-- Update irregularly --
Obivously, I started playing this game called "The Waiting Game" after submitting all of my grad school applications few weeks ago. Like many others, I was hoping to get e-mails or phone calls regarding my applications - ideally for interviews/acceptances, of course. Unlike some of the users at the forum that check their e-mails extremely frequently, however, I check the admission results here once every hour or two.
- First Week of January -
The fact that my stats are not outstanding subconsciously makes me to believe that there is no way I will receive any e-mails or phone calls for interviews at this early stage. From my observation, people who received e-mails / phone calls for interview in mid-late December tend to be the most competitive applicants. Even though there are some exceptions based on the numbers presented on the result page, I think it is a reasonable assumption that I will not get any response until that day -- the day where most people receive their admission decision(s). It sucks to see someone who got an interview from a school that you applied and/or wanted to go, when this person has similar stats (or worse numbers) than yourself. Although I tried not to take things personal, I can't help but wondered "why haven't I receive that e-mail or phone call" - could it be my statements, my recommendation letters, or simply because I am not a citizen? Drilling into these dead-end questions can only make me more pessimistic; hence I tried not to hopelessly anticipating and desperately searching for some sort of positive responses. But sometime it's just difficult when you got a phone call with unfamiliar area code at 7 or 8 in the morning. You pick up the phone call that the person did not make a sound, and later you found out that the number is a toll-free number by searching it on Google. My body just responded to that phone call swiftly like a ninja -- I Can't Help It.
And I really try hard to achieve what I just said. But it is difficult. For instance, as of Jan 3, I realized that there are 3 applications that I submitted did not actually confirm my submission. A school that I applied sent me an e-mail back in early-December right after the submission. The e-mail said that the school will send me information and link(s) about my application status few days after my submission. The school, however, did not send me any e-mail since then. I sent e-mails to the graduate school and the program that I applied, and addressed my situation in mid-December, but I did not receive any response. Until Jan 3 morning, I check my list of grad schools application statuses (that I have it in .xls/.xlsx), this school has never confirmed/finalized my application since I paid the fees and submitted it online.
Given that this school did not respond to any of my e-mails that I sent using my personal e-mail address (with a popular e-mail domain), I used my private (school) e-mail address and sent them e-mails with the same info. About two hours later, I got a response from the program and the school claimed that some parts of my application are missing, possibly due to some technical problems at their ends. So, I confirmed the situation with the school and resend my materials to the program awhile later on the same day. It was unlucky that my application was "incomplete" at their ends, yet it was fortunate that this issue can be resolved just two days before the adcom review the last batch of the applications. Not if I resend this e-mail out of my anger, anxiety, and curiosity, I would not send them an e-mail at all. I won't be able to know that my application was incomplete and I would have flushed my almost-a-hundred USD to the toilet for nothing...
By the end of the week, I received 3 rejection letters before and during a short trip that I visited a neighboring country of the U.S. The trip was alright. It could have been better if I was into nightlife and if I was not paranoid because of the unpeaceful atmosphere of the city at night. As for the rejections, the results are predictable considered the following statistics:
School A: Number of Applicants = 700-800. Number of International Applicants who are accepted/enrolled = 7-8 (of a "umbrella" program, which consisted of no less than 5 departments/subprograms), provided by the school website.
School B: Number of International Applicants who are accepted for the program = 1, provided by the Dean through the "follow-up" of rejection e-mail.
School C: Number of International Applicants who are accepted/enrolled = 20-25 out of ~80 enrolled students per year, provided by the school website.
I should have paid extra attention on these stats prior submitting my applications... FML.
- Second Week of January -
The second quarter/semester began earlier this week. As a quasi-nontraditional applicant and student, I am not enrolling in this term. Main reason is to avoid any negative impacts on my academic performance due to traveling and interviews (if any). Although I am not academically active on my school system, I am sitting two courses just for fun - 1) electron microscopy and 2) structural analysis of materials using X-ray diffraction. Introduction of these two classes are pretty simple, which only requires basic physics (optics) and some basic symmetry/point group/space group theory from organic and/or inorganic chemistry. Because the basics of a technique are always the same, and therefore whether if one is into material science or molecular biology (E.g. X-ray crystallography for small inorganic/organic molecules vs. proteins), sitting-in these classes can only be beneficial. While I am enjoying my chill schedule for the coming weeks, I got another rejection letter. No surprise I guess. The schools that I applied to are the most competitive ones. Even when someone who has an almost-perfect scores was rejected by this school, I supposed anything bad can happen on my other applications (i.e. complete rejection streak), which is my worst possible scenario.
This week I also began sending out e-mails to various programs to confirm whether an update for the fall term grades is necessary. While schools such as Yale has an option for applicants to update their grades for the fall semester/quarter, many other schools did not explicitly indicate whether an update is necessary or not. Considered that I did decent in my last term (tiny increase in my overall and major GPA), I decided to send out e-mails to confirm whether an update is possible. I figured that there isn't much I can do to make my application more competitive, I would do anything possible to tip the balance in my favor.
Speaking of sending out e-mails, has anyone send out e-mails before the application season begins? Back in summer 2011, I sent out e-mails to potential PIs that I would like to work with, and I only got two or three responses out of 10 or even 20 e-mails. Maybe I didn't write a decent e-mail, but I have been told that some professors tend to have "scattered brains" where they may skim through an e-mail and forgot to reply after awhile (instead an instant removal.) Regardless, there are very few professors replied my e-mail that I didn't even bother to send out more e-mails after awhile. Just imagine when you received, for example, 3 e-mails out of 20 e-mails, and you are applying +20 schools. If you apply to a school that has at least 3 POI, then you'll need to send out at least 60 e-mails. What a tedious task!
And early this week I talked to a friend about funding and fellowships. It is not like I did not attempt to apply any fellowships, but in reality, there are very few fellowships for international students. From my research, I would say 80-90% of the fellowships that is available for science students are only for U.S. citizens, while more than 50% of the fellowships are for female only. I was extremely frustrated when I know that the one and only fellowship that I am eligible to apply (Fulbright) does not offer any fellowships for my home country... well technically they do, but they only offer fellowships for students (regardless of nationality instead of my original nationality) to go to graduate school in non-science programs at my home country. I then realized how ridiculously unsupportive my home country is - science stands almost no place in this small piece of land and the only thing that is important is money.
- Third Week of January -
See here: ()
- Fourth Week of January -
To make it short and brief, I got my second interview - from a school at an urban city. When I told my former student mentor and some non-biochemistry/biology majored friends about it, they were all happy for me because of the reputation of the school. I didn't know much about this school until I search it on wikipedia, and turned out that it seems pretty nice. The reason I applied to that school was because my former PI suggested that they have a good program in biophysics. Turned out that one of the paper that he co-authored with, the other author is the professor from this school (and he was a grad student from another school from the same city.) I look up the "package" information, and everything sounds pretty attractive to me. Even though the cost of living is high, the urban settings will be pretty cool considered that I was born and raised from the extremely similar setting, plus I am the kind of person that would work in the lab past midnight and walk home 2 or 3 in the morning if necessary. And therefore if the housing is close enough, then my lab-style (lifestyle in the lab) won't be affected by the fact that I have no intention to get a car or motorbike (even though getting a scooter seems to be a possibility). I got notification through e-mail in the morning after a lecture that I am sitting in. I was surprised that I got another interview! I instantly ran back to the classroom, and told the professor about it (and the professor is also my former PI). Later that day I got my tickets and everything. The feeling of getting interview is almost the same as being accepted, even though it is totally not the same. But again, considering myself a weak candidate, any interviews would light my hope. My jubilant feeling fades a little when I got a rejection letter the day after, but that's okay.
As for the classes, space group symmetry is slowly FML.
- First Week of February -
Going to have two interviews in 2 weeks, I started preparing myself for the interviews. While I printed out some of my POI's publications and read them briefly, I also prepared a list of questions that I would like to ask when opportunities come. These questions, mostly from tgc forum, were quite useful. However, when I asked my former PI to check out the list, he found some questions were not really appropriate to ask, at least in his perspective - an interviewer for my home department's grad program. The idea of printing out a list of questions isn't really a good idea in the first place, and he suggested that I should keep these questions in my head instead. Then he told me a tiny bit about one of my trips - Manhattan, NY.
I have been to Manhattan before, but it was the spring break 4 years ago (2008). Back then, I can still recall that New Yorkers in downtown/midtown Manhattan were wearing suits and huge coats (sometimes with fur) on the streets, when I was wearing an undershirt, a (long-sleeve) collar/shirt, a sweater from Berkeley / Cal, a short pants, and a pair of sneakers. But this time is slightly different - it is in the middle of Feburary. So my PI suggested that it may be really cold over there and I should considered wearing underlayers. Opinions from tgc suggested that they probably wouldn't do that unless it is sub 0 degree celcius, and also because I will probably spend most of the time indoor, and therefore I may find myself uncomfortable by wearing underlayers in a warm indoor atmosphere.
On the other hand, because both of my trips are in the East, and therefore I am trying to adjust my circadian rhythm this week. It is pretty abnormal for me to try to go to bed at 9 or 10 pm and wake up at 4 or 4:30 am - for I am a night person. That also means that I will have to get my dinner at around 4:30 pm, when I usually (back in my home country) eats my dinner at 9/10 pm, or 6/7 pm (when I came back to the West).
I am very excited for my return to NYC. I was very impressed by the urban atmosphere (ps. I was born and raised from an urban atmosphere just like NYC), I guess it was because after all these years, I finally went to Time Square on Broadway and 7th (I think), at the middle between the two giant Coca-Cola TV displays, and surrounded by many of these familiar places that I learned from commercials, films, tv drams, shows, morning talk shows, new years eve countdown a.k.a. MTV, and so forth. I once thought that it was because of the tall buildings and everything that impressed me, after I went to the West for college for a year or two. Turned out that it was not true when I returned to my home country. Hopefully, this time around, I will still be impressed by the atmosphere over there! I definitely can't wait to eat those street food over there, which I missed it last time. Hopefully a 5 hours quick tour in the city allows me to do everything that I missed from my last trip!
- Second Week of February -
Rejections that I received this week doesn't mean anything to me right now - 'cause this week is LIN-sanity! My trip to east coast also carried me away. Like I always believe - things happen for reason(s). If the school is going to reject me, then clearly I am not a good fit for the program in their perspective (and it really doesn't matter what I think).
Leaving for my flights in 13 hours and I have not completed my luggage packing. However, my head is just looping the chorus of Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys. Next update will be a new entry just for my visiting week. So long until then.
- Third Week of February -
- Forth Week of February -
Nothing fancy going on here besides following NBA All-Star game. I guess it is reasonable to assume that schools that I have not hear from will send me a rejection letter next month. Most of the bio-science programs tend to send out invitation for interview / acceptance letter on or before early February. Therefore, I already expect the rejection roll on its way in a week or two. While I vented my story from last week to a couple people and I got over it, I still find it absurd for their given (rejection) reason. My situation at this moment is kinda bad because I do not know if school(s) that I have visited will accept me. Therefore, I kind of expecting for the worst, or executing my plan B in a few months. A couple professors find it "unbelievable" that I received so few interviews based on my profile and essays. Well, I almost always blame it on my international applicant status. Surely you may say that there are tons of international applicants who did well in GRE and school, but I would argue that I just happened to be suck at exams, especially standardized ones. It is also funny that different schools have a different understanding with Chinese (international) applicants. While some professors know about some of the shady stories from the academic in China (e.g. a PhD thesis was reused 31/32 times for 32/33 doctorates became a news and documentary. Everything in the thesis was the same with the exception of the author list. PI were not punished), most of the school did not realize the situation at all. As a result, these people have an upper-hand than people like myself. Now I am definitely not saying everyone goes into this category, but I find it sucks to compete with these people.
If you are interested in reading academic integrity scandals (not sure if this is the right word) in China, here is a blog:
Let's s wait for March 1 and March 15. Two big days regarding my application process.
- First Week of March -
Back to the waiting game is not fun. I e-mailed a couple schools but I have not hear anything back yet. General perspective is that rejection letters are on their ways to my inbox. So I am prepared to execute my plan B, which is reapplying in Fall 2012. More importantly, I'll have to 1) get a job back in my home country, and 2) retake GRE so that I get a combined +1300 in the old format. One of the classes that I'm auditing changed the lecture room and therefore I no longer sit-in in that class. What a shame. Sent a few e-mails to professors from schools that I have not hear from, but I haven't get any response yet. I also contacted to schools that supposedly reimburse or my visit expenditure. Now I'll just continue my waiting game and chill at home.
- Second Week of March -
First acceptance received 6 in the morning through e-mail. Not as excited as others that I've read on the forum. Interesting.... (will update the rest of the week later.)
And then I got a couple rejections in this week to eliminate other potential options that I might have. While I am waitlisted by two schools, chances of me going to my first acceptance school is extremely high. This is a short recap of my current application status:
Applied - 25
Interviewed - 2
Rejected - 18 (Including 1 post-interview)
Accepted - 1
Waitlisted - 2
Waiting for official response/decision - 6 (2 waitlisting, 2 expecting rejection, 2 unknown)
It appears to me that rolling admission, for most of the time, does not apply to international students. It appears that I did not receive rejections from these rolling-basis schools until March, when I submitted my applications back in mid/late November, with the deadline on or before Jan 1. That being said, I would suggest any future international applicants to optimize their applications (e.g. improve your SOP/PS) and submit it just a day or two before the deadline, instead of weeks before the deadline. After all, admission of international applicants almost always limited by funding sources and therefore it doesn't mean much if you apply early or not - issues with funding always resolve for domestic students first.
- Third Week of March -
It is the last week of the quarter here and I am just chillin like the past couple weeks. Got three more rejections this week so I can potentially choose between a school that has made me an offer, a school that I am waitlisted, and a school that I have no idea what the current status is, besides "decision pending". There is nothing much to talk about besides March Madness is going on, got a new bike for daily commute, applied to be an undergrad TA for next quarter (but the coordinator is a hater). Other than that, I am packing for my a-bit-early-Spring Break out of country. I hope I'll have a chillaxing time with my old friend.
- Forth Week of March -
Been chillin at the other country for about a week. Before my trip, I got a rejection from "a school that I have no idea what the current status is". And by the end of the trip I got an e-mail saying that a school that rejected me awhile ago placed me on their wait list, but due to the unexpected high acceptance of initial offer leads to the ultimate rejection of my application. I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone, but given that the school claimed that they will only take 1 international student, to me, it does not make me feel any better. This e-mail (as if an explanation why I am rejected) is completely useless and it goes straight to the trash bin.
- Fifth Week of March -
It is spring break over here and I have been back in town for a few days since. This is gonnabe my final semester at school and I am very happy about it. Mostly because I am finally done with undergraduate studies and ready to move on things and works that are more interesting. Looking back for the past couple years, I have been through a lot of deferment on my studies all due to personal/family financial issues. While I know that there are many people out there who are non-traditional applicants, I consider myself a quasi-traditional student. Although I completed my freshman and sophomore coursework half a year sooner, I took a year off after my junior year and work in a lab full time (without pay), before I went overseas for another year to take a few classes towards my degree. My mentor, who was a year ahead of me in college, is now a 3rd year PhD student; a friend of mine, who just became a junior when first I met him, is now completing his first year for his PhD at another school. I'm glad that I'm leaving soon after all, for I know I should be a 2nd year in grad school; for I am sick of living in this apartment with a girl who has no personal hygiene; for I can start paying off my debt with my stipend in grad school; for I can finally make some green after 3 years (employment for international students are difficult and complicated).
Now I'll go back to the book and read a chapter or two to prepare for a class that starts tomorrow. First and last time to TA at this school, hopefully it will be amazing and fun.
- First Week of April -
Things went well the first week of class. Has been pretty chill so far--just taking a lab, a seminar, and sitting a lecture from a class that I'm TA'ing. Got 2 more rejections this week and that really ends my application journey. I guess I can write a wrap-up here.
Applied: 25 schools, 26 programs
Wait list: CU Boulder, UVA, Cornell
Interview: FSU, MSSM
Well I guess this entry ends here! If any of you have any questions, feel free to PM me. Ciao!