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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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! )
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!
  13. 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.
  14. 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!
  15. 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...
  16. 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.
  17. 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!
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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?
  21. 4 points

    One out, one in

    Two weeks ago I was rejected from the University of Toronto. Thankfully their letter was not snarky or mean, but it was short and I feel like I wasted too much of my time impatiently waiting - not to mention the couple hundred dollars I spent to apply and to have a copy of my transcripts sent. I wasn't too discouraged when I first received the rejection, it wasn't my top choice of school and I had a conditional acceptance elsewhere. But, as time passed, I soon became more and more worried about my situation come the fall. The rejection slowly ate away at my self confidence concerning my acceptance at City University London, especially since I had that panic a few weeks back. From the realization I might not be going to grad school, to the blow of a rejection I have realized a couple of things. I want this degree, and the career that comes with it more than anything. At first I was most excited about the prospect of moving to London, or Toronto, places that I have dreamed about moving to for years. I forgot that this was all about my education. After the scare of not going I remembered what it really was about. Education and then career. I'm not going into academia like many of the other people here, but in Canada a Master's degree is worth it's weight in Tuition. Since I feared rejection from both schools so badly I began on my quest to learn the content I needed to succeed in the career of my choice, not an easy feat when you only possess about half the skills required (for those of you curious, I want to be a UX Designer/Researcher eventually becoming a freelance consultant in the field, something where I only possess the knowledge of Human Factors, and no design experience . . . about 50% of what I need to get a job). I could do it alone, but I'd rather go to school. It has been a whirlwind of a month, to say the least, my emotions have been all over the place in regards to this grad school thing. Additionally I am dealing with the repercussions of graduating during an economic downturn. I haven't worked for 3 months now and my bank account is running on empty. Thankfully my parents were more than happy to have me move back into their home, even if I am stuck in the now spare bedroom (which used to belong to my sister) because my room has been transferred to someone else. The situation has all culminated to this morning, when I got my long awaited UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE to City University London. The financial fears have long been dealt with, and I've already paid a deposit on a place to live so I needn't worry about that anymore either. AS of 12:30 today I began working on gathering my things for a Tier 4 VISA to the UK, and applying for OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) once again - the fifth time in my life I've completed this task. The next couple of weeks are going to be filled with embassy and bank visits, and browsing the many websites which allow me to search for the cheapest possible flight to Heathrow. I'm feeling like a huge bundle of nerves from the excitement, and fear. But mostly I'm glad I don't have to keep trying to learn design on my own - I'll have a well versed professor helping me out in a couple of months. Now, to start brainstorming on a dissertation topic. Thank you to everyone who has followed along on this journey with me. I am so glad for all your kind words, and encouragement, as well as helpful advice and ideas for what I could do if I didn't make it in. This community is so wonderful and I am so glad to have found it to help me out.
  22. 4 points


    I got in to City University London's Msc in Human-Centered Systems on the condition that I get a B+ average this year, and send in my two references. I can't say yes right now, my dad has said he can't pay for it and I know I would have to take out massive loans to go but I'm going to look into scholarships now to see if maybe I can make this happen. I don't even know what to say right now. I wish I could write more.
  23. 4 points

    What Up, What's Haapnin'

    -- Update irregularly -- Obivously, I started playing this game called "The Waiting Game" after submitting all of my grad school applications few weeks ago. Like many others, I was hoping to get e-mails or phone calls regarding my applications - ideally for interviews/acceptances, of course. Unlike some of the users at the forum that check their e-mails extremely frequently, however, I check the admission results here once every hour or two. - First Week of January - The fact that my stats are not outstanding subconsciously makes me to believe that there is no way I will receive any e-mails or phone calls for interviews at this early stage. From my observation, people who received e-mails / phone calls for interview in mid-late December tend to be the most competitive applicants. Even though there are some exceptions based on the numbers presented on the result page, I think it is a reasonable assumption that I will not get any response until that day -- the day where most people receive their admission decision(s). It sucks to see someone who got an interview from a school that you applied and/or wanted to go, when this person has similar stats (or worse numbers) than yourself. Although I tried not to take things personal, I can't help but wondered "why haven't I receive that e-mail or phone call" - could it be my statements, my recommendation letters, or simply because I am not a citizen? Drilling into these dead-end questions can only make me more pessimistic; hence I tried not to hopelessly anticipating and desperately searching for some sort of positive responses. But sometime it's just difficult when you got a phone call with unfamiliar area code at 7 or 8 in the morning. You pick up the phone call that the person did not make a sound, and later you found out that the number is a toll-free number by searching it on Google. My body just responded to that phone call swiftly like a ninja -- I Can't Help It. And I really try hard to achieve what I just said. But it is difficult. For instance, as of Jan 3, I realized that there are 3 applications that I submitted did not actually confirm my submission. A school that I applied sent me an e-mail back in early-December right after the submission. The e-mail said that the school will send me information and link(s) about my application status few days after my submission. The school, however, did not send me any e-mail since then. I sent e-mails to the graduate school and the program that I applied, and addressed my situation in mid-December, but I did not receive any response. Until Jan 3 morning, I check my list of grad schools application statuses (that I have it in .xls/.xlsx), this school has never confirmed/finalized my application since I paid the fees and submitted it online. Given that this school did not respond to any of my e-mails that I sent using my personal e-mail address (with a popular e-mail domain), I used my private (school) e-mail address and sent them e-mails with the same info. About two hours later, I got a response from the program and the school claimed that some parts of my application are missing, possibly due to some technical problems at their ends. So, I confirmed the situation with the school and resend my materials to the program awhile later on the same day. It was unlucky that my application was "incomplete" at their ends, yet it was fortunate that this issue can be resolved just two days before the adcom review the last batch of the applications. Not if I resend this e-mail out of my anger, anxiety, and curiosity, I would not send them an e-mail at all. I won't be able to know that my application was incomplete and I would have flushed my almost-a-hundred USD to the toilet for nothing... By the end of the week, I received 3 rejection letters before and during a short trip that I visited a neighboring country of the U.S. The trip was alright. It could have been better if I was into nightlife and if I was not paranoid because of the unpeaceful atmosphere of the city at night. As for the rejections, the results are predictable considered the following statistics: School A: Number of Applicants = 700-800. Number of International Applicants who are accepted/enrolled = 7-8 (of a "umbrella" program, which consisted of no less than 5 departments/subprograms), provided by the school website. School B: Number of International Applicants who are accepted for the program = 1, provided by the Dean through the "follow-up" of rejection e-mail. School C: Number of International Applicants who are accepted/enrolled = 20-25 out of ~80 enrolled students per year, provided by the school website. I should have paid extra attention on these stats prior submitting my applications... FML. - Second Week of January - The second quarter/semester began earlier this week. As a quasi-nontraditional applicant and student, I am not enrolling in this term. Main reason is to avoid any negative impacts on my academic performance due to traveling and interviews (if any). Although I am not academically active on my school system, I am sitting two courses just for fun - 1) electron microscopy and 2) structural analysis of materials using X-ray diffraction. Introduction of these two classes are pretty simple, which only requires basic physics (optics) and some basic symmetry/point group/space group theory from organic and/or inorganic chemistry. Because the basics of a technique are always the same, and therefore whether if one is into material science or molecular biology (E.g. X-ray crystallography for small inorganic/organic molecules vs. proteins), sitting-in these classes can only be beneficial. While I am enjoying my chill schedule for the coming weeks, I got another rejection letter. No surprise I guess. The schools that I applied to are the most competitive ones. Even when someone who has an almost-perfect scores was rejected by this school, I supposed anything bad can happen on my other applications (i.e. complete rejection streak), which is my worst possible scenario. This week I also began sending out e-mails to various programs to confirm whether an update for the fall term grades is necessary. While schools such as Yale has an option for applicants to update their grades for the fall semester/quarter, many other schools did not explicitly indicate whether an update is necessary or not. Considered that I did decent in my last term (tiny increase in my overall and major GPA), I decided to send out e-mails to confirm whether an update is possible. I figured that there isn't much I can do to make my application more competitive, I would do anything possible to tip the balance in my favor. Speaking of sending out e-mails, has anyone send out e-mails before the application season begins? Back in summer 2011, I sent out e-mails to potential PIs that I would like to work with, and I only got two or three responses out of 10 or even 20 e-mails. Maybe I didn't write a decent e-mail, but I have been told that some professors tend to have "scattered brains" where they may skim through an e-mail and forgot to reply after awhile (instead an instant removal.) Regardless, there are very few professors replied my e-mail that I didn't even bother to send out more e-mails after awhile. Just imagine when you received, for example, 3 e-mails out of 20 e-mails, and you are applying +20 schools. If you apply to a school that has at least 3 POI, then you'll need to send out at least 60 e-mails. What a tedious task! And early this week I talked to a friend about funding and fellowships. It is not like I did not attempt to apply any fellowships, but in reality, there are very few fellowships for international students. From my research, I would say 80-90% of the fellowships that is available for science students are only for U.S. citizens, while more than 50% of the fellowships are for female only. I was extremely frustrated when I know that the one and only fellowship that I am eligible to apply (Fulbright) does not offer any fellowships for my home country... well technically they do, but they only offer fellowships for students (regardless of nationality instead of my original nationality) to go to graduate school in non-science programs at my home country. I then realized how ridiculously unsupportive my home country is - science stands almost no place in this small piece of land and the only thing that is important is money. - Third Week of January - See here: () - Fourth Week of January - To make it short and brief, I got my second interview - from a school at an urban city. When I told my former student mentor and some non-biochemistry/biology majored friends about it, they were all happy for me because of the reputation of the school. I didn't know much about this school until I search it on wikipedia, and turned out that it seems pretty nice. The reason I applied to that school was because my former PI suggested that they have a good program in biophysics. Turned out that one of the paper that he co-authored with, the other author is the professor from this school (and he was a grad student from another school from the same city.) I look up the "package" information, and everything sounds pretty attractive to me. Even though the cost of living is high, the urban settings will be pretty cool considered that I was born and raised from the extremely similar setting, plus I am the kind of person that would work in the lab past midnight and walk home 2 or 3 in the morning if necessary. And therefore if the housing is close enough, then my lab-style (lifestyle in the lab) won't be affected by the fact that I have no intention to get a car or motorbike (even though getting a scooter seems to be a possibility). I got notification through e-mail in the morning after a lecture that I am sitting in. I was surprised that I got another interview! I instantly ran back to the classroom, and told the professor about it (and the professor is also my former PI). Later that day I got my tickets and everything. The feeling of getting interview is almost the same as being accepted, even though it is totally not the same. But again, considering myself a weak candidate, any interviews would light my hope. My jubilant feeling fades a little when I got a rejection letter the day after, but that's okay. As for the classes, space group symmetry is slowly FML. - First Week of February - Going to have two interviews in 2 weeks, I started preparing myself for the interviews. While I printed out some of my POI's publications and read them briefly, I also prepared a list of questions that I would like to ask when opportunities come. These questions, mostly from tgc forum, were quite useful. However, when I asked my former PI to check out the list, he found some questions were not really appropriate to ask, at least in his perspective - an interviewer for my home department's grad program. The idea of printing out a list of questions isn't really a good idea in the first place, and he suggested that I should keep these questions in my head instead. Then he told me a tiny bit about one of my trips - Manhattan, NY. I have been to Manhattan before, but it was the spring break 4 years ago (2008). Back then, I can still recall that New Yorkers in downtown/midtown Manhattan were wearing suits and huge coats (sometimes with fur) on the streets, when I was wearing an undershirt, a (long-sleeve) collar/shirt, a sweater from Berkeley / Cal, a short pants, and a pair of sneakers. But this time is slightly different - it is in the middle of Feburary. So my PI suggested that it may be really cold over there and I should considered wearing underlayers. Opinions from tgc suggested that they probably wouldn't do that unless it is sub 0 degree celcius, and also because I will probably spend most of the time indoor, and therefore I may find myself uncomfortable by wearing underlayers in a warm indoor atmosphere. On the other hand, because both of my trips are in the East, and therefore I am trying to adjust my circadian rhythm this week. It is pretty abnormal for me to try to go to bed at 9 or 10 pm and wake up at 4 or 4:30 am - for I am a night person. That also means that I will have to get my dinner at around 4:30 pm, when I usually (back in my home country) eats my dinner at 9/10 pm, or 6/7 pm (when I came back to the West). I am very excited for my return to NYC. I was very impressed by the urban atmosphere (ps. I was born and raised from an urban atmosphere just like NYC), I guess it was because after all these years, I finally went to Time Square on Broadway and 7th (I think), at the middle between the two giant Coca-Cola TV displays, and surrounded by many of these familiar places that I learned from commercials, films, tv drams, shows, morning talk shows, new years eve countdown a.k.a. MTV, and so forth. I once thought that it was because of the tall buildings and everything that impressed me, after I went to the West for college for a year or two. Turned out that it was not true when I returned to my home country. Hopefully, this time around, I will still be impressed by the atmosphere over there! I definitely can't wait to eat those street food over there, which I missed it last time. Hopefully a 5 hours quick tour in the city allows me to do everything that I missed from my last trip! - Second Week of February - Rejections that I received this week doesn't mean anything to me right now - 'cause this week is LIN-sanity! My trip to east coast also carried me away. Like I always believe - things happen for reason(s). If the school is going to reject me, then clearly I am not a good fit for the program in their perspective (and it really doesn't matter what I think). Leaving for my flights in 13 hours and I have not completed my luggage packing. However, my head is just looping the chorus of Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys. Next update will be a new entry just for my visiting week. So long until then. - Third Week of February - See here: - Forth Week of February - Nothing fancy going on here besides following NBA All-Star game. I guess it is reasonable to assume that schools that I have not hear from will send me a rejection letter next month. Most of the bio-science programs tend to send out invitation for interview / acceptance letter on or before early February. Therefore, I already expect the rejection roll on its way in a week or two. While I vented my story from last week to a couple people and I got over it, I still find it absurd for their given (rejection) reason. My situation at this moment is kinda bad because I do not know if school(s) that I have visited will accept me. Therefore, I kind of expecting for the worst, or executing my plan B in a few months. A couple professors find it "unbelievable" that I received so few interviews based on my profile and essays. Well, I almost always blame it on my international applicant status. Surely you may say that there are tons of international applicants who did well in GRE and school, but I would argue that I just happened to be suck at exams, especially standardized ones. It is also funny that different schools have a different understanding with Chinese (international) applicants. While some professors know about some of the shady stories from the academic in China (e.g. a PhD thesis was reused 31/32 times for 32/33 doctorates became a news and documentary. Everything in the thesis was the same with the exception of the author list. PI were not punished), most of the school did not realize the situation at all. As a result, these people have an upper-hand than people like myself. Now I am definitely not saying everyone goes into this category, but I find it sucks to compete with these people. If you are interested in reading academic integrity scandals (not sure if this is the right word) in China, here is a blog: http://fangzhouzi-xys.blogspot.com/ Let's s wait for March 1 and March 15. Two big days regarding my application process. - First Week of March - Back to the waiting game is not fun. I e-mailed a couple schools but I have not hear anything back yet. General perspective is that rejection letters are on their ways to my inbox. So I am prepared to execute my plan B, which is reapplying in Fall 2012. More importantly, I'll have to 1) get a job back in my home country, and 2) retake GRE so that I get a combined +1300 in the old format. One of the classes that I'm auditing changed the lecture room and therefore I no longer sit-in in that class. What a shame. Sent a few e-mails to professors from schools that I have not hear from, but I haven't get any response yet. I also contacted to schools that supposedly reimburse or my visit expenditure. Now I'll just continue my waiting game and chill at home. - Second Week of March - First acceptance received 6 in the morning through e-mail. Not as excited as others that I've read on the forum. Interesting.... (will update the rest of the week later.) And then I got a couple rejections in this week to eliminate other potential options that I might have. While I am waitlisted by two schools, chances of me going to my first acceptance school is extremely high. This is a short recap of my current application status: Applied - 25 Interviewed - 2 Rejected - 18 (Including 1 post-interview) Accepted - 1 Waitlisted - 2 Waiting for official response/decision - 6 (2 waitlisting, 2 expecting rejection, 2 unknown) It appears to me that rolling admission, for most of the time, does not apply to international students. It appears that I did not receive rejections from these rolling-basis schools until March, when I submitted my applications back in mid/late November, with the deadline on or before Jan 1. That being said, I would suggest any future international applicants to optimize their applications (e.g. improve your SOP/PS) and submit it just a day or two before the deadline, instead of weeks before the deadline. After all, admission of international applicants almost always limited by funding sources and therefore it doesn't mean much if you apply early or not - issues with funding always resolve for domestic students first. - Third Week of March - It is the last week of the quarter here and I am just chillin like the past couple weeks. Got three more rejections this week so I can potentially choose between a school that has made me an offer, a school that I am waitlisted, and a school that I have no idea what the current status is, besides "decision pending". There is nothing much to talk about besides March Madness is going on, got a new bike for daily commute, applied to be an undergrad TA for next quarter (but the coordinator is a hater). Other than that, I am packing for my a-bit-early-Spring Break out of country. I hope I'll have a chillaxing time with my old friend. - Forth Week of March - Been chillin at the other country for about a week. Before my trip, I got a rejection from "a school that I have no idea what the current status is". And by the end of the trip I got an e-mail saying that a school that rejected me awhile ago placed me on their wait list, but due to the unexpected high acceptance of initial offer leads to the ultimate rejection of my application. I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone, but given that the school claimed that they will only take 1 international student, to me, it does not make me feel any better. This e-mail (as if an explanation why I am rejected) is completely useless and it goes straight to the trash bin. - Fifth Week of March - It is spring break over here and I have been back in town for a few days since. This is gonnabe my final semester at school and I am very happy about it. Mostly because I am finally done with undergraduate studies and ready to move on things and works that are more interesting. Looking back for the past couple years, I have been through a lot of deferment on my studies all due to personal/family financial issues. While I know that there are many people out there who are non-traditional applicants, I consider myself a quasi-traditional student. Although I completed my freshman and sophomore coursework half a year sooner, I took a year off after my junior year and work in a lab full time (without pay), before I went overseas for another year to take a few classes towards my degree. My mentor, who was a year ahead of me in college, is now a 3rd year PhD student; a friend of mine, who just became a junior when first I met him, is now completing his first year for his PhD at another school. I'm glad that I'm leaving soon after all, for I know I should be a 2nd year in grad school; for I am sick of living in this apartment with a girl who has no personal hygiene; for I can start paying off my debt with my stipend in grad school; for I can finally make some green after 3 years (employment for international students are difficult and complicated). Now I'll go back to the book and read a chapter or two to prepare for a class that starts tomorrow. First and last time to TA at this school, hopefully it will be amazing and fun. - First Week of April - Things went well the first week of class. Has been pretty chill so far--just taking a lab, a seminar, and sitting a lecture from a class that I'm TA'ing. Got 2 more rejections this week and that really ends my application journey. I guess I can write a wrap-up here. Applied: 25 schools, 26 programs Wait list: CU Boulder, UVA, Cornell Interview: FSU, MSSM Accepted: FSU Well I guess this entry ends here! If any of you have any questions, feel free to PM me. Ciao!
  24. 4 points


    We meet again GC! It's been several years since I last posted, so I'm going to start this entry with a brief update. I am currently finishing up my master's degree in psychology. Trust me, this was not the original plan, but when life hands you lemons apparently you enroll in a masters program, so I did. I am not saying that I regret it (although the application season isn't over...) but it just was not the plan. Still I think I made the best of my situation, and I am grateful for some of my profs who have helped make this detour successful. So now that this detour is almost finished I now find myself waiting to hear back from my (PhD)schools. I really thought I was going to be able to keep myself distracted until at least the end of January, but as soon as those apps were in (end of November) I have been waiting impatiently for any kind of news. It's funny, last semester I was so busy all I wanted was some free time. Now I have it (relatively) and I'd rather be busy. It's not like I don't have anything to do. I have class, and a job, and lab stuff, and a thesis to write. But the problem with all of those (except the class part) is that due to the nature of these tasks, I live a fairly autonomous lifestyle, which means plenty of time to check the results page and stare at my phone waiting for the "email light" to start blinking. Because of this I've thrown myself into several other tasks, to hopefully help me obsess a little less. My New Year's resolution is to lose a specific amount of weight, and so far so good. :-) Also, I've decided to run a 5k this year, so I've been training for that. Finally, I decided to do the more complicated of the two options in regards to my master's thesis. This will require more work, but hopefully will have a bigger reward in the end. Now if I could only find a way to distract myself when I'm too tired to work on my thesis, but not tired enough to go to sleep...I guess this blog will have to do. Good luck everyone! My #1 choice should send out notifications any day now, so hopefully I will have good news next time.
  25. 4 points
    So right now I am bouncing between the belief that I cannot get into a grad program, and the belief that I can. But you know what, I am going to still be trying this year anyway. Why? Because as people on this site have said it before, you won't really know until you try. You might not apply and keep asking yourself what would have happened if you didn't. This is what I want, and I am going to try for it. Not all my stats right now are the greatest. My GPA is around a 3.2, but I have gotten on dean's list for the past few semesters. That shows upward trend, yes? And I took the GRE again to get a better score on the advice of the head of the department, and it worked. Got a V740-800, and Q740-800 leaving me with a 1480-1600 total range. I hope that will slightly make up for the lowish GPA. On top of that I am doing research, and am planning on having my PI write me a LoR. I am planning to ask a prof, who I have already had three classes with, and am currently taking a grad class with. I think I might either ask the head of the department or another professor I had that I working on a major project with. In my SoP, I am trying to be as specific as to what I want to do as far as research is concerned, as well as why I want a Ph.D. in the field. Honestly, geology is one of those sciences where you can get a masters and get a really good job with it, but I want a Ph.D for a reason! If there is anyone out there willing to give my first public version a read, I would greatly appreciate it! Honestly, it's my GPA that worries me the most. This is why I am having all of the self doubt. I know that people have gotten in with less, and while my whole thing is more then just grades, I feel like it is something that they will use against me just because there are so many people applying.


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