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About sqxz

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  • Birthday 01/01/1992

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Urbana, IL
  • Application Season
    2014 Fall
  • Program
    Biophysics and Quantitative Biology PhD

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  1. Urbana-Champaign, IL

    I agree that it will be difficult to find a one bedroom apartment close to campus with all utilities included for under $700. It can be done if you're willing to accept some of the cheapest apartments in town, but it may not have all of the amenities you're looking for. Any website where apartments are listed (hotpads, ApartmentFinder, craigslist, etc.) can be used to see what options are currently available in Champaign-Urbana. I also agree that Urbana will generally have cheaper apartment options available.
  2. 2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Congratulations! No, it's not bad to wait to accept. In fact, I would encourage you to do so until after your last interview.
  3. 2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    For additional information and solidarity as April approaches, this topic may be of interest to you:
  4. For me (speaking qualitatively and anecdotally), three of eight programs accepted almost all of those who were interviewed, and five of eight accepted about half of those who were interviewed.
  5. 2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Don't worry about it. I had only received my first of seven interview invitations at this point in my application season, and my last interview invitation came in mid February. Official rejection letters will be sent, but most likely not until March or April.
  6. For general interest, you can estimate the amount you will have to pay in federal income tax using this website (https://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/), though I don't think this applies to international students. You will have to search state by state to get an estimate of how much you will pay in state income taxes. In addition to income taxes, you may also have to pay FICA taxes, which is a flat tax of 7.65% (for our purposes). If you are registered as a full-time student, you are exempt from FICA taxes. For this reason, some institutions make sure their grad students are always registered as full-time students, but others do not. For example, at UIUC, you register for up to 16 credits of "Thesis Research" after you have completed all of your coursework, and you never pay FICA taxes. Conversely, at UCSF, it is my understanding that some programs do not have you register for any courses after the first few years or over the summer, meaning you have to pay FICA taxes during those times. While we're on the subject of money, I also found this website (http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/) particularly helpful for understanding how far different stipends would go after taxes.
  7. NSF GRFP 2016-2017

    As of last year (and I don't believe this has changed), each class of eligible student competes only against the same class for the available awards. That is, undergrad seniors compete only against undergrad seniors, first year grad students compete only against first year grad students, etc. This information comes from the Office of External Fellowships at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose director has served as a panelist for several years, and Bill Hahn, who recently served as the director of the NSF GRFP and who gave a workshop on applying for an NSF GRF at UIUC in 2015. I do not know how it is decided how many awards are given to each class of student, but I suspect it is based (at least in part) on how many students from that class applied for an award. I suspect this also plays a significant role in how awards are distributed across scientific fields. With this in mind, to be competitive as a second year grad student, you need to ask yourself what it is you need to do to stand out from your peers in your particular field and your particular year. You should have more research results than an undergrad or first year grad student. This should manifest as a higher quality research proposal and more publications and conference presentations than less advanced applicants. You should also have richer experience with outreach/service and leadership activities than less advanced applicants. Please note that this doesn't mean you should have a greater number of such experiences. It means your experiences should be deeper and more impactful.
  8. Urbana-Champaign, IL

    I lived in Minneapolis for my undergrad, and I do like living in Champaign-Urbana. I have heard Champaign-Urbana described as "micro-urban," and I would agree with that characterization. You can find almost all of the same things that can be found in big cities...there are just fewer of them and with less variety in Champaign-Urbana. For security, you can take a look at this map (https://www.crimereports.com/home/#!/dashboard?lat=40.1117&lng=-88.2073&zoom=13&searchText=Urbana%2C%20Illinois%2C%20United%20States&incident_types=Assault%2CAssault%20with%20Deadly%20Weapon%2CBreaking%20%26%20Entering%2CDisorder%2CDrugs%2CHomicide%2CKidnapping%2CLiquor%2COther%20Sexual%20Offense%2CProperty%20Crime%2CProperty%20Crime%20Commercial%2CProperty%20Crime%20Residential%2CQuality%20of%20Life%2CRobbery%2CSexual%20Assault%2CSexual%20Offense%2CTheft%2CTheft%20from%20Vehicle%2CTheft%20of%20Vehicle&start_date=2016-08-25&end_date=2017-02-21&days=sunday%2Cmonday%2Ctuesday%2Cwednesday%2Cthursday%2Cfriday%2Csaturday&start_time=0&end_time=23&include_sex_offenders=false&current_tab=map&shapeIds=). The University sends students an email whenever a serious crime occurs on campus or in its immediate vicinity. If you go solely by those emails, you'd think that practically all crime occurs in Champaign right near the university. However, as you can see from this map, crime is spread throughout the cities. Having said that, I do consider Champaign-Urbana safe cities in which to live, certainly more so than big cities. Compared to other places around the country, Champaign-Urbana is quite a cheap place to live, especially if you're coming from a large city (http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/). However, your level of financial comfort is going to be determined by your stipend. When I first moved here, I made $24,720/year, and I was able to live comfortably without roommates. There are some programs with higher stipends than mine (e.g., Biochemistry, Computer Science), but most are lower, which may make it necessary to live with roommates. Contrary to what krystasonrisa said, I have never seen an apartment for $60/month, let alone a one-bedroom apartment. In my experience, most one-bedroom apartments near campus are going to be $500-$700/month, but this may get cheaper as you get farther away from campus, depending on what you're looking for. If you ever talk to a civil engineer about MTD, they will boast that it's one of the best public transit systems in the nation. In my experience, it's no better than Minneapolis's, which is pretty good. Champaign-Urbana, especially the university, is pretty liberal. There are lots of great cafes and restaurants in Champaign-Urbana. You should have no trouble there, unless you're looking for something very specific. We have a few museums that are worth going to at least once (e.g., Krannert Art Museum, Champaign County Historical Museum), but there are definitely not enough to fulfill a person for the length of an entire graduate degree. Thankfully, Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis are all within a three hour drive, and at least one city (Chicago) is accessible via bus/train. (The others may be too, but I've never looked into it.) In my opinion, you should not wait until August to sign a lease. You will definitely still be able to find an apartment at that time, but it will be an apartment that almost everyone else who has looked has passed over. If you're not picky, that may be fine. Otherwise, probably not so much. When I first moved here, I leased my apartment sight unseen because I also was not able to visit until August. This worked for me because I asked a ton of questions and had the leasing agent take a ton of pictures of the apartment for me. It was still nerve-racking not having actually seen or smelled (I am highly sensitive to cigarette smoke) the apartment for myself, but it can be done if you're careful.
  9. Cancelling an interview after a program has bought a plane ticket is considered really bad form and reflects very poorly on you. If you're feeling this way now, you should not have accepted so many interviews in the first place. Even if you're no longer interested in a program, most administrators would rather you come and fake it than force them to eat that sunk cost of a plane ticket. If you really feel that it's absolutely necessary for you to cancel this interview, you should explain the circumstances, apologize, and offer to pay the program back for the plane ticket. Having said all that, if a program has bought your plane ticket for you, there's really no way for them to make you pay for it, though some programs may ask (demand) you to do so. If you've bought the plane ticket yourself and the program was going to reimburse you after the fact, you definitely shouldn't expect to get that reimbursement.
  10. I emailed the professors with whom I interviewed asking if they had suggestions for improvement after my first interview and rejection. Some brushed me off, while others offered helpful feedback. If you do this politely and non-defensively/non-desperately, I think it can be a useful exercise. I wouldn't ask for particular reasons why you were rejected, though...I would just ask if they have any suggestions for improvement.
  11. If a program has bought your plane ticket for you, there's really no way for them to make you pay for it, though some programs may ask (demand) you to do so. If you've bought the plane ticket yourself and the program was going to reimburse you after the fact, you definitely shouldn't expect to get that reimbursement.
  12. As others have said, this is likely not a reflection on you. It's just that the professors you're interested in are especially popular or otherwise not available. However, I would say that when I was in a similar situation, it was especially difficult to make a good impression because our research interests were so different. As a computational biophysicist, when I was listening to an experimental immunology professor talk about his research, I felt like we were talking two completely different languages. I found it difficult to come up with any kind of interesting or insightful questions on the fly, so I might advise some extra prep work for these interviews if your research interests and/or backgrounds are especially different.
  13. School B is not going to care that you have an interview from School A. If you think it's likely that you will go to School A if you are not accepted at School B, you should accept the interview. If not, then it might be worthwhile to wait on School B. However, if you're interested in School A, pass on the interview waiting for School B, then are not invited to interview at School B, I think you may regret it. That's my two cents.
  14. You should absolutely feel free to ask tough questions about a program or university during your interview weekend. These interview weekends exist in part for you, the candidate, to evaluate the program and university. When asking about this, I would be general and ask something like, "How has the situation with Gov. Walker and the state legislature affected things here at the University of Wisconsin?" Most current graduate students will likely be fairly candid in their responses to questions, while professors may be a bit more strategic. It also may be worthwhile to ask the program coordinator(s) about this subject during your visit. I suggest being general and also asking administrators this question because of my experience with a similar (though less extreme) situation at the University of Illinois. Gov. Rauner and the state legislature have been at an impasse over the state budget for a long time now, and this has resulted in significant cuts in state funding to the University of Illinois. These cuts have been passed along to the university administration, which has had not-too-obvious effects on graduate research. For example, the way PIs spend money from their grants is now being scrutinized at an excruciating level. (Remember that most grants are awarded to PIs' home institutions, not PIs themselves, so the home institution gets a say in how the grant money is spent.) PIs have had difficulty purchasing expensive equipment for their labs because they have had to convince administrators (who obviously have little to no background in science) that the purchase is absolutely necessary for them to conduct their research. At the same time, some of the better administrators have left the university to find more hospitable work environments, which has made dealing with the administration even more difficult.
  15. Interview weekends work both ways. They are trying to decide whether they want you, and they are also trying to convince you to choose them. Post-interview acceptance rates vary widely by program, and you definitely shouldn't take for granted an acceptance once you've secured an interview. Most of the programs to which I applied had ~50% post-interview acceptance rates, which resulted in highly competitive interview processes. It was not enough to simply show up to the interview; you really had to work to make a strong impression on your interviewers. This is why I said that you should wear whatever's going to put you in the best state of mind for your interview. Personally, I would feel extremely uncomfortable being the least formally dressed person at an event, especially when I know the hosts are judging me, so I chose what I wore accordingly. Also, in an ideal world, what you wear wouldn't matter to your interviewers. They would only be concerned with your ability to do good science. However, we live in the real world, and what you wear is likely going to have some sort of effect on your interviewers' perception of you. I chose what I wore with this in mind as well.