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About NotaBene

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  • Application Season
    2020 Fall
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  1. Hey there, I didn't apply to UW but did get into Pitt (not going there, decided on somewhere else). I would caution you to read your offer letter carefully -- does it explicitly mention tuition remission, insurance, fees, etc. as being covered? If not, I would call and write them and clarify and get answers in writing. When I was considering Pitt I called to ask about funding since it seemed so uncertain, and it is absolutely possible at Pitt to get admitted, get a GRA, and be expected to cover your own tuition, insurance, and fees. As far as usual funding packages - I am fully funded under fellowship at the school to which I decided to go, and that includes full tuition remission and health insurance. It is year-long funding and includes summers (I am expected to work 20 hours/week during the summer). As far as duration of funding, there is a wide range. My fellowship is for 2 years, and my school's model is to then fund the remainder of the PhD by hiring 3rd and 4th year students as TAs (and at that point you are not taking classes anymore so it is less expensive to pay your tuition). Your offer letter should also state the conditions for continued funding (mine states that it is 2 years and that I will be reviewed at the end of year 1 to make sure I am making satisfactory progress before it is renewed). I had another offer that included tuition remission, stipend, but no fees or insurance, and another offer that included only partial funding. Always good to ask specific questions and get documentation in writing. Also worth considering how you will be paid (W-2? 1099? Other tax form?) so you know what you need to do in terms of your tax responsibilities for your stipend. The school should be able to answer all of your questions, so don't be afraid to ask them and to follow up if you are not 100% clear on what you would be getting. Good luck and congrats!
  2. This must be so stressful for international students. I am domestic and am also wondering what will happen -- whether anyone will actually be able to start in September. It is impossible to say now, but I just want to offer re: switching online that it would be completely understandable and fair to ask for a deferment or, if impossible, to back out if this happens, given the extenuating circumatances. After all, it is fair to expect what you were promised when you accepted, even if it's not the school's fault that a pandemic erupted.
  3. I agree that it's hard to make decisions given this development and am equally freaked about potentially having to decide withoit visiting but want to offer that if an entire country and enormous portions of another large one completely shut down, it's serious. I also encourage people to read up on some of the papers coming out on how this thing kills. Protecting the community is paramount. My $0.02 as a public health professional.
  4. Thanks for heads up. I need to make a decision fairly soon for a couple of different reasons and this is a solo visit but meeting with various people in deptmt (it's a very small program). I guess all I can do is wait and see what happens, and perhaps do the same re: virtual meetings if it comes to that and make a decision with the info. I have. It would be so nice to be able to do a gut check, but then, it's good that some folks are taking action... and there was a good article in the New Yorker on the administration's handling, FYI, if you're interested.
  5. So... is anyone else worrying that COVID-19 is going to screw up visits? I'm super worried that the school I am due to visit Friday (which will help me finaloze my decision) is going to shut down by then. Anyone else in this boat?
  6. Hello, is anyone else here considering Drexel epi? Would love to get in touch if so
  7. I really hope funding comes through. I didn't get into a program that I thought was a truly excellent fit and felt deflated; I later learned that they have a quota for students working on specific subject matters and were taking 1-2 students in my subject matter of interest. I share this just to say if you have to reapply to get a funded offer you are not a failure. It really seems there is an element of luck that does play into this process. I don't think not getting in is a reflection on you and your worth as a researcher- just of some really tight budget constraints in public health, especially under the current political climate. And it does seem like this year was especially rough, based on a few conversations I have had. Chin up!
  8. The options I am considering all assign an advisor at the beginning of the program - but in both cases the graduate handbook says it is possible to petition to switch advisors should there be a need to do so (hopefully not since I can imagine it would be really delicate/difficult). I actually kind of wish there was less pressure to commit to an advisor so early - thankfully, I think all my prospective advisors are fantastic, but this is based on just a few conversations with each, and it'd be great to have more data points. I suppose it is something to consider, but as you say, there are pros and cons to each approach. My thinking throughout this process has been to make sure there were at least a few people with whom I could work if something happens and for whatever reason working with one person doesn't work out - regardless of when official assignments take place. I have been thinking about getting a PhD for a good while, and since I first started thinking about it some professors I was interested in changed institutions; sadly, one even died. I guess I would prioritize being sure you have at least a plan A and B in terms of possible advisors more so than time of assignment.
  9. Wanted to chime in on @LisaNucar's post as well - I got in to one of my top two choices and am very carefully making my final decision between it and a school that has not been at the top of my list - my sense is that decision time is intense no matter what, and I may be having cold feet about changing some areas of my life (like giving up a career to build another - very large opportunity cost!). I keep reminding myself that there were reasons I applied where I did and didn't apply where I didn't -- was your only reason fear of rejection? Or were there other reasons that are worth recalling? I think in each case, it comes down to what you value most. Are you ok in terms of timeline/financially to do a master's before a PhD? Will you gain additional value from either route? Depending on how important it is to you to finish your schooling within a certain time frame, you might weigh your options accordingly. When you say research match isn't great, is it that it's not ideal or that it really isn't a match? Is the difference between what you want to do and what your advisor would do workable? The dissertation is probably one area where you could explore your interests a bit more if RAships can't meet that need. Just some food for thought that no PhD program is perfect--although I keep reading and hearing that the single most important determinant of a good vs. not good PhD experience is advisor fit (especially in terms of personality/working style). I would also ask - do you think you're going to want to become a professor after the PhD? I've read that it helps a lot if you go to a Top Ten (although this is probabilistic and not deterministic) because faculty positions are so few and far between; if you don't want to be a professor, ranking probably matters less (some see this as the opposite based on external name recognition, but for whatever it's worth one of my former professors mentioned that going to a Top Ten helps in the academic job market). And if nothing else, know that there are no wrong decisions in this situation; by its very definition, "decide" means to cut out options (from Latin "de"=off; "-cide"= root derivative of the Latin word for "cut"), so something's always lost, and something always gained. YMMV, but I find it comforting that deciding, by its very nature, entails giving something up (to gain something else)! Whatever you decide, just make sure you embrace it fully once you make the decision, which will help you leverage it to its fullest! Sending good vibes for everyone!
  10. Hello, 30-something here. I've been asking the inverse of this question - out of fear I wouldn't have too much in common with a cohort of mostly 20-somethings. The resounding response I keep getting over and over is that people aren't even necessarily sure how old some people in their program are, because it doesn't matter too much - it seems that the shared experience of being in the department and going through the PhD is enough glue to help people make friends with their cohort! I have to say I'll be very happy to make friends with my cohort regardless of demographics, especially since I am heavily leaning toward going to a program that will require moving and being away from my long-term partner for most of the duration of the PhD (hoping to spend more time back home on winter/summer breaks if possible). And to me, part of the point of doing a PhD is to build that network, as well. Also, I wanted to say that my undergrad had some non-traditional students who were doing their bachelor's degree in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and that some of them were my best friends in school even though I was barely a teenager/in my 20's. I often turned to them for perspective based on the experiences they'd had before school, and I really valued everything they had to share with me; they seemed to do the same with me, even though I had significantly less experience than them. Also, in my current career I work with a few people who are fresh out of undergrad, and I think they're terrific and genuinely enjoy having lunch with them/hanging out. I have had some great conversations with them and look forward to keeping in touch through the years! Hope this perspective helps.
  11. Wanted to share this with folks because I thought there were some good thoughts here: http://hellophd.com/2018/02/087-how-do-i-choose-a-phd-program/ It's a podcast on choosing a PhD program. They ramble for the first 20 min or so so I'd skip that part, but the 20 minutes mark onward has some good advice to consider.
  12. I had this happen with one of my super-top-school interviewers who was also a POI, though the other interviewer at the school who was also a POI seemed a lot more interested in me. I didn't wind up getting in, BUT I also know that the lackluster interview was one of the last ones my interviewer was doing at the end of a long stretch... so maybe she was extra tired. A couple of thoughts, gleaned while I was freaking out about the interview that didn't go well: 1. From a friend who ended up getting into her program after a lackluster interview: even if you put down the person as POI and it didn't go well, they still vote by committee in adcomms, and it isn't necessarily the case that the POI that doesn't seem excited will be who they assign to you. Maybe someone else will want to take you on instead (what happened to my friend - and she told me to trust my instincts when the interview I had made me not excited to work with that person, as her lackluster interviewer turned out to be a bullet dodged in terms of actual research match for her, and her actual assigned advisor, who had actually not been on her radar, to be a great fit) 2. This process is competitive and we can all feel a little helpless. I went to a very prestigious school for my master's, and if I could go back, I would go somewhere different because it was a terrible fit. Bear in mind that prestige does not equal fit. At said lackluster interview, the POI actually asked me, "what about you is unique that you can bring to school x?" which kind of threw me off... I came up with an answer, but I wrote a pretty thorough application, so it bothered me a little bit that the conversation wasn't more collegial. Yes, these schools are hopefully funding us, and that's competitive, and they have a tough choice to make given all the brilliant applicants I see on this forum (and those who are not on the forum that I imagine to be equally brilliant and committed), but we are giving up a lot in terms of opportunity costs to work for them... so I have been kind of seeing folks who seem to look at this as more of a one-sided thing as a bit of a red flag, because I will need them to mentor me and care about me to a decent extent, and so hopefully they see my value enough to have a conversation with me that flows a bit better and is not so one-sided. I am heavily leaning toward going to a top 20 but not top 10 program (if funding comes through) precisely because, in addition to doing great research that interests me, I have really appreciated how collegial the feel of my conversations with prospective mentors have been. I tend to be a little long-winded on here, but I just want to encourage everyone here to trust your gut!! Give people the benefit of the doubt, absolutely, but just take a lackluster interview as a data point - nothing more, nothing less, but a data point to consider -- is my unsolicited advice.
  13. I applied to SBS as well -- and based on my friend who was able to connect with someone (he applied a few cycles ago, in the global track) and this, that does make me think that the departments handle things differently. Seems like it varies by track, but I second that it is always a good idea to try to connect with profs. I was not able to connect with profs, but they did acknowledge that I wrote, which I think is good and which I perceived as good enough attention to keep me interested in applying, and they referred me to a current student, with whom I connected and from whom I gleaned some really helpful information about the program. The info. from her helped me frame my essay further and helped me determine that the program was, in fact, one in which I was very interested. This is my first time applying to PhD programs, and the process has been a weird/somewhat cryptic one. What I have learned so far from it is to take the info from the website with a grain of salt and always confirm with a human whenever possible. Also, things change from year to year. I was frustrated about the 3 professor thing with Harvard because the application specifically said to choose no more than 3, and then my interviewer asked me for more names of faculty beyond the three I would have liked to work with. I found this frustrating because I had definitely thought of more people, but that list had gotten buried away because they seemed to want us to only have 3. Also, the website says plain and clear that they do not do interviews, and they definitely do interviews. For another school, I was told I was doing an interview but then found out during said interview that I was accepted, but funding wasn't a sure thing - so the interview was instead a discussion on how to try to get me funded. This was a pleasant surprise, of course, but confirmed for me that the wording of a lot of these official notices, correspondences, and websites is definitely not as carefully crafted as I might have thought, and that it's best to just try to gather as much info as possible and ask lots of questions!! For Harvard, my interviewers were 2 of 3 of my POIs, which I put down as both having reached out to (even though they said they couldn't talk, I did reach out) and which I put down as my preferred mentors. I think mine happened to be on the admissions committee, but also I am sure that they consider prof. availability to mentor x students in deciding who should be admitted. At the end of the day, though, who really knows? I've learned a lot from this process and second someone else's question for second-timers -- what did you do differently that you think helped you the second time around? I hope not to have to go through this process again, but if funding doesn't come through, might need to!
  14. If it makes you feel any better, I tried reaching out and they told me they don't talk to people before applications are submitted (because they are so busy). I do know someone who was able to talk to them prior to submitting an app, but I also know his supervisor knew the faculty really really well, which would make a difference in that case, I guess. I did think the process was pretty fair in terms of their considering everyone who applies (and throughout) -- at least from what I can tell. But generally, yeah, helpful to talk to anyone who will talk to you. And I have to hand it to Harvard for letting me know that they had a process whereby they did not talk to people ahead of time and taking the time to respond to tell me. I wound up not applying to a few schools because no one responded to my emails, which I took as a bad sign. Contacting folks can be a good way to gather some info ahead of time to even help you decide whether to apply.
  15. Kendall1234 captured my thoughts well - schools' bargaining chip is funding, and applicants' is being wanted by more than one place. Ugh, looking forward to this process concluding, one way or another!!
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