I have observed the same. While I got into the highest ranking school I applied to, top 20 in my field, some of the back-up schools rejected me. My view is that adcoms can see through an application as to whether an applicant is good enough to get through at a higher ranked school. It is also good for everyone involved.

Quote Originally Posted by Silviatx View Post
I am felling very fortunate that I got in the second highest ranking school I applied to. It's a great T50 school and I am very happy with my choice. Interestingly most of my "back-up" schools (except one) rejected me.
In summary, it's really hard to tell what a committee sees in your application and how they evaluate single components of it.