But you're right, it's not impossible. I still think it'd be difficult.
I also only applied to schools I would want to go to my first year (this year), and planned to expand the list if I didn't get in anywhere this year. I preferred to have two shots at the top schools, and only take one shot at safety schools, and know it wasn't a fluke if I ended up at a lower school (still might be a fluke that I ended up at a higher school - it wasn't at all certain based on my profile). Fortunately it worked out. Still, I wanted to share this article I read recently about academic mobility, and how to move up from wherever you start: planning your academic mobility « orgtheory.net
It's obviously hard work, and still risky, but if you have a specific goal in mind, and you can't start at a top school, you can still work smart towards your eventual goal from wherever you got in, if you can be happy there. Still, you should be aware of the odds, and how much it will take to achieve success, regardless of the path you choose. The blog above has a number of posts, over time, about how to make the most of your opportunities (including how to network for a research job, if your school doesn't already have that system in place on your behalf). One of my mentors from college was at a less well known teaching college (where I attended), and had to manage her larger course load and work her butt off publishing, but now she's making substantially more at a T30-T50 research school.
Note that even coming from a very top program, you're not guaranteed a spot (or tenure) in a top school - it will come down to your eventual publishing record, and other factors including some luck. Just looking at the recent placements for Wharton (Wharton Doctoral Programs | Recent Placements). In Management I see placements at places like the University of Hartford. Reaching for top programs can make sense, but I've decided to be OK with the outcome however it turns out (or at least keep in mind that I might need to place lower, work hard, and work my way up, depending on the job market when I graduate, no matter how well I do in school). Good luck, with whatever you decide!
From a different year: Attending: Wharton Strategy; Withdrawn from: Michigan Strategy (interview), Rotman Strategy (interview), NYU Economic Strategy, Columbia Strategy (interview), Chicago; Rejected by: Harvard Strategy, MIT TIES, Stanford MS&E, Kellogg MECS (interview).
Hi All! You've made some great points and I greatly appreciate it. As it turns out, tonight I received word that I've been admitted into my 1st choice program. I will accept their offer as soon as the official letter gets here. (Having only applied to 3 programs, I've been making myself sick with worry that I would either not get in or I'd be attending the less preferred program.) My first choice program is definitely more prestigious than the one I referred to in my original post, but more importantly, it is a much better fit. The thing that worried me most about the "safety program" was that the faculty was not publishing in the top journals and I feel that would impact the kind of work that i'd be doing, which would impact the kind of job i'd get in 4-5 years. Anyway, thank you again for your feedback. I'm still in total shock at the fact that my gamble actually worked. (I would not recommend this strategy. You will definitely end up with an ulcer at the end! )
Off to a great night sleep for the first time in 2 weeks!!!
Mgmt PhD: PhD or Bust
During placement prestige matters, but its not everything. In last 5 years my school (a T25 school) has placed 3 candidates at T10 schools and 2 at T50 schools. Others had good offers too, but had locational preferences. Hence issues raised by other posters (fit / research / comfort / location etc.) are important considerations and can't be completely nullified by pure prestige.
All the best!
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