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When discussing graduate school and PhD programs, I had a professor mention to me that some schools will not accept a student because they do not anticipate that student accepting the offer. This stems from the fact they have limited spots and want students to accept instead of having to go through the process of reaching out to students on the waitlist, etc. Basically, schools give offers to students who they anticipate (or hope) will accept their offer.

That being said, would it make sense to make it apparent in my SOP that I would accept an offer from the school if it was presented? And I do not mean in a tacky way which would read like I wrote it on the SOP for every school. I mean make a compelling case for why this school is the best place for me and then add a sentence like, "I believe [your University] is the place I would be most successful/happy/focused and given the opportunity to attend I would accept" or something along those lines.

Additionally, is it fair to mention a reason like that if it is not expressly academic (in addition to the academic reasons, of course)? For example, location is very important to me and would strongly impact my decision about where to attend.

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    Of course, nothing prevents you from telling every school that you would be sure to go there if you were admitted. This makes such a statement pretty meaningless.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 12:25
  • Did you read the post? I specifically mentioned not doing this.
    – yungtoad
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 12:31
  • I think it would not be difficult to make it apparent that I did not write it on every application by mentioning specific things relating to one school.
    – yungtoad
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 12:32
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    The question in the title is pretty clear to me. So is the first sentence in the second paragraph. Yes, I did read the post. Since one university does not see the applications to another, they cannot tell how tacky such a statement is.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 12:34
  • Let's say you apply 2 schools, one of them is top 3 (let's say, for testing water purpose), the other is top 100. You didn't expect you will get admission to the top 3. You tell the top 100 you will attend their school if admitted because of their location. Now, you get offer from the top 3 unexpectedly. What are you going to do ?
    – Nobody
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 12:36

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Yes, it is both reasonable and a good strategy.

Among the many metrics departments use to measure their success at recruiting good graduate students, there is yield and retention.

Yield is the number of students who accept an admissions office out of the total number of students who are offered admission. High numbers denote a program that the first choice for students. Low numbers are indicative of a "safety school."

Retention and the related graduation rate are respectively, the proportion of students who return every semester, and the proportion of students who finish the program. Students who have a particular school as their first or preferred choice have a lower rate of dropping out or transferring to other programs.

By indicating that a program is your first choice, you are indicating that you will help with both metrics, and this will look good in the eyes of the admissions committee. As you suspect, the reasons you give must be believable, of course, to convince the committee that you are not just saying the same thing on every application. That you prefer the location is a reasonable thing to add.

However, expect diminishing returns as you go up the ladder of top programs, those programs that already have the highest yield rate among their peer institutions. Since everybody already accepts their admissions offers, you are not distinguishing yourself by stating the obvious.

For example, if you have a record that would get you admitted to MIT, but are applying to an unranked local college, it's a good idea to write on your application that if admitted, you'd take the offer because you want your children to stay at their current school. The opposite might not work, that of telling MIT that you'd accept their offer because you want to live in a city: plenty of schools around cities, and MIT already has a high yield, so this will likely give the impression that you are grasping at straws.

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    Thanks, this is along the lines of what I was thinking! And that last paragraph is a good point and is in line with what I am thinking about the reasons needing to be believable and valid.
    – yungtoad
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 13:25

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