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I applied to a phd program last year and was not offered anything. This year, I would like to take a shot at that school once more. I thus wonder if it would do me good or bad or neither for me to mention somewhere in my application package that I once applied to the program? The school does not ask applicants to reveal such information in their online application system (so that I think the present question is differentiated from this neighboring question Reapplying to same PhD program....

Suppose doing so is tacitly expected and otherwise the applicant could be considered trying to cover up something. Then what is a judicial way to describe the situation?

Moreover, could an admissions committee of a very competitive program somehow really remember who applied before and who is fresh?

  • I just don't see where you would mention this. If it's in the cover letter it would be a waste of space to me. Instead tell me what you have accomplished in the last year. – Herman Toothrot Jun 19 '15 at 2:32
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It's not standard, in my experience, to ask applicants if they've applied before. (For one, this only applies to a relatively small percentage of applicants typically.) Therefore, if they don't ask for it, they shouldn't expecting this information, and there's typically no reason to provide it.

Looking at your application, they may or may not remember you, depending on (i) if it's the same people doing admissions, (ii) how many applicants they got, and (iii) how much your application stood out. If they don't already remember you, reminding them you were unmemorable last time won't do you many favors.

The only situation in which you might want to say something is if you were in contact with a faculty member who wanted to admit you, but for whatever reason they couldn't accept you. In this case, you can just email that faculty member to let them know you're applying again.

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  • Just to add another situation where mentioning the previous application might be appropriate: if a specific reason for rejection was given (say lack of publications), and that is no longer the case, it might be worth to mention that the issue was addressed. But as you mention, it very much depends on how the selection process is done and whether he was ever in touch with someone about this. – fridaymeetssunday Jun 19 '15 at 6:38

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