I recently applied for a PhD position with a major university in Europe. However, I haven't heard back from them even though the dates for the interviews have passed. This somewhat provoces me since I've put a lot of work into my application (it feels disrespectful to not get back to me) and since it makes me unsure whether I have been rejected or merely forgotten. I've already got a response (possibly automately generated) that my application was received by them.

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    Have you asked? – JeffE Jun 22 '12 at 11:41
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    Is the process "rolling" or on a fixed cycle? (And, for what it's worth, emails and letters for graduate admissions are not generally automatically generated; staff members typically compose those and send them out.) – aeismail Jun 23 '12 at 23:47

I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect a timely response, however it seems to be the case that many graduate schools are overwhelmed with applications and underestimate the time it takes to deal with them. A slightly more cynical view would be that many graduate school admin departments are understaffed and don't have the resources to cater for expected number of applicants. In my case I submitted my application on 28 Feb and was informed that interviews would take place "during the week of the 19 March". This date came and went and I assumed I had not been successful, so I called the Faculty Graduate Office the following week and was informed that the process was taking longer than expected but I would be notified of the status in due course. On 5 April I received an email saying I had been selected for interview and "we will contact you shortly with an interview date and time". On 25 April I was given the interview date (for the middle of May).

I would recommend that you just call them and ask to know the status.

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  • Interesting! I should probably get in touch with them. However, since all the applications have been sent via mail, I would estimate the time to write a canned response ("Unfortunately, you've not been selected for further interviewing. Good luck in the future!") and send out to everybody who has been rejected (that is, sending an e-mail to every applicant, minus the selected ones) to be about 5-10 minutes. – Speldosa Jun 23 '12 at 12:57
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    Ahh, but as mentioned to by @Daniel E. Shub yesterday in the comment to the other answer, they may not send out rejection emails until the process is complete. There could be a situation where non of the interviewees were found to be appointable, or some of the interviewees withdrew and they wanted to call others to be interviewed. – Robert Long Jun 23 '12 at 13:09
  • That's possible. – Speldosa Jun 23 '12 at 19:02
  • @longrob it sounds like you are in the process of applying to graduate school. Do you have any experience related to the inner workings of graduate admissions? In my experience the number of applicants and admin support (or lack thereof) doesn't change dramatically from year-to-year. – StrongBad Jun 25 '12 at 13:49
  • @DanielE.Shub, sorry for the late reply - for some reason I didn't get a notification. My experience of the inner workings of graduate admissions, is that the admin staff are overworked. It would be easy to question their competence too, but I had better not say too much about that ! I have been a student representative for taught postgraduates and sat on several committees staffed by academics (programmes committee, student education committee). My experience of these committees has been a very good one and I would say the academics involved in provision of programmes are dedicated...[cont] – Robert Long Jul 13 '12 at 9:10

No, final decisions take a while. It is not the fault of the program, but rather an issue of funding. Programs tend to initially reject very few applicants. An applicant that seems weak on "paper" might get accepted if their proposal fits into a very narrow funding scheme that no other applicants are eligible for. There is no global rank order of the applicants, but rather the "best" applicant for each funding scheme is identified. Programs generally construct strategies which lead to the most funding. The strategy is constantly revised when the program finds out about successful/unsuccessful funding applications and whether the applicant accepts the acceptance. Basically the whole system is a nightmare for everyone.

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    "No, final decisions take a while." - But in this case, I can only assume that the decisions already have been made. The dates for the interviews have passed (see my original question). – Speldosa Jun 22 '12 at 9:48
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    @Speldosa I agree that it is highly, possibly completely, unlikely that you will be admitted. Most (post)graduate programs do not send rejects until the entire process is completed. This is the similar to academic job searches where you are "lucky" if you ever get a rejection letter. – StrongBad Jun 22 '12 at 12:21

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