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So I am currently a rising senior at a college in the US (which I will call "UNI"), and preparing to apply to grad schools. Furthermore, the college I currently go to (UNI) also happens to be my dream school for graduate school.

I have been working at a lab here at "UNI" as an undergraduate researcher in the field I want to go to graduate school for. I find the research topic very compelling, and as far as I know, the lab which I am working at is one of the only labs in the US focusing on this specific topic.

I would love to continue to contribute to research in this field for graduate school, but I'm not sure if I should be mentioning this in my application to "UNI".

I'm mainly concerned that it will be frowned upon by the admission committee because I'm leveraging connections (to the lab here at "UNI") which other applicants NOT going to this school won't have access to.

Furthermore, as far as I am aware the professors don't have any say in which applicants are accepted, so the professor in charge of the lab won't be able to put in a word for me either.

What would you all recommend I do? Should I emphasise this point in my application (I.e that I found a lab here which researches a pretty niche topic that I am very interested in, and that I have already done some undergraduate research for), and if so, to what extent? Should I mention it in passing or really emphasise it as the main focus of my application?

Thank you in advance!

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    I agree with the two now-existing answers that it would not be frowned upon and that you should mention it, but I'm not sure whether it should be the main focus of your application. Wouldn't the graduate selection committee already know about you, or is your department so large and/or undergraduate participation in research in your department so common that this is not necessarily the case? Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 11:34
  • You should get your supervisor's help preparing your application. Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 14:15

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I am not in the US, but I don't think that mentioning this will be "frowned upon" as if you were having an unfair advantage in relation to the other candidates. You are not doing anything wrong or illegal by doing your undergrad research there: I actually think it is an advantage, as it shows you're motivated by the subject. If I were a part of the committee, I would see that as a very good thing.

Regarding the emphasis, I don't know about the other things you have on your CV, so I can't tell what is more or less important. I would advise you to mention it as an important experience that qualifies you for the postgrad program - be proud of it!

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My advice is that you should certainly mention it. I suspect that if you apply to some other university you would certainly want to mention your undergraduate research. You should do just the same for admission to your own graduate program. It would be expected, I think.

If this is for doctoral study in the US, note that professors do, in fact, get involved with admissions. Students are admitted or not on the advice of a committee that is largely (or wholly) faculty. Not everyone is involved in any given year, of course.

Other students at other universities who are applying to yours will certainly mention any research experience. You aren't taking advantage.

Your letters of recommendation might have extra weight since the committee members know the writer, but this also happens generally when faculty have wide circles of contact/collaboration.

Just. Do. It.


Admission to masters programs may be more pro forma with faculty less involved, but the same advice applies here. Someone needs to finalize the acceptance based on what is in the written materials as interviews are much less likely.

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