Jump to content


Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 10/18/2009 in Blog Entries

  1. 88 points

    It Happened

    This morning I woke up to the coldest winter day so far this year. I could barely bring myself to get out of bed. Making coffee was a chore. My apartment was freezing. Our shitty prewar radiators are no match for this kind of weather. I just wanted to get back under my comforter, preferably wearing at least six pairs of sweatpants and my parka, and sleep until May. By 9AM, I'd already checked my email and this board approximately 200 times. The last couple of months haven't been easy for me. After implied rejections from what I felt were some of my strongest fits, I was feeling discouraged. What if I hadn't improved my profile all that much over the last year? Should I have retaken the GRE? Was it a mistake to take on multiple editing projects for faculty instead of working on publishing my thesis? Was trying to switch disciplines an impossible task? Why didn't I apply to more schools? Should I have tried for an NDSEG even though I wasn't firmly in the behavioral sciences? What if I just wasn't ever going to be good enough, no matter what I did? It doesn't help that I had a bad interview with a school I really love. I had two interviews there, but the bad one just really sticks in my mind. I replay all the awful moments in my head in the shower. I hear the dumb words come out of my dumb mouth when I'm trying to get work done for my actual job that pays actual money. To make a long story short, I have not been feeling hopeful. I have heard nothing from a lot of schools I applied to. I've been looking into all sorts of non-academic jobs, convinced that trying to get into a program for the third time would just be too much. YA novelist? Book publishing? Bartending? Teaching secular subjects at Yeshiva high schools? I've really thought through pretty much any possible career route, but nothing can stand up to just wanting that PhD. For my interests, you need the PhD even for non-academic jobs, so if I do anything else, I'm selling myself short. Around 9:15 this morning, I got the email. I've been waiting for this email for almost two years. I've dreamed about this email. I get mad at other emails because they are not this email. I have probably broken world records for refreshing my inbox because I have been waiting so impatiently for this email. I got in. I got into a program I genuinely love with faculty I respect and admire. I got into a program that believes in my work and can support my scholarship. I got in with funding! I got into a department where I fit, where I have more POIs than I know what to do with, and where I can, just maybe, soon call home. I got in! I want to scream it from the rooftops. There is still plenty of waiting to do. I have other schools to hear from, other disappointments, and maybe even other triumphs. But what matters now is that I have the chance to prove myself. Getting into the program isn't the hard part. Getting the PhD isn't even the hard part. Doing something with it -- something truly and fundamentally meaningful with that degree is the hard part. And I am a long way off from that part of my life, but what matters now is that I am on my way. I know a lot of you have been following this blog, whether from the beginning or just stumbling upon it now. I hope you can find the strength to drag yourself out of bed on the coldest day of the year just so you can get some of the best news of your life. I hope you soon have an excuse to drink cheap champagne and look at weird Craigslist ads for apartments in cities you barely know. I hope you finally get that email you've been waiting for. I hope you get in. I know you will.
  2. 61 points
    I haven't posted much recently, but I thought that I would throw out a recent reflection that I think could help a lot of applicants and current grad students. Losing sucks. A lot. Not getting something we really want sucks. A lot. But life goes on. I recently was awarded an Honorable Mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This is a pretty big honor, as 16,000+ students apply each year. I know a few people who have applied multiple years and never even gotten that. But, of course I'm still bitter that I didn't get the full award. To make things worse, the other two students in my cohort were awarded. This lead to a lot of feelings, including anger, embarrassment, and self-doubt. I feel like maybe I'm not good enough if everyone else can get it but I can't. I feel lied to by my peers when they said my application materials were the best in my cohort during review sessions. I feel jealous that the awardees will make $15-20k more than me and not have to work as a teaching assistant or graduate assistant. I took all of yesterday to myself to get those feelings out, to scream, to cry, to vent. But life goes on, and today is a new day. I realized a lot of things about not winning the award, which can extend to a lot of future competitions in life. Yeah, I didn't get the award I wanted, but am I a worse person than before I found out the results? No. Actually, I still have another line on my CV to say that I got Honorable Mention. I still have feedback on my application that I can apply to other things in my career. And the other people in my cohort who got the award are some of my closest friends here. So, at the end of the day, I'm happy that they have a higher stipend that will help them. One is going to buy a house with her new husband. Another can travel more, which is her biggest passion in life. And I'm not making any less stipend next year due to their win, so I should just be happy that something good happened to my friends. As cliche as it sounds, I realized this morning that I have a lot to be thankful for. I still have a fellowship from my university. I still have another year to reapply for this national fellowship. I still got into an amazing program at only 20 years old and held my own against more experienced students. I still have an amazing partner who supports me in everything I do, completely unconditionally. I still have a online community of people I can vent to about grad school to get out my frustrations. I still have a group of people in real life who I can hang out with when I need to be away from school. I still have a lot. And I didn't really lose anything from not getting that award. Next year will be difficult for funding, but it will work out (it always does). In our little world of academia, whether it be applications or publications, everything is a competition (even if we don't want it to be). People will constantly make you feel like you need to be the best, you need to have the most awards, you need to have the most publications, you need to have the highest impact, you need to have the best committee. And it's great to aspire to do well in all of these areas. But, school/work is school/work, and it doesn't really change who I am as a person and my value. Yes, having a better CV gets me a more competitive job. Yes, having better funding makes my life a lot easier next year. But, I have a lot beyond what a few pieces of paper say. No one has everything. Someone may get more awards or publications. Someone may have more friends or a more stable relationship. Someone may make more money or be prettier or have fewer health problems. But no one really has everything. And, after reflection, I'm really happy for the things that I do have. More lines on a CV, more money, and more recognition in my department are great. But they don't define me.
  3. 25 points

    So I Finally Told My Mom

  4. 21 points

    Mental Matters

    I've been meaning to write this post (and another that is hopefully coming soon) for a while but life happens. I was able to go visit my future grad program a few weeks ago and I plan to write about that next but for now, I want to talk about something I think will be a little more universal - the mental side of the grad school process, as far as I've experienced anyway. For me, and I'm sure many others, grad school was always just a far off thing I knew I'd do eventually but didn't put an incredible amount of thought into until I was about halfway done with college (about a year in for me). Then, the time came to decide what program and school I wanted to apply to and it got exciting. I'm a higher education nerd with a bit of wanderlust so it was exciting to me to be able to check out all of these schools around the country, even if it was just through their websites. Next, it was time to apply and the pressure was on. Did I really have what it would take to get in? Did I develop the right relationships for strong letters of recommendation? Is this even the right time for me to go to grad school? It's been 4 months, will you finally just sit down and write the essay?! So after months of procrastination, I finally admitted my application. I just turned in one so that was it, no more stress, now it was just a waiting game. But then, the Internet threw a wrench in my plan to peacefully await a decision. I started looking for stats of admitted students to the program. Did I make the right decision to apply to only one. Did I put too much stock in program location. And a bunch of other things it was too late to second guess considering it was already late January and the deadline for most programs had passed. Then I made a decision that probably wasn't the best for me mentally - I joined gradcafe. I never see it mentioned here on the site but being on here, talking to (and comparing myself to) people I'm essentially competing against was nerve-wracking. That guy has way more experience than me. He conveys his passion over writing better than I do. And even when it wasn't people in my field..you applied to 3 schools? 5 schools? 14 schools?! Man, those odds were way better than what I gave myself when I only applied to one. My stress levels skyrocketed but I was still in the same exact position of not being able to do anything but sit around and wait for a decision. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was only actually a couple of weeks, a decision came through. I got in! I was accepted to the program of my dreams and I was thrilled. But that feeling of pure elation barely had time to settle before I started doing more stress-provoking Google searches. Now I was comparing other programs to my own. That one offers more funding? That one pays for travel to interviews? That one offers more assistantships? All things I could do nothing to change. A few weeks later, I was able to visit my new school and meet other newly accepted students. Many of my fears were soothed. I wasn't the only one worrying about those things. I couldn't have been happier with the campus, program, and professors once I was introduced to everything in person. I didn't feel imposter syndrome even when talking with all these other great people were also admitted and the current students who seemed to be on a completely different level. After that weekend, I left completely happy with the results of my progress and have barely been on gradcafe stressing, doubting, worrying since. Now this isn't to say that I think gradcafe is bad. It's great to connect with others that are in the same situation as you, have the same interests as you, and understand the struggle of putting yourself through this rigorous process. But your own mental wellness should also be taken into account. There's always going to be someone who's application is a little stronger in some area. Maybe their GPA is one point higher or they went to a brand name school in the field or they have more research experience. But you have to trust YOUR process (not the process) and realize you have just as much right to be in the admissions pool as the next guy. The grad school process is all about selling yourself, trying to get a school to realize you're a good stock to invest in. So at the end of the day, you and the work you've done up to now are all you have to rely on so don't lose faith! You're great. Now you just have to get an adcom to realize that
  5. 19 points
    I received my first official rejection today. I also didn't receive an interview at my top choice and I've been unofficially rejected by the anthropology department at my current university. The caliber of these programs and my fit with their faculty make me think that I have good reason to believe I will be shut out this year. Before I was feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling helpless. I didn't know what to do. My backup plan (an MPH) was just deemed "useless" by an authority on public health and anthropology and I really do think it's going to take a lot of rebuilding from here. Regardless, I think I realized what went wrong. I think I'm ready for the challenge of starting again. Back in April, my adviser told me she thought my proposed research for the PhD had too narrow a focus and that I needed an international field site in order to be taken seriously by anthropology committees. Because she's a renowned scholar and we have a great relationship, I took her advice and together we crafted a strong research proposal with transnational implications. I hoped this would make me appeal to more faculty, as I was told it would. I felt that even though the topic was a clear departure from my research thus far, that my record of success in general would make up for the difference between what I do now and what I said I want to do. I realize now how silly it was to think that a good topic (a great topic!) would convince a committee to admit me despite showing a major departure from what I have worked on until now. I am sure that is my problem. I told the committees what I thought they wanted to hear, instead of telling them what I really wanted to do. The realization is pretty energizing. So what if I strike out across the board? I still will be graduating with an MA in May, and I should be proud of all the work I've done. My boss just told me I could extend my research position with her and that she'd take me on for the next year if need be, so I don't have to look for another job. I'm going to focus on publishing my thesis, which is on my original topic of interest, and I'm going to connect with the few scholars in the universe that also work on similar topics. I submitted a book review and a paper to two different graduate student journals. I'm going to apply for NSF funding. I'm not going to take these rejections lying down. What I am going to do is be true to myself. If I want to study what I've been studying all along, then that's what I'm going to do. It might make me less interesting to faculty with international interests, but the only thing that matters to me is being interesting to the people who will enthusiastically support my research. If it means that I need to apply to programs not just in anthropology, and risk getting an interdisciplinary degree, then that is what I will do. What I'm not going to do is give up.
  6. 18 points
    My apologies for taking so long to get this post up! I started classes and have been pretty sick. As a reminder, the more questions you ask me, the more I know what you want answers to! The purpose of the post for today is to provide my insights into interviews and hopefully ease some fears by helping you figure out what to expect at a biomedical science, molecular biology, immunology, or similar interview. I have a few questions that were in my message box, but other than that, I'm just going to fill in the pieces. You guys need to remember that at most institutions, if you're selected to interview, you've got a REALLY good shot at being accepted, sometimes better than 75% chance. These programs are trying to impress you on top of trying to make sure that you're going to be a successful student and a productive addition to their research institution. This is going to sound cliché, but the most important thing to remember is to be yourself. Don't pretend to be someone who you are not; you don't want them to view you as plastic and fake. How do you prepare for interviews? I hit on this previously, but there are more things to hit on. I mentioned that it is important to look up the professors who will be interviewing you if the school notifies you ahead of time. You can get a general idea about them from their lab website, but note that those are also rarely updated. Because of this, projects listed on the website may already be completed by interviews and could already be published (thanks to Glow_Gene for reminding me).Your best bet would be to look at their website and then check them out on PubMed. I also looked for their students on PubMed to see what recent publications they were included on. I read some abstracts and reviews on the professors' areas of research so that I would be able to discuss it with them when the time came, and I printed a few abstracts for study material. Prep a couple of general questions based on their most recent publications, but nothing super specific. You don't want to act like you know their field... because you don't! All of this research also comes in handy when you're finally at a school and need to pick your first rotation. I also recommend looking up a picture of the professors and program administrators so you can at least know who to expect. It makes you feel a lot more comfortable when you walk into their office! It is also a good idea to bring in updated copies of your resume or CV. Most professors are given your application, but in case they are not or they want a new copy, take them with you. I mentioned previously that I took some powerpoint slides from my last MS committee presentation with me to demonstrate that I could generate data. This is not necessary and definitely not required. You should also not do this unless your PI that you did the work under approves what you're taking with you; it could cause some big issues if your PI ends up getting scooped, and you want to protect that data. When you pack, keep your bags to a minimum. Sometimes professors come and pick you up, and you will have to get your bag into their car. You're only going for a couple of days, not a month! If you're currently in school, you need to be notifying people that you'll be gone. Make sure someone can record audio for you in lectures (if that is allowed) and be sure to reschedule things like exams as soon as you find out about the interview. I also had to find someone to sub for teaching my lab class. If you're employed, you need to either have some vacation time to take or you need to get some unpaid time off. What should you be wearing? I went over this in the previous post, but seeing people freaking out about it in the forums suggests it is worth repeating. On the plane or traveling, nice jeans and a decent shirt are generally fine, though I changed into khakis when I arrived at the airport. For "casual" events such as a dinner with graduate students or other evening activities, I dressed on the more casual end of business casual: Khakis and a cute blouse, brown boots. For my actual interview day, I dressed up more, but not to the level of a high end business professional. I wore fitted grey trouser pants with black boots, a ¾ sleeved black blazer, and a blouse. For ladies, it is important that you're comfortable. Here are things that I feel ladies should avoid: 1. Skirts, especially those above the knee... Complaints about modesty were common from professors. If you wear pants, you don't have to worry! 2. High heels, especially stilettos. You're going to be walking so much you'll be miserable before lunch. If you do want a heel, keep it low, and make sure that it is a fat heel so it is more supportive. Short wedge heels or boots are the best. Pick shoes you know you could wear 12+ hours with a few miles worth of walking in a day. 3. Cleavage. Just cover it up, ladies. You'd rather those you're talking to to look at your face, right? V-necked tops should probably have a camisole underneath just in case. 4. Sheer fabrics: There was a girl at interviews last year with a sheer shirt on over a yellow bra. Common sense should tell you to avoid things like that. Guys, you've got it easier, but sometimes you put patterns together that make people cringe. Just look professional, and that should be all you need to worry about. You don't have to wear a full suit; a nice shirt + tie and dress pants are fine. Just don't wear jeans. What are the outings with grad students like? Odds are, you'll be arriving the evening before your interviews. Schools generally like to have the current graduate students meet you and take you to dinner, and often these students are volunteers. Usually they'll take you out to a local restaurant and you'll all sit, talk, and generally have fun. This doesn't mean that you should go and get completely wasted. Have fun, have a drink (as in only one, and a small one at that), and enjoy your meal. These grad students are both your best friend and worst enemy. They'll give you insight into the professors you're meeting and will usually answer anything you want to know about the program really honestly. On the other hand, they're also directly in contact with admissions and will note things about you. If you're rude and obnoxious, they're going to tell someone. The same goes for if you're so quiet that you talk only when spoken to or if you do not seem to play well with the other applicants. Since I am assuming most people know how to play well with others right now, these outings with the grad students are great ways to learn about the area, real expectations for students, to ask questions about classes, professors, etc. I had a blast at one of the interviews; the students ate with us the night before, attended their student seminar the next morning, and then the night of interviews, we got to meet them around a campfire with the professors. After that, we headed to a bar, which was a test, but we all had fun. Probably the best day was the day after interviews where the students showed us their apartments and some of their favorite places in town. Everyone was happy, and everyone was enthusiastically answering our questions.The grad students really made us feel welcome and like we wouldn't shrivel up and die if we attended there. Another interview, the students were set up to meet us the evening we got there and then for a reception right after interviews. The difference was that students were reluctant to answer questions, acted miserable, and did not do much to make us feel welcome. These kinds of things can help you solidify a decision, later if you're struggling to choose between two schools. What is the interview like, and what are some common interview questions? You guys need to realize that everything is fair game. The types of interviews I attended were 3-5 interviews at 30-50 minutes each individually with each professor in their office. None of them treat interviews the same. One may want to ask you a ton of questions about your SoP, your research, and where you see yourself in 10 years. Another may have seen your application and decide that he wants to see how you take to being recruited for his lab, so your interview time will be spent discussing his research. Others are a mix of the two. Many professors will make at least some time in your interview to request that you ask questions of them about research, the area, and the program. Essentially, be ready for anything. I even was assigned a short homework assignment from one PI. The obvious thing to do to prepare is to read abstracts as discussed above and to make sure you remember everything you put in your essay. That being said, I know all of you still want some questions to prep to help control your constant worrying. 1. Why do you want to pursue a PhD? You would be surprised at how many people get to their interview, are asked this question, and then just sit there staring at the person who asked it completely unable to generate a response. You're applying to grad school, so surely you have a reason for doing so, and hopefully it is one other than that the "real world" is a scary place. Know why you want to do this, and be able to talk about it. Hint: You probably hit on this in your essays! 2. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? A good idea here is to have a couple of options already in your head. 3. Why do you want to study at "insert institution name"? Of all questions, you really want to be sure of this! You need to be able to demonstrate that you've applied to a school for other reasons than it had a free application or has a well-known name. Were there specific PIs you wanted to work with? Be careful, here... you need to have more than one PI! Was there a specific research area, such as epigenetics, that the school is known for? They almost always ask this, often followed up by something like, "You didn't grow up in a place like this, so how do you think you will adjust?" or "Will moving away from your family be okay with you?" or "Will your significant other be moving with you, or will they remain behind?" These sound personal, and they are, but sometimes they ask to try and gauge if you're serious about the school. I know when I interviewed, I wasn't prepared for that kind of follow-up, but I had luckily already discussed it with my boyfriend and family.. 4. You said "insert random thing" in your essay. Can you elaborate a little on that? Why do you feel that "thing" is so important in "whatever they correlate it to"? This is notable because you're going to have things in your essay that make you unique. They're going to want to question you on that. It could be some anecdote from your essay, something you say you want to do with your life (like public science outreach), or even something completely random. 5. Why did you want to be interviewed by me? If you got to select who your professors were, be able to tell them why you picked them. Telling them you just went down the list isn't nice. Pick your profs by research interests and other factors. 6. Do you have any questions for me? Now would be a good time to ask questions about the program, or, if you haven't discussed their research, give a segue into discussing a little about it. Like anyone in science, they love talking about what they do! (More questions will be added as I get more question ideas!) Interview etiquette (copied from my previous post): Make eye contact. Shake their hands when you get there and when you leave them. Avoid "stuff" words (like, kinda, sorta, maybe, ummm, etc) and run-on sentences (and.... and then.... but..... and.....). Ask questions about their research, the students, AND the program (the PIs might not know, but they will see your interest). Say thank you! Do all of the things you know to be professional, but try not to make yourself seem plastic. It is a great idea to have someone give you a practice interview a few times before you go. Some career services places at your university may have this service for you. It is a good idea to film and watch yourself to see where you need to improve. Next time, we'll answer Rexzeppelin's question: "How do you determine if your potential PI is a closet psychopath?" Feel free to ask me questions in the comments or to message me questions! I'll either answer them directly or make a new post! GOOD LUCK AT INTERVIEWS!
  7. 18 points

    Proving It

    Ph.D. applications are strange. We all have this burning desire to show ourselves to be the kind of scholar that adcomms know will succeed in a given program but we have to do so by jumping through highly archaic or irrelevant hoops. This, of course, is not news, and we've all heard the arguments ad nauseam, so I won't rehash the talking points. What I will say is this: all I really want is to get into a program that will support me so that I can prove myself. I know I have it, I just want the chance to show it. To me, this is really the last big hurdle that I face before I can really buckle down and kick some ass. I want that acceptance letter in my hand to ward off that Sword of Damocles over my head reminding me that I have this ETS hoop to jump through or that ApplyWeb app to fill out just around the corner. (My MA was stressful for that reason: I barely had time to stop and think because the second I walked into that school, I knew I was preparing for my Ph.D. app and all its concomitant nonsense.) I want to know I have the next five years ahead of me set in stone and guaranteed so that I can concentrate on the really important stuff: my research. So, I'm praying that I don't get shut out this season. I know I have something to offer and I can't wait to prove it.
  8. 17 points
    By this stage I figure I'm something of an expert at visiting potential grad schools. As mentioned in my earlier posts, I looked around a number of American universities when I was over in the States last summer (before the applications were even created). I visited several UK universities for formal interview days and informal introductions. Last weekend I had my first Visitation Weekend as an admitted grad student. And I handled it like a pro Seriously, though - I believe that visiting prospective grad schools is a vital thing to do. For starters it taught me how to interact professionally with faculty, how to make small-talk with grad students and how to interview successfully. Everybody will have different objectives for the visitation weekend, and will take different approaches to achieving those objectives. Here is advice from my perspective. Before the Visit Work out how you feel about the school. Is this place your Top Choice or a Safety School? Did you apply here because you liked the faculty...but think the small college town atmosphere might get to you? If you have concerns about the university think up ways to find out more about the underlying issues. What questions can you ask professors/students/people waiting in the Starbucks queue that will get you the information you need to make a decision. Scour faculty, school, university and specialist Department webpages for information. See what is available to you in this place that is different from other locations. As an international student I wanted to see what resources are there to inform and support grads moving from another country. Write down a list of your most vital questions on a piece of paper...then put it in your jeans' pocket. On the morning of my visitiation weekend I could be found in my hotel room, scrawling feverishly on the back of my boarding pass all the questions I could possibly think of to address to POIs, students and both. Keeping that list on me during the day meant I could double-check it discreetly between meetings to check I wasn't missing out on anything important. Mentally & physically prepare yourself. As an introverted scientist, a whole day spent talking with lots of strangers, acting like a friendly team-player and remaining energetic until I was dropped off after dinner...whew, that counts as an endurance event. I had to take time out to psych myself up and get "in the zone". I'm OK with jetlag, but required a lot of water and an early night beforehand. During the Visit - Objectives3-5 faculty that I could see myself working for. As a chemist I go through several lab rotations. I have a thesis committee of 3, including my PI. I don't know that my 1st choice PI will have space to take me on...or that I'll work well with them. Therefore, the grad school I commit to must have an absolute minimum of 3 POIs that I like. Other Departmental faculty that I get on with. I'm going to be doing more than slaving in the lab for 5 years. I want to be in an environment where the faculty get on with each other and know the grad students quite well. If a major research group-related problems erupts, I want there to be "impartial" figures I can chat to for advice. Grounded Grad Students. I don't want to be in an ultra-competitive grad school where the students have big egos and distrustful attitudes. I don't want to be in a grad school where the students have submissive posture and low self-esteem. I want to be on a program that produces intelligent, confident and likeable grad students. Why? Well, I'd like to be an intelligent, confident and likeable grad student myself - so perhaps I can learn from their example. Resources to help me meet my career objectives. Coming into grad school I have quite a clear idea of where I want to end up in the future (industry, not academia) and what is needed to achieve that. The better a grad school can help me along that path, the more inclined I will be towards choosing it. Do industrial companies recruit grad students on-campus? Does the grad school host Career Talks about working in industry? How many? After the visit [*]Send brief emails to your POIs and organisers, thanking them for their time. It can't hurt to be polite to the faculty you've met (see my 3-5 rule above). Then see how many working days it takes for them to reply. The faculty who reply quickly? You want to work for those organised people.
  9. 17 points
  10. 17 points
    So, given that I have the Big C and don't have a timeline or prognosis, and that it is so close to April 15, I decided that it would be unethical for me not to call the director of English Graduate Studies, tell her what is going on and that I can't say for sure what I will and will not be able to do, and give her the chance to offer my slot to someone who isn't dealing with the Unknown. It was definitely NOT an easy phone call to make, and NOT a phone call I would ever wish on anyone. That said, when I told her my situation, she was so wonderful. First she was adamant that no, they were not taking back their offer. She said I can certainly defer for a year if I need to, and also that she is going to talk with some other people and find out if there is any other form of alternative funding available so I don't have to count on the TAship for the tuition waiver for the first year; I might be able to take classes and work in the writing lab instyead, then TA the following year, for example - she doesn't know, but she is going to explore options and get back to me. I felt so relieved to hear that this is not unusual, that they do make exceptions, and that there are precedents for this (See? Always ASK!) It would have been so much easier for her to just say "Well, thanks for the heads-up, appreciate you letting us know before April 15, apply again when you're clean". Instead, I was re-affirmed all over again a.) that I certainly chose the right program to work in and b.) I'm worth it. SO...Cancer, yes. Cancellation of PhD - NO WAY! I am a really, really lucky girl, all things considering. OK...off to sleep off the next round of Vicoden.
  11. 16 points
    Dear friends! Before I get into the best news ever, I wanted to say a huge thank you everyone here who has offered a listening ear, support, advice, well wishes, and happy lurking. I could not have gotten through this process with my sanity in tact without you guys! I mean it! Now on to the news! Yesterday, I got what I thought was a "butt call" from the POI at my dream school because there was no message or email. I debated twenty minutes before calling him back, figuring that if it was a mistake, the awkwardness was better than the not knowing. ... I got into my dream school's MA program, fully funded with an incredible stipend ($21k). It is nothing short of a miracle. It barely matters to me that I didn't get into the PhD Program even though that's what I applied for -- I'M GOING TO MY DREAM SCHOOL! The University of Delaware! I consider it to have one of the best Early Modern art history programs in the country. The funding is en par with PhD programs and, although I don't know for sure right now, I can hopefully apply to be in Delaware's PhD program when the time comes. Those of you who have been following my story know that this is something I thought would never happen, let alone with this truly amazing financial package at my *dream* school... I am so excited for what's in store for my intellect! I was preparing to bury academia, with this being my last application season, if I ended up getting into a place we wouldn't be able to afford. It was awful. I have never been more insecure about myself and my abilities than I was in these past three months (not even when I was a teenager), and it is something that I thought would destroy my academic self-esteem. But here I am! On the other side, SO excited for what Delaware has for us, and even more excited for the excellent training and preparation I'll receive to be in a (Delaware's?) PhD program in a few years. There are no words that can describe how incredible this is, even if I've used a lot of them! I cried for half an hour after I found out and nearly missed an important meeting at work, unsure that I could compose myself. I am sure that my incredibly supportive husband and I will just love it there. We booked a trip to Newark last night, for the week of our wedding anniversary. Who knew that a year after we got married, we'd be on a plane to Newark, Delaware? It's unbelievable! I am thrilled (seriously) to be moving from a population of 3 million people to 30,000. I can't wait to get a sweatshirt to wear my school pride! The only bad part about is that Delaware's athletics teams are called the Blue Hens. Hens?! Hens aren't ferocious predators that can beat out other animals or heroes such as Trojans in competitions! But nevertheless, I am so happy to (almost) be a Blue Hen!!! It's all over. I've made it past the first hurdle, and I can breathe now and think about the PhD program later. To quote my dad's witty remark: "Don't forget to bring your underWARE to DelaWARE," Har. Har. Har. I'm just thrilled! I can't wait to start! (By the way, I have no idea when school starts! )
  12. 15 points
    Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! For my first post, I wanted to open up about what has been the hardest thing for me about the application process so far, and that is the feeling of not being good enough. Reading through the posts on GradCafe and seeing all the wonderful things people have done, I can't help but feel like I don't measure up. This is my fourth year working in labs and I have no publications. My GRE math score is...meh. My honors thesis is still in progress and so I don't have a neat, packaged project that I can talk about or submit as a writing sample. I'm still applying. I feel like it's easy to forget that the kind of people who post on sites like this tend to not be representative of the applicant pool as a whole, and that there do exist those of us who are applying without 10+ years of related work experience or 5+ published journal articles. My hope is to give readers some insight about what the application process is like for those of us who feel like we might not stand out as much because we don't have those things. Because that's actually not true. My first piece of advice for people who find that they're in my situation is to remember that it's all relative. For example, if you're still in undergrad, there's no way that a grad school will expect you to have as much research experience as someone who has been out of school much longer. Additionally, a lack of published articles is not a death sentence if you can convey in your application that you've gained valuable research skills. This applies both for current undergraduates such as myself, as well as those who have a master's or have been working for a while. Finally, even if someone looks "better" on paper than you, you might actually be the one with a better research fit. So, even though it can be difficult, don't be intimidated by your perceived competition. Remember to put the process into perspective and trust that if you highlight your strengths in your application you will end up where you're supposed to be.
  13. 15 points
    I'm going to be planning a wedding! Definitely AFTER I graduate. http://youtu.be/u54n9_43HWs
  14. 14 points
    And so my long journey of graduate school applications has come to an end. I hereby bid goodbye to the following: Statements of purpose Online application systems Transcript hassles and, last but not least, (and I have gleefully saved a special rude gesture for): [i]ETS/GRE/Standardized Testing[/i]! (At the same time, I also welcome whatever new stressful, illogical, and inane bureaucratic hoops lay ahead of me in the Ph.D. program and beyond.) But I digress. The subject of this post, really, is to explain a little bit about my long, circuitous journey towards graduate school. Many moons ago, I attended a high school that had a "gifted" program; though I was not chosen to be a part of it, my entire cohort of friends happened to be members. Accordingly, beautiful and wondrous things were always on their horizon (eg. one of them went to Princeton for his undergraduate work and, in short order, became an undersecretary in the Bank of Canada). Though I don't think I ever had the same pressure applied to me, I felt it all the same. I pushed myself and achieved a good entrance scholarship to attend the University of Toronto. I went through the motions during the first few years but didn't develop much as a person. I got into a long term relationship, but it was one of those stagnant ones where we cut out all of our friends and just sat in our dorm watching tv shows. I retreated further into my social anxiety and the nonthreatening nature of my relationship. I didn't make any connections with professors, barely participated in any extracurricular activities, never in class, and sure enough, it eventually affected my grades--the one thing that I believed all this time had defined my success as a person. Though I left an impression on one or two professors with some solid essays on topics that I was passionate about, I had nothing in the way of a solid foundation for a strong graduate application. Entering my fourth year, I applied to Ph.D. programs at Toronto and other Canadian schools. The answer was a resounding [i]Rejected.[/i] I felt despair at the first major (academic) defeat in my life and sank into a weird, hazy limbo. Yet, with some gentle prodding from my parents, I applied again the next year. Again, the call came back: [i]Rejected[/i]. It was a terrible blow. Like a whale biting off your leg, one might say. I [i]really[/i] gave up after that. I figured [i]H[/i][i]ey, maybe graduate school isn't for me. Most of my friends didn't go on to Ph.D.s either! Maybe I was just following a path that others had defined for me. [/i]So I entered the workforce, worked a bunch of awful, menial jobs (think two key data entry and factory work), taught overseas for a bit and lived out my repressed high school partying years, and finally settled into a retail food service funk. I was depressed. I felt like I was staring at a dead end sign. Worse yet, I was hardly making enough income to survive. Finally, due to kismet and external forces, I decided that I needed to try again with graduate programs out west, in California. I applied to some unknown or 'unranked' MA programs, aiming for the fully funded one and--success! I was shocked and I was grateful. I knew that this was my last chance to prove myself and claw my way back to my graduate dreams. I pushed myself harder than I ever have and (thanks to a genuinely rekindled passion due to a harsh and demanding professor), after much roaming on the high seas, I finally caught up to my Moby Dick. I reapplied to the University of Toronto. I steadied my harpoon and let fly. And after many months of waiting: [i]Accepted[/i]. Of course, the acceptance to UT is merely symbolic to me. I don't think I actually ever intended to attend. But I feel like I have done a service to that narrative arc of my life: I finally conquered the rejections that destroyed me when I was younger, and in doing so, have finally proven to the niggling voice deep down inside that[b] [/b][i]YES. I AM WORTHY OF GRADUATE SCHOOL.[/i] This whole schpeel is my way of saying: life happens. You can get thrown off the bull many, many times and in many different ways. At 21, not everyone is going to be ready, willing, and motivated to pursue a Ph.D. [i]and that's fine[/i]. Do your best, but if it's not right at this moment, work hard to improve yourself and try again when the time [i]is[/i] right. Due to personal (familial) circumstances, I needed a lot of time to grow outside of the garden into which I had walled myself, which included academia. I lived (and kind of didn't live) enough to know that I'm ready for graduate school now and I'm so lucky to have been given the chance this time around. Best of luck to all applicants who are preparing for the next application cycle. I look forward to congratulating you all in 2016!
  15. 13 points
    I've finally reached the end of this roller coaster called Graduate Application Season. I will be attending my top-choice university in a department that I didn't apply to with a professor that was never my main POI. After recruitment, it was a whirlwind of switching advisors, departments, funding nominations, etc. Things change, but they can be for the better. I will be working toward a dual-Ph.D. in Forestry and Ecology, and I couldn't be more excited. My new advisor's research interests are an amazing match and he has long-term research plots at my first-choice field station. I've been awarded the top university fellowship, granting me a first and last year of funding, without any TA or RA requirements, facilitating my transitions into and out of the program. My advisor offered to let me come over the summer on an RA, doing some temperate field work and analyzing the long-term tropical datasets. So, I'll be moving across the United States a week or two after I graduate with my Bachelors degree, packing only what I can fit in my sedan (including a boyfriend who wants to help me move). Until then, I have two research projects to finish up, permits to get approved, and other countries to visit. I'm going to be busy, not really relaxing much before I start graduate school, but I don't think I'd want to have it any other way.
  16. 13 points

    I GOT IN!

    It would appear that my dreams were indeed accurate! Dreamt about a rejection from Stanford and got rejected from Stanford....dreamt about an acceptance from HGSE and I just found out I was admitted into the HGSE TIE program! AHHHHH! The official freak out begins! Where am I going to live? How am I going to pay for everything? What's my financial aid? How am I going to tell everyone at work? I didn't even tell my mom I was applying! Now I need to tell her I'm moving across the country! Oh my goodness.
  17. 12 points
    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.
  18. 11 points
    I received some lovely questions from a couple of users this week, so this blog entry is going to cover some things about my perception of interdisciplinary programs. The tail end of the entry will be a little about interviews. Leave questions in the comments about this entry and what you would like to see for future blogs. Spectastic asked me several questions, and I'm going to go through them in order: 1. How do you think an interdisciplinary program differs from a field specific program in curriculum, research, and career placement? Curriculum: For the most part, I think that the majority of the classes I take are also taken by students in field-specific programs, but the emphasis is more broad. An example would be the genetics class I took first term. It did not simply focus on one system, but required me to learn prokaryotic systems, as well as eukaryotic systems including yeast, C. elegans, drosophila, mouse, and human. The goal is to give you a more broad understanding of the whole field. However, it should be noted that not all interdisciplinary programs are the same. Some start you out in interdisciplinary coursework, but later place you into a specific department based on the lab you choose. That department may have additional required coursework. In others, you remain in the program your entire graduate career and only have a set amount of coursework that must be completed. My program is the latter type. Some students complain that interdisciplinary coursework is a little more difficult for them because they expect us to have a broader understanding of the biomedical sciences, but I really think that this helps me in the long run. Research: This is not going to really be different than a normal field-specific program except for one thing. I'm still rotating right now, but my interdisciplinary program allows me to select faculty from many different programs at my institution rather than being limited. If I really wanted to, I could rotate with someone from Immunology, Physiology, Molecular Biology, or Biophysics. This is good for someone like me who is interested in general gene regulation as well as immunological activation. I do not feel limited, though sometimes the sheer number of faculty I could rotate with is overwhelming. In the end, the research aspect is going to be similar between programs. You still defend you research proposal, still have a committee, and still give presentations and do your research. Career Placement: Being interdisciplinary is beneficial these days because you yourself are better able to approach a scientific question from many different angles, but as a student, you need to work to maintain your interdisciplinary nature after coursework is over. Your success at this will be apparent when you are applying out to post-docs but even more so when you're interviewing for faculty positions and applying for funding. More and more programs are taking the interdisciplinary slant, even if they're not marketing themselves that way. Interdisciplinary program names may make you sound a little more fitted to a wider variety of post-doc labs, but in the end, I think it ends up being what you make of it. 2. Were there a lot of things you had to learn from the ground up? As far as coursework goes, a lot of the non-mammalian and non-prokaryotic studies are new for me, but not so difficult that I can't figure it out. In the rotations labs, having 6 years of research experience is proving extremely beneficial as I'm not being taught many new things and am able to adapt rapidly to the new lab settings. It allows me to focus more on the lab environment and figuring out if I can see a feasible and fundable project if I were to join that particular lab. This is really important. You need to be able to work well with the PI and it helps immensely if you also get along well with the technicians and lab manager. Even more importantly, I can take the time to focus more on the literature, current lab projects, and trying to figure out if there is enough promise for a dissertation project. Many times, the PI will discuss this with you as well, but you might need to bring up the topic. 3. Is it a different experience working with students from other similar fields? I wasn't really sure what you were asking with this, but I'm going to assume you're asking about the different types of students that come into an interdisciplinary program. I'm surrounded by students who are interested in microbiology, eukaryotic cell biology, cancer, aging, autoimmunity, etc, and they have the degrees that match those interests. It is different from my previous experiences where everyone was in the same field and research area. I actually love it; none of us look at or approach anything in the same way, so a research discussion may result in a novel approach to solve a problem that we would never have reached if there weren't a microbiologist in the room. 4. Assuming you don't already have a thought out career plan (which I think you do), how do you think your opportunities will differ? I don't know that my opportunities will be different than someone in a general program. However, because my background is so interdisciplinary and because I intend to maintain my microbiology knowledge on top of my eukaryotic molecular biology and immunology knowledge, it may affect where I get post-docs or make me a little more versatile. If I didn't want to go into academia, I would be able to contribute readily in industry or in patent law (starting to be hot for scientists). However, I want to stay in academia and run my own lab, and I think I'll be able to relate a lot more to different areas of research than someone who has stayed in one small field area their entire education. 5. User Ratlab asked: How do you prep for interviews with PIs, and what do you do if you're not interested in some of the PIs? I went into every interview prepared to talk about my own research (with my current PI's permission) and ready to ask questions about the research the person interviewing me does. Taking my research with me meant printing out a couple of copies of my most recent research presentations (notice I am emphasizing: with my current PI's permission!). I didn't give the slides to the professors, but I was able to show them what I was doing. This was beneficial for my interview in several ways. First, it demonstrated to them that I know how to generate a research presentation, have research experience that I have data to demonstrate, and that I know what I'm talking about. Another benefit was that I could point out things without having to draw them, so the understanding was a ton easier. The third thing was that, since I'd already presented the data, I was very comfortable with it and able to discuss future directions, etc. It is also a great idea to take in new copies of your resume with any updates that occurred since application. Be sure to leave your resume with the person you interview with. I also went through pubmed and read abstracts from the PI's I was interviewing with for the past 2-3 years. If it wasn't something I was familiar with, I found a short review and learned a little bit. I printed out a couple abstracts, maybe some interesting figures, and took them on the plane with me to study. I prepared 2-3 questions for each PI in case the conversation was stale or I found I wasn't interested in what they were working on. I was lucky and got to choose all of the PIs that interviewed me, but I prepped just the same. It could be as simple as "I noticed in *paper name* that you showed *interesting observation*. How do you think *something that ties their project to your interests* participates in this process?" I never acted like I knew their field, but the questions I asked let them know that I had at least researched them a little bit. Make eye contact. Shake their hands when you get there and when you leave them. Avoid "stuff" words (like, kinda, sorta, maybe, ummm, etc) and run-on sentences (and.... and then.... but..... and.....). Ask questions about their research, the students, AND the program (the PIs might not know, but they will see your interest). Say thank you! Do all of the things you know to be professional, but try not to make yourself seem plastic. It is a great idea to have someone give you a practice interview a few times before you go. Some career services places at your university may have this service for you. It is a good idea to film and watch yourself to see where you need to improve. 6. Microarray asked: What do I wear to an interview? Microarray was specifically asking what to wear to an interview that doesn't specify a dress code, but I noticed that most biomedical sciences and molecular biology interviews had about the same dress code. Most guys wore dress slacks and dress shoes with a nice sweater -or- a shirt and tie -or- a button down shirt and sport coat -or- a suit. The guys in full-out dress suits were almost too dressy, but all of those things worked out well. I was mildly annoyed by some of the guys who wore bow ties that very horribly contrasted with their shirts. Just make sure you match and look professional. I am a female and I wore nice, tailored grey trousers, comfortable black boots (low heel), a blouse, and a black ¾ sleeve blazer. I saw lots of girls in adorable little skirt suits with spiky heels... however, I would not go that route. You are going to be walking.... A LOT. You want to have low or no heels, and if you have heels on your shoes, you want them to be fat heels so you're not wearing yourself out. Break your shoes in well ahead of time. As far as wearing a skirt, I would avoid that as well for interview day. Many skirts are relatively short these days, and sometimes it is quite cold. I heard PIs commenting on how inappropriate some of the clothing some of the ladies were wearing... so to avoid any problems, avoid it altogether. For ladies, stores like Maurice's tend to have cute, appropriate clothing (minus the skirts) that won't make you feel like you're an old lady. You also need to bring clothes that are comfortable and a little less dressy for outings with the current graduate students and for traveling. I wore jeans on the plane, but changed to khakis before meeting the people who were picking me up from the airport. The most important thing is to be comfortable at all times: traveling, informal meetings, and your formal interview. Don't pick something way out of the norm for you your personality; you need to feel like yourself in your interview clothes. This helps you to present yourself more confidently. However... under no circumstances should you show up in jeans and a t-shirt to your interview (on the plane or with grad students is fine). Wear professional and fitted clothing, and you'll be fine. If anything isn't clear enough or if you have more questions about what I mentioned in this entry, leave me a comment. Good luck on your applications and interviews! -bio
  19. 10 points
    The whole reason I wanted to start a blog on here was to try, as realistically as possible, to answer the question, "so what's grad school really like," on this platform that seems to be mostly consumed by "so how do I get into grad school?". Admittedly, when I first started this blog, I had the best intentions of posting more regularly than "those other guys." So here I am, a year later, attempting to make up for it. So here we go, I'm going to break it into sections for the sake of readability. PLEASE, keep in mind, all of this is from my very limited perspective of a first generation, first year, queer, man of color, from the South, living in a major city and attending the only grad program I applied to. Moving cross country to a new city As a general personality trait, I'm a huge fan of change. I get bored easily and like to mix things up. So for me, moving across the country, to a city in which I didn't know anyone was just a huge, exciting adventure. I know that for some people, change produces a ton of anxiety. So for those readers, you'll probably want to take everything I say with a grain of salt. Anyways, the move was great! I ended up really lucky in the housing search and used Craigslist to find both of the apartments I've lived in here. Exploring the city and getting into a routine of going to this grocery store instead of that one and this park being my spot to relax and destress, was fun. Seattle quickly became home for me. Building Community One of the best decisions I made when moving to Seattle was finding housing with folks not in my program, or associated with my school at all. I also joined a church pretty early on. My program has a strong focus on community development and it's pretty easy to make friends within, but for the sake of emotional sanity, it's been great to have friends who have no idea what I do for 8 (or more) hours a day. I'd definitely recommend other folks going to grad school in a new place to invest in a community outside of your program, if possible. Personal Life Despite the media myths of grad school = buried in books and nothing else for the next x years, I've spent more of the past year intentionally building relationships, exploring my interests, and just enjoying life that I ever have. Though, this could very well be contributed to the location of my program in a major city. With my program being pretty small (about 60 folks in total) I have noticed that the internal drama can be exhausting and pretty ridiculous at times. Granted, my field is a very personal one and the culture of the university calls us to bring out whole selves (baggage and all) to the table. Academics In some ways, the classroom experience was exactly what I was expecting, in some ways, it's less than I was expecting, but in other ways, it's way more than I was expecting. As expected, there are lots more reading assignments than I was accustomed to in undergrad. But most of the time, I'm fine as long as I get the drift of what the assigned reading was about. It's less than I was expecting because I often find myself feeling like my classes and those responsibilities feel like an unnecessary addition to the work I'm doing with students in my assistantship and internships; that's pretty disappointing. But at the other extreme, there have been many times when I've had conversations in classrooms that I didn't think could happen in such settings and have genuinely changed the way I think about the world. I live for those conversations, and that's why I'm okay with spending more money than my mom makes in a year for tuition. Financials This is the one area in which I, admittedly, should have done more research before making this huge life decision. Seattle is EXPENSIVE. And, in my particular case, the coveted GA position doesn't cover living expenses, much less living and tuition. This has led to me working part time for a period, and taking out more loans than I expected. This is probably the biggest downfall of my program, but I was privileged enough to not have to take out any loans for undergrad so it's not a huge deal for me and I probably would have made the same decision if I had then, all the information I have now...although I probably would have been a bit more careful about how I spent my savings during my time off between undergrad and grad school. Future Perspectives I definitely feel like my chances of getting a job in my chosen field have increased tenfold in the past year. I've learned more than I could have begun to imagine, and it's made me even more excited to start my career. Also, necessary sidenote, I've reluctantly to see the benefit of strong alumni networks and I'm definitely grateful that my program comes with one of those. Did I make the right choice? 100% yes. If I could go back, I wouldn't change anything. There was definitely a time when I wished I'd applied to more programs, there were times when I wished I would have gone to a program that was fully funded and in a cheaper city, there were times I wished I would have stayed closer to home. But if I could go back in time, knowing all that I know now, I would do it all again. This experience has been, by far, the most life changing year ever, and I'm excited to see where the next one takes me. --- Please, feel more than welcome to send me messages about student affairs, Seattle, moving cross country, or anything else. I'm not as acitive here as I once was, but I will get back to you!
  20. 10 points
    The day started off great. We had breakfast in the hotel, went to lunch with one of the program directors, and then toured the town with grad students. Later, we went to a hockey game and had dinner with grad students in the next town over. Then, for reasons I cannot divulge, I fell out of love with parts of the program. I saw a very dark and disturbing side that I had not expected. For that reason, now I am considering another school that I have an interview with in a few weeks. I've learned a lesson today to not get your hopes up and not to put all of your hopes into one opportunity, especially in academia. I'm not going home as excited as I thought I would be. If anything, I am disappointed. But I'm going to move on and start looking at all of the options that are out there. Edit: For any applicants who need help with what questions to ask at interviews and how to decide if the atmosphere of the department is for you, I highly recommend this webpage: http://www.esa.org/students/section/node/412
  21. 10 points
    So, like a good little nerd, I've mapped it out: My happiness is on the y-axis, ascending from 0 (none) to 100 (most). The time of day is on the x. -- And the waiting game is a perfect quadratic equation. I wake up and check my email, and when I see that I still have not heard from graduate schools, I start off my day at (0, 0). Never mind that, surely, it is irrational to expect a POI to have emailed me between 3 am and 7 am EST. I go to campus, go to class, go to lab, do my thing. Sooner or later I run into my adviser who always has either a stimulating philosophical/scientific topic to discuss or words of wisdom/encouragement about the app process. For the duration of the time spent with him plus an hour and a half or so of afterglow, my parabola is at its peak. As the clock ticks down toward 5 pm, however, the slope of my line becomes negative once more, until at last I'm sitting in bed, right back where I started, having come full circle since that morning. Lately, my parabola has become increasingly like a flat line, at a very low y value, continuously, as I begin to give up hope altogether. But you know what? Screw that. I'm rewriting this equation. We cannot control our circumstances or our environment, but we can control our responses. I choose to continue to think positively, to hope, and to believe that I am still an excellent scholar whether or not I get into a Ph.D. program this time around. I choose to respond by finding the best ways to improve my application for the next round. I choose to learn from my mistakes, and to write my own internal story. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, "Think of the worlds you carry within you." These worlds within your mind do not disappear simply because you feel they are going unrecognized. The worlds are ever-evolving, crafted and populated by your own will, and full of infinite possibility. Not getting into graduate school does not mean the destruction of every world, every dream-castle you've built for yourself. It just means you get to spend a bit more time in their construction.
  22. 9 points
    Folks, I think I figured it out. I look at the people who are in programs and doing things I want to do. Fuzzy Suessian, Resurgence(ZN), etc and I notice a particular thing they have in common. They’re all above 200 internet/reputation points. THAT’S what you turn these in for, an acceptance! I dunno how the adcomms figure out who is who but they’re sneaky… good thing you have me here to keep them honest. Muwahahaha all I need to do now is post more puppy pics and I’ll be in for sure! *ring ring* Hello, Berkeley (BARKley?)This is Bowties – my puppy pics are trending and I’ve got 500 internet points… I think that entitles me to a spot in your program. Perhaps I’m going crazy…
  23. 9 points

    Now That The Dust Has Settled

    Well, we're a bit into May and it seems like things have certainly settled down. I'm finally sure of how I'll be spending the next year (I signed a contract!): I accepted a 1-year research fellowship, with benefits, at my current university. Despite a generous fellowship offer, I turned down an offer of admission to a 1-year bioethics MA. I'm very happy with my decision to work as a researcher in the social sciences and even happier to know this position will give me more free time to work on perfecting my 2nd round of PhD applications. I turned in my MA thesis and graduation is just around the corner. In addition, I hope to volunteer either at a hospital or non-profit that serves the population I hope to study while pursuing my doctorate. When I apply again, this will show I've already started making crucial connections and relationships with potential informants. I am over the sting of rejection. Since getting all my letters, I published my first peer-reviewed paper and have a peer-reviewed book review in-press. I am being proactive. My next step will be to cut my thesis down to journal article length and work on that as a potential publication. I probably won't check in for a while, but I will when applications are my priority again. Have a great summer!
  24. 9 points
    Continued from Part One. We are now at draft five: Draft FIVE: The day I graduated from Longwood University’s master’s program in English, I should have been celebrating the long-awaited, long-worked for completion of my formal education. Instead, roughly an hour before commencement exercises began in Farmville, Virginia, I was standing before a crowd of medievalists, delivering a paper outlining my thesis findings at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo. Michigan. That weekend in 2009, I became the first in my family on either side to earn an advanced degree. Far from satisfying my curiosity as regards medieval literature and culture, this degree has only sent me on a maddening quest to toe the line between the life of the mind I crave and the life I chose before I ever knew it existed. It is an untenable situation, and I find now that although I did not take a straight path towards becoming a professor, this is exactly what I have spent the past decade seeking to become. Therefore, I am requesting admission to your doctoral program in English, with a focus on medieval literature and secondary areas of interest in early modern and nineteenth/twentieth century medievalism, in order to receive the proper training and professionalization necessary for the life I have already in many ways been trying to live. I bring with me a wealth of preparation for this training, beginning with thirteen years of teaching in a variety of academic settings: at the middle school, high school and college levels, in needs-challenged and advanced/AP courses, in urban and rural districts, and on public and private school campuses. Because of this I am confident in my ability to teach to a wide variety of student backgrounds and abilities. I feel I would be a great resource for other TAs newer to teaching than I am. In return, I could benefit enormously from watching and talking with instructors at the university level, testing and refining my skills to become an even more capable professional educator, one well-prepared for university-level instruction. I am state-certified to teach both French and English, and earned a perfect score and ETS certificate of distinction on the Praxis II subject test in English. In my capacity as a state teacher, I followed an already-established curriculum aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning. In my current position at a private boarding school, I have written my entire curriculum, developing three programs of study from their inception. Originally hired to teach French, there were not enough language students to justify this as a full-time position, so I was offered the chance to teach other subjects. I chose Art History and English, influenced by the interdisciplinary work I did at American University during a year of master-level study. They needed a Latin course; I revisited the work I did in the language as an undergraduate and re-taught myself Latin. The research I did preparing to teach these new classes was both brutal, because I had so little formal training, and exhilarating, because I was doing the kind of work I had always wanted to do. My students in all three areas of study have gone on to earn scores of 4 and 5 on the AP examination. Because of the success of my students on these exams and at the college level, I am confident in my ability to design and implement effective curriculum, and to approach this work from a variety of methods, including chronological and thematic survey, comparative approaches to literature, and the subject- or author- specific seminar. As a doctoral student training to become a professor, I would welcome the opportunity to try to expand and refine some of my courses for students at the college level, and to learn from experienced professors what the reading and work load in such classes should look like. Because I teach at a year-round school, my current workload is formidable: six, separate courses a term, five terms a year. I completed my master’s program while juggling this full-time schedule and a young family as well, earning a 4.0 GPA. I believe that this demonstrates that I am well-prepared for the challenges of balancing teaching as a TA and the completion of my own studies. I have publications and extensive conference participation to my credit. In addition to an article in the Virginia English Bulletin based on my innovative approach to teaching classic literature at the high school level, I also have forthcoming in the MLA Approaches to Teaching Tolkien volume a chapter on my teaching of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as part of an epic literature course, as well as a number of entries in Brill’s Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage and Encyclopedia of Medieval Chronicle and the Facts on File Companion to Pre-1600 British Poetry, Companion to Literary Romanticism, and General Themes in Literature. I have presented papers at major conferences in my proposed field, including the Medieval Academy of America Graduate Student conference, the conference of the Southeastern Medieval Association, and the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo. I have also organized sessions in my areas of interest, and this year will further be presiding over my first panel. All of my publications and conference papers have derived from the teaching and research I have done in and for my classes, and I believe that this is the best approach to a life of scholarship: when teaching, research, writing and publication all rely upon and are influenced, inspired and drawn one from the other. As a doctoral student, I will learn how to refine my research and writing skills even more, honing my scholarship to truly professional academic quality. While my teaching, research and publication background is diverse and can appear at first glance erratic, in actuality it renders me extremely prepared for doctoral level work in my particular areas of interest. My language skills lend themselves well to comparative reading and research, and my particularly strong background in French and more recent work in Latin are all but prerequisite in the study of literature in England from the 11th through the 15th centuries, or post-Conquest to Middle English, which is the area in which I intend to concentrate most fully. Further, my work in Art History recommends me as a particularly strong candidate for doctoral study in medieval literatures, where manuscript studies and the marriage of print and visual media as text are the norm rather than the exception. Because of my long-standing fascination with Arthuriana, or the Matter of Britain, I have naturally branched out into the study of epic and romance and folklore in general, medieval chronicles including the Historia Regum Britanniae and the Prose Brut, early modern studies, most specifically Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries via the Romantics and Moderns, who themselves were highly influenced by medieval and early modern models; in the twentieth century, I have worked with medievalism through C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain chronicles, highly modeled on the Welsh Mabinogion, itself counted among Arthurian texts. My work with Tolkien led me to my interests in the Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Icelandic traditions, while all of these traditions lend themselves to the study of the overarching themes of violence, chivalry and courtliness, magic, and identity, including gender studies, which comprise the majority of my teaching and scholarship. As an applicant to your program, I believe that my sound preparation in such a wide array of genres and eras recommends me as a student who can handle training in multiple and diverse literary traditions. As a doctoral student, my primary goal will be to learn how to refine my interests into a manageable – and marketable – program of research. At present, I am engrossed in two ongoing projects, which I hope to continue to work on at the doctoral level. The first is an expansion and revision of my graduate thesis on the role of medieval writers as nation-builders exploiting specific fictional characters and character traits intentionally to bring people(s) once on the margins to the center of a nation as its kith and kin. Focusing on the figure of King Arthur, this work currently centers around Geoffrey of Monmouth, Layamon, and Thomas Malory, and I am hoping to expand it to include other chronicles and romances such as the Prose Brut and the Alliterative Morte Arthure. This project would benefit enormously from the input of professors familiar with the Arthurian literary tradition, but also with professors working in chronicle and romance traditions and with the themes of identity, postcolonialism, and nationalism. My second ongoing project is a challenging of the dual Eve/Mary construction often employed in analyzing women in medieval texts with a view incorporating the central-to-the-tale, yet marginalized-by-society mystic or monstrous female. The publication of Sarah Miller’s and Dana Oswald’s monographs among others assures that this subject will continue to be revisited as important to our understanding of the medieval world view; I am currently working on it as it relates to Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. This project requires the support and suggestions of both medieval and early modern scholars working in gender and feminist studies and in female saints and mystics and the monstrous. I envision as a possible subject for my doctoral dissertation a comparative examination of the presence and function of feasts in select Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Celtic and/or Middle English texts produced in England from post-Conquest through the 15th century. I am interested in the way in which feasts appear to serve different functions dependent upon where they are held (indoor/outdoor and mortal/immortal planes), where they occur in the narrative (at the beginning, they catalyze the action; in the middle they serve as a pause in the action and an opportunity for regrouping or reconfiguring the figures involved, and at the end, they serve as the dénouement), and who is holding them (secular, holy, or immortal figures, or outlaws or nobles). I am fascinated by the differences between feasts held by men, which seem to be a display of wealth and power and generally are of a celebratory nature either for religious or political commemoration, and those held by women, which seem to be a display of wealth and power, usually in order to seduce, and the fact that this seems to remain true regardless of whether the text is fictional or historical in nature. My particular background lends itself well to this project, and I know it to be a highly under-represented area of study at present. This project could be ably supported by a medievalist specializing in Middle English romance and professors working in hagiography, historical chronicle, gender and postcolonial studies. I am aware that my final undergraduate GPA is lower than admissions committees generally like to see. Aside from its being thirteen years old and superseded by outstanding work at the master’s level since then, this reflects neither my work ethic nor my academic ability. I transferred two years in with a 3.3 GPA. I worked full time and commuted 40 minutes each way daily to offset the costs of transferring programs. My job at a Colonial Williamsburg tavern entailed a simple scheduling policy for students at the College: we submitted our course schedules at the beginning of the term, and the headwaiter scheduled us for every full shift during which we were not in class. Between that and the commute, I physically did not have the time to get the reading and research done. In light of this, I ask that my application be given particular consideration as regards everything I have done since that point, which I believe recommends me as a student of clear passion and potential, and one well-prepared for the challenges of doctoral-level work and a career as a university professor. From the first, I consciously set out to become a teacher, and to be the best, most skilled and most knowledgeable teacher I could be. Over time, this has unconsciously shaped my career along a path I never could have foreseen thirteen years ago. I chose to be a secondary school teacher before I ever saw what academia could truly be for me. Because of the force of my desire to know, to teach and research and to write about what I teach and research, I have become a strange hybrid – a secondary school teacher performing the tasks of a college professor. I have already begun in many ways to live the life of a professor, but I feel that I began in medias res. It is time to take a step back and return to the beginning, and to receive proper advanced training for the life I have begun to live, and I sincerely hope that you will afford me that opportunity. And here's the meat of this post, folks: Actual professorial commentary on this draft(I changed colors for each comment to distinguish them from one another): Prof 1: try not to be too sentimental/sappy, okay? You would be amazed at some of the students you will be competing with who will mainly just be showing off their erudition and theory expertise, earned at the best schools in the country, in the most elitist ways imaginable [and yet, for some reviewing faculty, this is effective]. Obviously that can be tiring to admissions committees, too, and it would be good to humanize your statement--just don't go overboard on the *personal* narrative details or even mention desires for "life of the mind"--some evil faculty will think that's silly [even though, let's face it, it's the truth of why we do this]. Be "real" but practice some reserve, too, okay? I'm not sure I would mention details as specific as having taken the Praxis II subject test in English: will anyone know what that is outside of public school teaching in Virginia? Letting them know you have varied foreign language skills/experience--GREAT--but they don't need these nitty-gritty details. I'd be careful of your description of your second ongoing project as a challenge to the supposedly predominant "dual Eve/Mary construction often employed in analyzing women in medieval texts with a view incorporating the central-to-the-tale, yet marginalized-by-society mystic or monstrous female" as those who work in medieval women's studies, gender/sexuality studies, etc. may find this an overly narrow description of their field and even find it off-putting and perhaps a bit too smug. While it's clear that you're a much more mature and advanced applicant than others who will be competing for similar spots in the programs to which you are applying, I would tone down a bit the section on what you envision as your doctoral research--it's way too detailed for someone who has not yet started a program somewhere and it's bit too much of "counting all of one's chickens before they hatch." Established scholars sometimes have the same problem when they are asked what they are working on and and they start talking about their 3 or 4 book projects and you wonder how they could even find the time to do one of those. I'm sure you want to be impressive, but you need to be careful not to look as if you are being hyperbolic--also, the idea is that you would be accepted into a program where you would meet scholars who would help you to conceptualize and execute a doctoral project--not that it would already be outlined before you got there. Even if you believe that's what you're going to do, I would really aim to make that sound much more open-ended and not-yet-fully-formed. Speak of your doctoral pursuits as areas you want to research further, not as a diss. prospectus you've already formed, if that makes sense. Other than all of that, I think what you have here is excellent, especially your last two paragraphs. I hope this helps. And good luck! Reader 2: This version is 100% better than the first one you showed me. You have very effectively showcased both your teaching background and research and publishing experience. These are things that no wunderkind 22 year old can boast of, and will recommend you highly. I only quibble with a couple of word choices. At one point you say that your work to date may appear "erratic." I would expunge that clause. No one expects someone coming off of an MA to have a razor sharp focus on a particular project, and most medievalists must of necessity be dabblers in diverse fields because of the nature of our sources. So I wouldn't describe your work with a word with such negative connotations when people probably won't read your productivity to date as such. Second, I wouldn't call your situation "maddening." It's an innocent enough word, but there are enough genuinely unstable people in academe that it might send out the wrong signals to an application committee. To be on the safe side, I would tone that part down a notch. But on the whole I would say it's an excellent application and just about as close to perfect as you're going to get. I'm afraid that from this point forward all you will be able to do is put your fate in the hands of others, and wait. Prof 3: A) That seems a LONG letter. > The research needs to be put up front, and made the main focus. > C) Emphasize your strengths, don't dwell so much on weaknesses. > D) I'd moderate throughout your claims to be like a prof -- I think that this makes you sound (as I know you not to be) like someone who will refuse to see the hierarchy between grad student and advisor, and therefore not listen to advice, etc. We've all had returning students who are often the best ones we get, but some, close to us in age or older than we are, having already run their own shows, etc., can be unwilling to accept that in THIS area, we have good advice to give, and this can set up a problematic dynamic. Remember, you are not applying to be a colleague, but a student. Some of this reads as if you are applying for a teaching job, not a PhD program. > > I hope that doesn't make me sound like a total jerk. I am not saying what I think, but what I think others will think on reading your letter. I know you, so I don't worry about these sorts of things, but they don't, and this letter is all they will have to go on, so the tone is important. You don't need to be groveling, or anything, but some of this sound ahead of itself. AND, that brings us to the final draft that went out (forgive the underlining, I have no idea why it did that but I can't make it go away): The day I graduated from X University’s master’s program in English, I should have been celebrating the long-worked for completion of my formal education. Instead, roughly an hour before commencement exercises began in This City, I was standing before a roomful of scholars, delivering a paper outlining my thesis findings at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rather than concluding my formal education, I was embarking on a new and exhilarating path of scholarship. That weekend in 2009, I became the first in my family on either side to earn an advanced degree. Far from satisfying my curiosity as regards medieval literature and culture, this achievement has led me on a futile quest to toe the line between the life of the mind I crave and the “real life” I chose before I ever knew it existed. Therefore, I am requesting admission to your doctoral program in English, with a focus on medieval literature and secondary areas of interest in early modern and nineteenth and twentieth century medievalism, in order to receive the proper training and professionalization necessary for the life that in many ways I am already striving to live. I am engrossed in two ongoing projects and a third line of enquiry which I hope to continue work on at the doctoral level and beyond. The first of these is an expansion of my graduate thesis on the role of medieval writers as nation-builders exploiting specific characters and character traits intentionally to bring people(s) once on the margins to the center of a nation as its kith and kin. Currently centering around the figure of King Arthur as he appears in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Layamon, and Thomas Malory, I plan to incorporate further works such as the Prose Brut and the Alliterative Morte Arthure into this study. This project would benefit enormously from the input of professors familiar with the Arthurian literary canon, and also professors working more generally in chronicle and romance traditions and with theories of identity, postcolonialism, and nationalism. My second ongoing project considers the cultural importance of the central-to-the-tale, yet marginalized-by-society mystic or monstrous female in medieval and early modern texts. The publication of Sarah Miller’s and Dana Oswald’s monographs among others assures that this subject will continue to be revisited as important to our understanding of the medieval world view; I am currently working on it as it relates to Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene[1]. This project requires the support and suggestions of both medieval and early modern scholars working in gender studies, in identity and theories of the Other, and in female saints and mystics. A third area of interest for me is the presence and function of feasts in Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Celtic and Middle English texts. I am interested in how feasts in medieval texts appear to serve different functions dependent upon where they are held (indoor/outdoor and mortal /immortal planes), where they occur in the narrative, and who is holding them (secular, holy, or immortal figures; outlaws or nobles). I also wonder about their rhetorical purpose - how much feast descriptions are intended merely to persuade between characters, and how much, if at all, they are intended to persuade between author and reader. I am fascinated by the differences between feasts held by men, which are a display of wealth and power, occasionally are an attempt at assimilation (seduction) of a desirable figure or group of figures into a court or company for collective gain, and generally are of a celebratory nature either for religious or political commemoration, and those held by women, which are a display of wealth and power, seem always to be an attempt at seduction of a desirable individual, and misappropriate state funds for personal gain, and the fact that this appears to remain true whether the text is fictional or historical in nature. Such a study could help to shed light on questions of power, identity, gender, and the importance of material culture to England as they are inscribed in these textual feasts. This work would be ably supported by medievalists specializing in Middle English romance and the insular literatures of Britain, and professors working in hagiography, historical chronicle, gender and postcolonial studies, and rhetoric, especially as concerns theories of food. I bring a wealth of experience recommending me as particularly suited to doctoral training, beginning with thirteen years of teaching in a variety of academic settings: at the middle school, high school and college levels, in special needs and advanced/AP courses, in urban and rural districts, and on public and private school campuses. Because of this, I am confident in my ability to communicate to students with widely disparate backgrounds. As a two-year fellow of the National Writing Project, I have also been trained to teach writing instruction to other teachers, and the teaching of writing skills is a particular strength of mine. In this capacity I could be a great resource for other English TAs newer to teaching than I am. In return, I would benefit enormously from watching and talking with university-level instructors, testing and refining my skills to become a professional educator well-prepared to teach at the college level. I am state-certified to teach both French and English. In my capacity as a state teacher, I followed an already-established curriculum aligned with the My State Standards of Learning. In my current position at a private school, I have written my entire curriculum, developing three programs of study from their inception. Originally hired to teach French, there were not enough language students to justify this as a full-time position, so I was offered the chance to teach other subjects. I chose Art History and English, influenced by the interdisciplinary work I did at W University during a year of master-level study. They needed a Latin course; I revisited my undergraduate notes and re-taught myself Latin, which I since have used for my scholarly work on medieval texts. My students in French, English and Art History have gone on to earn scores of 4 and 5 on the AP examination. I am confident in my ability to design and implement effective curriculum, and to approach this work from a variety of methods, including chronological and thematic survey, comparative textual approaches, and the subject- or author- specific seminar. As a doctoral student I would welcome the opportunity to try to restructure some of my courses for college students. I am especially eager to learn from experienced professors the differences between secondary and post-secondary instructional design and implementation. I publish and speak in my field regularly. In addition to an article in the Virginia English Bulletin based on my innovative approach to teaching classic literature at the high school level, I also have forthcoming in the MLA Approaches to Teaching Tolkien volume a chapter on teaching Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as well as signed articles in Brill’s Encyclopedia of Medieval PilgrimageEncyclopedia of Medieval Chronicle and the Facts on File Companion to Pre-1600 British Poetry, Companion to Literary Romanticism, and General Themes in Literature. I have presented papers at major conferences in my proposed field, including the Medieval Academy of America Graduate Student conference, the conference of the Southeastern Medieval Association and the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo. I have also organized sessions and this year will be a panel moderator. My publications and conference activity derive from the research and writing I have done in and for my classes, and I believe that this is the best approach to a life of scholarship: when research, teaching, writing and publication all are influenced, inspired and drawn one from the other. As a doctoral student, I will learn to refine my research and writing skills, honing them to an exceptional academic quality. I have prepared carefully for advanced work in my areas of interest. My language skills lend themselves well to comparative reading and research, and my especially strong background in French and more recent work in Latin are all but prerequisite in the study of English literature from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries, the post-Conquest to Middle English era in which I intend to specialize. Further, my work in Art History recommends me as a particularly strong candidate for doctoral study in medieval literature, where manuscript studies and the marriage of text and visual media and even substitution of visual media as text are the norm, rather than the exception. My long-standing fascination with the Matter of Britain has branched into the study of epic, romance, mythology and folklore in general, medieval chronicles, early modern texts (particularly Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene), the nineteenth century Gothic and Romantic movements, and the works of Moderns such as T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf , themselves highly influenced by medieval and early modern models; I have worked with twentieth century medievalism through the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and through Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain chronicles, which are modeled on the Welsh Mabinogion. This, in turn, led me to read widely in Celtic literatures. My work with Tolkien also led to my interests in the Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Icelandic traditions. All of these reading and research paths have contributed to the thematic studies in violence, kingship and outlawry, chivalry and courtliness, magic, monstrosity, identity, and gender studies, which comprise the majority of my scholarship and teaching. As an applicant to your program, my experience with such a broad range of genres and eras qualifies me as a student able to handle training in multiple and diverse literary traditions. As a doctoral student, my primary goal will be to refine my interests into a manageable – and marketable – program of research. With academic hiring as it currently stands, when I go on the job market as a medievalist, I will be expected to have a stated specialization and to bring an “and also” factor to the table. My background supports perfectly that need, and with further training in languages and the help of my advisors in selecting a set of courses and reading lists designed to strengthen and underscore my preparation in the sub-specialty areas of early modern literature and nineteenth and twentieth century medievalism, I believe I will be poised as a uniquely qualified and marketable candidate. I am aware that my final undergraduate GPA is lower than admissions committees generally like to see. Aside from its being thirteen years old and superseded by my 4.0 at the master’s level, this reflects neither my work ethic nor my academic ability. I transferred two years in with a 3.3 GPA. I worked full time and commuted 40 minutes each way daily to offset the costs of transferring programs. My job at a Famous Tourist City tavern entailed a simple scheduling policy for students at the College: we submitted our course schedules at the beginning of the term, and the headwaiter scheduled us for every full shift during which we were not in class. Between that and the commute, I physically did not have the time to get the reading and research done; my strong work ethic broached no dropping of courses or asking for extensions. However, I learned from the mistakes I made overextending myself as an undergraduate how to balance work and life and what my limits are, and I believe that everything I have done since then recommends me as a student of clear passion and potential, one well-prepared for the challenges of doctoral-level work and a subsequent career as a college professor. From the first, I consciously set out to become the most skilled and most knowledgeable teacher I could be. Over time, this has unconsciously shaped my career along a path I never could have foreseen thirteen years ago. I chose to be a secondary school teacher before I knew what academia truly could be for me. Because of the force of my desire to know, to research and teach and to write and dialogue about what I research and teach, I have become a strange hybrid – a secondary school teacher performing many of the functions of a college professor. While I have already begun in many ways to live the life of a professional academic, I feel that I began it too much in medias res. It is time to take a step backward in order to move forward with the proper advanced training for the life I am striving to live. I sincerely hope that you will afford me that opportunity. [1] Sarah Alison Miller, Medieval Monstrosity and the Female Body, Routledge, 2010; Dana Oswald, Monsters, Gender and Sexuality in Medieval English Literature, Boydell and Brewer, 2010. And there it is. With a little shift in language here and there, and the flip-flopping of the research and teaching statements, this is the document that got me the fully-funded admissions offer, as well as a number of individual emails from professors in the department telling me how impressed they were with this statement. It's long, but it's specific, scholarly, professional AND personal and, most importantly, it's mine, and one no one else could have written it. I did apply to schools that did not have a limit for how long the SOP could be, and my final statement was two and a half pages long. BUT, I think you can see that in fact, if I cut anything else out of it it would not have been an adequate expression of who I am, where I am, how I got there and where I am going. I think it is also CLEAR that a statement of purpose takes a lot of hard work and effort. Mine went through six full drafts, three of them commented on and critiqued by three or more professors, before I wrote one I could live with and that I thought really said what I needed and wanted to say. I hope this is helpful to those who are in the application process still, and that it gives you some ideas and insight into the process of writing an effective statement of purpose. Please do just remember that stealing another person's ideas without his or her permission or knowledge is verboten in academia, and that I am posting this for you to consult and learn from, not to cut and paste from. Also remember this is ONE successful statement of purpose, out of hundreds if not thousands, all of which are different. This is not THE example of a successful statement, it is just A statement that was successful.
  25. 8 points
    Hi Everyone! I am a first year student in the biomedical sciences studying molecular and cellular biology, so I went through the whole application and interview process, last year! I was not able to start my blog at that time because I was also frantically trying to recover some samples I lost in a crashed freezer and also generating my thesis at the same time (a story for another time). I am mid-way through my first year of my PhD studies, am completing laboratory rotations, and will be doing my qualifying exam in about 8 months. 6 months ago, I had just defended my M.S. Thesis and was preparing to move. It is simply amazing how much your life can change in half of a year. You may look at my post and wonder why I am here and writing this blog entry. There were a ton of things that I was not told during my application process, and I want to be around to try to answer some of those questions for this years' applicants. I want those of you in the life sciences to feel free to ask me questions. They can be about applications, your SOP or Research Statements, interviews, what to wear, etc. Feel free to ask me about things I might not have mentioned about my applications or about things you will do in your first year, such as lab rotations. I will address these questions in future blog entries and fill in things I remember about the application process as we go. This will probably have a mostly biomedical sciences slant, but may be helpful to others as well. Right now, many of you have submitted your early-deadline applications and are freaking out about those that you have already submitted and also those you have yet to submit. Maybe some of you have heard back about interviews, already? This is the calm before the storm of interviews and frantic last things that will occur this spring. Make sure you take some time around this holiday season to relax and escape from the application frenzy for a little while. Since this is my introduction post, I feel like I can't offer much more advice than that. The rest of this post will include some information about me so that you know my background. I'm from a very rural area and I also went to an undergraduate institution that was almost equally as rural on an academic scholarship with a Microbiology major. Starting my very first term of undergrad, I volunteered in a laboratory doing phylogenetics research under a zoologist, but by the end of my sophomore year, I joined a molecular physiology lab. There, I realized that molecular biology was my true passion. Though it was too late to change my major by that point, I knew that I wanted to pursue that route. Despite knowing over 20 lab protocols, I was worried that graduate programs would look down on my Microbiology degree since I was interested in eukaryotic cellular physiology, so I stayed on in that laboratory for a funded Master of Science. My research interests lie in gene regulation, particularly at a transcriptional level, as well as epigenetics and autoimmunity. Now for the stuff you really care about, the stats! I'm borrowing the format from the 2014 Biology Applicants thread: Undergrad Institution: Public Research Institution, probably medium funding, very rural Major(s): Microbiology Minor(s): Chemistry/Psychology Overall GPA: 3.68 Position in Class: Top 25% Master's Institution: Same place, but within the School of Medicine Concentration: Cell and Molecular Physiology GPA: 3.61 Type of Student: Domestic Female GRE Scores (revised version): All were right about 75th percentile at application. Q: 156 V: 157 AW: 4.5 Research Experience: 6 years research experience within my university, 4 years undergrad, 2 years masters. Experience generating transgenic mouse lines, generating primary cell lines, RNA extractions, DNA extractions, genotyping, PCR, Chromatin IP, bacterial culture, etc. Awards/Honors/Recognitions: I have excluded all but the most important, including my undergraduate scholarship, which was academic in nature and covered tuition, room and board for my undergrad. I also was active in the Honors Program and was selected to travel to China as a student ambassador. I also received 4 small research grants during my undergrad (and 2 during my masters) and placed within the top 4 presenters at each of the 4 research forums I attended. Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Student Tutor for all 6 years, Teaching Assistant for 2. I also participated in science outreach to local schools as a supplement to their educational program. I would show up, teach them how to run PCR and a gel, and we would have all sorts of fun. Special Bonus Points: I was very well known on campus through involvement in various science-related groups and the honors program, but also the marching band and pep band (clarinet and trumpet for the win!). My research experience also sets me apart because we literally did not use kits for our experiments. If I wanted some DNA to genotype, I did a phenol:chloroform extraction. I'm easily able to adapt and trouble-shoot many different types of experiments, so this makes me a little more versatile for the places I applied to. I also ran a transgenic mouse colony for 4 years, which is a lot more complicated than it sounds. When I interviewed, my lab skills and mouse work were frequently brought up as something immensely positive. Applied to Where: I applied to programs that I felt would be interdisciplinary in nature because I did not want to be limited to a specific area. My two degrees also make me an interdisciplinary student, so I felt that my chances would be better at such institutions. I looked for places that had a large variety of research interests as well as things that fit my own interests and pushed my research skills as one of my biggest assets. My Application Concerns: My GRE scores and GPA were not stellar, and I was a little worried that my undergrad degree and the change of fields for my MS might raise some questions. However, I had research experience going for me, and I really banked on that. Results: I applied to 6 institutions. I was flat-out rejected from two, one of which I had a typo (the wrong schools' name in my SOP) and the other had hundreds of applicants for 3 spots. I was initially wait-listed at one school and invited to interview at three. After interviewing at my top two choices, I knew which I wanted to attend and declined the third interview. The "wait-listed" school later contacted me for an interview, which I declined.
  26. 8 points
    Post-op update at present is the best possible news for a cancer diagnosis - the lumpectomy went VERY well, they found NO visual signs of cancer in any of the lymph nodes or in the surrounding tissue, although the pathologist will have to confirm that. I will go in Thursday for those results and then we will talk radiation. Chemo is currently not on the table yet. I have Vicoden. We are Good To Go. Hang in there - we got this. Also, just 'cause I was feeling feisty and oh! so badass, so, I made my sister (drove down to be with me since DH had to work) take me to the local coffee shop for a grande soy latte, we swung by to pick up the girls from daycare, and then we all headed over to the local specialty cafe for gelato prior to coming home. Just to let the cancer know who it was trying to screw with. Now I will be good and go lie down, because it actually does hurt like a mother... Unfortunately, we got home too late to gt a hold of anyone at UNC-G, but I left a message on Dr. Dowd's phone to call me at her convenience. I just don't want to email this one, it seems bad form.
  27. 8 points

    An Interesting Conversation

    Today I spoke with the POI from one of my top choices, if not my top choice, by Skype. I would have loved to have heard right off the bat, 'We're going to accept you', while I feared that it would have been an inquisition that would determine whether or not I got accepted. Needless to say, I was nervous The talk, and I'll say 'talk' rather than 'interview', was a lot closer to the former than the latter, with the POI telling me at the end that he was 'confident' that I would receive an offer later this week. I'm guessing this means that I've been recommended for admission and that the offer just needs to be approved by the grad school - that's a fair assumption, right? The chat lasted about 30 mins and we talked about his interests and mine and how they overlap. He also gave me the opportunity to ask him questions, and I asked him about a couple projects that he is working on that I'm interested in. I also made sure to point out that I'd met one of his grad students at the conference I was at in December and worked in a mention of the paper that student presented on. He also asked if I like programming and about my mathematical background - nothing specific or technical, he just wanted to make sure I didn't have a fear of Maths, as he put it. He also repeatedly made it clear that all PhD students are guaranteed funding for 5 years - it almost seemed like he was trying to convince me that this school would be a great place to go to (as if I needed any convincing). Since I'm from a tropical country, he made a joke about the winters at this place and asked how interested I'd be in coming - seemingly gauging my interest in attending. He also described the process to getting a PhD, in that there'd be coursework for 2 semesters and I'd be expected to start research by next summer. I asked if it would be possible to start research earlier and he said I could start from day 1 if I knew what I wanted to do right away. He explained that once I was admitted I would be free to choose any advisor I wanted, but also said that I could contact him before the fall for reading material or any advice I wanted. While pointing out the importance of selecting the right advisor, he made the analogy that is often made here, that selecting an advisor is like getting married to someone, since you're going to be working closely with them for several years. Somewhere along the conversation he switched saying 'if you get an offer' in describing the process to 'when you get an offer'. Then at the end he told me I should look out for the offer later this week since he was confident that I'd get one. I'm thrilled at the prospect of attending this school and I'm eagerly awaiting the official offer. UPDATE (Feb 16): I received an email today saying I've been recommended for admission with funding at this school. An hour later, I received another email of admission with funding from another school I applied to. I'm living a dream.
  28. 7 points
    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?
  29. 7 points

    One was Enough

    After being on this site for a while, I realized that applying to just one school made me one of the few, the proud, the...naive? I felt confident about me decision until I logged on here and realized people were applying to 4..5..14!? schools. And I started thinking I might have screwed myself. But then the news came -- I was accepted! To say I was elated would be an understatement. To keep what could be a long story short: No, I don't advise just applying to one school even though it worked out to me, it's always nice to have a backup plan. But if just one school gets your blood flowing, you think it'd be a fantastic fit, and you realistically think you could get in, go for it! Don't let other people psych you out. You know you better than anyone else and this is your process and yours alone. One was enough for me and I couldn't be happier with that decision.
  30. 7 points
    Tall Chai Latte

    4th year

    It's been a while since I blogged on the gradcafe. Last time I blogged, I was in the midst of the never-ending rotation streak, and it felt like I would never manage to land anywhere in the program. My program is an umbrella program, I rotated through FOUR DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS! Well, I did find a lab home to stay, passed my prelim and became a candidate, and now arrived in the middle of my fourth year. Many research-related ups and downs happened, projects initiated and terminated, and time went by really fast -- It only seemed yesterday that I was fretting over how to find an advisor at all. Over Christmas break, I spent a lot of time preparing application material for a very prestigious university fellowship, as my boss suddenly decided to nominate me for it. I asked around for advice, and the advice I was given was this: don't worry about it too much, whether you win or not all depends on your advisor. If your advisor is a bigwig, then you have bigger chance of winning it. I have long heard about these "unspoken rules" as disadvantage of working with a junior faculty (my boss is relatively junior in the department). I didn't believe it completely at first until I read the personal statements from the past year winners, then I realized how slim my chance would be at winning this thing. But still, my boss nominated me, and the department agreed to send my application out to Fellowship Office. The secretary was on my back about having everything ready to be submitted by a certain date. My boss tried to spin things in a positive light, by stating how it'll be a great exercise and that my efforts count, simultaneously being critical on my written statement. I didn't want to do it but still being dragged through the whole process, with a very slim chance of getting anything in return. I finished writing the personal statement at the last moment, and then I was eventually rejected. I was pretty bummed about this outcome -- why do it while you know you don't stand a chance? I could have relaxed over Christmas, but instead I was fretting over this thing. Moreover, the rejection letter was totally unhelpful. It didn't come with any feedbacks or comments on the overall application. How would I know what to do if I want to apply again next year? Even R01 rejections give you a score and some comments on your grant proposal! Well, better go focus on other things.
  31. 7 points
    My apps are better than good - they're done. nearly My writing sample is solid! My SOP sets me apart! Everyone likes me in the GradCafe chatroom! This overwhelming doubt and second guessing (do I really want to specialize in anything? why can't I just drink coffee and talk big theories with neck bearded folks at the local coffee shop) will fade away. It's not a matter of IF I get accepted it is only a matter of WHEN. I won't lose friends. Relationships won't deteriorate. At least I can play the guitar. I'll get in - I'm personable, intelligent, hardworking, lucky. I'm lucky. WHEW! it sure feels good to admit these.
  32. 6 points
    Hey everyone, I wanted to start my blog off with a basic intro to the statement of purpose and the steps you can take to start your first draft. I'm an admissions reader and former writing consultant and love helping folks write better essays. By no means am I a writing expert, but I've read 1000s of personal statements/ SOPs and worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients on their college essays and applications and I just like helping folks craft better essays for their college applications. So, here we go! The statement of purpose, or what I like to refer to as the cover letter essay because of its similar structure, is generally used for graduate school applications and focuses much more on describing the skills, experiences and education that has prepared you for the program you’re applying to than a personal statement for undergrad would--mostly because when entering grad school you usually have a much better grasp on what your career path will be. Its main purpose concentrates less on developing a story-like narrative about your personal attributes and more on explicitly communicating the qualities that make you a perfect candidate for the particular field of study you're applying to. Ideally, the statement of purpose should convey your genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the program of study you’re pursuing, and what you have done in the past to nurture that passion. There are many topics you can choose for your SOP, but ultimately colleges want to see you answer 3 questions: why you, why us, and why now. Here are 4 steps to get you started on answering those questions and drafting your statement of purpose. 1. Start off your statement of purpose by describing your motivations for applying to the particular grad school program and how earning a grad degree fits in with your broader academic and personal goals. 2. Next, you should communicate the subjects you’ve studied, previous jobs you’ve held, and relevant skills and certifications you’ve obtained that prepare you for the curriculum or program of study. This is the part where you really get to brag on yourself in discussing your relevant qualifications and unique skill set that ideally prepare you for success in the field you’ve chosen. 3. Follow that up by communicating your interest in attending the particular university you’re applying to. It’s important to articulate why you’re choosing X school or Y program at every level of education. As an example, you might state your interest in working with Prof. Baker, who is an expert in 18th-century archeological preservation techniques - the only one in the field. Admissions officers and committee members want to know that you did your research and have a compelling and personal reason for wanting to attend their institution. In this section, be sure to also include statements about what you can bring to the university’s campus and how you will contribute to the prevailing culture of the college. 4. Lastly, don’t forget to include in your statement what attributes and traits make you special because, yes, it matters to admissions committees what kind of person you are and student you will be. As an example, you could focus on describing the parts of your personality that demonstrate your ability to learn and think as well as your desire to collaborate and communicate effectively as a student-scholar. Colleges want to know that you possess the traits that will contribute to both your growth and the betterment of the university community. One of the important things to remember is that the best way to communicate your traits is to use an anecdote or experience from your past, that shows rather than tells what makes you a top candidate. No matter what, remember to be authentic and your uniqueness will shine through in your statement of purpose. Otherwise, follow these 4 steps and you’ll be on your way to writing an effective statement of purpose.
  33. 6 points
    Monochrome Spring

    My GRE Experience

    Disclaimer 1: The information I have on how admissions committees use GRE scores is entirely based on information I received from professors at the universities and departments that I am applying to. This can also be field specific. Please take this information with a grain of salt and inquire at your own prospective programs for more information. Remember that GRE scores are nowhere close to the most important part of your application, and many programs don't use them beyond a cutoff or correlations with GPA. Admissions: GRE scores are primarily used, in conjunction with GPA, to weed out the lower end of applicants from the pool. This does not mean that low GRE scores will immediately disqualify you from a program, however. Committees take a holistic view. If you have another outstanding aspect of your application (e.g. letters of recommendation or publications), low GRE scores may not take you out of the running. But if you already have a weak application, low GRE scores may cut you from the pool. Only one school I looked at had a GRE cutoff listed on the website (70th percentile in all sections). I've heard that the verbal section matters more for humanities and social sciences, and the quantitative section matters more for the natural sciences, but I approached the test believing that both are equally important. I don't subscribe to the idea that social sciences and humanities don't need to be good at math, and that natural sciences don't need to be good at reading/writing. Of course, ask your programs if they weigh each section differently, but I approached this blog post with the idea that all sections are of equal importance. Department Fellowships: GRE scores are also used as one of many factors that can qualify you for a competitive departmental fellowship. Nominations are made based on a variety of factors, including GRE, GPA, publications, letters of recommendation, and prior professor contact. Then, nominees are interviewed and final decisions are made. The professors I talked to told me that competitive GRE scores for their specific programs start at 80th percentile in every section, but the average is much closer to 90th percentile. So I set that as my goal when I was studying. Disclaimer 2: Going into my GRE preparations, I was already relatively good at the verbal, quantitative, and writing sections. My approach to studying was not to learn new material. It was to refresh the material that I had already learned, since GRE math is mostly high-school level, verbal is common of higher reading levels, and writing is in one of the simpler formats. Remember that everyone is coming into GRE preparation with different levels of schooling, different learning styles, and different life circumstances. I'm merely sharing what I did with the circumstances that I had. I think that the study methods I describe below are best suited for those who know the material, but need more practice to get to the higher score ranges. Adjust your own study methods as you see fit. How I studied for verbal: I primarily used Magoosh to study. I watched the verbal video tutorials and took notes throughout to make sure that I retained the tips, but I didn't do any practice questions. Most of the tutorials were on how to approach the questions. I found that the hardest part of the verbal was figuring out what the question was asking and identifying the trick answers. Comprehension for the reading passages comes with practice. The only thing I can say that helped with that was being an avid reader of both fiction and academic journals. For vocabulary, I only used the free vocabulary book (see below) from Magoosh. Again, being an avid reader, my vocabulary already included many of the words on the test. How I studied for quantitative: Again, I primarily used Magoosh to study. I didn't watch the video tutorials, but I did read through the free equations book (see below). I didn't try to "memorize" these; instead, I tried to understand each one and how they might be used. All of these equations were from high-school level math, but I had forgotten their applications for standardized tests. When I did the practice questions from Magoosh, I used the custom settings to start with only medium-level questions. Once I had finished all of those, I went on to only hard-level questions. Then I went to only very-hard level questions, until I had finished all of the ones that Magoosh offered. How I studied for analytical writing: To study for the writing portion, I read through the sample essays on the ETS GRE website, as well as the reviews for each one. I focused on reading through the two essays that scored 6 and 5, breaking each one apart and thinking about the structure of each. Mostly, I focused on figuring out how my essay would be structured, since the GRE prefers a "formula" of sorts. Essentially, if you stick to the 5-paragraph format that you learned in gradeschool, you'll be good. Don't try to be profound or sound smarter than you are. Just stick to the basic format and make sure that your examples all relate to the prompt and that you writing flows clearly. Other study materials: I didn't use any study books, like ETS, Princeton, Barrons, or Kaplan. I did use the Manhattan 5lb Book for quantitative, but I got tired of it after one chapter. Magoosh better suited my study needs and was more adaptive to my learning style. If you can afford it, I would recommend getting Magoosh, instead of buying multiple books. My practice scores: Powerprep Test 1: V 158 / Q 160 Powerprep Test 2: V 160 / Q 160 Magoosh Predicted Score Range: Q 155-160 (No V) Test day: I'm going to be a hypocrite and say don't freak out on test day. But I did exactly that. Since you can't stop some of the subconscious anxiety that will come up, just do everything that you can to not elevate it. Don't drink coffee right before the test, because you'll get jittery and need to pee every five minutes. Make sure to eat a good breakfast or lunch (I had a subway sandwich and some juice). Don't do anything out of the ordinary, like pull an all-nighter or join a pie-eating contest right before the test. Also, I have heard too many stories about anxiety ending up in lower-than-expected scores on test day. Anxiety can make or break your test, regardless of how much you study. So, try as hard as you can to not let it get the best of you. When I took the test, the office I went into had four main rooms: the waiting room with lockers, the check-in/security room, and two testing rooms. I left everything, including water, in the lockers in the waiting room before I went to the check-in area. There, I had to have my picture taken, show my I.D., give my signature, turn my pockets out, and get waved down with a metal detector. Then I was taken to a computer that the assistants set up specifically for me. Whenever I wanted to take a break, whether it was scheduled in the test or not, I had to go through the entire procedure again. The actual testing area was pretty nice. I had a padded swivel-chair, so I took off my shoes and sat cross-legged to be comfortable. I was provided with a few sheets of scratch paper and pencils, as well. Test format: In order to get used to the testing format of the computer-based GRE, I highly recommend taking the ETS Powerprep Tests, which are available for free via the ETS GRE website. The test will begin with the two writing sections: issue and argument. Read more about the format and question types here and here. You are given 30 minutes for each essay, including the time to read the prompt. You cannot use standard shortcuts like ctrl+v; you have to use the buttons at the top of the screen. You also cannot use the "find" function. The hardest part is the the program will not autocorrect your misspelled words, and it will not underline your bad sentence structure. This means that you will need to pay close attention to common mistakes like "teh" instead of "the". Then you will get either a verbal or quantitative section. You are given 30 minutes to complete 20 questions for each section. The first sections for verbal and quantitative will be "medium" difficulty. Depending on how you do in these first sections, the second section for each, verbal and quantitative, will either be "easy", "medium", or "hard"; this is because the test is adaptive by section. You cannot get a top score without advancing to the "hard" section in the second half. For each of the second sections for verbal and quantitative, you are given 35 minutes to complete 20 questions. Read more about test format here, verbal here, and quantitative here. Halfway through the test, you will get a 10 minute break to walk around, stretch, go to the restroom, get a snack, etc. You can also take a break at any time throughout your test. I took a 5 minute break after my second essay to stretch and take deep breaths to relax, so don't be afraid to take more time if you need to. Just remember that any unscheduled breaks are eating into your allocated test time for that section. At some point during your test, you will get a non-graded extra section of either verbal or quantitative. You will not know which section is your non-graded section, so treat all of the questions that you encounter for any section as if they are all graded. My actual scores: Verbal 164 (93rd percentile) Quantitative 164 (89th percentile) Analytical Writing 5.5 (97th percentile) Free resources: These resources are in addition to those already available through the ETS GRE website. Magoosh Vocabulary Flashcards Magoosh Vocabulary e-Book Magoosh Math Formula e-Book If there is anything that I didn't address here, leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
  34. 6 points

    What If??

    I bet that right now, there are about a million "What if??" questions running through every one of our brains... But the scariest one is "What if I don't get in?" I'll speak for myself-- that seems to be all I can think about lately. A couple of days ago, I made myself write out a Plan B (which started off seriously: "look into MS programs, studying/traveling abroad" but then it became... slightly crazed: "move to hippie farm, join convent"). It helped my anxiety a lot... for a couple of hours... But what we all have to remember is that we'll be okay, no matter what the outcome of this admissions cycle! I'm sure that not all of you believe that "everything happens for a reason", but with grad school applications, I think everything does happen for a reason. If we don't get in to any grad programs this admissions cycle, we have many years ahead of us to pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, improve our applications, and try again. Okay, so... me. This is my second time applying to grad school. Of the seven schools I applied to last fall, I was accepted to my two "safety schools" for PhD programs in biomedical sciences, but after some thoughtful deliberation, I decided not to attend either of those schools. Why? Because I wasn't sure I'd be happy at those places, and I knew that would hinder my success. [Second-time applicant's tip #1: only apply to schools you want to attend. Applying to grad school isn't like applying to college; you shouldn't have a "safety school" unless you could see yourself feeling happy and fulfilled if you went there.] [Second-time applicant's tip #2: Find MULTIPLE faculty members with whom you're interested in working at the schools to which you apply. You don't want to find yourself at a school where you're only interested in working with one faculty member and then they don't have the funding/ space to mentor you.] Last spring I was terrified of turning down PhD offers because it meant that I would be staying in my job as a research tech for another year when I had been already been working there since my sophomore year of college and for the year since I graduated and I felt ready to move on. It also scared me because I knew that only applying to schools that I wanted to go to was a gamble; they were, by and large "better" schools, and there was always the possibility that I wouldn't get in anywhere in my reapplications. But I took a deep breath, and went with my gut feeling. I have the better part of a year to improve my application, I told myself, I'll get in somewhere... right? Now I am so happy that I decided to take that second year off. Over the past year, my work in the lab has gone very well-- I presented my projects at one international conference and at several smaller conferences, I got some major work done on some projects that I wouldn't have been able to finish if I had gone to school in the fall, and I acquired more skills that will leave me with that much less to learn in grad school. Equally importantly, my additional year off has also given me the opportunity to reexamine my application. I met with a member of the admissions committee at my university who was kind enough to go over the shortcomings of my application, and find the places where I could have presented myself a bit better. [Second-time applicant's tip #3: Always address the elephant in the room (bad grades, lack of research experience, etc). I had some extenuating circumstances that explained some poor academic performance, but last year I was too embarrassed to address the issue in my personal statement-- big mistake. Explain your situation gracefully and it may help you.] All in all, I feel like I have significantly more control this time around-- I know what factors I want in a school, I know how I can improve my application (apply early, revise SOP, retake the GRE, replace one recommendation writer, apply to different schools, etc), and perhaps most importantly, I have that extra motivation to get there, which is clear in my applications. And it's all because I've had the better part of a year to think, plan, and execute. So for all of us who are freaking out right now, remember: Not getting in (or taking an extra year to re-apply to schools you would prefer) is a blessing in disguise. If we aren't accepted this time around, our lives will most certainly NOT be over. That's especially true for those of you still in undergrad... I tell all of my undergrad friends not to go straight to grad school-- for the love of all that is good, take some time off! Grad school is long enough, and you don't have to be in a rush to get there. It's better to make such an important decision with slow and careful deliberation. -> PM ME IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE! I'll keep posting here, but if you want to know things like my GPA, etc, let me know!
  35. 6 points

    I found an apartment!

    and it accepts ALL my fur babies! It's within walking distance to campus, comes furnished, and includes parking. I went to Boston last week for my school's open house and to check out potential housing. I only saw a couple of places, and I'm glad that one of the places ended up working out. I signed the lease and submitted the security deposit/last month's rent, so everything is looking good. That's one less thing to worry about. =) Also, Boston is amazing. I love it. I am in love with my program, my cohort, and just everything. I'm seriously so excited.
  36. 6 points

    And now we wait

    I realize it's been some time since my last post, but there really wasn't anything exciting to write about until recently. So now I'm in that never-ending waiting period. Every day I find myself staring at my phone, demanding the email notification light to start blinking. And then it does, and I think, "wow, it really worked!". Until I read the email, which has nothing to do with my applications, and 9 times out of 10 is something I couldn't care less about. So then I sit at my desk annoyed at that email, and start the email-light demanding cycle over again. It's usually then that I make myself do something productive which works for a good 5-10 minutes until I find myself staring at my phone again. Apparently, I have developed the attention span of a goldfish. Of course, every so often I do hear something positive. Now, you would think that hearing something would help squelch the anxiety I feel towards my other programs, right? Oh no, actually it makes it worse! It's almost like some twisted gambler's fallacy, if one school tells me something, well then the others have to as well! So if I hear something from School A on Monday, well then Schools B-H will definitely tell me something Tuesday. And if not Tuesday, then Wednesday, and so forth. And yes, I realize the lack of logic there, and I've tried to tell myself that. But have you ever had an argument with yourself? Mine never end well. In fact, they usually end with me staring at my phone... So at this point, I've had one in-person interview (School A), one phone interview (School B.) and I'm officially waitlisted at another school (School C). So that's 3 out of 8 programs, with no word from the rest. I think I might be waitlisted at School D, but I'm not sure yet. From what I've been told from the schools I have heard from, if there is anything positive coming my way I should hear back from School B in the next few days (for an in-person interview invite) and School A should be making admissions decisions early next week. From my experience, School C has a long waitlist so it's hard to say where I stand there if they even get to the waitlist (they didn't last year). So for now my hope is on Schools A & B. I thought that knowing when I would hear back would be helpful, but I don't know if it is. I mean I guess it is in a way since I know when to expect it, but at the same time I feel like a little kid waiting for Santa to come. Except that I don't know if I'm getting a present, or if Santa will give me a lump of coal sometime later. I know it's only 1 more week. I already waited 1.5 weeks for School A (plus 6 weeks), I can wait another week. At least that is what I keep telling myself. I also made a decision that if I got an interview I would only tell a select group of people (less than 5 total). I thought that would help because then I wouldn't have a lot of people asking details about the interview...which just leads to questions about all the other programs to which I applied. Also, then you don't have 20 people giving you advice about the interview. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from perfect, and I am more than willing to ask others for advice. However, I like to do it on my own terms, and ask the people I trust, and know how graduate school interviews work. Hearing about how interviews work at your place of employment probably will not help me at X University. I've done a good job keeping this all quiet, but it is much harder than I thought it would be! After my phone interview yesterday all I wanted to do was tell someone...anyone...fine, everyone how it went. Once I get in somewhere I'll probably share interview details (if there are any at that point) with anyone who asks, I'm just hoping that day comes soon.
  37. 6 points

    First Acceptance!!!

    I got my first acceptance in the mail today! I was going through the mail today and there was a letter from Indiana University. It was an acceptance letter! Words cannot express how happy I am that I got accepted. Not that I got accepted to Indiana, per se, but that I got accepted. Huzzah! I was so worried that nobody would accept me, especially after a fiasco with one of my recommenders. For you non-History majors, I had the lovely experience of getting to read one of my letters that had gotten sent to all of my US applications. In the letter, the recommender said I was good at cleaning and not good at original historical research. It was definitely a blow to my confidence. So to get a letter from Indiana saying "We want you." (Well, I have no idea how much they want me because financial aid is a separate process) made me feel more confident in what I am doing and that the one letter didn't damn me. Also, I'm happy that I got my first acceptance over with. It makes me less anxious about the other schools knowing I have at least one school I can go to. Definitely, definitely happy about this! For everyone still waiting, keep hope! And don't obsessively check your email. But make sure to check your snail mail!
  38. 6 points

    One Of Us Can't Be Wrong...

    In the desolate wasteland that rapidly revealed itself to me post-application season, I have found that there seem to be two me's. One is full of confidence, brimming with positivity, a proponent of positive visualisation* who can not only imagine himself tearing open the acceptance letter(s) but can even taste it. The other is wary and on edge yet staunchly assured that in a few months time, he will wake up to yet a few more rejection letters to add to the string of ones he received in previous application cycles and be left with nothing but soul-sucking contingency plans and a yawning purgatory. One of us can't be wrong. The first me is convinced that the massive effort and endurance that I have mustered in the past couple of months (to learn everything from the American college system, to what a GRE is, to what a proper SOP looks like) must bear some sweet fruit. Most East Asian cultures do not see hard work as some sort of point of pride or something to attain: it is merely a reality in the struggle for survival. Everywhere I have traveled in East and South East Asia I have encountered this reality; indeed, I need look no further than the weathered faces staring back at me over the kitchen table most nights. Although this cultural reality has become the butt of many jokes for spoiled second or third (etc.) generations of Asians in North America as well as their entitled white friends, it is undeniably in the back of most of our minds. I never thought that it sunk it deep enough for me, thus the years of what some may call "slacking" or what I would rather call daydreaming, but hey, what's bred in the bone... Now that I've snapped myself out of this reverie, I have to believe for my sake that this hard work will pay off. I have to believe that one of us can't be wrong and I'm hoping it's the first guy. *The story behind this is that I attended a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in the woods and at the end of it, met a hippie girl from Germany who had run away from home and described how positive visualisation had allowed her to hitchhike across Canada in the dead of winter with no jacket or sleeping bag but purely on the goodwill of strangers. I think it may be no coincidence that she ended up at this retreat, which was free of charge, fed you two meals a day for 10 days and gave you a warm bed to sleep but I digress...
  39. 5 points

    Everything is happening so fast

    So now it's hit me - this is for real. I'm moving across the country to study at HARVARD. If someone had told me this when I was a kid, I wouldn't have believed me. I was still in my mother's womb when she came to this country. We lived out of a car and in crummy motels. I even lived in foster care for a bit. I never would have thought someone from my background would achieve something like this. I'm excited - no doubt about that - but I'm also starting to stress out. I am receiving some financial aid, which I am grateful for - but I'm still going to have to take out some loans to cover living expenses and whatnot. I'm also stressing out about the move there - are we going to be able to find a place that accepts 3 animals (turns out my mom can't watch my cat after all)? How is the move going to be on them? How will we even secure housing from over here? Do we have someone do it on our behalf? SO MANY QUESTIONS. My boyfriend's parents invited us to stay with them during the summer so we can save up some money by not spending it on rent, which is awesome. The only thing is their place will already be a full house with five dogs, and my boyfriend's mom is allergic to cats. Now I'm frantically trying to find someone in the LA who can watch my cat during the summer. (if anyone out there can help, let me know!) I'm going to the open house events this week so that will give me an idea of what Boston is like, and maybe I'll be able to talk to people who can point me in the right direction. I know things will work out in the end, but I wish I had an answer to these things already. Anyone who has done cross country moves....your advice is much appreciated!
  40. 5 points

    I've joined the ranks

    Today I joined the ranks of the many wonderful people who have been rejected from a school. We plenty, we miserable plenty, we band of rejects; For y’all today that sheds your tears with me Shall be my peer; be us ne’er so naive, This day shall gentle our condition; And the accepted in programs now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their research cheap whiles any speaks That w‘er rejected with us upon Saint Valentine’s day.
  41. 5 points
    Hi Bunnies, After spending all my free time in my sketchbook for the last week (as well as splurging with Avengers tonight, weee) I thought I should take a few moments off and try to write down some thoughts on grad school. Since I've been bad at blogging lately, I should try to rectify my lapse with at least some thoughtful words. You people, man. You're all so smart, driven, and accomplished. Overcoming all sorts of feats, earning all sorts of accolades, so well versed and talented. And in all honesty, it is intimidating. Personally, I feel like I haven't really experienced the rest of the "field" before stumbling upon GradCafe. As a wee little undergrad, I was thrown into a world of astoundingly smart people. However, I was more exposed to computer scientists and mechanical engineers than other biology majors. This made it hard to gauge myself against my peers. College also encouraged collaboration and solidarity by snubbing the "summa cum laude" title and making p-sets so hard that you usually could not solve every question without working it out with others. Being out of school for a few years doesn't help matters much either. Comparison to peers just.. never really went down for me. When it's your first go at the grad app grind and you don't have a good gauge of the field, you go to sites like these and see a mess of people with higher scores and more interview invites than you can imagine. Fellow applicants post their scores in threads, on the results pages, in signatures. You find yourself comparing scores of applicants to your programs of interest and seeing if your own manage to make the cut, and it gets damned dehumanizing. For people like me, this site was really scary.. at least at first. However, word on the street is that the stats people post on GradCafe are skewed from the average--people with better scores tend to be more confident in posting their wares. After some time and some talking and interaction, you find that people here want to advise, support, and inform. It's the best. And the few instances I've seen of blatant arrogance have been quickly shot down as inappropriate, which is awesome too. All in all, I guess I would just like to say: shine on, you crazy diamonds.
  42. 5 points


    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.
  43. 5 points
    After a (relatively) long absence, I'm back! This past week has marked the beginning of decision season for me. The week before that was frustrating and a bit depressing, which is one of many reasons I did not do my weekly update last weekend. Several UC Berkeley History decisions were posted on this site around Friday, January 25th, and - knowing the general pattern of admissions/rejections for the school, via Gradcafe's results search page - I began to despair of my chances there. By last Monday, I was in a pretty foul mood (my friends and parents are saints for putting up with my constant anxiety!), and convinced that because Berkeley apparently did not want me, none of the other schools would either. Consider me a cautionary tale of the dangers of Gradcafe addiction! I was on the verge of cutting myself off from this site entirely - going cold turkey, as it were - by the middle of the week, when yet more days had gone by without a word from any school. I had begun second-guessing everything about my applications and email/phone interactions with professors. Even with POIs I felt I had made a real connection with, and who had been undoubtedly enthusiastic about my application, I started imagining that maybe they had just been stringing me along...or that something had gone horribly wrong with my applications - like that maybe all my recommenders expressed their secretly-harbored beliefs that I'm an idiot imposter who doesn't belong in a graduate program. My imagination went completely (and horribly!) wild! Thankfully, I was mistaken! Right in the middle of my super long day on campus (Thursday), I happened to check my email as I was walking to class...and, lo and behold, my inbox presented me with a lovely email from my POI at UNC Chapel Hill, giving me the unofficial notice that I was accepted to the PhD program there with guaranteed funding for five years! Without exaggerating, this was one of the happiest moments in my life. I called my mom and dad immediately, and have been celebrating ever since! I don't remember anything from my classes that evening - it was so hard not to sit there day-dreaming and grinning like a fool! Hopefully, none of my professors noticed... One thing I DO remember from that evening of euphoria, however, is that I finally heard back from Berkeley that night. Thank goodness my UNC acceptance had come earlier that day because I did, indeed, get rejected from Berkeley. (I haven't heard anything from the other 8 programs I applied to.) I can only imagine how depressed I would be feeling right now if Berkeley had rejected me without my having an admission from another school, and I'm really feeling for everyone still waiting. Try to hang in there - I'm sending you all my good luck vibes, and hoping that great news is around the corner for all of you! With an option in hand, I'm happy to say I can finally sleep properly, check my email a reasonable number of times per day, and even focus better on my thesis. Now that I know I have someplace to go, I feel more motivated to finish strong at my current program. Though, of course, I'm also sorely tempted to distract myself by looking at apartments, etc. in Chapel Hill...so we'll see how things go. I think I deserve a weekend of celebrating after this insane application process, though! My thesis can surely wait til Monday...? In any case, I wish all of you the very best of luck! We just need to hold out a couple more weeks (for History, anyway). I have a feeling this week will be especially eventful for us. I know it's frustrating and that things might be looking really dark right now (and that nothing I say here will probably ease your mind at all), but try to hang in there (easier said than done, I know!) and stay positive!
  44. 5 points

    Visit to my new school!

    Hello friends! I'm so excited to tell you all about the wonderful time I had visiting my new school's campus last week. My one year anniversary was Tuesday, and that night (after an incredible day together, of course), my husband and I left LA on a redeye for Newark. We were there for about four days, and it was... an incredible experience. Unforgettable, really. We met with current graduate students who could not have been more friendly, fun, hospitable, and informative if they tried, and (squeal) we met my POI. The meeting with my POI and one of his PhD students was so much fun, almost like being at a stand up comedy show or something. I can't wait to work with these fine people for the next several years! In addition to meeting current faculty and students, we also went apartment hunting. We accomplished our hunting in just a few hours, many thanks to the last minute car we rented and to finding basically the paradise of apartments at the end of what was several otherwise discouraging hours of looking. The apartment complex is lovely and just a short walk from White Clay Creek (pictures below!), Newark's Main Street which is the social hub of the city, and Old College, where the art history department and my classes are housed. There's also a university shuttle that stops right at the complex, which will be a godsend in the winter (and sleepy mornings). They told us that they're considering building a dog park. This was surprising because... what apartment complex builds dog parks? We've always wanted a puppy but never considered getting one in our current living situation... but the apartment complex we found is lush and green and pet friendly and I can think of all these great places our little puppy would love running around and playing. So, we might end up adopting a puppy sometime in our tenure here. (I know this is sort of irrelevant but the thought of a cute little puppy running around the greenery of our apartment complex makes me really happy ) Unfortunately, we weren't able to leave with a signed lease or a deposit down (which we were hoping to), but they promised to follow up with us when a unit becomes available in our timeframe -- and they've already been in touch twice! Very reassuring. One of our nights there, we attended a student production of the Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber's version). It was phenomenal! We also got to try a bunch of local coffee shops (I've now picked out two that I know I'll be frequenting), restaurants, and went to a restaurant that makes its own gelato (which was thisclose to being as good as Italy's). Edit to say that: I spent the entire trip thinking that the UDel Blue Hen was actually the Road Runner from Looney Tunes. I can't shake it. The Blue Hen looks just like him to me. It's endearing (and hilarious). Meep meep. Unbeknownst to us, we visited UDel during "Decision Days," the decision weekend for undergraduates, and thus we constantly ran into/walked along with tours full of bright-eyed freshmen and impressed parents. It was a somewhat poignant reminder that I'm separated from this phase of life now and that over the next 2 (or several, if I'm lucky enough to get into the PhD program), I'll be learning how to teach these "youngins." One exciting moment (as if all moments on this trip weren't exciting for my very easily excited self) was when someone told me that as a TA, I'd probably be explaining to undergrads why they got something wrong on their test, and my mind did a mental "Success Kid" meme. How cool is that? I love explaining art history to people, and so to actually be in a position where I can explain it to undergraduates for the betterment of their (grades, personal selves, knowledge, etc.) is something that I'm really looking forward to doing. I've heard that TAing for my department is excellent preparation for when one moves on into academic teaching positions. The undergraduates I've encountered seemed to be consistently and genuinely excited about and involved with their university, but I think that my level of excitement to be here for graduate student exceeds all of their enthusiasm combined! (Yes, I am the superwoman of being excited about Delaware!! I can't help it! Sorry!) Delaware is basically heaven. I'm thrilled about the program and my fellow students. I hope that I can keep up with them -- they're all incredibly smart, successful, well respected young scholars and I admit that it's a little bit intimidating to be surrounded by such prestigious students! But hearing of all their successes (mostly via the department's newsletter), moreso than being intimidating, had me beaming with pride that I'll soon be part of such a stellar department, and under the guidance of a faculty that seems to genuinely care about their students' academic successes and growth. I haven't even begun, and already my heart is tethered to this place. I can't imagine going anywhere else for my MA, or for my PhD, and I'm hoping that the department and I will have a mutual excitement about each other so I don't have to leave in two years! Seriously. After this incredible week, there is no other program for me. No other program that I'd rather study at. Not Yale, not Virginia, not Maryland, not Columbia. This is it. I know that over the next two years I'll grow exponentially as a scholar and I can't imagine not doing my PhD here with this POI. I know I'm jumping the gun a little already thinking about my PhD when I haven't completed the MA yet, but -- I applied to the PhD program in the first place, anyway. I knew from the start that I could see myself being here for five years, and I now I know it like the back of my hand. I can't wait to start learning, researching, writing, and forging new relationships in the Fall! Here's a few pictures from our trip! Old College @ the University of Delaware. Old College is the oldest building on campus. This is where the art history department is housed. Surprisingly, even with all the tours going on, no one was ever in front of this building so we consistently got the best shots! Win. Inside Old College. Old College also has an impressive art gallery. This is White Clay Creek, a short walk from our (hopefully) new home! And this is one of our wedding photos, because really the best part of last week was that I've been married to an amazing man for a year already! Best year of my life.
  45. 5 points
    Well, here we are. My cohort are finishing their first term as doctoral students, and I am finishing my treatment for breast cancer. And even though it sucks not to be frantically scrambling to get my term papers done, I have to say in the end, I may well have learned more from the cancer treatments than I might have learned in a semester of graduate school - and it's all material that will serve me well when I do enter, next fall. First, I've learned This. Is. It. There's no time for moping, grousing, complaining, whining, moaning, bitching, or any other "ing". Do, or die. Not only in the literal sense, but in the metaphoric sense. Nobody is going to apply for me, do the research for me, write the SOP/personal statement/paper for me, revise the SOP/personal statement/paper for me, solicit feedback on a paper for me, submit a paper to a journal for me - it is My Job to make this happen, and even the best advisor in the world is only an advisor. If I want to be taken seriously, I have to take it seriously. This lesson, learned from the necessity of researching my cancer and then advocating for myself and managing my care as a patient at four different facilities with a slew of doctors who did NOT always have it together or know what was best for me, has led academically to my submitting and having accepted a chapter for a collection of essays on Chaucer's beasts coming out of Palgrave-Macmillan, a solicitation to submit an essay for a journal, another essay topic under consideration for a collection, a request to expand my role on an ongoing research project, and a request to chair a session at a conference. (And, I applied for a Ford Fellowship this time around. Keep your fingers crossed for me, because cancer is a little expensive and we could really use the help.) but the point is, I'm working as a scholar, right now. I'm not even actively enrolled in the program yet. But if I wait to do that, then I'm just cheating myself. So - I'm not "waiting until I start the formal program"....I'm doing the work because - I want to do the work. I have already started. I started the day I decided to pursue the doctorate. My department knows about what I'm doing because I am keeping them updated, and they heartily approve of my work towards professionalization as I wait to enter formally into the program next fall. Second, I've learned how very humorous being human is. That's right - a corollary: If I want to be taken seriously, I have to take it seriously BUT, I can't take myself too seriously because that only leads to stress, anxiety and burnout. Not to mention, I'm not very nice when I'm feel pressured and upset. In the beginning, I fixated and obsessed over my diagnosis and over all the things I had to deal with and go through. I made myself sick and exhausted myself being upset about everything, and then I was snappish, distant, and completely self-absorbed. Once I loosened up and decided I was going to do this with humor and a positive attitude, the whole thing shifted. Everything was easier, and I was better at what I was doing, and able to do more. Today, at my second-to-last radiation treatment, one of the nurses broke down and said "I just don't know what I'm going to do come Monday. You are so inspirational and I just - you have handled this with so much grace and you are so strong and such a beautiful person inside and out. You have brought so much to us and to the other patients with your smile and humor." I blushed and fell all over myself embarrassed, but I know that in graduate school, the ability to laugh at myself, have a sense of humor, take the work seriously but be willing to be myself warts and all, is going to mean something to other people, going to inspire them and going to lead to better relationships. Well - that's two things. There are more, but I am busy right now. I'll try to update as I think of things to write. But in the meantime, hopefully this will help some of you as you begin your doctoral journeys. don't WAIT until someone else tells you what and when to do the work, get in there and do it, and then refine your approach and the product thereof as the professors help train you into your role. Be yourself - you are more inspiring than you could ever imagine you would be to someone out there, even if you don't think you are because you're a ridiculous creature who can't walk, think and drink coffee without wearing the coffee and tripping (like me). Take your work seriously and do it because you love it, but do it well because it's important - but also, laugh whenever there's a reason to laugh - and if there is not a reason to laugh, find one. There will be more of this as I can present it. And, don't forget to check out my blog at http://caridwen.wordpress.com/ , which is updated much more frequently than this one.
  46. 5 points

    Update post-op visit

    OK, Sportsfans, here's the stat update: Stage 1, 0 Nodes, 0 metastats. They did find DCIS, & there were cancer cells in some blood vessels in the tissue sample, so chemo it is. (Don't offer to buy me a wig, my Mommy has already stepped up on that one. And, of course, it will be Red. ) It's an aggressive little bugger, but it's gone. Probability: 70% disease free in 5 years, 85% relative survival. Not so bad, eh?
  47. 4 points
    I unintentionally found out how to get schools to respond to your application much sooner. I noted in most of my applications that I would be backpacking and only available by email, and possibly Skype (internet connection permitting), after February. To be fair, at the time I thought this was true. I just ended up pushing my trip back until later because I had some work commitments I didn't want to bail on. And it's not like you can go back and correct your application after you submit it. But as a result, I've had three POI's contact me concerned that I might be out of the country during their standard interview period - and wanting to know if they could interview me sooner! One of them even went so far as to obtain "special permission" from the adcom to interview me early. I actually felt really bad about that, and let her know I was still around and was happy to wait until the official period. So even though I haven't had that interview, at least I know they're interested! Actually, my intention in mentioning that I would be gone was sort of unrelated. I wanted to include something about my travels, without doing the usual irritating equivalent of name-dropping. One of my LOR writers suggested I phrase it like that - as an FYI, rather than a "hey-look-how-cosmopolitan-I-am". I'm definitely not advocating lying about it, but maybe the moral of the story is - it doesn't hurt to be a little hard-to-get?
  48. 4 points
    I know for sure now that I won't be attending Stanford's Learning, Design, and Technology program. I can't say I'm too shocked or hurt. I knew it was a long shot, and truth be told, my heart wasn't that set on the program. I am really hoping for HGSE. Last night I actually had a dream that I checked my email and saw the rejection email from Stanford. Today that's exactly what happened. A few weeks ago I had a dream that I received an acceptance email from HGSE. What's crazy is that my boyfriend also had a similar dream. I know today was probably just a coincidence but I'm really, really hoping my dreams are a glimpse into the future. But, you know, I'm also being real. Regardless of the outcome, I know I'm ready for a change and will be starting my own adventure, grad school or not.
  49. 4 points
    The first part of my story begins with me dreamily wandering through the office on a beautiful Philadelphian spring day. It ends with me tearfully running across a small Swiss town exactly 2 years later. I call it a saga for a reason. Actually, the saga kicked off in Scotland, the country where I grew up and chose to study my undergraduate Chemistry degree. I chose the University of Edinburgh mostly for the strength of its degree program, but also because I was enchanted by the city of Edinburgh. A stately, rugged and charismatic place that I connected with as soon as I saw it. The first few years as an undergrad gifted me with a peaceful sense of inertia: if you'd asked before the summer of 2009 what I planned to do with myself after graduation, I'd have replied, "Well, y'know...I guess I'm going to stick around in Edinburgh, maybe doing a PhD, maybe working." As far as I was concerned there was no need to go anywhere else in the world when I had Edinburgh. A PhD was an abstract thing I assumed I'd slip into one day, but didn't think about in any proactive sense. Yet in the summer of 2009 I had a visa glued into my passport and strode onto the plane that would take me away from Scotland, putting me on the opposite side of the Atlantic for the first time. Not as a holiday-maker, but as an independent worker. In the British university system, the scientists on a 5-year B.S/M.S course have the option of spending 12 months "in industry" and a significant number of scientific companies recruit Edinburgh students directly. Middling through my degree with no driving motivation for high grades I was a quick victim of the global recession: applications went unacknowledged. The offer I was made in February for a medicinal chemistry place in the USA was entirely unexpected - I'd convinced myself I was staying in-house for my penultimate year - but I took it swiftly. Those 12 months in the States were perfect. I loved Philadelphia. I loved the med chem and working environment. I loved all the travelling and adventures I got swept into. Inspired by the science I decided what I wanted to pursue as a future career: an Organic Chemistry PhD in the USA would be the first step towards that goal. Instead of applying to PhD programs during my final year at Edinburgh, I figured it would be a tad less stressful (and more useful overall) if I went into industry for another 12 months following my graduation, aiming for Fall 2012 entry into the school of my choice. A friend recommended I approach a pharmaceutical company he'd worked at in Basel, Switzerland. He had contacts and knew that they took on a number of interns in my position. It had been a downer returning to the UK after my time in Philly. Burning with wanderlust I booked my one-way flight to Switzerland. Fall 2012 admission did not happen. Looking back, I was quite naive about the whole grad school application thing. In the UK, an elite research-intensive university is not nearly as competitive as its equivalent in America: all of my smart British friends who wanted to do a Chemistry PhD applied to a maximum of two institutions and were accepted without breaking a sweat. The UK degrees aren't broken down into GPA scores - our classifications are much broader - so I didn't appreciate the importance stats like GREs and GPAs would have in the American admissions process. The >10% admissions rate for international applicants at my top choices didn't mean anything to me. If I had what it took to get into a British program, why should a US one be any tricker? Under-estimating the competitiveness of the American system (or else over-estimating the competitiveness of my application), I applied to 5 of the most elite chemistry programs that the country had to offer. I get the feeling that this is a common mistake international applicants make - one of my French friends did exactly the same. I was working when I revised and sat my Chemistry GRE: my score was horrendous. I chose for my 3rd reference a professor back at Edinburgh who knew me personally and was in a position to comment on my academic record...but who wasn't an organic chemist and couldn't comment on my research ability. Dimly aware that these all counted as weaknesses in my application, I maintained cheery denial of how these details would impact me. What happened next was a series of rejection emails spread out over the course of 3 months. I didn't know of the Grad Cafe's Results Section back then, so had no idea they were coming. I kept myself in a state of denial for those 3 stressful months, refusing to admit that I should be investing in a Plan B (PhD in UK or Europe) until too late. I applied piece-meal to grad schools in Switzerland, Germany, Britain with increasing desperation. All their places had been allocated. Several Germanic professors initially seemed interested...until they found someone better and simply stopped replying to my emails. I hated myself for sending begging emails and pleading for replies...but I sent them anyway, instead of decisively moving on to the next opportunity. My personal and professional sense of self-esteem crashed. Relations with work colleagues became strained as I retreated into a dark place within myself. Instead of developing as an independent scientist in preparation for doctoral research I was reliant on my supervisor telling me what to do: I hadn't the self-belief to make decisions on my own. We were moving out of winter and into spring. Still I was frantic in refreshing my email inbox trying to get sorted for Fall 2012 admission. I no longer cared where I was accepted, just as long as I was accepted somewhere. Refusing to contemplate any alternatives, I just had to get onto a PhD program. It was on the day that I left work in tears and rushed home across Basel that I knew my situation had to change. I was going to have to accept that Fall 2012 entry wasn't going to happen for the sake of my mental wellbeing and the wreck of a person I was right now. This came to mean only one thing: Fall 2013 & the re-application cycle. *** If you're procrastinating and wish to explore the story's background then check out some of my previous Wordpress posts: Edinburgh | Postcard From Edinburgh | Edinburgh: Taking back the city Philadelphia | 10 Things I Love About Philadelphia | (Back) On The Streets Of Philadelphia Basel | Basel is the New Orleans of Europe... | In praise of "Continental Europe" The Fall 2012 Application Cycle | Broken | My 2012 did not go according to plan
  50. 4 points

    February Waiting-it-out Blues

    So, I think I've moved beyond the stomach-churning anxiety of January, and am now into the February waiting-it-out blues. I'm resigned to the fact that checking my inboxes (yes, plural - apparently from a perverse need to torture myself, I gave out two different email addresses - ugh) every five minutes isn't going to speed anything up. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still do that; it's just that now it's more of a tic rather than driven by hopeful optimism. I've been invited to two interview weekends so far, and have had a third request for a phone interview. But given that none of these are actual offers, it does nothing to stop me biting my nails. Especially since I've all but given in my notice at work - I plan to travel from April 'till school starts in the fall, and everyone at work knows this (because I can't keep my mouth shut about grad school, apparently). So yeah, worst case scenario, I have to no job, no school offers, no plan.. so no pressure there To add to that, this is my second time applying - last year I applied to 6 PhD programs and was roundly rejected by most of them. But more about that later. I know everyone says this, but it really is an emotional rollercoaster. When I got that first invitation to visitors weekend, I literally shed a few happy tears (they noticed me! I may have a chance!) but it was quickly replaced by doubt and certain unavoidable facts (they're inviting several candidates, I'm just one of many, what if I don't even like the school? etc). Ah well. At least it's nice to know I'm not alone in this self-imposed torment. We'll make it through this! (maybe sans a little sanity) Oh, and to pass the time, I've been making handmade thank-you cards to my LOR writers. It's fun, and I like to think it's more meaningful and conveys my appreciation more than a generic card. I know people on here have asked if it's appropriate to send thank-you gifts (it's not, IMO) and I think this is a nice balance between a gift and a regular card. I recommend it

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.