It’s that time of year when most STEM departments at U.S. universities are winding down their season of interviews and recruitment weekends for their Ph.D. programs. But just what are those visit weekends for?
For some programs, acceptance (and rejection) decisions are made months before spring visits. Judgments of a student’s suitability for a program are based solely on what’s on paper – grades, GRE scores, recommendations, and personal statements.
In other cases, no decisions are sent out until the faculty have had a chance to interact with the candidates. The stock application serves as a filter to decide who meets the admissions criteria and who they want to interview. But the faculty want to see how candidates perform under pressure, how they might fit in with the department, or whether the they know what they’re getting into and why.
When I applied to mostly chemistry programs [redacted] years ago, all programs made their decisions prior visit weekends, and the visits were largely about recruiting students and interacting with potential advisers. From others’ experiences, it seems large, multi-departmental umbrella programs use interviews to sort the applicant pool further.
I’m curious – do the tactics vary by discipline? By program structure or size? Which programs make their decisions based on how a candidate looks on paper? Which committees want to meet face-to-face before making the call?
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