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Thread: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

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    What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

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    I am currently an undergrad in a top 50 department. From what I see, I think the attrition rate is about 10-15%(at most 2 will leave the program, out of 15). I will be going to a top 30 department next fall and is horrified by its attrition rate. From what I heard, the attrition rate is about 33%(Although the coordinator says it's only about 20%, 20% still sound very high). Moreover, Out of 20 from one particular year, 8 were left. This rate is much higher than my perception. I am wondering if the attrition rate is higher in better departments? Please share attrition rate in top departments so I will have some idea and be more relaxed/horrified.

    Edit: Here I am only taking about the attrition rate for the prelim.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    The attrition rate in my department was insane. It was 50 to 75%. It was not uncommon to see only one or two domestic students survive the prelims, and over half the foreign students vanish their 4th year. I am very confident that my department is either the upper bound or very close to it.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    Attrition rates are all over the place. For example, MIT does not have prelims (although one has to pass the first year course exams). At the other end...well, you saw Kaysa's story.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    50% is ridiculous. How will first-year PhDs be brave enough to actually go there?
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaysa View Post
    The attrition rate in my department was insane. It was 50 to 75%. It was not uncommon to see only one or two domestic students survive the prelims, and over half the foreign students vanish their 4th year. I am very confident that my department is either the upper bound or very close to it.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    What's the average attrition rate? 50% is definitely a very high upper bound.
    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    Attrition rates are all over the place. For example, MIT does not have prelims (although one has to pass the first year course exams). At the other end...well, you saw Kaysa's story.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayd View Post
    What's the average attrition rate? 50% is definitely a very high upper bound.
    I would say 25-33%.

    Jayd, I would really caution against thinking about negative, dismal things like attrition rates. Focus more on understanding what you need to learn, and what is the best way to learn it in the shortest time possible. Find good study partners and methods and just learn, don't worry about failing or passing.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    Thanks for your caveat.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaysa View Post
    I would say 25-33%.

    Jayd, I would really caution against thinking about negative, dismal things like attrition rates. Focus more on understanding what you need to learn, and what is the best way to learn it in the shortest time possible. Find good study partners and methods and just learn, don't worry about failing or passing.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    editing
    <posted by mistake>

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    2010 NRC data includes the variable "6-year completion rate". It goes from 60-90% in the top programs to 20-50% in second/third tier programs.

    Also, mean completion time is around 5.5-6.0 for most programs. Inferring from that, >50% attrition rate is not uncommon in lower-ranked programs.

    edit: updated image
    Last edited by chateauheart; 05-01-2017 at 09:09 PM.

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    Re: What's the attrition rate in Top 50 department?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayd View Post
    50% is ridiculous. How will first-year PhDs be brave enough to actually go there?
    In general I agree students should be skeptical of high-attrition programs, but I think there are reasonable arguments for attending one given the right circumstances.

    First, just getting a PhD is probably not the right metric for most students -- what matters is what happens afterwards. A program which kicks out a greater proportion of students but places the reminder in better jobs might reasonably be preferred by some applicants. (To give a contrived example, if you're going to a PhD to have a research career, a program which boots 50% of students but places 3/4 of the rest in research-focused jobs should be preferred to a school which graduates everyone but places none of them in research-focused jobs).

    Second, getting students who aren't good enough early is potentially a gain for everyone, since wasting additional years getting a qualification and then not getting a job which uses it benefits no one. Further, this might enable some programs to admit higher-variance applicants, which should make everyone strictly better off.

    Of course, many programs with high attrition do *not* place the remaining students better than similarly ranked places. And many programs kick out students far too early and almost surely boot out potentially good researchers (at schools of a certain rank, comps are not a good predictor of future research ability). Plus (heresay only, since I don't attend such a place), high attrition can create a bad atmosphere. Which is why I think applicants should generally be wary of high-attrition programs.

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