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Thread: How competitive has this year been?

  1. #11
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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rohanps View Post
    Seeing as we overlapped in terms of letter writers, and they informed me that my chances were at least as strong, I think I can make that assessment actually
    Here is a life tip: people lie.

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rohanps View Post
    The anecdotal evidence I have suggests it has got much harder over the past five or so years - a former colleague with a similar profile to mine got into Stanford five years ago, whereas I received just the one offer from OSU.
    Oops *deleted* I thought you meant Oregon State University.

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaysa View Post
    Here is a life tip: people lie.
    Do letter writers actually lie about these things? I thought professors would usually let you know whether they intend to write you a strong letter or not, and my initial understanding was that this was partially communicated in their evaluation of my chances for success in grad school admissions (conditional on other aspects in my application package). This was one of the signals I used to make a guestimate on whether he/she would write me a good letter (ex. If one prof tells me that I have a chance for top 30 and another tells me top 10, then it would make sense to choose the latter).

    What made you think that Rohanps' letter-writer lied to him/her, and could you suggest tips on how future applicants can avoid this situation?

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    I have been involved in admissions for more than 5 years. Applications have become more competitive over time but at nothing near the rate Rohanps implies. Things have not changes so much that someone who got into Stanford 5 years ago would now be shut out of the top 20.

    Kaysa isn't wrong that your own advisors may want to be encouraging about your admissions prospects; also, the people you ask for letters are probably those who you believe have the most positive assessment of your abilities. But the lesson to learn is that different professors have different preferences over graduate student profiles. Rohanps's professors might have actually preferred Rohanps to the student from five years before, but as evidenced by admissions outcomes, other professors felt differently. That should be motivation to apply broadly and include safety schools.

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    I applied in 2015 and this year. While I ofcourse had a better application with phd level courses I had a pretty big stain in my application (failing prelims will always make applying again extremely difficult).

    Even then, I was accepted with funding (and fellowships) to schools that had, in 2015, only been waitlisted to. Even with the big X in my application, I was still able to get accepted to comparable (and some will say subjectively better) school than I am now.

    From my personal experience it didn't really seem any more competative given I had better results than before. I can also support from my own application that getting of the waitlist was much harder. In 2015 almost all the schools who waitlisted me ended up asking if I wanted (an unfunded) offer. This year, I received many more waitlists but not one accepted me of the waitlist - all said that their first round outstanding offers had been accepted at a larger rate than prior years.

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    I agree with you. For my country, there were more than 40 applicants from top 2 universities. Normally around 25 applicants apply per year I think.

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    My general understanding has been that T20 programs have been reducing class sizes to be able to better fund matriculated students and reduce attrition rates over the last 2-3 years. For example, if Chicago Econ reduced the incoming cohort size to 20 from 40 in the last 2 years that alone would translate into tougher admission standards for the T10.

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
    454 426 449 450 441
    Here are the number of first year students in the top 20 programs each Fall.
    (Source: CSWEP)

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    My hunch is that this year wasn't that different from previous years either. I am willing to conjecture two secular trends which some people might mistake as a sudden change in the competition:

    - Full-time RAs are no longer an arbitrage opportunity. As a thought experiment, consider a group of top students at a school that has placed at top departments before. The best student (maybe top 2 or 3) have as good chances to attend a top department as they would have any time last decade. Let's say you're ranked 7th or 8th, though: a few years ago, you could get into a department that would ordinarily not look beyond the top 5 students in that school by getting a decent full-time RA position. If the top 5 students in your cohort and the next 2-3 cohorts are advised to apply straight out of undergrad, then you are more competitive relative to those top 5 students during your application season.
    I don't think this is the case anymore: even the best students in a feeder school will have interest in doing a year of RAing, if just for exposure to research (well, theorists excluded). Now, that cohort of top students will all do a two-year RA, so the ranking is preserved unless #7 is a really exceptional RA. If anything, the best students are getting too risk-averse and doing RA jobs when it's not so necessary...

    - There is increased age discrimination. Not sure why this would be happening, but maybe older students really do go into industry more or leave with a MA, and departments are adjusting appropriately.

    If any faculty forum posters wish to comment or dispute my post, that would probably be more helpful.

    On the point about waitlists: just because people aren't taken off the waitlists doesn't mean there is a larger number of applicants and admits. Waitlists are a function of the yield rate, acceptances/admits. If yield rates are rising in PhDs of all levels, that's honestly a good thing as it means people are targeting less blindly and making better matches. Notice as well that we haven't heard any department getting a big excess of acceptances this year either...

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    Re: How competitive has this year been?

    Much greater competition. Just look at how many economics master programs there are available right now. A great proportion of masters will apply for Econ PhD.

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