"Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity"
"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success."
Alexander Graham Bell (I have no idea who he is)
You get the idea.
I started writing my statements in June/July of 11'. Mainly because I know my schedule in Fall will be extremely hectic, plus the fact that my statements require lots of proofreading due to my poor English grammar. I did not finalize my drafts even the day before I submit my first couple applications - there are always rooms for improvement.
GRE was a brutal experience -- at least in my opinion. The verbal section was clearly difficult for international applicants that are non-native speakers. The qualitative section, to me, was more of a English test instead. Analytical writing was a subjective section, just because one presented something rational with supports, that does not mean one can achieve a good result from the test. So yea, I didn't do well in GRE -- big deal. I don't have a +90% on each section of the GRE, so what? That doesn't make me incapable of doing science research in the most competitive environment.
My academic performance was not brilliant. I am not a big fish in a big pond. I do not have a 3.9X GPA by the time I submit my applications / graduate from college.
My research experience is decent, I guess. Although I do not have any publications, I, however, have worked in a research lab for awhile. For a couple months I was a full-time in the lab.
My letter of rec should be okay. Bottom line is that I submitted 3 (some schools 4) letter of recs. 3 of the writers know me extremely well, as 2 of them were my former PI / bosses at different schools and different continent, even though they may not be internationally known.
How do you rate my chances for getting into grad school? I know where I am at even though I am a lot more pessimistic than many others, including my letter of recs. I am not sure how many people in this forum are international students, but I can tell you for a fact that many grad schools are looking for supermen from the international applicants pool due to funding reasons.
My definition of supermen is:
- GRE - as close to 99% as possible.
- TOEFL - as close to the maximum score as possible.
- GPA - as close to 4.0 GPA as possible (or 10 if you are in the 10-point scale).
- Research experience - as much as possible. "Much" for top-tier grad schools is probably mean at least 2 years of research experience as an undergraduate. Most of my friends who went to top-tier grad schools have at least 2.5 or 3 years of research experience when they apply (so yes, they started doing research during or before freshman year.)
- Letter of recommendation - as great as possible. "Great" for top-tier grad schools is probably mean that the writer thinks you performed well in whatever you did, you have great potential to go to graduate school and be successful, AND ideally from someone who is internationally known in their fields. So I heard this guy who are friends of mine went to a Ivy League college for grad school not only because he is a domestic applicant (that gives you a higher probability to get into almost every schools than international applicants), but because he is one of these supermen with a rec letter from a recent Nobel laureate.
Again, I am no supermen or common bodies (referring the theatrical term/context). I am not even a good writer in the first place. Therefore, I will end this post with a sudden stoppage for whoever interested to know how I see the whole process as an international applicant.
BARCA FOR THE EL CLASSICO. ciao! adios! a plus! tschuss! sayonara! zai jian! bye!