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View Full Version : Asking for reason for our rejection -- can we?



nervouslywaiting
02-20-2008, 10:44 AM
I was just rejected by a public, top 25-30 university. Have nothing to loose, I emailed the Grad Program director, asking what is the weakest point on my application.
Here's my email:
Dear Prof.,

... if you don't mind, is there any way for me to know what is the weakest point in my admission credentials that in the end made me denied? If I can't get anywhere for my PhD this year, I am considering to reapply next week. But is there any way that I can improve my credentials?

I am international student, with an econ degree, and a Master in Public Administration from a leading US Policy School. My GRE score is 780(Q), 530(V) and 4.0(AW). I understand that my undergrad GPA was not that excellent ...
His response (a standard diplomatic one):
There is no one reason for the rejection, competition is intense and its is a combination of factors that lead us to choose some candidates over others, your GRE scores are of course fine, but we look at lots of details on the transcript to make final decisions.

israelecon
02-20-2008, 10:58 AM
i am not sure that you are right that there is nothing to lose from asking because if they rejected you this year and you reapply next year you don't want them to remember you. you want them to see your application as a new one, not as "the one who wasn't good enough last year". So reminding them is probably not a good idea. thats just my opinion.

asquare
02-20-2008, 01:48 PM
It's ok to send an e-mail asking for feedback on your application, but expect that some schools won't reply at all or will send a generic, uninformative e-mail. It is not appropriate to send more than one request, though. I have heard of people getting useful feedback from asking. (In one specific case, someone I know was told to replace one of his recommenders if he reapplied!)

I know this isn't what you asked, but is it possible that your English was an issue? There are several grammatical errors in the message you posted and similar errors in your SOP might have worked against you.

In general, it might be best to ask what you can do to strengthen your application for next year, rather than asking which part was the weakest. I think it's an easier question to answer and is also more useful to you, since it gives you a plan for action rather than simply a reason to feel badly.

Olm
02-20-2008, 03:25 PM
He has a 4.0 AWA, so there were probably some issues in the SOP; nevertheless, I don't believe this is the reason he was rejected.

constrainedoptimizer
02-20-2008, 06:51 PM
In general, it might be best to ask what you can do to strengthen your application for next year, rather than asking which part was the weakest. I think it's an easier question to answer and is also more useful to you, since it gives you a plan for action rather than simply a reason to feel badly.

This is great advice, Asquare. Further, from UC Davis' website:

If an applicant was denied admission to the graduate program for Fall 2007, can he / she apply again for the following Fall 2008? Yes. If you applied for admission for Fall 2007 and were denied admission, you should find out what the reasons for denial were and improve those areas of your academic record, sending evidence of improvement when you apply again. For instance, if you plan to apply again for Fall 2008, and you were denied admission Fall 2007 due to low GRE scores, you should retake the GRE exam and submit better GRE scores when you apply for Fall 2008. If your grades were not competitive for Fall 2007 you should take further course work and achieve better grades, so you can submit a newer transcript with evidence of better grades when you apply for Fall 2008.

doubtful
02-20-2008, 07:13 PM
as they say.. it's not just a matter of GRE and GPA... there are other factors .. it's a fierce competition.. so the details that you may think could have a small relevance.. are in fact important...

anyway I would ask something like: " what do you think I should do to become more competitive in the future?"

they are gonna say.. "take a master... etc"

kartelite
02-20-2008, 08:13 PM
I think it is inappropriate to ask the reason for a rejection, unless you had some sort of prior indication from someone in the department that you would be admitted. At a top 25 school, all components of your GRE are probably below average, though not bad enough to really hurt. I'm not sure a master's in public policy is very meaningful for econd phd admissions either. You mention that your GPA is not too great, so to be perfectly honest I don't see why you find a rejection surprising...most top schools reject hundreds of applicants with 800Q gre and excellent grades.

The spelling and grammatical errors in your message (and post..."loose?") also do not reflect well on your attention to detail, and I would expect better English from someone with an American graduate degree. If your language skills are somewhat lacking, whenever you write any sort of official letter or one where you want to impress in a foreign language I think you should have it looked over by a functionally native speaker. I think the fact that other countries use English as a language of instruction makes people complacent about this fact, because if you email a non-native speaking prof in English and you make errors he probably won't care. But to a native speaker it makes you sound lazy...not that you are expected to know perfect English, but it is inconsiderate if you do not take the time to proofread a simple email.

...that's just my brutally honest opinion.

Internationalstudent08
02-20-2008, 08:17 PM
Why do you need to ask them? I doubt you will get any useful responses. Just ask your professors, especially the ones who wrote the recommendation letters. Chances are that they know some stuff about the admission
process. Also, take a look at the profiles of the people who had success and analyze what they did.

filroz
02-20-2008, 09:38 PM
and what about something like this:
"I would really like to study at department XXX, because of ZZZ and YYY. I am thinking of reapplying next year. Do you think that there is anything that I could do in the next year to make my application more competitive?"

the_asker
02-20-2008, 11:54 PM
The spelling and grammatical errors in your message (and post..."loose?") also do not reflect well on your attention to detail, and I would expect better English from someone with an American graduate degree. If your language skills are somewhat lacking, whenever you write any sort of official letter or one where you want to impress in a foreign language I think you should have it looked over by a functionally native speaker. I think the fact that other countries use English as a language of instruction makes people complacent about this fact, because if you email a non-native speaking prof in English and you make errors he probably won't care. But to a native speaker it makes you sound lazy...not that you are expected to know perfect English, but it is inconsiderate if you do not take the time to proofread a simple email.

I agree. I've been thinking about the language issue for quite some time but I decided that it was either taboo or a tired topic on TM. I notice that some posters have a command of English that is poor enough to distort the meaning of their message. Yet a few have been admitted to respectable programs. Considering that over 50% of PhD students are international, can anyone comment on the average English proficiency of the students in any given department?

kartelite
02-21-2008, 12:55 AM
I agree. I've been thinking about the language issue for quite some time but I decided that it was either taboo or a tired topic on TM. I notice that some posters have a command of English that is poor enough to distort the meaning of their message. Yet a few have been admitted to respectable programs. Considering that over 50% of PhD students are international, can anyone comment on the average English proficiency of the students in any given department?

Obviously everyone needs to pass the TOEFL, which is more a test of comprehension than expression. The first year you are mainly listening to professors in class, which is significantly easier than trying to understand a fast-talking person on the phone or a tv show. You have problem sets to turn in, but they are mostly mathematical so a less than perfect grasp of English isn't too much of a problem, especially as many of the grad TA's and professors will be foreign themselves. I think everyone in our program is able to manage these aspects fine.

I can see some potential difficulties arising in the second year, when there is a lot of reading and writing to be done. Obviously a Chinese person who has only been studying English several years will have to spend (significantly?) more time here than a native English (or Spanish, French, etc.) speaker.

Another issue can be for international TA's, because in my experience the speaking aspect is the hardest aspect of language acquisition as an adult. Again, language speakers who native tongue is structurally different from English (such as Chinese or Korean) will generally need more practice than speakers of Germanic or Romance languages.

I'm speaking more generally now, but I think English's use as a lingua franca has led to the lowering of English standards. As someone who has devoted considerable time to studying foreign languages myself, one thing I request when interacting with native speakers is for them to correct my mistakes. I think many people see it as "insulting" to critique their language ability (especially English), this is partly the fault of native speakers who have "gotten used to" certain idiosyncrasies, but if we keep making the same mistakes over and over again how can we learn?

nervouslywaiting
02-21-2008, 04:55 AM
Thanks guys for your response. Actually I just want to do some reality check.

You may be right, at this point even a small typo or grammatical error in my SOP may jeopardize everything. I know I tend to be sloppy especially when writing emails. But I always read through my SOP again and again, and try to minimize the errors.

But there are things that has reached the limit. Obviously, I can not change my grade, and increasing my GRE score to ~800 is not an easy one. I can't tell what my profs wrote about me in the LOR.

So the only chance is to shape my SOP (that includes fixing the English) or publish a spectacular research paper. Or, I should aim for much lower ranked schools, or even a different career path.

econphilomath
02-21-2008, 01:23 PM
As someone who has devoted considerable time to studying foreign languages myself, one thing I request when interacting with native speakers is for them to correct my mistakes. I think many people see it as "insulting" to critique their language ability (especially English), this is partly the fault of native speakers who have "gotten used to" certain idiosyncrasies, but if we keep making the same mistakes over and over again how can we learn?




Again, language speakers who native tongue is ...



I think it should be "whose" (possessive form of who). ahhh just messing wit-cha!


I also agree with what you said regarding English, but I don't think it was the SOP or English that got the OP rejected.

I also think it is pretty useless to ask for reasons why you were rejected.

Svengali
02-21-2008, 01:33 PM
I also think it is pretty useless to ask for reasons why you were rejected.

I'm going to have to respectfully but firmly disagree. OK, so maybe some schools won't give you any more info. Well, then like someone said, you're no worse off than before.

In past years when I have been rejected from various different types of (non-econ) programs, I inquired as to the reasons. In one case I learned that my previous program was not considered of a high enough standard, and in the other case, I learned that my problem lay in my SOP.

Bottom line -- It can't hurt to ask. (I don't think they'll reject you next time simply because you followed up.)
BUT - I'd wait until things die down a bit. These people will probably be able to give you more time later this spring. And of course, do it with tact!

the_asker
02-21-2008, 01:46 PM
I think it should be "whose" (possessive form of who).

Ironic, though it's obviously just a typo... (Good luck with Yale. If I get any more anxious I'm gonna pass out.)


In one case I learned that my previous program was not considered of a high enough standard, and in the other case, I learned that my problem lay in my SOP.

This is interesting! Do you agree with everything they said?