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About timetobegin

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  1. I just had a ~feeling~ that I would hear something that Friday. I have no idea why, but I was so nervous that I was up until 4am before finally passing out. I woke up at 9:30am, having slept in, and started a mad scramble to get ready for work because I needed to be on campus at noon. I was about halfway through my routine when I remembered to check my email... and there was a letter from my POI, asking me to give her a call. I panicked hard, because I figured she would have said something over email if I was accepted. So I phoned her, assuming me the worst...and she told me I was admitted! I was so excited that I just kept saying "Thank you so much!" in various tones, haha. Hopefully they're used to that. And then I TA'd for four hours with a giant smile on my face. My students probably thought I was nuts (especially since they were writing a midterm...), but it was a great day.
  2. The Positivity Thread

    Applied to only one PhD program, and was accepted into that program! Woooo! (although omg, the stress was unreal. Applying to at least one other school would have made it more manageable...)
  3. I've always reached out to students in the program during the application process, both when applying for my Masters and my PhD (two separate schools/fields of study). I'd usually email 2-3 students with a few questions about the program, keeping it short and sweet. The reply really depends on the person: some students never responded to me. One wrote me a vague one-line reply of 'good luck', but didn't answer any of my questions. But there was always at least one that wrote me back, and they were pivotal in helping me better understand how the program works and the environment. One even talked to me about my research interests and what I want to do with the degree, and gave great feedback on how to better frame my research question for the SoP. My main advice would be not to e-mail them because you think it'll give you an In (ie, they'll tell your POI how involved and active you are in applying, and advocate for you). They won't. But if you choose to e-mail them, limit your questions, and make sure you're asking them something that you can't necessarily find on Google or on the website. Ask them how the interview process went for them, if they're willing to share. Ask about the lab environment, the community, the type of work or worth ethic - maybe this will help you phrase your questions and responses for the interview.
  4. Why shouldn't I get a PhD?

    A PhD is a decision you need to make because you're genuinely driven by the topic and the research. It isn't a 'I'm doing this to upgrade my life' degree - you can manage that with a master's program, here. And there isn't some big 'moneymaker' job at the end of it, like going to medical school (so it's not a 'if I tough this out, I'll be making 400k a year' career path). It's a long 3-7 years of your life; you do it because you want to, and come to terms with the fact there's no guaranteed high-paying job at the end of it. So IMO, you shouldn't do a PhD if you: Are only doing it in some bid to upgrade your life (unless you've always worked in academia/research and the PhD is actually a way for you to 'level up' into a job you want). But in terms of just wanting it for the prestige, maybe think it over. Aren't into research, or writing long, often tedious proposal applications. Aren't interested in dealing with a highly competitive job market, or a not-steady career into your 30s. You'll probably move more than the average person, and change jobs. Most of your non-PhD friends will be getting raises, buying houses, etc, while you're still a student. Your income won't be a steady salary year-to-year, if you stay in academia - and the pressure to publish is ridiculously high. I don't think PhD-jobs are your 'typical' 9-5 job (again, YMMV), so it's something to think about before heading down that path. If you don't need one. If the jobs you enjoy don't require a PhD, then don't waste your time or money. There can be social pressure to get a PhD in research-based careers, but if you're happy where you are, then ignore what others are saying.
  5. Let’s just TALK about it...

    Same. I had to take two days off from school in order to drive across the border for an interview; I had to tell my supervisor, my boss, and a few coworkers (who are part of my Master's program) since I was going to be missing a day of class and work. I thought they would keep it on the down-low, but when I got back... everyone in the program was asking me how my interview went. It's nice to feel their support, but it causes a whole new type of pressure if I have to tell my entire cohort and professors that I was rejected. I also made the mistake of telling my mother about my applications. Within a few weeks, everyone knew -- all my relatives, everyone at home, etc. I know she's excited, but she doesn't seem to understand that I'm not a shoe-in for anything. I asked her to stop telling people, and she agreed... and then over a Christmas dinner, a family friend asked how my program was going, and my mother jumped in with "Oh, Time is applying for PhD programs now!". ...Thanks, mom. It's tough, because you want the support of friends and family when you're writing these applications. And, as you basically disappear from your social scene when trying to write multiple SoPs while juggling school and work, people end up finding out about your applications. But it's a double-edged sword, because TOO many people knowing causes all kinds of added stress.
  6. A CV is as long as you need it to be. I don't think there's a limit. Mine was 3 pages. You don't want to pack your CV with explanations of jobs/skills/tasks like you would a resume, but you should be explaining just enough so they understand the scope of your work. This holds especially true if you're leaving one faculty/domain and looking to enter another. Font size 11 or 12; I used Times New Roman for my content and a different font for my header/subheadings. As long as your font is consistent and looks clean, then any will do (Calibri, Times New, Arial, etc). I would find a template! Make your CV look nice, and don't just write something into a Doc, bold some words, and call it a day. You can search for templates online; just make sure you're looking for clean, traditional templates (meaning no colours, not busy, no pictures, no 'marketing' or 'media' job-seeking CVs). You're really just looking for the slightest embellishments and alignments that make your CV easy to read. If 'academic CV template' doesn't work on Google, maybe try searching for 'minimalist CV' or something to that effect. I wouldn't include references; they know your references already. My CV subheadings were: Academic, Awards, Research & Presentations, Experience, Volunteer, Other (which included journal clubs, affiliations, etc).
  7. I can't remember that UAlberta's policy is, but most Canadian schools only let you apply to one stream. If you're not accepted into that stream, then they don't consider you for another stream (unless there's some kind of exceptional circumstance). I would just stick to the stream of your choice. If you really want to include both, I wouldn't state that you want to be considered for both; again, pick Epi, and then indirectly talk about how you want to use your epidemiology skills to inform health policy, or something. Volunteering is great! Talk about your experiences in your statement, and your CV, but be prepared that they might ask you for proof later on down the road, if they somehow feel suspicious about it. Then you would need to track down a manager or someone from the organization to speak on your behalf.
  8. What piece(s) of advice would you give to new TAs?

    Many things are more difficult in academic when you're a WOC. Perhaps it depends on your area and your program, but entering your job with the mindset of being approachable and casual in a professional environment is not a difficulty. Then you can always re-evaluate and deal with situations and obstacles as they occur. Remembering what I liked about my TAs in undergrad and emulating their teaching style is simply my advice.
  9. What piece(s) of advice would you give to new TAs?

    I am neither masculine or white. "Approachable, casual, and conversational" are incredibly broad terms you can incorporate into your own teaching style, in any interpretation you choose.
  10. publications -- no original research articles

    You're fine. Honestly, I think it's rare for the majority of Master's students to have publications. A MA is only 1 year long -- that's not a lot of time to get something published, or even in the process of being published. And very few people conduct original research in their BA/BSc. If you have five things in the works, you're way ahead of the game. Unless I'm totally off base, PhD admissions are really just looking for solid research experience, with some knowledge dissemination on the side - that you've conducted (mostly) independent research, wrote SOMETHING on it that was accepted by your university standards, and presented it at a conference or two. A few technical or internal reports never hurt, or TA/teaching experience. Just speak knowledgeably about your research in your SoP.
  11. What piece(s) of advice would you give to new TAs?

    I've TA'd four courses throughout my Master's program, ranging from two tutorials of 20 students each, to five tutorials of 30 students each. I've received stellar feedback response from all my students, and never had a single bad review. I was hired into a TA job not knowing if I'd even enjoy teaching, but it turns out... I'm actually pretty good at this job. It just takes time. Number #1 advice: Think of your favourite TAs when you were in undergrad. Why did you like them? Emulate them. For me, my favourite TAs were always relatable. They were students, too. They were conversational (but not overly buddy-buddy), casual in their demeanour (but still professional), did their marking on time, and were approachable. The ones who pretended they were already Professors, swept in and out of the class without ever engaging with us... they didn't make for a positive learning environment. Learn from their mistakes, before you ever enter this job. Presentations and Material: Make tutorial presentation slides that are clear and concise. Do not read from the PPT comments section, or from notes. Don't lecture at them - they already go to a lecture and learn passively. Engage with them. Talk to them conversationally. Ask questions, and put them into a discussion group at least once a tutorial. Silences are fine -- try to rephrase the question, or just let them ponder. Don't sit behind the desk. Walk around, gesture, sit on top of a table. Get them to WATCH you instead of their phones. ALWAYS make your examples relatable. Relate to TV, to movies, to running jokes in the university -- whatever will help them remember the point. Help them out. A little formula sheet they can keep beside them while going over questions goes a long way. How To sheets can help, too (and are easily found online). You exist to help solidify the material in their mind, and to make their learning experience just a little bit easier. So do that. Team effort. The prof is there to teach the students, but you're in this WITH them. I always try to use a collective 'WE'RE going to attempt this question!'. It's just small phrasing, but solidarity matters. I always ask "Does that make sense?", "Are you guys following me on this?". Their feedback is constant, and wanted, and I make sure 80% of us are on the same page before moving forward. Personality: Be passionate about what you teach! Always. Go on a rant about something you KNOW they think is boring, rave about something you want them to remember, exclaim how cool a topic is. Even if the students don't agree you with, they will appreciate genuine enthusiasm (or agreement of dislike) for a topic. Say hi to your students as they enter your class. Recognize their faces, aim to know at least 50% of their names by midway through the course. The best way to do this, IMO, is to hand back their assignments personally (rather than dumping them on a table and letting them find their own). You can also ask them to say their names before they respond to any question (this works better with upper level students). Put them in groups almost immediately, especially if this is a first year class. Make them be friends with each other. The worst thing that can happen is a tutorial where everyone sits once seat apart from each other and never speaks until they're told to do group work. I don't call my students out, but I always try to respond with their name when they talk. "Yes, John", or "Great point, Sahil!" shows that you care. I don't mind talking to students for 5-10 minutes after class, so long as they're not asking me to re-grade something, or teach them something new. Small questions, clarifications, or just general chat about the course fosters a strong learning environment. You shouldn't just Shut Down as soon as your hour is done. For first years, I try to alternate my office hours, so that one week I'm in the TA office space, and another week I'm in a more open environment like a coffee shop. Different students will come to different styles of office hours. Sometimes an office intimidates them. Don't be that TA that wears a suit and tie, or work clothes, to class. Jeans are more than ok for 99% of academia, so long as they're not ripped. Marking, Emails, and Other: Be real with students. Keep them up-to-date on what's happening with the marking. Go over any common errors or problems after each assignment or midterm. Keep them informed about any new developments. I always make sure to explain WHY we did things a certain way throughout the course, or why we marked something in that way. Students like to be kept in the loop. I try to keep my emails professional, but just slightly more casual than a Professor would be. I've never had a problem with students being inappropriate, or being out of line. Give respect, receive respect. I also always try to respond within 24 hours, even if it's just a quick 'I'll get back to you!'. Be reasonable, be flexible, but let students know what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you. At the same time, I ask students NOT to take pictures of my slides. I don't call out individuals, but a simple 'hey y'all, that's weird for me. If you come up to me after class I'll let you copy the slide" works fine. Never bad mouth a professor, even if the students hate him or her. Listen and sympathize, but never agree. In discussion tutorials, I try not to shut down opinions unless they're TOTALLY off base. A "That's interesting, what do you all think?" can help foster discussion and re-direct, or a "Hmm, you're not the right track, but not quite there...". Accept that you will mess up. More than once. In the first course I ever TA'd, I was doing a (very simple) calculation on the board... and got it wrong. Erased it, went through it again.... and the answer was still wrong. I admitted that it had been a long day, laughed it off, and we carried on... even though I was dying inside. Those students still gave me great reviews. It's okay not to know everything, it's okay to mess up, and it's especially okay (in broad 1st year courses) to admit that a particular area isn't your strongest point. I've had my heel break in the middle of lecturing. I've dropped stuff all over the floor. Again, be relatable, be approachable, and admit you're just a student, too. I once made a huge mistake with a professor, to the point where we had to scrap an entire question on the midterm due to my misinterpretation. I went to her as soon as I realized the mistake and admitted fault. Yes, it's horrible, and yes, you might have to apologize openly to both the professor and the students, but you're learning. It's OKAY. You're not expected to be psychically connected to the professor's thoughts. If you have a very hands-off professor who expects you to Just Know Things, schedule a meeting with them 2-3 days before every weekly tutorial session. Tell them what you're doing, ask them for any information related to midterms or assignments, and clarify concepts.
  12. How do you write your thesis-in-progress into your CV when you're still in the data-collection stages of this thesis and have no results, no findings, not even a title? I will have the paper written and defended by next September, but I'd like to include it in my CV now as research experience....
  13. Venting Thread- Vent about anything.

    Rant for a second: The vagueness of some Schools and their requirements is ridiculous. One school writes on their site that they want transcripts (okay), your CV (also okay), a writing sample (still good), and 'a 1000 word research proposal/proposed plan of study/statement of intent of your academic interests'. ....soooo which one do you want?!?! One is a highly objective scientific proposal. One is a more general, but still well-thought-out plan of action for a project. And the other is a personal statement about you and your general interests. That is literally the only thing they write about this statement; I haven't found any information anywhere else. I e-mailed the school and have heard no response. A potential supervisor told me to go for a research proposal, but he's new to the country and admits he doesn't know how the application situation works at this university. I heard back from a grad student who suggested the same, so that's what I went for, but I think it's ridiculous how purposely vague they make it -- if they expect a Research Proposal and you write a statement of intent, your application would be guaranteed to be skipped over.
  14. I keep running into this problem as well (also applying to PhD in anthropology in Canada)! Most Canadian schools require you to secure a supervisor, but many just ask you to reach out before you apply. Even if you've secured a supervisor, it seems odd to me to tailor your SoP to their very specific research project. Then no one else can take you on as a student, if something falls through with your POI. Even meeting and saying "Yeah we'd work great together!" is not a guarantee of supervision. As a result, I'm not sure how specific to make my SoP (which is the only written document you submit!). Half my letter is a very personable statement about my interests, my background, and why I do what I do, but the other half is more...proposal-style, with background theory on my interests, some research questions (that feel quite broad to me), and then a concluding paragraph about faculty that I think I could work with. I haven't included any research project, hypothesis, predictions, methodologies (beyond the general ones I want to use...). It's odd.
  15. How long did it take to hear back from POIs?

    In Canada, it's expected you reach out to supervisors and have one secured before you apply to the program. Nonetheless, when I was writing POIs, I'd hesitate for an hour, have my roommate read the email to check it over, and then, as I pressed the Send button, I'd make a warrior cry similar to "ahhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!". Then I'd wince, stand up, stretch, and do it all over again. Whatever works.