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Thread: Can your professors be wrong?

  1. #1
    Eager!
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    Can your professors be wrong?

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    (moving this from the other post I made, because it was irrelevant to the initial question):


    is it ever possible that your professors could just be wrong about evaluating you? Some professors in my department were very confident about one senior, saying he would 'probably get into a couple top phd programs' so he applied to the top 10 or 15, but he didn't get into a single one, only a backup master's program. they are similarly optimistic about me (I'm currently a junior) but i don't know how their predictions were so off with respect to the senior and I don't know if it bodes well for me. Is there any valid reason that a professor's predictions would be completely wrong?

  2. #2
    Within my grasp!
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    Yes, they can definitely be wrong. The number of applicants is increasing every year and the number of spots in the top programs is not, so admissions are becoming more competitive every year. Many professors are benchmarking their predictions against an outdated baseline. A lot of "top 5" people are ending up in 5-20 programs and some "top 10" people are getting shut out completely. OutofGame applied a couple years ago and didn't get in and is now the shining star of the forum this year, so it is too random to predict with any degree of accuracy.
    Attending: Harris School of Public Policy

  3. #3
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    I had a better understanding of the process than most of my professors did.
    General rule of thumb: If professors have not sat on admissions committee at a school and your school does not regular send students to schools of X rank, their forecasts will have a good deal of uncertainty.

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    The Adam Carolla of TM
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    Unless a professor has served on an admissions committee within the past five years or so at a comparably ranked school, then I would urge taking anything they say with a huge grain of salt. So if an active MIT professor who has served recently on an adcom tells an undergrad that he/she is "Top 5 material," then I would take that to the bank. If a liberal arts professor from a non-elite school who got his PhD 20 years ago tells an undergrad that he/she is "Top 5 material," then I'd suggest consideration to applying to a lot of schools considerably lower ranked.

    But really your best indicator is recent grads who have applied to PhD programs from your school.

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    Yes, that's unfortunately what I'm realizing. My professors managed to send one who graduated from college in 2010, as well as one in 2008, but I don't think that counts as enough regularity. At my institution it's fairly rare for someone to even want to go the PhD route so I'm sure there are some years where they haven't even had anyone apply.

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    OneArmedEcon, your second description effectively summarizes both my letter-writers. sigh.

  7. #7
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    Similar situation happens to me, twice.
    Attending UC Davis ARE MS Program.

  8. #8
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    On of my professor told me to apply to top 10 schools. Luckily, I had the sense not to listen to him.

  9. #9
    buzios
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    Your professors opinions as to where they think you'll place is really only a good signal of the quality of the letters they wrote you, nothing more.
    Unless you go to an institution with a particularly competitive econ Phd program, it's likely that they don't have much more insight into the process than you do.

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