7 Questions to Ask When Your Grad School Applications are Rejected

Raghuram Sukumar Admission 20 Comments

I have been reading your blogs pretty much regularly, and I think you are the expert who can help me with my problem. Please I’m desperate and anxious and hope you would help me.

  • GRE score : Verbal 150, Quant 161, Writing 3.0
  • Degree CGPA : 8.65 BE in Electronics from Punjab Engineering College, India (reputed college)
  • 12th standard: 89.6%
  • 10th standard: 91.5 %
  • No research papers or big projects undertaken

I use to think my profile was pretty descent and I applied

  • Texas A&M College Station,
  • University of Maryland College Park,
  • University of Florida (though I also thought of applying in UCLA but didn’t).

All I got was rejection from these colleges and I do not know the correct reason for it, whether it was because of my GRE score or something else.
Please help me determine what is lacking and how is it that I can really work on the challenges.

Why Graduate Schools Reject Applicants

Yesterday we looked at similar scenario when someone got rejections from all 6 universities for PhD in Human Genetics.

  1. When your Graduate School application is rejected, you need to ask the following questions.
  2. Did you select universities where you can actually get admission?
  3. Did you apply to safe universities or all dream/ambitious universities?
  4. Did you copy your SOP or write a unique SOP?
  5. Did you have previous research experience (typically not the case with students from India)
  6. How about the selectivity of the program?
  7. Did you happen to send all the application materials?

For instance, the person who sent the above question falls under #2,  #3 and #5.



  1. These three are super ambi colleges. With no projects/ publications, it will be impossible getting into these. Its as simple as that.

  2. Did you thoroughly proofread your application? You meant “decent” instead of “descent.” And yes, those are selective colleges, esp Maryland, for a cookie-cutter Asian with no research experience.

  3. cant say bout USA. they are damn unpredictable. and yeah,i know people who had no research papr got into Texas A& M. btw,most undergrads in india are all hooked up with syllabus to do anything extra

  4. wen u had olready spent so mch on gre n stuff y did ya restrain urself to jus 3 univ…shld hav gone fr atleast 5…d other 2 being more twrds modi/ safe category….ne ways u cld still apply fr d cmng spring…oll d bst…

  5. The article’s title said 7, but the first one is again the title 😀

  6. I also got rejects from same set of Universities. I also completed my BE in Electronics from Mumbai University. Have a professional experience of 3+ years in IT industry. MyGRE & academic score is much lower than you. These universities are highly competitive and getting thru these universities is extremely tough atleast for Indian students. I hope not a big project doesn’t mean you didn’t even complete your academic/ final year project.
    I think the main reason for your rejection may be a weak SOP. Your GRE and academic scores are much decent. Other reason I think is limited application. If you were not so guaranted, you should have applied to at aleast 8 University ranging in top 50 university of Electrical Engineering. But don’t expect any kind of RA/ scholarship from these top universities. I hope you will try applying next year again. You can go with the same GRE score. To strengthen your profile you can do internship from rnd companies like Intel, IBM, etc. They provide short term internship for undergrads which can be considered much valuable in future.
    FYI….I got an admit from UCSB, MS (Electrical Engineering), majors: Electronics & Photonics.

    1. could you please tell me how you got in ,what was your score, percentage etc, I have also applied for the same at UCSB and I really want to work in the world of photonics. Please help me if u can.

  7. hi HSB.

    i am a regular visiter of your blog .. it is full of info at any point no doubt.
    HOWEVER many times i have one sentence … Apply for some safe universities as well.. WELL i understand most of the students cant afford the tuition fee for good schools.. i am leaving them here … Now suppose all can support their tuitions and they all want to be in dream schols… WILL YOU STILL URGE THEM TO GO FOR SAFE SCHOOLS AND IF YES/NO WHY !!

    pardon for an typo.. typed from touch keypad

  8. hi HSB.

    i am a regular visiter of your blog .. it is full of info at any point no doubt.
    HOWEVER many times i have one sentence … Apply for some safe universities as well.. WELL i understand most of the students cant afford the tuition fee for good schools.. i am leaving them here … Now suppose all can support their tuitions and they all want to be in dream schols… WILL YOU STILL URGE THEM TO GO FOR SAFE SCHOOLS AND IF YES/NO WHY !!

    pardon for an typo.. typed from touch keypad

  9. I am active member of HSB and this post is relevant to my experience.I have a .GRE score of 310 and TOEFL score of 103.I applied in two universities in USA for pursuing Phd in Mechanical Engineering for the fall session.They are:
    1.Texas A&M
    2. University of Alabama

    As HSB suggested I did emailed to the prof’s in my field in both the universities and did got a reply from prof of University of Alabama.I have a research experience of 6 years with eight publications in my name.That research experience helped me get an answer from the prof.
    Texas A&M professors were neutral in their reply.Still with this profile and communication i prepared SOP with the names of the professor i communicated with.
    I was surprised to get rejection from Texas A&M university and did mailed the graduate ad-visor to get the correct reason for the rejection.Till date i don’t know the reason of rejection?
    Got selection in Alabama ,tuscaloosa.I am not sure how good it is but the work in the mechanical department matches with my field of work.
    It is a good way to communicate with the prof before applying but on the other hand it cuts many options in case you get a negative reply from prof as dream universities are not many in number.

    With good research experience and proven hands on experience and good GRE score i was denied admission in texas A&M, i am really wondering what went wrong.US universities as somebody mentioned seem unpredictable in admission.In my opinion strong letter of recommendation plays very important role in such universities.


  10. Hi,
    i am regular follower of your blog.i got rejected from all the 3 universities i applied to. My GRE score 312(156 QUANT,156 VERBAL AWA-4), TOEFL-108. i applied for MS Genetics. I have 8.3 CGPA which is not great but pretty decent but as the story goes rejection from everywhere
    i dont think that i applied to ambitious universities. what my profile might have lacked is research experience,but pls suggest something

  11. A safe school doesn’t mean very low ranking school, your 3 selection are Top schools, among Top 30 of engineering graduate school in US. I would said you may have a chance if you score 320 and above out of 340. Should apply safe schools, rank 30-50. Rank 30-50 still very good schools to get the best education.

  12. Same situation for me and many applicants of Fall’12 I guess … I was almost shaken when I see rejection for me for a moderate univ X and a profile apparently lower than me got accepted !! Please HSB, help me to get an answer … Shall mail the adviser asking the reason or shall ask them to re-consider my application …
    Will any thing work in this situation ??

  13. i also don’t understand what is the selection criteria for admission.. i got 301 in gre and 90 in toefl but academic profile was quite decent i suppose for me…
    have more than 8 publicatn ,one international internship through scholarship, more than 5 international presentations,good research experience with 5 prjects but was still denied admission from 3 colleges..applied in 4..waitng for one more….donno what went wrong…can someone explain me what is strong LOR and SOP…..

  14. I applied to just 1 PhD program, because I started late and had no time to look for other programs and universities.
    After receiving my rejection I called to the Admissions office and tried to receive some feedback about my application.
    The person said that I had some good recommendation letters, I could have better GRE and GPA, but she said my real issue was lack of experience on research, which is not so easy to have here in Brazil.
    Now I need to prepare myself better to achieve higher GRE, but I still have to find a way to get some experience on research.
    The call to the admissions office was pretty helpful to me.

    Good luck!!

    1. Thanks for sharing !! I’ll give a try for few moderate university where I had reject and try to find out why !!

  15. all of the points you said are correct but how long one can wait for being accepted in a university? retaking exams and retaking again! that’s sth I can not really afford it.I did all my best to get admission in Canada and US where the labs I contacted really are into my field.I contacted nearly 200 professors worked in the field in Canada and US.Canada professors said no funding this year is available and In US although professors liked my research the office rejected my application.Even my English exam is going to expire.I do not know what to do!I am sure I can not find anywhere else with such overlapped interest except US or Canada!
    If it is going to work this year I will boost my GRE but I do not know what the problem is and whether reapplying to those US universities from those I got positive response really helps or it is just a a distant mirage ?please help me. my colleagues with lower achievements were being accepted by Canada in last two years but what has happened to 2012?

    Having passed all exams in master of biology with highest scores from an Asian University with good ranking (my university does not offer PhD in human genetics,neuroscience or developmental biology)
    got A in thesis of master
    Published research about a novel issue in an ISI indexed Journal
    Four sequences registration in databanks
    research experience, having participated in workshops related to my field
    having presentation in congresses in my home country
    GRE 50% qw3.5
    IELTS L7 R7 W7 S6.5
    Rejected Universities:
    Rutgers (no email yet sounds very strange)
    case western univ
    In Europe

    1. hi sarah. why don’;t u try in univ of manitoba in canada. It will be good. U will get for sure.

  16. Hi,
    Please I need your sincere advise as par which Canadian school I can apply to for M Sc in Exploration Geophysics.
    GRE: 1210/1600 (Q=670, V=540)
    TOEFL: 94/120 (R=28, S=20, L= 21, W=25)
    CGPA: 3.28/5.0

  17. I have a B.S. degree in Microbiology from an American state University, with a GPA of 3.72 and a GRE score of 155 verbal and 157 quant. I am an international student and I want to apply for the Phd program. According to my experience, if you really want to get into a good U.S. university, not only do you need a good GPA and GRE score but also good research experience. Furthermore, low ranked universities don’t have sufficient funding to support students, so that even qualified students get rejected. Secondly, although highly ranked universities (especially private ones) have excellent funding, to get admitted you need to stand out from the application pool. For instance, if you have a very good research experience (such as a publication) then your chance of getting admitted will almost double.

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