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I will be applying for PhD positions starting in fall 2016. Most of the application deadlines are in January. If I send my application now, will it be processed immediately? Or are the recruiters waiting until the deadline has passed? This probably varies somewhat per geographic region (and university, and department) but I would be mostly interested in UK institutions in the STEM fields.

  • At least in the US, I do not believe there is any such thing as "recruiters" for graduate admissions in STEM fields. – Tom Church Dec 5 '15 at 6:28
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In my experience (in a large public American computer science department), review of applications begins as soon as they are submitted, but no decisions are announced until well after the posted deadline. Reviewing graduate applications actually takes significant time, and admissions decisions are based at least in part on comparisons with the rest of the applicant pool.

My university actually forbids announcing admissions decisions before the application deadline. Other universities/countries may have more relaxed policies.

  • This doesn't really answer the question. The decisions may not be announced, but that doesn't mean that they (or at least some of them) haven't been made. Could you elaborate? – zelanix Dec 4 '15 at 22:54
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    @zelanix Oh, sure, some committee members make up their minds earlier, and the committee may even vote earlier. But formally, until the official offers of admission are sent out, all such decisions are both tentative and confidential. You aren't supposed to hear earlier, and even if you do, what you hear might change. For all practical purposes, no decisions are made until they're announced. – JeffE Dec 5 '15 at 3:51
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It varies. Last year I applied early, and one (top 20) US school that doesn't do rolling admissions contacted me before the posted deadline to admit me. Then again, other schools explicitly wrote on their website that they don't look at applications until the deadline. Others said they "encouraged" early submission but didn't elaborate what that meant.

I don't think someone would be at a disadvantage for applying late. However, there may be some benefit to applying early. Maybe.

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    I don't understand, you think applying early might be beneficial, but applying won't be detrimental? That seems self-contradictory. – Mehrdad Dec 4 '15 at 20:54
  • Yup, it does seem self-contradictory, but I mostly stand by it. When I said it may be beneficial, I mean it may be beneficial for your sanity. You may hear that you get in earlier, for instance. Still, if you submitted your application the night before, maybe you'll hear back later. It doesn't mean you have a worse chance of getting it, necessarily. Could have worded my original post better, but really the true answer is "it depends". – user45484 Dec 5 '15 at 16:23
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"Deadline" is a guide and is definitely not set in stone. They could admit you immediately or almost before the deadline to signup for classes. I doubt they'd do it immediately because it takes quite some time, people are lazy, holidays, weekends etc... They'd even do it after the deadline if you're extremely talented. There is no telling.... Good luck!

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    I downvoted this answer because it seems very disconnected from the realities of graduate admissions. – Tom Church Dec 5 '15 at 6:27

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