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About DRMF

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    2019 Fall
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  1. I know nothing about Berkeley specifically (and I think no one here would know - even having a different admin assistant from last year could change these little details). Generally, most schools allow a few extra days for materials to come in, especially LORs since they're out of your control (also think about international students applying from the other end of the earth with >12 hr time differences). I'd recommend emailing the admin/director to let them know about the situation, and have them confirm that the late letter will be included in your profile. It's unlikely they're discussing all applications Mon 8AM, but if for some reason they already printed all of them out in advance, writing that email may make sure they also print out the new letter as it comes in. I had a third rec letter that was >3 days for a number of schools, and I think I was still fine for at least one of them.
  2. If it's coming from a person on the admission committee or otherwise with a considerable level of influence on admissions, that could be a good sign. The fact that they'd take the time to respond to your emails is already saying something. On the other hand, I could also see some people using the term "having a great academic background" to imply "but relatively lacking in research experience (or some other relevant aspect)". I'd look for whether they tried to help you by pointing you to someone else (e.g. "I don't have space in my lab, but I have a collaborator whose most senior grad student is leaving soon.") or if they gave you any extra details about the program. Anything they wrote that could help you get into their school is a good sign that they did actually consider you quite highly.
  3. If you're thinking of gifts, there have a been a few past threads about appropriate gifts for professors/PIs/LOR writers - just use the search function of the forum. I believe the most popular gifts are pens and school logo mugs? I personally hand-wrote my letter writers a little thank you card, and also gave them a small bookmark thingy with designs from my country/culture. I also updated them about where I got in and where I decided to go - many of them really like to hear that! I gave my undergrad PI a piece of accessory apparel with nerdy prints (a microscope, because we worked on microscopy). I also gave nerdy gifts to everyone in the lab, each personalized to what they like/work on (glucose necklace, nucleotide cookie cutters, antibody earrings, tiny lymph node plushies etc.), but that's mostly me having fun buying cute unnecessary stuff (lol) and I'd only do something this elaborate/personal for people I actually worked extensively with, i.e. not someone who only taught me a class and then wrote me a letter.
  4. Sorry you're facing this difficult situation Did any of those people (who said they can't take students) recommend other labs to work in? Do they have regular collaborating labs that seem to be taking students? Sometimes those labs/PIs may not be listed in your program's faculty page, but if they can take you as a student, they can be added to that faculty list. Also have you talked to any upperclassmen or program directors? You may also want to look into the really young PIs in your program, who are usually eager for students and open to taking on a potentially new direction. But in that case you have to be willing to be the first person in this young lab to work on this particular topic (which you seem pretty decided on). I've been told that most students change research topics over the course of their rotations or even in their second or third year, so maybe you could try to be more open to other related areas of research. Does your program have a retreat coming up soon? That's usually a great way to get updates on what everyone's working on and get a feel of what other stuff may excite you. At the end of the day, if you're happy with your first rotation, then worst case you'll just have to do 1-3 more less than relevant rotations (however many is required for your program) and eventually come back to the current lab. In the long run that's still okay, although right now it might seem a waste of time; on the flip side, this might actually be a good opportunity to (1) explore areas of research that you have never worked on but are low key curious about; or (2) learn a new skill through a "technical" rotation (where you tell the PI straight up that you're pretty decided on another lab already, and are just there to learn about a specific technique/computational skill/instrument).
  5. Typically yes, but like PsyDGrad90 said it's usually not too strict. A few schools I applied to had a separate deadline for LORs (e.g. 7 days after the applicant's deadline), but they were in the minority. If you submit everything on your end, and the LORs don't come in within the time frame you expect them to, you can email program coordinators/administrators (in addition to reminder emails to letter writers) to explain the situation and ask about how soon they're actually going to review the applications; if someone is really nice they will straight tell you "we're meeting next Tue so make sure letters are in by Mon 5 PM", but most probably won't tell you that. If you do have a LOR being submitted more than a couple days late, I would also email the program coordinator to make sure that letter is received and being reviewed as part of your profile. Overall, if you're just looking to have a few more days to polish your personal statement, I don't think it's worth it to submit everything on your end on the day it's due; I'd rather leave some buffer time for any potential situations happening on the letter writers' end (technical glitch with the website, letter writer sick / on a plane, etc.).
  6. In my experience very few programs list specific course requirements (the few that do likely don't mean it seriously anyway - there was one Immunology program that still listed "virology" as a required class but I was assured by a senior faculty member at my school that that didn't matter). So one specific course by itself is not going to do much harm; however, an overall lack of relevant coursework will be damaging. Honestly, they've got so much to look at in an application, the transcript itself is likely not getting that much reading time except the GPA and maybe making sure there aren't too many Cs and such. Also, I don't know about your school but my academic advisers were not the best source of information re: how to get into grad school for sciences, since most of them had humanities/social sciences degrees. Talking to real professors who serve on admission committees is much more important - go to those "How to get into grad school" panel talks and ask your questions there. On another note if you want to leave MD or MD/PhD options open, that's a whole other story.
  7. I'm not necessarily in the field, but my understanding is plenty of biomedical/biochemical engineering programs would consider "biotechnology" within the same field, while "zoology" being a little off. However, a background mismatch is still something you will have to compensate for with other parts of your application - make sure the rest of your profile stands out enough for the reviewer to say, "okay this person hasn't got all the prerequisite classes I want to see, but given their records I'd trust them to pick up those missing bits of knowledge once they are here." If you get rejected and they tell you "because you don't have a matching degree in chem engineering", what they really mean could be "you don't have a matching degree AND we were not convinced you're smart/passionate enough to make up for it". Sometimes the program website isn't always up to date on what is a real prerequisite and what is just recommended/preferred. If you have time before the deadline, you should email the relevant program directors, stating clearly that although your Bachelor's was in a different area, you have shifted your interests and can demonstrate your capabilities in doing nanosciences research with relevant coursework during the Master's, your thesis, and other materials (LORs, conferences/publications, or even the GRE to demonstrate general smartness). It's helpful if your LORs are from people in the target field. If you have specific faculty members in mind that you want to work with, you can also email them to ask (1) if they're taking students this/next year, and (2) if they know your background may disqualify you from getting in. (If a faculty member likes you enough, they may even go out of their way to tell the adcom / admin assistants "I want this student, don't toss their application during the initial round". I'm assuming that you're an international student - the chances are particularly low for those with no formal education experience in the US/North America. So you're really trying to make sure your app makes through the first few rounds of selection and gets properly reviewed.)
  8. I don't recall seeing that phrase on any of my apps - but my naive understanding is that it includes professors who taught you + other instructors/lecturers who aren't real "professors". It's probably meant to be less restrictive and allow you to submit letters from someone who does not hold a professorship but knows you well in an academic setting.
  9. In general I've never seen my LORs and on the app page always waived the right to read the letters afterwards. My understanding is that a typical letter is one full page. When this happened to me (for a far less important thing I was applying to), similarly out of the recommender's own principle rather than how much he knew about me personally, I ended up asking someone else for a "full" letter. Is the professor (and his particular style) well-known or respected among others? Is this a field where people often appreciate creativity / deviation from the norm of academic "paperwork"? If not, I'd ask him to either expand it, or maybe add a line saying this is his thing - not sure if he'd feel comfortable with either. Is this your most important letter / are your other LORs looking great? If you have other strong (and conventionally styled) letters from similarly/more relevant people, then this could be okay. I had one letter that was "pretty short" according to an interviewer who read it (I've never seen it myself); it was from a research-wise well respected professor who only taught me one class, and it was supposed to supplement a very strong, personalized letter from a junior faculty member I did 3+ yrs of research with. It turned out fine for me; in fact, the interviewer was talking positively about the fact that I got a letter from him, and only recalled that the letter was unusually short after I said something along the lines of "yeah I felt grateful, although he wasn't very responsive/timely in submitting the letter for me". Grammatical errors - probably fine unless very noticeable. The faculty reading these apps likely are reading them fast.
  10. So sorry to hear you've been caught in this situation. Unfortunately this does happen quite often (esp within certain fields), and below is the advice I was given by various people on this matter (and fortunately I never had to use any of it): (1) when someone asks you to write your own letter, it's usually 1 of 2 scenarios: EITHER the professor is from an education system (ie of another country) where writing your own letter is the norm, OR they're hinting to you that they don't know you that well / think highly of you / care about you enough to write a strong letter themselves. Think of alternative LOR writers now, if you can. If the professor is actually very eager to help you and simply isn't familiar with how LORs work, it's very helpful to meet with them face to face and explain how important it is that they put in some time to write this letter themselves - and always end the email with something like, "although having a strong letter from you would greatly help strengthen my application, you are in no way obligated, and I'm grateful for your guidance over the years as a wonderful instructor/advisor/whatever". (2) never actually write your own "letter": it's okay to provide a list of bullet points that you'd like them to address, in particular if there are bad grades on your transcript that you'd like them to explain from a more convincing perspective. You can also send them your personal statement draft and resume, highlighting keywords/sentences that you'd like them to echo in their letter. Just don't write that letter yourself, if at all possible, for your own benefit. In fact it might be against certain academic integrity guidelines. (3) sometimes if there's someone they know and trust (say a grad student/technician/post doc) who know you better and is more capable of writing you a strong, personalized letter, you can ask that person to write the draft and have them and the professor both co-sign the letter. However, I never did it so I don't know logistically how that could be done with each school's app system. I know it's been two weeks and you might have already gotten somewhere with this - please let me know if I could be of more help.
  11. So first of all, if you're quite certain the first two letters will be strong, the third one shouldn't be a huge factor either way, so I wouldn't sweat too much about it. When you put in their info into the system, the page typically asks what's their relationship to you - if you write "college academic advisor" or "science communications course instructor", the app reader knows that this letter is less important than the other two that say "research mentor". If I were you, I would do the science comm professor, again given you're confident about it being a "good rec". In general, it's definitely more important to avoid a bad letter; if you're choosing between two moderately helpful ones, both could be good choices. Also, if one of these two people is much more experienced/senior than the other, I'd lean towards a more experienced recommender, because (1) they have a better idea of what the admission committee want to hear and (2) they're able to say "in my X years of teaching and mentoring experience I've seen over Y number of students and this one is among the top Z%" whereas the other one simply isn't able to say so. Another strategy I've seen is to actually ask both of them, and use them differently for different apps. For example, say the advisor worked at one particular school you're applying to, use him for that particular app. If another program specifically states they want to see science-related community service/volunteer/advocacy stuff, use the science comm professor's. Some app systems allow an optional 4th - use both. It's always good to have a back up in case one falls sick or somehow can't submit things in time. In the end, as long as the two recommenders each gets asked to fill out at least 1 link, they shouldn't feel like they wasted their time writing that letter.
  12. It's almost always separate links, unless it's a medical school system. I was told that some of those links can be annoying - asking a bunch of redundant multiple choice questions ("How strongly do you recommend this student" "on a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate this applicant's enthusiasm/dedication/maturity/knowledge, etc. etc." ) or just general web glitches. It sounds like your recommender is not experienced with these submission systems, so if you could, warn them about these potential issues and ask them to submit things a bit before the deadline. But also let them know explicitly that you as an applicant have no access to that link and do not know whether/which schools will have those annoying questions.
  13. You haven't been able to find a clear answer likely because there simply isn't one. From what I know, even two faculty members on the same program's admissions committee could have vastly different opinions on stuff like this. (I've been to a grad school app info session where one professor said "I think the personal statement is the most important part of your application" and immediately the next professor from the same department said "I usually just skip the personal statement". Likewise, there are people who completely disregard the GRE and then some who use it as a first-step cutoff.) Will all accomplishments during a Master's be considered positively? Of course. Out of those you listed, I think LORs and conference presentation (not mere attendance but actually doing a talk or poster) would weigh the most, whereas the Master's GPA won't change much (in my limited experience, most grad courses are more generous with grades compared to undergrad, so straight A's in grad school doesn't add much). But how much of all that is needed to make up for a bad GRE score would depend on how bad it is, how far back it was, your field of study and how much this particular program's ad com values GRE in general, and everything else like your undergrad GPA and personal statement.
  14. I only have personal / anecdotal experience to share re: the GRE: (1) my undergrad PI definitely cares about GRE and GPA scores when taking grad students; there was at least one instance where he basically refused to interview an applicant b/c of their score (it was more like, "I could meet them but I don't think there's too much of a point..."). (2) during one of my own grad school interviews, the interviewer had my app profile printed out in front of him and had clearly written notes/highlighted certain bits; I could see that he circled out my GRE scores (as a positive note, I think). Both of these people were Asians who had their early education in Asia, and I'd guess that the way they were brought up probably influenced how much they valued these stats. Otherwise, I interviewed at 4 places and the GRE/GPA never came up in any interactions with interviewers/program directors/other applicants, besides the aforementioned incident. So I guess the conclusion is there are surely some PIs who care about these scores, but whether that alone will "cause a problem" likely depends on who's in the specific program's ad com / interviewer pool.
  15. As long as you're not in the subfields of biology where they do direct admits to specific labs (like ecology?), and the program page doesn't say things like "we strongly recommend that you contact potential PIs before applying", reaching out to specific people isn't usually necessary. I, for one, did not email anyone.
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