Legacy and Grad School?

Graduating seniors have a choice: either enter the real world or earn a higher degree.

Undergraduates who intend to pursue further study must decide whether to apply to the same university for graduate school. And in certain cases, gaining acceptance into a graduate program of the same university can be difficult.

“Schools tend to desire to admit a diverse class, and students may be disproportionately inclined to remain at their own schools,” said Blair Hoxby, associate professor of English.

Hoxby conjectures that because of these trends, it may be “a little more difficult to be admitted to a professional school” at a student’s undergraduate institution.

“Some departments refuse to accept their own undergraduates under any circumstances,” he said. “A few admit their own—and may even be more inclined to admit students they already know well.”

Departments seek diversity to ensure students are continually introduced to new ideas and people. An influx of new faces also decreases the likelihood that faculty who already know students will make biased decisions.

Some students such as William Joo, a graduate student in Stanford’s Neurosciences department who attended Brown University as an undergraduate, believe it is natural to attend a new university for graduate school.

“In my experience, there was always this expectation that you learn a lot of great things at this one place and when you go to graduate school, you…bring it somewhere else and make something new,” he said.

George Anderson ’14 is a graduate student in the Aeronautics and Astronautics program who graduated from Montana State University. “By the end, I was definitely ready to reach out and go somewhere new,” he said.

Erica Cherry ’13 is a Stanford graduate student in the Mechanical Engineering department  who feels that attending Stanford helped her gain acceptance into graduate school. She said she “felt more confident” about her chances because of her close relationship with her research advisor.

“I think it helps when the professors have a face and personality they can match with the name on the application,” said Cherry.

But attending the same school for undergraduate and graduate degrees is not the norm. “I feel that for whatever reason, that’s generally quite rare,” said Joo.

The co-terminal program at Stanford allows a simpler transition from the undergraduate to the graduate level of education.

According to Professor Mark Cappelli, graduate admissions chairman of the Mechanical Engineering department, the co-terminal program allows students to take courses during their senior year that can apply to a graduate degree.

“Through the co-terminal group, it is easier in several ways to be admitted into the graduate program,” said Cappelli, who is grateful for the number of Stanford students the program pulls into the Mechanical Engineering’s graduate department. That department is one example of a program that wants to attract Stanford undergraduates.

Ultimately, regardless of where a student plans on attending graduate school, Hoxby said that attending Stanford is a step in the right direction. “Attending an elite college or university and performing well there is the best preparation for getting into graduate school of any kind.”

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