I'm an undergraduate major in International Studies applying for grad school programs in Development, Securities, and Global Governance. I have international experience working in West Africa for World Bank and USAID sponsored NGO research initiatives.

I've recently submitted all of my intended applications for graduate school programs and fellowships. In the last week, I've received three emails requesting that I apply to graduate school programs which I had not intended to apply for - Cornell, Denver, and Penn.

Does this mean that the programs are particularly interested in me or is this a normal spam-type email to people that have applied to other programs with similar major focus?

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    Could you perhaps reply thanking them for the invitation and asking where they got your name? I think it's fair to say that most people don't receive emails soliciting them to apply to Ivy league graduate programs. – MJeffryes Feb 7 '18 at 14:20
  • They all mentioned either the Payne or Pickering Fellowships that I've applied for. – BL90 Feb 8 '18 at 18:22

Universities are not above collecting and re-selling data. There are a number of ways you could have gotten on a mailing list which was purchased by the 3 schools you mention. In math, we have a Putnam competition and most good math majors participate. Grad schools will buy the list of top 500 or second 250 or whatever finishers and then spam them with invitations to apply. In your field, you may have done something that got your name on a list of likely candidates, or perhaps it's just that one or more of the schools you applied to stuck your name on a list and sold it to other schools.

(Yes, companies sell data to their competitors. I always get a chuckle when DISH TV sends me a solicitation using the misspelling of my name that Time-Warner Cable has.)

The strict answer to your question is "both." They are particularly interested in you, but it's because your name appeared in a list of potentially good candidates. (This is my guess, but perhaps your work in West Africa got noticed and they really are targeting you in particular. But this doesn't seem likely, because how would they know you are now in the market for a grad school...?)

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    one or more of the schools you applied to stuck your name on a list and sold it to other schools Seems quite surprising to me. Why would a department want to redirect its best applicants to another institution? I know it's quite common practice for departments to share details of strong but unsuccessful applicants. Sharing this information before they've had a chance to recruit them first seems like a poor strategy. – MJeffryes Feb 7 '18 at 13:51
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    @MJeffryes I agree, but there's my Time-Warner example. Time-Warner is a for-profit business and it seems silly that they'd sell my name to their chief competitor. Universities are notorious for being really bad at business, so while I think this is foolish, it doesn't surprise me. Often the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, I suppose. – B. Goddard Feb 7 '18 at 13:55
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    @MJeffryes Also, the school knows that you're going to apply to other schools anyway (I mean, if you're any good, you should be), so they might as well make some money in the process. – Kerkyra Feb 7 '18 at 14:15
  • Also, it does show on my LinkedIn profile that I am a graduating senior interested in graduate school, along with my work history. My profile has been viewed 4 or 5 times in hidden mode in the last month or so. One of my professors said that might be recruiters. – BL90 Feb 8 '18 at 18:34

I've served on admissions committees for one Ph.D. program and two terminal masters. A general solicitation from a department or program means you're on a mailing list. (They're sold by professional organizations, journal publishers, conference organizers, ETS, etc.) Occasionally a faculty member will contact an undergrad who has published or presented in the field, or as recommended by a trusted colleague at the undergrad's institution. If so, the reason would be made clear -- e.g. "Prof Jane Doe mentioned your fine work in...", "I saw your presentation at AIS in Toronto".

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