My application season so far
I started the season with 7 applications (to 7 programs/schools, of course). Three were my top choices, and four backups. Applying to these many schools in my field (plant breeding and molecular genetics) is quite uncommon as the field is very specialized and deduced to its finest sub-category (quantitative genetics, disease resistance, qualitative traits, etc). Despite having excellent undergraduate and MS (ongoing) records (both from a well reputed private university in the US), I applied to these many programs because I am an international student, and funding can be somewhat of a problem. Recently, I was invited for the interview/recruitment weekend at one of my top choice schools (deadline Dec 1). It went very well, and I should be getting a formal email followed by papers that will include funding, project details and so on. I am very excited about this university, the program, my PoI, and especially the project.
[Few words regarding the interview: I saw that many students (especially undergrads) dressed not-so-formal, and seemed like they did not know much about the science, and what they wanted to do. Please, please and please, be prepared for the interview. You don't have to dress up in blazers and suits, but looking nice and formal certainly adds up to the positive impression. You also don't have to know butt loads about the research being done at that school. But do know what you want to do in the future. And why you chose to apply to that particular program. You don't have to outline the research you want to do, but coming up with a fair sketch on your mind, and then expressing that verbally with your PoIs shows that you are intelligent and mature in that field. If you are serious about attending that school, it is important to maintain your professionalism and display your level of confidence among the professors, current grad students and also other interviewees.]
I was admitted to another of my top choice schools as well (this one had rolling admission system), but was offered no funding. I later discovered (via a friend of mine who interviewed at this place) that my application file never made it to the desk of the director of the program, who had the power of dividing funds among/for prospective applicants. This because the head of the department and the director of the program are not in good terms. Which totally sucks. For me!! But I am a karma guy, and believe that things happen for a good reason. So, good bye to this school. However, the acceptance gave me a decent amount of morale boost as this school is regarded one among the top 3 schools in the US, for my program. Still, I sometimes feel that I could have put that 75$ to a better use My last top choice school's deadline was Jan 15. Haven't heard from them yet. But anytime now. Right?
Last week, I also withdrew my application from one of my safety schools (deadline Jan 1). Primarily because I got into two of my three top choice schools, and I honestly felt that I should let go of this school so that someone else gets that 'extra' spot in this school. I politely emailed the director of the program, and he replied in polite manner saying my application was still being reviewed by the adcomms, and that they appreciate me notifying them of my decision. This school is pretty good for horticultural plants, but I am more interested in crops. So in retrospect, this school was not that good of a fit for me.
Also waiting from a medium level school (deadline Feb 15) and two other backup schools (both with Jan 1 deadline). I am going insane because the (backup) schools are taking awfully long time to make a decision. I really don't care about getting in into these schools but I at least want to visit the schools, and see how their facilities compare with where I ultimately want to go. In case you think it is unethical to go interview at these schools when I have already made up my mind about attending another school, let me tell you this: I won't sign the formal letter till all interviews are over. By doing this, I think I am giving all schools - backup or not - an opportunity to impress me with their faculty, facilities and research. Who knows, the Florida warmness might just melt my heart, and alter my decision to attend one of the Midwest schools! Besides, the application fee were expensive man... one was like 95 bucks! A dinner, and a short town visit is totally worth the money!