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This is what I have heard from someone who did his PhD at Princeton. Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, MIT, etc. are biased towards accepting candidates who got their degrees from those schools.

  • About "biased": do you mean that they unreasonably prefer grads from those programs to very-comparable people from other programs? After all, the filters to get into these particular programs, and finish, are pretty strong, so that's a pretty strong recommendation for someone already. Early in peoples' careers, they often have not "hit their stride", so that their grad program (and advisor) may be a very significant descriptor... and other people may not yet have had a chance to do the things that would show what they can do. – paul garrett Jul 23 at 21:13
  • @paul garrett: Yes. Meaning: a PhD candidate with the same thesis, application, etc. from Hoolala University will be worse off than his/her twin relative from Princeton. Or more strongly, that they only seriously consider applications from a few universities. – Grad student Jul 23 at 21:22
  • @Ben Linowitz: That answers my question. I guess that professor was wrong...when he said it it was something like, "Ugh, they only want applicants from those universities. It's so stupid..." – Grad student Jul 23 at 21:26
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    I think if you pick a school department that interests you and look to see where the professors are from, especially recent hires as compared to more senior/famous individuals, you can get a pretty good sense of what the norm is there and how often they have people from other places. Preference networks in hiring are in general pretty strong, and private institutions are no exception. The causal arrow is not always certain, nor is cause even always present. – BrianH Jul 23 at 21:48
  • @Gradstudent, the students from fancier places have fancier people writing their letters of recommendation... so it's impossible to say "everything's the same", except for the name on the diploma. – paul garrett Jul 23 at 21:53