Every year thousands of students apply to different universities across the world, but a small portion of the applicants get the chance to attend their dream school or program. Just as there is no single factor e.g. CGPA to get admission in a particular school or program, so as there lies single or multiple reasons for rejection as well. Usually, it is a combination factors, and in this article we are going to discuss some common mistakes that applicants should avoid during their PhD application.
Having no plan “B” for PhD application:
S/He went to UCB, MIT or UofT – always makes a sweet jingle when someone hears that, but not everyone can make their way through all the hurdles to a top ranked school. Only applying to high ranked schools – a common mistakes that a lot of applicants do while they are applying to grad school for the first time.
Highly-ranked universities get a strong pool of highly competitive applicants each year, and they select their students after a rigorous screening process. In other words, you are not the one who has a strong profile, and the acceptance rate of those schools are typically low. There is a high chance that you won’t make your way into those highly ranked universities.
So, always make a good mix of high, mid and low tier universities. Perhaps, you might not get into your dream school, but it will leave your chances open to get into other school. However, while applying to top ranked schools, please check back their acceptance rate. The higher the acceptance rate, the better the chance to get into a school. If you do not have a top notch profile, then you should always select those schools which have at least 30% acceptance rate.
Cheesy cliches – not having a strong story to tell:
“I began assembling computer at the age of eight” or “made my first robot at the age of ten” – if you are planning to start with similar stories, then please stop for a while and take handful amount of time to rebuild your story.
Perhaps, you are a prodigy; but your statement should be supported by some sort of evidence. For example, you won the first prize at national level Math or Physics Olympiad contest, or won a prize in international programming contest. The members of the admission committee are avid readers who probably read thousands of SOP. Perhaps, a plenty of those had cliché stories like you wrote in your SOP. If you cannot tell your own story in your own words, then probably you will end up with an rejection.
Not investing enough time to find a supervisor:
If you are planning to apply for a Ph.D. program, then you should dedicate at least 2-3 hours daily to find a professor in your desired university who will mentor you during your Ph.D. program. Regardless of the admission process, a consent from your future supervisor will always bolster will application. You can also submit your application for the Ph.D. program without finding a supervisor, but in that case the chances get typically lower. The admission committee might give you admission; but if the department does not find a professor based on your research interest, then it is highly unlikely that you will get an funded offer. Therefore, you should start emailing to the professors 2-3 months earlier before the deadline of your PhD application.
Generic letter of recommendation:
A letter of of recommendation should be focused on highlighting the strengths of the prospective applicant with clear examples that make him/her a strong applicant. One should get LOR from someone such as thesis supervisor, professor or bosses who know the applicant well and can write very specific examples to support the recommendations. For example, the referee mentioned that the applicant is hardworking, which is too generic. Instead of that the referee can say that “I found Mr. X a very hardworking person, he used to spend at least 5 to 7 hours daily to do all the experiments and write weekly research report, in my lab.”
Sometimes, the applicant does not provide enough supporting information to the referee so that s/he might come up with a strong letter to support the PhD application. So, provide as much as information as you can.
Not answering the key questions:
Some schools ask the applicants to answer some specific set of questions either in their SOP or in the personal statement. The admission committee might ask about your personal background and experiences that influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Good schools are interested to take genuine candidates to their program, not someone who just want a degree from abroad.
If you are a prospective applicant, then you should pay attention to the above points and spend a good amount of time on short listing your universities, finding supervisors, drafting SOP and getting good LORs from your referee.
Disclaimer: No A.I. was used to generate any portion of this content.