Jan 23, 2013
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Hey again,

Just found out the interview schedule for a current interview weekend, and that I'll be interviewing for a spot against one of my POI's current lab RAs. Has anyone had a similar experience? Do you think I will be at a disadvantage because they're already familiar/know they can work together?
 

Ollie123

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Feb 19, 2007
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Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes the other interviews are token and they know they are taking their RA - other times that isn't the case at all - particularly if that person is still an undergrad RA and may be interviewing against someone with more experience. I've also seen the token interview be extended to the current RA, where everyone involved has to know full well the person has no chance of competing with the other candidates but the POI invites them anyways for whatever reason (wants to give them the opportunity to practice, wants to procrastinate the awkwardness of rejecting them, etc.).
 

fallen625

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Oct 8, 2012
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Wow- I didn't realize you could apply to work for someone you RA'd with before - is this common? I would absolutely love to go to grad school where I was an RA for undergrad, but I just assumed this wasn't usually done
 

Doctor Eliza

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Jul 30, 2010
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Also, for some schools, which prof gets how many students can be in flux until after the interviews are done. Maybe prof A finds one candidate that is acceptable, but prof B finds two that are stellar. They may decide that prof A can wait another year for a student and prof B can get 2 this year.

There is so much about the process that is unpredictable that you will drive yourself insane if you try to figure it out. All you can do is to do your best.

:luck:
Dr. E
 

bmedclinic

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Consider a different alternative-- Perhaps that PI gave that RA an interview as a "back up" and you're already starting out a step ahead- all you need is the interview to prove you have a higher ceiling. That PI might already know the limitations of their undergrad RA and might be looking for someone new and better. I think my experience in my doc program worked that way-- where I came in and had TONS more experimental guidance/experience to work from than the undergrad RA's had been given.
 
Jan 4, 2013
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Hey again,

Just found out the interview schedule for a current interview weekend, and that I'll be interviewing for a spot against one of my POI's current lab RAs. Has anyone had a similar experience? Do you think I will be at a disadvantage because they're already familiar/know they can work together?
I think it depends on the level of your experience. Are you an undergrad yourself? Do you have a bachelor and worked for a little bit? Do you have experience in research that is above and beyond what an undergrad RA does? If the answers are yes, I think that as others mentioned, you are at a much better standing. If the answer is no, I think it's hard to make a sweeping generalization in that case.

Also, I was just wondering how you found out this information. All the interview "schedules" I've gotten are really generic and has no mentioning of who I'll be interviewing with or when. It pretty just says 8-5 interview plus some lunch in between. I have no idea how many people are interviewing and who else is interviewing.
 

fallen625

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Oct 8, 2012
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I don't think it's common. From what my current PI told me, it's usually not a good choice for the candidate or PI- It can be hard for the lab PI to switch from viewing you as an undergrad to a grad student...

But hey, this was just one PI's opinion.
That makes a lot of sense to me.

What about applying to work for the same school as your undergrad, but for a different PI?

The reason I am asking this is because I absolutely loved my PI in school, and co-authored a paper with my PI and a third person. I would really love to work under either my PI or this third person - and to go back to my undergraduate school, but I am unsure whether it would be ok to apply next year (How would the conversatione even go when I am asking for recommendations and to apply to work under them?)
 

ImSkyKid

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May 10, 2010
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he reason I am asking this is because I absolutely loved my PI in school, and co-authored a paper with my PI and a third person. I would really love to work under either my PI or this third person - and to go back to my undergraduate school, but I am unsure whether it would be ok to apply next year (How would the conversatione even go when I am asking for recommendations and to apply to work under them?)
I'm actually going through this exact scenario. I applied and have been invited to interview with my undergrad institution for a position with a PI I am co-authoring a paper with and I also listed another PI who I match interests with... maybe I'm the OP's competition ;)

I don't know what the outcome will be, but I'm going into the interviews without the assumption that I have the upper hand. I still have as much to prove as the other applicants and may even be held to a higher standard since I'm so familiar with the program and faculty. We'll see how it all plays out.

Good luck to you and everyone applying!
 
Dec 3, 2012
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That actually happened 3 times during my interview circuit last year, and I definitely know of it happening this year as well for others on the interview circuit.

It really, really depends on (1) the professor and (2) the RA. In my case, at school #1, it was widely known that the professor hires RAs that she knows full well will become a graduate student for her. At school #2, the professor straight up told the RA that she needed to prove that she was going to learn something new and contribute beyond RA duties before she would consider her (the RA ended up going to a different program). At school #3, the RA had worked so closely with the professor that she ended up going to that program as well (though the professor didn't necessarily view her as a graduate student when he hired her).

As you can see, things really vary from school to school, from professor to professor, and from RA to RA. Even if the RA is there, it doesn't necessarily mean he/she wants to stay there. Alternatively, just because someone is an RA for a professor, it doesn't necessarily mean the professor wants them to remain there as a graduate student. In my cases, I knew full well how each professor felt about each RA (and word travels quickly), but in the end, you really just have to try your best and put all of that information behind you. You never know what the professor is really thinking, if the RA is even really interested in staying, what the RA's actual experience is, etc.

Best of luck!
 
Nov 21, 2011
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The OP may have gotten the information through a mass email to all applicants and linked 2x2 together. I feel that in order for it to be an advantage, the RA has to be an all-star. Sometimes RAs in my lab would be offered interviews out of respect for the time given to the lab, but often had low GREs or some other factor that would hinder admissions. Additionally, most faculty would want the undergrad to leave the program to see what else the world has to offer. Overall, I think it hurts more than helps, with 1 or 2 exceptions.

Remember, the only thing you can control is how you come off during interviews. If you are anxious about others, it is likely to show.
 

fallen625

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Oct 8, 2012
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The OP may have gotten the information through a mass email to all applicants and linked 2x2 together. I feel that in order for it to be an advantage, the RA has to be an all-star. Sometimes RAs in my lab would be offered interviews out of respect for the time given to the lab, but often had low GREs or some other factor that would hinder admissions. Additionally, most faculty would want the undergrad to leave the program to see what else the world has to offer. Overall, I think it hurts more than helps, with 1 or 2 exceptions.

Remember, the only thing you can control is how you come off during interviews. If you are anxious about others, it is likely to show.
I would have to agree with that. Also, I work full-time now, but we have some RAs who are pretty average - I think if they were to interview for graduate study, their prior experience would hurt them more than help them. The interview may indeed be due to respect for the time they put into the lab.
 

modestmousktr

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Jan 22, 2013
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As someone stated, it may be awkward for the PI to switch their perception of you from undergrad to grad student- so does this mean that it would be difficult to go from lab manager to grad student?

I am applying to clinical psychology Ph.D. programs currently, but if I'm not accepted, I am going to look for a paid position as a research coordinator or lab manager. I was considering applying for such a position with the POIs who I applied to, but was rejected from (we have friendly e-mail communications).

Would they struggle to transition their perceptions of me from lab manager to grad student?
 

WJPSYCH

Forensic Psychologist
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Oct 7, 2009
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Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes the other interviews are token and they know they are taking their RA - other times that isn't the case at all - particularly if that person is still an undergrad RA and may be interviewing against someone with more experience. I've also seen the token interview be extended to the current RA, where everyone involved has to know full well the person has no chance of competing with the other candidates but the POI invites them anyways for whatever reason (wants to give them the opportunity to practice, wants to procrastinate the awkwardness of rejecting them, etc.).
These are the exact two scenarios I was going to write about. I support your answer.