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If one applies to a graduate school and gets declined, is it considered okay to ask for the opinions of admission staff or committee, about their thoughts on the person's application package (gpa, experience, personal statement, recommendation letters), for better adjusting his plan of applying to other schools and career?

Thanks!

15

There is nothing wrong with asking, but don't expect an answer that is particularly helpful (although you may get very helpful answers). You may get a standard response that doesn't tell you much, and I would think it pretty rare for someone to take the time to craft a detailed response.

If you do ask, make sure you do it in a professional manner, with a couple of key questions about particular issues, like those you mentioned. I would avoid a generic email that simply asks, "Why didn't I get the job/an acceptance?" or "What didn't you like about my application?" Obviously, if you do get a response, follow up the response with a brief thank you email (and definitely don't get in an argument about the response if you don't agree with it!).

8

Tricky. The selection committee may refrain from telling you anything very specific about your case, because if they don't walk carefully and say something dumb, there can be a lawsuit. So, mostly you'd get some cookie cutter responses such as "it's not a good fit" or "the selection process was highly competitive" or something like that.

To soften them, I'd suggest sending the chair of the committee an e-mail thanking for their time to evaluate your case. Express a reasonable amount of sorrow but show a strong will to pursue this degree or career. Propose an informal meeting or a phone conversation to lessen their stress of crafting a written response (stress "informal"). Schedule a time, and meet or call. In the communication, never ask why you were not selected. Twist the question a bit by asking what are the traits they value in this field/industry, and in light of your application, how you can enhance your portfolio so that you can become a stronger candidate in the general pool.

Also, one school's rejects can be another school's successful candidates. On top of this very institute, you should talk to other institutes or at least attend their open day as well. The comments of the committee of the next school you'll apply probably matter a lot more.

  • Regarding the potential for litigation, would this conversation be any more likely to succeed over the phone, since there's no incriminating paper trail? – Nuclear Wang Feb 10 '17 at 18:25

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