One of my classmates just got accepted into the graduate program I also applied for. We both are strong candidates but she is a stronger one, hence the earlier acceptance.

I was wondering if it hurts my chances for an admit if someone from my undergrad university already got accepted for the program I also applied for?

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    Afaik, acceptance notifications are usually sent out at the same time. When she already has an acceptance and you don't, I think this is a pretty bad sign. (however, it is very unlikely that you would be rejected because there is another candidate from the same university - why would the program care about that/) – xLeitix Feb 12 '15 at 7:51
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    @xLeitix We don't make all of our offers at the same time. As for why it might make a difference, they might, e.g., have letters from the same professors, which allows for direct comparison of the students, whereas this is harder to do for students from different schools. – Kimball Feb 12 '15 at 10:31
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    I wouldn't say it hurts your chances because they've already evaluated both of your applications (though it did hurt your chances that a stronger applicant applied), but it's an indication you're not in the top round of offers. – Kimball Feb 12 '15 at 10:33
  • Two friends of mine applied at the same time for the same program in the same university. One of them (AFAIK, the weaker candidate) was admitted one month before the other one. Both of them have been admitted at the end. The university was slow to process the requests because too many applied. So, you never know! – user7112 Feb 18 '15 at 8:12

I am unaware of any graduate program that makes an active effort to diversify with respect to the undergraduate institutions of their students. If our top 10 applicants were all from UC Berkeley, for example, we'd have no qualms about admitting them in exclusion of applicants from any other school. Thus in a direct causal sense, it shouldn't hurt you at all that another applicant from your school has been accepted (other than the fact that there is now one fewer slots available in their incoming class).

However, knowing that a fellow student has been admitted already does change your conditional probability of being admitted, for the worse. Given that at least some acceptances have been sent out and you are not among them, it is now less likely than it was before that you will be accepted. But this logic applies equally well to any acceptance from any school; it is no more discouraging that the accepted student happens to be from your institution.

  • The University of Chicago’s mathematics department explicitly refuses to admit UChicago undergraduates. This is a little different from the scenario in question but I felt worth mentioning. Professors I have spoken to have said that this is to promote diversity in thought and to expose students to other backgrounds. In Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman, he tells a similar story about being forced to switch universities for grad school (in physics) for the same reason. – Stella Biderman Dec 23 '17 at 23:45

I agree with the answer by Corvus that seeing anyone else get admitted before you is a bad sign, but it's unlikely that the admissions committee would deliberately hold it against you that there's another strong student at your university.

The most plausible way this could be a problem is prejudice based on your department, if it doesn't send many students to graduate programs at this level. The admissions committee then has to decide whether there's an unusual cluster of strong applicants from your department this year. Occasionally people may take shortcuts and say things like "Department X doesn't send many students to top programs, so it seems risky to take their second best student. Let's just go with their top student." This is lazy and unfair (the evaluation should be based on the applicant, not their pedigree), and I'd object if I heard another committee member say it. It's not inconceivable that someone could think that way, but in a properly run search committee it shouldn't carry any official weight.

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