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I received an email from a prospective supervisor telling me he'd like me to join his lab and that he'll forward my name to the grad office. Assuming my entire application is strong, does this mean an official acceptance is very likely? Or is there a chance I could still get rejected by the admissions committee? This is for a funded PhD program.

20

It depends on where the funding comes from. If the money comes from the professor's own grants, then you're extremely likely to get a formal admission. If the money comes from the department the professor now has to convince the admissions committee that you should get the position. Why not send an email to the potential supervisor and ask what the next step is? That should let you know where you stand.

5

If your application is as strong as you claim and you have your prospective supervisors support, your chances are good - but it is not a given.

I once was in a situation where I applied for a PhD program with the support of (and following their suggestion) my professor and supervisor. My application was strong (at least I deemed it so), but risky, since I had a background from a different subject than the PhD I had applied for.
In the end my application was rejected without much ado. From that experience, I have learned the following lessons, that should increase your chances of getting in:

  • get familiar with the application process through the official documents and talk to people:

    • who have applied successfully
    • who have applied and got rejected
    • administrative staff!

    you want to find out not only about formal requirements, but also what the committee is looking for and what breaks the deal for them.

  • make sure also your potential supervisor is familiar with the process and have them speak to members of the committee, that they want you as their PhD student and they see you as a good fit. Have them inquire informally whether they see any problems with your application, and what could be done to solve them.

Not getting into the program did not break my neck back then, but it was a reminder that not all things go through perfectly and that more can always be done. Good luck!

1

I was with my group through undergrad and masters. Had funding guaranteed through my professors independent grants. It basically would have been a continuation of what I was already doing. Applied to the PHD and got rejected, it was a shock to everyone. I am still confused what went wrong (GRE score?) but I imagine there was some politics involved since my PI was a research professor but not tenure track. Anyways, I agree with the answer by mts, get your PI to speak to the committee, they are ruthless.

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