fellowship, but have been rejected from all other schools. The ones I were rejected from: Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Caltech, Princeton, UChicago.

    Here are my stats:

    3.9 Physics GPA
    3.7 Overall GPA
    830 Advanced GRE (78%)
    800 Math, 590 Verbal, 5 Writing
    1 C in Orgo freshman year, 1 B in 1st sem. QM (got an A 2nd sem), and straight A's other than that.
    Taken 3 grad courses at time of application, taking only grad courses this semester (7 total)
    Also, published a paper in PRB with my professors group, as well as 2 sem. + summer research in CMP.

    I think I'm the no 1 or no 2 student in the Physics dept, and yet I still got rejected from all of these schools. Is there anything about my statistics that jumps out at you as to why I could have been rejected? I think I am very qualified to get into at least SOME of those schools, but I feel like I may have been unfairly treated and am going to inquire further at some of these schools. What do you guys think?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2009 #2

    G01

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    I don't think you were treated unfairly. Check out some of the profiles at physicsgre.com:

    http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1847

    There are many people who have been rejected from almost all of the top 10 schools, including myself. There is nothing bad about your application. In fact it is very good, in my opinion.

    Unfortunatley you are competing with people who have straight A for 4 years, perfect 990's on the Physics GRE and have published multiple papers as first author. Even these people are not garanteed to be accepted to all top 10 institutions. Thus, the fact that you and I were rejected from most of the top 10 schools we applied to is not that strange.

    Don't get too down about it. These things happen. Also, UIUC has a great physics program, be happy about that!
     
  4. Mar 11, 2009 #3

    j93

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    If youre applying for theory or even experimental your PGRE is kind of weak for the ego your displaying and the schools your talking about. Your school also inflates grades a decent amount so your grades arent as impressive.

    http://www.gradeinflation.com/Brown.html
    http://www.gradeinflation.com/Boston.html
    http://www.gradeinflation.com/Bowlinggreen.html
    http://www.gradeinflation.com/arizona.html [Broken]
    http://www.gradeinflation.com/MIT.html
    http://www.gradeinflation.com/Harvard.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Mar 11, 2009 #4
    Give him a break.

    First of all, there's always a little discrimination in graduate admissions. Firstly, minorities and women are treated ridiculously well. One girl in one of my math classes got into Columbia. She was a 4th year, and I was a 2nd year, taking the same class and doing about equally well in it. Minorities have an even better shot than females. Secondly, your specific area of study is often largely discriminated against, if it's either obscure, unpopular, or if it's extremely popular. (For instance, in math, analysis students have an edge over algebra students, just because everyone does algebra nowadays.) If they only pick 20 students a year, which most top graduate programs do, if your research area is in any way inappropriate (or if you don't have one), the chances you'll be accepted anywhere prestigious is rather low.

    However, the fact that you're bothered by the fact that you've been discriminated against shows that the goals you have for yourself are probably not the most appropriate for the top schools. They're not looking for docile workers who are aiming for an institution solely for the prestige factor, not that I can make any conclusions on that point. Rather, an ideal student's personality is one such that he would be happy at any institution he would attend, if only for the fact that an ideal student would notice that the individual's success is not dependent on the university he attends. Rather, success is determined from working passionately toward a personal goal, without letting societal issues get in the way. This path is often difficult, and indeed, the passion must be great to put aside the problems of society. But in the end, it's worth it. (Remember, Einstein didn't get into ANY graduate school (which is how he ended up at the patent office)).

    You can question the said institutions further, but in the end, it won't do you any good. You're stuck with UIUC, whether you like it or not, and considering that it's one of the top institutions in the U.S. in physics, you shouldn't be complaining too much. You'll have all the resources you need to do your work, and as a physicist, that's all you should want. Accept the reality, move on, and do something great, instead of concentrating on how unfair life is.
     
  6. Mar 11, 2009 #5

    j93

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    Your talking out of your ***.
    a) Look at the statistics minorities make up less than 10% of graduate physics programs. The statistics are too low for any such argument. Females you could possibly make an argument for only Harvard University because their physics program has 27% female to almost every other schools 14-19%.

    b) Area of study discrimination? Whats next youre going to say youre being discriminated from bio-chemistry PhD programs because youre a physics major who has only taken math and physics courses.
     
  7. Mar 11, 2009 #6

    Choppy

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    I would hold off on the "discrimination" call. Admission to graduate progams is a competative process and the most likely scenario is that there were other stronger candidates for these programs. You can always inquire if you really feel like something is off.

    The good news is that you don't have to stress at all about choices now. You got into a great school. Now the opportunity is yours to take advantage of.

    Personally, I didn't get in to my first choice for graduate school either and it all worked out for me.
     
  8. Mar 11, 2009 #7

    Pyrrhus

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    I completely agree with this!. I was shooting for something like UCB, but I am very happy where I am at
     
  9. Mar 11, 2009 #8
    I will be honest. Your application is very-strong, but at those schools only few people are shoe-in. It's tough to say there is discrimination for graduate programs. Many people would say there is close to none, and it's much, much better than undergrad admission anyways. If I have to pick one your PGRE seems a little low.

    You might be angry or disappointed, but don't feel too bad. Good people always end up well anyways. Looks like you have your sights set in research, which means there's less to feel bad about. I know people who have gone to top schools in math and have failed - and I know people who went to what you would call tier-2 school but ended up better than those people. Just looking at these people's abilities, you see that graduate schools mean very little in the long run.
     
  10. Mar 11, 2009 #9
    Of course there isn't enough data to make any conclusions on gender/minority admissions; if universities actually put out their admissions data, they'd get sued out the *** for it. (I will admit that graduate admissions are much more fair than undergraduate admissions in this area, since a lot of money hinges on admit success. However, when there are very few spots open, just a little discrimination can do a lot of damage.)

    As for b), I was told this by our school's DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS at a graduate student meeting. (I go to a top 5 school in my major, so I would say this is probably fairly representative of most top schools.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2009
  11. Mar 11, 2009 #10
    This thread is not constructive. What sort of "academic guidance" do you expect to get?
     
  12. Mar 11, 2009 #11

    j93

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    They do put out their data you just have to look around for it and the data shows that you cant make a strong argument minorities because the statistics are so low ie so few minorities in graduate programs that you cant possibly claim any such discrimination. For females there is more slighly more statistics and for the most part it might show a very slight higher percentage of admits/apps except for Harvard which has 10% greater amount of females than almost every grad physics program.

    I do believe that schools admit based on your field of study but it isnt discrimination because it is completely practical. If a school needs more experimental particle students it is only practical they let in more people with interest in experimental particle that makes absolutely perfect sense.
     
  13. Mar 11, 2009 #12

    j93

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    They do put out their data you just have to look around for it and the data (try www.phds.org) shows that you cant make a strong argument minorities because the statistics are so low ie so few minorities in graduate programs that you cant possibly claim any such discrimination. For females there is more slighly more statistics and for the most part it might show a very slight higher percentage of admits/apps except for Harvard which has 10% greater amount of females than almost every grad physics program.

    I do believe that schools admit based on your field of study but it isnt discrimination because it is completely practical. If a school needs more experimental particle students it is only practical they let in more people with interest in experimental particle that makes absolutely perfect sense.
     
  14. Mar 11, 2009 #13
    Einstein went to the patent office AFTER grad school. He went to the patent office because he couldn't find an academic position.
     
  15. Mar 11, 2009 #14

    Vanadium 50

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    Getting back to the original question...

    Let's look at the information we have (letters are probably very important, but we don't know what they say). You've graduated with a GPA 0.1 points above the average for your university, a university ranked maybe 25th or 30th in physics. Your GRE score was such that a couple of hundred of people outscored you. Given that, being turned down by Top 5 schools is not sufficiently outrageous that the only possible explanation is discrimination.

    It's also worth looking at this as a scientist would. Is the simplest explanation that fits the data that six schools simultaneously and independently decided to discriminate against you?
     
  16. Mar 12, 2009 #15
    Admissions are notoriously subjective. If you can't make a definite case for discrimination, you are wasting your time. Are you really planning on lawyering up over this?

    You had a good application, but not quite good enough. Suck it up and deal.
     
  17. Mar 12, 2009 #16

    j93

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    I agree with Vanadium nobody is conspiring against you. It should be a sign to you that 5 top schools rejected you not a a small proportion of them.
     
  18. Mar 12, 2009 #17
    Having been on a graduate admissions committee in a top 25 school, I'd tend to disagree with this. It certainly wasn't the case at our institution. We had a mathematical formula that cranked through GRE scores, GPA, etc. The committee reading scores were a slight factor... and depending on the reader that COULD effect a reading score... but reading scores were averaged (and I usually only gave a 1/2 point extra out of 10 if the applicant was minority or female... the same amount of boost I'd give to showing grade improvement in upper levels, an extra major in a related field, etc.). Most points were awarded based on publications, research experience, etc. -- as evidenced in letters of recommendation. Usually our committee just decided "where to draw the line" once the ranking of applicants was accomplished, and if small exceptions to the ranking at that point were to be admitted.

    As a woman on that committee, I'll also say that when I was in that department on that committee, I often PERSONALLY pushed to draw the line excluding some women applicants (and minorities, including in one case American Indian) that other members considered letting in due to minority status... mainly based on things like the number of applicants expressing a given interest that were already accepted. It does no good to accept someone if the research spot isn't likely to be their in their field. Cases where we deviated from the ranking where if students were interested in a field where we had not yet admitted many with that interest... and then we went with WHOEVER had that interest that was next in line.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2009
  19. Mar 12, 2009 #18
    I stand corrected. However, the point that I was attempting to make is that it is nearly impossible to make the case "I was discriminated against and should have been admitted instead of *that* person."

    I doubt if there was any discrimination, and even if there was, it would be next to impossible to prove. And even if the OP *could* prove it and gain admission somehow, I don't think the grad school experience would prove very pleasant...

    There is nothing to do here except suck it up and go kick *** at UIUC.
     
  20. Mar 12, 2009 #19
    The original poster's credentials are very good, but they aren't spectacular. My undergraduate record was virtually identical, and I was rejected from every top school I applied to (UT Austin, Caltech, etc). I received virtually the same PGRE and GRE scores, almost the same GPA, was a co-author in a published article, and also had an REU experience. I also had very strong letters of recommendation and took a few graduate courses

    You just weren't competitive enough to get those positions, and whining about "discrimination" isn't going to help things. It's ridiculous that some schools give preference to women and minorities. I wouldn't want to be associated with a school that does stuff like that.
     
  21. Mar 13, 2009 #20

    eri

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    I agree with Brian - I had pretty much the same as him and the original poster (except three REUs and a bit worse on the PGRE) and got turned down from the top schools as well. Plus, you never know what you're up against - I know an undergrad who was applying to grad school this year who was first author on a Nature paper. How many faculty members can claim that?
     
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