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Rejected ∵ grad school didn't receive all my recommendations

  1. Feb 1, 2013 #1
    Has anyone here heard of such a thing as being immediately rejected from a grad school just because admissions didn't receive all the letters of recommendation? This just happened to me. They didn't even notify me; prior to this they lost my unofficial transcript, but they actually did notify me to resend it to them, which they ended up not needing because they found the first one I sent! They didn't even ask for more contact info for my recommenders than their email addresses. (I heard in the old days, an undergrad adviser would just recommend his student to another adviser over the phone! What's happened since then‽)

    I've been reapplying yearly for about four years now to third-rate physics graduate programs, but have kept getting rejected: 14 schools in total, 100% rejection rate.

    I am in very close personal contact with a professor on the admissions committee at the latest school I've applied to because I wanted to purse a PhD thesis with him, and he helped me make my application very good and proofread my personal statement, etc., but because of this annoying letters of recommendation issue, I've been ipso facto rejected! (He's the only one who's told me I've been rejected because of the letters of recommendation issue.) I've taken grad level classes already; I teach high school physics; and I've published a first-author paper, so I certainly seemed qualified.

    There seems to be something quite wrong and far too impersonal and mechanized about the grad admissions process. Noam Chomsky thinks there's a selective weeding process in grad admissions, filtering out students who don't conform. Perhaps that's my problem; I want to pursue my own PhD thesis and ideas, and maybe that's the real reason for all my grad school rejections? I'm too much of a risk for the schools because I want to pursue my own ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2013 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Yes, if your "packet" is incomplete, many places do not consider you.

    Also, I suspect your problem is not that you "want to pursue my own ideas". It's that you've dropped out of graduate school three times before.
  4. Feb 1, 2013 #3


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    On the specifics:
    I would talk to your referees and find out if in fact they sent in the letters of reference. If you can provide the university with some kind of evidence that they were in fact sent, then you may have something to pursue. Sometimes even if it's a case of the referee sending in a reference letter late, that will be overlooked once you talk to someone.

    Also just be sure, you did actually get your referees to send in reference letters didn't you? Just providing the contact information for the referees does not constitute a reference.

    On the general...
    Yes the process in impersonal, but I don't think that necessarily constitues a bias against non-conformists. Because of the sheer volume of applicants and the need for at most schools as well as fairness in the process there needs to be some mechanical aspects fo the admissions process:
    - you need to provide the school with certain information
    - you need to demonstrate that you've met certain minimum standards with respect to GPA and external examinations
    - you need to provide multiple independent assessments of your potential to succeed.

    If you can't do that (or can't be bothered to do that), even if you're credentials are all great it introduces the practical question of how the heck you'd ever be able to organize a committee meeting, or submit a thesis.

    Further, universities tend to be rather liberal environments from my experience. They encourage out-of-the-box thinking, so I wouldn't think that's a problem - particularly if you already have a professor that you've discussed a project with an who is on board with it.

    Instead I might consider issues like GPA or GRE scores. Or the fact that you're labelling these schools as "third rate." Imagine, for example you ask out a girl or guy who you call third rate. Just because she or he isn't the most attractive person doesn't mean that she or he is more likely to go out with you.
  5. Feb 1, 2013 #4
    So who is going to pay for you to pursue your own ideas? What's in it for them?
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