Informal poll: Did you apply for grad at your UG school?

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


Full Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 28, 2007
Reaction score
I was wondering how many people on the board applied for graduate school at their undergrad institution. When I was doing interviews, a good number of fellow interviewees at each school had done their UG there.

Have you found it to make a difference in the selection process? One school that I interviewed at offered the 4 open spots to the 4 local applicants first (without bragging, I know I was more qualified and had better fit than at least 3 of those 4... they took a guy who said during introductions that he has no interest whatsoever in research and just wants to be a clinician :confused:).

Do you guys and gals think it's legit? I have one prof who called doing your UG and grad at the same place "academic inbreeding." I kind of agree-- unless you already have 3 kids and a spouse with a high-paying job, I think people should move-- get exposed to new ideas, new ways of doing things....

And, did it come up in anyone's interviews? I was asked twice if I applied to my UG school (I didn't). I got the impression from tone and body language that if I had, it would have been a MAJOR minus on my application-- as in, I would elect to stay comfortable where I was rather than move, no matter where I got in.

Members don't see this ad.
My school hates accepting internal applicants for that very reason..."academic inbreeding". While I think in certain cases it is "acceptable" (i.e. research match is ideal and that type of research is not very common), as a general rule I think its a bad idea to limit yourself to one place.

That being said, they still asked me to apply there (which made me feel loved since apparently its very rare:) ) but at no point did I ever even consider applying, let alone attending.

I work for them now, and that is fine because I love the people I work with, but suffice it to say my undergrad education was just beyond horrific and they shan't be forgiven. I realize undergrad is vastly different from grad school and given the success of many students its clearly not a bad school, but my undergrad just left a sour taste in my mouth I couldn't handle the idea of returning.

Edit: It got brought up at my UVM interview, since apparently people from my city are often very "loyal" to it. I made it clear that even if I wasn't accepted to grad school I had no intentions of staying there and that perked them right up.
At my (Ph.D.) program, an applicant would have to be an academic rockstar and very well-liked by his or her POI and labmates to be accepted from our undergraduate program.

I have never heard anyone put very much weight on whether or not an individual is applying to his or her undergrad school. My best guess is that POIs are try to suss out your ties to different geographic areas. For POIs, it's a bonus to know that you would be willing/happy to relocate to their area.
Members don't see this ad :)
Turned out the Ph.D. program at my UG school UC Berkeley is the best in the nation. A bit over my head. :-(
Besides, I earned a BS in neurobiology and not psychology.
I've talked to people who consider applying to your undergrad institution for graduate school to be the 8th deadly sin. I know there are institutions with policies against accepting any student who did their undergrad there. I suppose these universities see it as being in their best interest if their graduates leave to spread the good name of the school far and wide. The OP's anecdote was the first I've ever heard of a school preferring its own graduates, but I suppose to each department its own.

As for me, I didn't apply to my own undergrad institution. I don't think doing so is quite worthy of the death penalty, but I do think it's better in general for people to experience a variety of surroundings in their academic career. All in all, though, I'd say there are more important factors to consider about an institution than whether you already went to school there.
well, there's no clinical/counseling psych, etc program at my ug school. so, i didn't even have any choice :p although, if i were a medical student, it still wouldn't matter about "inbreeding"/same location since our med school is about 5 hours away from the main ug campus.
My program has an explicit policy against taking its own undergraduates. I don't think it's happened in 20 years (of course, the quality of the undergrad program is far below the quality of the graduate program here, so I doubt there was ever a huge temptation). I think my undergrad school has a similar policy (i didn't apply, but wasn't a good match anyway)-- but I knew of at least one exception. In any event, I think that the OP's story is a very rare circumstance--usually it's the opposite effect.
I think it's a Canada thing. Because there are fewer psych grad schools, a lot of 'em just apply wherever they already are. In the US, they have the opposite mentality.

In any case, I think it's... odd to treat applicants differently because they went to the same place for UG. A good applicant is a good applicant, and life experience is relative.
I'm in my undergrad's grad program currently. But, they only have a master's program. And, it's not in clinical/counseling psych. I refused to uproot my family for a master's program for 2-3 years and then do so again for a doctoral program. So, I stuck it out in the same area.

I spoke with some people in the department recently about this and they indicated that they actually prefer to accept students from other institutions (which you probably couldn't tell since approximately half the master's students come from them for undergrad as well). Unfortunately, they sometimes don't have much of a choice as they already accept some students that probably are not of the highest caliber and to refuse students based upon their graduating from the same institution would limit them even more.

I interviewed at one program this cycle that seemed to have an unusually high number of their own undergrads applying for their doctoral program. And, most of 'em expected to get in based upon information they had received from the profs there. I thought it odd as I had always thought that most institutions had policies against doing so. I've even seen it specifically stated on their websites under the admissions information.

Ah, well. Not sure I'd personally want to go to the same place for my doctoral program--I prefer to have a change in scenery and professors. I get antsy.
I think taking your own students is much less of a problem with master's programs. Especially for people planning on going on to a doctorate, your master's work is not likely to be what people know and it isn't likely to "shape" you to the degree that your doctorate will (though of course there are always exceptions). Not to mention there is generally a stronger focus on classes....etc.

I think that's a whole different ballgame than PhDs, even at institutions that offer both a terminal master's and a PhD.
I don't think that applying to your undergraduate school is the worst thing you could possibly do, it just depends on your experience. During my undergraduate career I did not have any exposure to the clinical faculty and so the issue of academic inbreeding is not quite and relevant. I applied to programs all over the country based on research match and also applied to my undergraduate school for the same reason (amazing match with POI) and ultimately decided to go back to my undergraduate school for my PhD and I have no regrets about that decision -- Just think all the way through why you want to apply there and if it is the best move for you
To concur with JockNerd- I had always been taught that it was taboo to apply to your undergraduate school for a doctoral program. My undergrad didn't have a graduate psych program, so I had no worries. I did get a fifth year master's in a different department at my school, however.

I would say now, if I had gone to a school with both an undergrad and graduate psych department, and I had done well and was well liked and there were no restrictions about applying, I would do it. Who cares? If it made getting in somewhere all that much easier, I don't think it matters a ton. It might mark you as a candidate for jobs if you wanted to teach- but that brings me to another point: there are plenty of teaching professors out there that have done the same thing. I understand that the acceptance of this practice has probably diminshed since 15-20 years ago. However, if one were to look at lots of lists of faculty members at many clinical programs (maybe others have noticed this as well), he would be sure to find a handful that went to the same school for both their undergrad and graduate degrees.
Members don't see this ad :)
It might mark you as a candidate for jobs if you wanted to teach- but that brings me to another point: there are plenty of teaching professors out there that have done the same thing. I understand that the acceptance of this practice has probably diminshed since 15-20 years ago. However, if one were to look at lots of lists of faculty members at many clinical programs (maybe others have noticed this as well), he would be sure to find a handful that went to the same school for both their undergrad and graduate degrees.
In fact, if your goal was to be on the faculty at your undergraduate institution and teach, this "inbreeding" might be an advantage.
I did not apply to my undergrad for graduate school mainly because I don't have a very good match with anyone here! A lot of people actually do go from our undergrad to grad school, even though they don't tell you that (from the website it looks like about 25% of the class seems to be from my school).

I personally think it is good to move on, meet new people, and have new experiences. I have done everything I wanted to do here, and have accomplished a great deal. I am proud of my time here, but it is time to move on, you know?

That being said, it does happen other places. I know that there are a few people from my graduate school's undergrad which are entering the program. If a professor has a great student as an undergrad I don't see anything wrong with considering them, as long as the department allows it. However if I were that professor I would be sure that they were sure that they understood the decision and were making the right decision for them.

Anyway, that is my $.02
I did apply to my UG's grad school, though it is really just affiliated with the UG (there is little to no connection at all). I was told by some students (unofficially) that the grad school was biased against students from the UG, and sure enough I was rejected. a friend of mine from UG was accepted though.
I did apply to my UG's grad program, but was not accepted. It wound up being the best thing as what I thought was a good fit with a POI became a very bad fit as the year progressed. What's interesting at my UG is that the clinical program generally frowns on accepting their own, while the experimental program tends to lean toward accepting UG students. I was told that it's a money, prestige thing: the doctoral program wants to be seen as competitive and able to attract students from all over the country. They don't want the "inbreeding" stigma.
That is funny you mention experimental because at my school, it's the same. The other programs do not accept students from the UG but Experimental does! (All are PhD)
At my UG school, I'd say the majority of people in clinical and othe areas are local applicants. We also have a pretty inexcusably low match rate (I think it was about 60%), so take from that what you will!

I think if I were on the selection committee for hiring new profs, I might look disfavourably on applicants who did their entire education in one place. Although, there's definitely something to be said for staying with someone you have a really strong research match with, and if the applicant's area is something really rare I would overlook it. But if someone were looking into, say, ADHD or some other area that really has a lot of people working on it, I wouldn't be so willing to overlook that reluctance to change locations.

Where I kinda wanted to take this thread was, if an applicant is applying to their UG school along with other schools this coming winter, should he or she divulge that info schools who ask it in interview or on the application? I'm going to go with a big "no," even if it is a lie, because I think enough people have said in this thread that there's a feeling at least among some profs that it's pretty negative to apply to your UG institution, and this could affect the applicant's chances of getting in.
I'm never one for lying in an interview. Of course, everyone will spin things, but an out-and-out lie could bite you in the butt. You never know what kind of follow-up question, or innocuous comment to a grad student could trip you up later on.

I was never asked to name the other institutions I had applied for. I was nervous about getting that question because I applied to both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs and I wasn't sure how I would respond to questions about that. But it never came up so I was off the hook!
Some applications asked me what other schools I was applying to actually.

I STRONGLY discourage lying. Not even because of follow-up questions or talking with others could trip you up, but because academia is a tiny tiny world. Chances are the people you are applying to know eachother and if you applied with Dr. Y, he asks if you applied to your UG institution and he bumps into Dr. Z from your undergrad at a conference later that may come up in conversation, and your lie may come out. And then you're likely out of luck at both schools.

Instead I'd say "Well, I thought hard about it since I want to expand my horizons, but I really felt that x research project in y lab was a great fit for me....etc.". Basically, explain your reasons for applying (know they had better be good ones and not "I like the area!"). I think that will work just fine and personally I'd rather risk not getting into one school because they didn't feel it was a good enough reason then to risk being blacklisted at several schools because I lied to 1 person and he told his 15 friends who happen to be the other people I want to work with.
I was asked to name where I had applied at every interview I went on. Resistance was futile. ;) I was also asked which professors I wanted to work with at those programs. With that said, you don't HAVE to tell them every single program. I just gave them a general idea.
I actually take back the bit about lying. I think I was half-asleep and ill when I wrote that. I think my actual advice would be not to apply to one's undergrad institution at all. This entirely avoids the need to lie :)

If one does apply, I agree with previous posters that not volunteering the info might be best... but what then if you're asked directly if you applied to your undergrad school? I was asked this twice, as I said in my original post, and both times i had the *distinct* impression that if I said yes, I would no longer be in consideration by that prof for acceptance to the program. Not volunteering the information might look weird.

Oh, and they do all know each other, eh? If you're really going for fit, you're probably going to be looking at profs researching things in the same area. I had a neat little web of interconnectedness among about half of my POIs.
"Where else did you apply?"
"X Y and Z"
"With Dr. R at University X?"
"Ummm.... yeah...."