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Random thoughts by an aspiring geophysicist

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just some food for thought.

I remember when I first asked people of this forum: could I get into graduate school. They weren't going to tell me anything I really didn't know. I have a low undergraduate GPA, funding is competitive, but maybe if I got lucky I could get into one of the schools of my choice.  I should have probably asked, instead of a critique, for the reassurance of what I already knew. I know all to well what an application season can do to someone. It can make even the deepest minds appeal to their most vapid instincts.  The real question here is, what happens when someone looks at your stats and says something contrary to what you believe? Are you really going to change where you apply just because someone on the internet disagrees with you? Furthermore, say you wanted to apply to top 10 schools, and everyone on the forum universally agrees that you cannot get into one, do you really want to change which schools you apply to just for the sake of going to graduate school? Is that really what this about? Going to school for the sake of going to school? 

In this short blog post, I do not have any answers to these questions. But before you make a post, wanting people on this forum to review your application, maybe you should think about the possible responses to your post. Or maybe what people say doesn't matter, and the fact that your posting here makes it all the better?

I don't know... do you?


Hello All,

I haven't blogged for bunch here, but I thought I would just make a list of advice I thought of as I've been in graduate school a while and am starting at a new school. This advice isn't necessarily unique, but hopefully it will help people anyway.

It doesn't make sense to apply to a few top graduate schools, it makes much more sense to apply to many top graduate schools. This rational should make sense; if your ultimate goal is to go to a top program, apply to all of the top programs for your best chance. Too many times I see people who target midteir schools and throw in their random MIT/Harvard ect. You might get lucky, but chances are if you are only applying to 1 or 2 top 20 schools, you wont get into a top 20 school. Another way to phrase this is apply to the schools you most want to go to.

If there is severe weakness on your application, such as bad GPA or GRE, you should be embarrassed about it and act like it. Being embarrassed about it gives off the idea that you are used to being excellent at everything, and this is just a setback that you wish you didn't have. The wrong attitude is "Grades don't matter" or "I just don't test well". Perhaps this is true, but you are trying to sell your self to graduate schools.

Be honest about how general your research interests are, being super specific does more damage good for the most part! A PhD is a research degree designed to teach you how to solve open problems. The things that matter most are department and advisor, but the research project can be enjoyable as long as it fits in some general research interest. I'm not telling you to research Russian Lit if you are only interested in American Lit, but perhaps the period of American Lit you study can be more flexible. In graduate school you are exposed to tons of new ideas, the development of your research should be affected by them. Apply to work with strong advisors in strong departments and worry about the last 10-20% of research fit later, you will probably find that it doesn't matter anyway!

During interviews and visiting weekends, be yourself. Because the serious "I need to get into graduate school" version of yourself is probably a lot less likable than your normal self. And people want to accept people they like. Think of it like a first date.

Write early and often, because eventually you will hate your thesis/dissertation. Everyone I have talked to (including myself, yes, I talk to myself) goes through a period where they hate their research. This period usually comes when you are in the final stages of writing your thesis/dissertation. For me, it came after I finished my MSc Thesis but needed to do revisions after the defense. My committee handing it back to me with corrections and annotations made me want to throw up. I think this stemmed from the fact that I wrote ~50% of it in a 4 week period, when most of it could have been finished a lot earlier!

Help other graduate students who are struggling in the classes of your specialty. If you are taking a class with your advisor or in your subfield, and people are taking that class for breadth requirement, help them when they need it! This will make it much more likely that they will help you when you are fulfilling your breadth requirement in their subfield !

Make friends outside your department. Because department politics get old.

Be 100% honest with your advisor. It makes it much harder for them to give you good advice if you aren't honest. If they say, hey can you write that program for me and have it to me by Friday, but you are swamped, its ok to say "well I have a lot to do this week, perhaps I can get it to you on monday or tuesday next week ?"

Don't be afraid of Bs. If you are getting all Bs, there is probably a problem. If you are getting all As, there is probably a problem.

Don't skip happy hour because you have a lot of work. This is pretty self explanatory. You can always go for an hour then head back to the lab. Just stick to your limits, but always try to do something social every day, even if it is just chatting over a single beer for 30 minutes to an hour with someone.

Learn how to fail gracefully. Because most of the time you will fail, until you graduate, when you succeed. Learning from these failures is the most important thing when trying to get through a graduate degree.

Anyway... thats all I can think of.


Big next two weeks

Hello all,

It's been a long while since I've blogged; I've been slacking. It's been an interesting couple of weeks. In late January I got accepted to UC Davis, which was one of my top choices!!! I'll be visiting later this month. I was really worried about my GPA, which killed my application last time. Well... small sigh of relief.

I'm thinking about questions to ask on my visit... but in reality the person is pretty well known in my field and is very comfortable having her research and students speak to what type of advisor she is. I'm most worried about summer funding; do you guys think I should bring it up before I visit or should I wait for a face to face discussion about it. Summer funding for at least the first two years (until I can put together RA funding) would go a long way to ease my mind.

I also decided to remove 2 applications; UMD and USC. I don't want to Live in LA and UMD is also not place I want to live. Those are fairly competitive programs, so hopefully it gives them a bit less work (if I was even being considered). I'm not one to collect acceptances/rejections, though it is a bit unnerving that I found out very quickly one place and haven't heard anything for weeks.

I think the next two weeks are going to be very big for Earth Science applicants; More and more acceptances/interviews are showing up on the results search. I haven't seen an MIT/WHOI one yet... so i'm still holding hope. I saw a Master's student get accepted into Hawaii... so I'm guessing I wasn't accepted into their PhD Program.

Ok... now back to working on the thesis.... thanks for reading!



Hello all, I'm doing my intro live from AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall 2013 Meet, I have 20 minutes to kill before the next session starts. Sure, I could be working on one of my finals tomorrow or doing some grading, but procrastination is necessary.

Anyway, not that that is all sorted away, I guess this is a good place to start introducing myself. I am currently an MSc student in geology with a focus on modeling the effects of mantle flow at important tectonic regions such as Subduction Zones, Rifting Centers and of course mantle plumes. I got my undergraduate degree from a small liberal arts college, majored in physics.

So about graduate school, well, I am applying to do a PhD in both Geodymamics and perhaps Seismology . I had thought my strong research in undergrad (2 posters, 1 REU at a top 5 institution) would have been enough to offset my low undergrad GPA (3.05) and get me into a top flight PhD program, but it seems it didn't work out 2 years ago. I am hoping this year my Masters GPA (3.7) and my thesis + all my previous work will be enough to get me into one now. Some people find out that undergrad research isn't as novel as one would like it to be, but thats why it's undergrad research.

What will I be posting in this blog? I don't know. Probably rants about people who rant about the GRE, some of my interactions with POIs, and random other stuff grad school related. I somewhat wish this was started during the semester, so I could have an outlet to talk about my students, but perhaps it's not a good idea to post things about anyone online. I'll probably have a lot of baskteball references, with kind regards to Kobe Bryant as well.

Anyway, follow my blog, even if my writing is a bit unorganized.