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I apologize to you all for being gone for a long time. It wasn't the application process that took me away. Rather, current project/s in my MS research have been taking up a lot of my time lately. Anyway, let me share with you how it has been 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! :)


the BEST new year!

Only 5 days! And comes 2011. With it comes the news of hope and destiny we all have been so desperately waiting for.

While some programs and schools have already handed out interview and/or admission offers (I got into 2/7 programs!!), most of us are eagerly waiting for the adcomms to gather together, look at our application files and start sending out the good news. And I can feel that it's not really that distant from hereon.

No doubt the waiting has been tough. Now that the holidays are (almost) over, it is going to be even more difficult after this weekend. But don't get bogged on the uncertainty of the future and don't let yourself drown in anxiety. It's not healthy. No matter what the future has in stored for us, it's out of our hands, really. So, why not keep our heads up and put on a little smile till we can?

So, here's my wish for all of us who are waiting on the decisions. Let's hope that this new year, new month brings us all the happiness we have been aspiring for. The first two months are probably the most important months for all of us, as they most likely will determine the direction of our career paths. Let's hope that we will get into our dream programs and dream schools, preferably into our top pick programs and/or schools and/or places. Let's not be weary and worried by focusing on the flaws of our applications. Instead, let's pick the unique and positive aspects of our application credentials, and try to build on them. Okay?



The void situation

So... my first application deadline was Dec 1, three will be on Jan 1, couple on Jan 15 and one on Feb 15. I figured if I could send applications a little early, then I could chillax until I start to hear back. Therefore I completed all my applications by the Thanksgiving week, which is almost 3 weeks ago.

Since then, I was kept busy with a paper we are trying to publish, which we are submitting for publication coming week. All work on the paper is finished but my prof is out of the country, so we'll wait till he returns (coming Wednesday). I was also little occupied with the prospectus of research for my MS, and with the preparation for a biannual committee meeting. Both have been successfully completed. The classes for this semester are over and I have two take-home finals that need to done by the end of next week. Not a big deal.. shouldn't take me more than a day to finish both.

Now, here's the messed up whereabouts: I am free. And I do not like it. I used to appreciate, as an undergrad, even a single free hour I could use to take a nap. I also used to consider a holiday as a holy day because it was awesome - a lazy undergrad like me could sleep till afternoon and not care about classes. Or go fishing on a lake located 2 hours of drive away just because I had plethora of free hours. Not anymore. Any available free hour stings me these days. It hurts even to think that I have tons of free hours (and days) now. Classes for next semester won't start till January, and the research work I am supposed to work on is halted because we're waiting for a manufacturer to send us some custom reagents, which take 2-3 weeks to synthesize. So, waiting till January seems to be my destiny. Yeah, yeah, there's Christmas. But it lasts for a day... actually, only a few hours to be honestly precise. Knowing the fact that the emptiness that envelops before and after those few hours is/has been genuinely frightening.

I am completely helpless because there is absolutely nothing to do. Well, there are things to do, but as soon as I try to do something, the fearful mind quickly starts asking 'what if' questions about the applications and admissions. It has become almost impossible to scare away the thoughts of adcomms and potential POIs scrutinizing my application materials to find faults and fallacies. I am a patient person, and have not been freaking out over the whole application review process, the waiting period, and thoughts like 'an email from the grad school? omg! OMG!! OMFG!!!'. I have been calm and, I know, will be calm till the end. But this vast freeness and the enormous silence are chewing up my patience bit by bit. I read in high school, can't remember the writer, that a situation which lacks violence is more dreadful than a violent situation. This is basically my mental state - I almost feel like I am in the peace and calm town which is about to be hit by a hurricane. And the strange thing is that this hollowness came out of nowhere, and is slowly growing into a behemoth of cosmic proportions. It's killing me!

Once I finish my finals (possibly by tomorrow evening), I plan on buying old video games that I can get a dozen for <5 bucks and play till I become sober. Or go to a desert/secluded ranch nearby and live in the 'Survivorman' (Discovery) fashion for a week or two. Or freeze myself Cartman-style (South Park) till things start to look better. I know we all are in the same boat, and are desperately looking for the mid/late January sunshine. You might have even found this article to empathize with your situation. Then, how are you holding up?


We are all beggars!

Although begging is an indispensable tool, I hate it. I guess we all do. Even when done for the right reasons, it often invites awkward situations and therefore, is a pitiful act.

This application season, I decided to apply to few PhD programs, and had to go through the begging process all over again. When I say ‘again’, I mean those hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of beggings we have done so far in our lives. Here are some of my personal favorites (because they remind me how pathetic I was during each of these incidents) with brief side-explanations:

Mommy, can I get an ice cream? Since mommy could not say ‘No’, we got bolder/better in begging. Therefore, I classify this as the mother of all begging acts, since this particular begging style opened doors for all other styles.

Will you please be my prom date? Being at an age where every single person of the opposite sex looked like an angel, who dared to say no?!! But we all know there were some snobby prudes. Thanks to these fellas, we asked out the backup date, and this is when we learned how to outsource in begging.

Dr Professor, will you please write LoRs for me? And this is where it gets nasty. You have gone to the same professor/s requesting many types of LoRs – for scholarships & grants, internships, jobs, and grad schools. I agree that growing up, begging has become our second nature and we should not feel uneasy in doing what is our second nature. And I would have perhaps consented with you right there. But worse part is having to knock their doors and remind them several times. In other words, begging for the same thing over and over and over and…. when will it end?!

It is my belief that people from all kinds of faculties at the Grad Café – from those who dig the Ottonian dynasty and Hobbes to those who get mental orgasms when they hear about metagenomics and metaparticles – get all along just fine not because we are more mature and have learned to respect each other; but because we all empathize each other for having to beg all the time. We all know how dreadful and painful the process of begging is.

At this point, most of us think that we will be able to land into a program we are crazy about, and will be able to attend our dream school, and then live happily ever after. Some of us might have even already started to devise plots in dropping the begging profession because we think it’s finally time to move on. Well, sorry to break this to you my friends, but begging ain’t gonna leave us. Like I mentioned before, it’s been our second nature, and has been shadowing us all these years along. It is utterly stupid of us to think that it will give up on us that easy. As soon as we start our graduate programs, I guarantee you that we all will be begging even more.

Give me money. Poor grad student here!

Please help me operate this machine. Anyone?

Please give me money to go to a conference.

Publish my paper already (I’m getting sick of begging)!? [The editor replies: “Say ‘Please’, beggar!”]

Face it. There is no escape from begging… even after grad schools. Sure, the style and level of begging might upgrade to an advanced mode, but it will still be there. And you better be ready for it – coz a whole lotta begging is still to be done!

Comments welcome! :)

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