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About DRMF

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    Double Shot

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    2019 Fall
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  1. I have no answers for most of your questions, though I can relay a few pieces of advice of what to do with a low GPA. I think from what I saw, people primarily say don't focus too much on your negatives - maybe a sentence in the SOP, but not a whole paragraph. Consider phrasing it as a jumping point and ending on a positive note, e.g. "although personal hardships in my X year made it difficult to ..., I ..." A few application portals I've seen have a designated section for you to explain things, and that could be a suitable place for a short paragraph explaining the situation. Now, if you don't already know, the key thing here is to have one of your rec letter writers explain this on your behalf in their letter; that way it's coming from someone credible, and you're not seen as making excuses. Obviously you shouldn't ask to read the actual letters, but you should ask at least one letter writer if they'd be willing to include it (for them it could be whatever length/form they deem appropriate). The fact that your overall GPA improved and you had a solid major GPA should be obvious, but you could also have them highlight that in the letter.
  2. I think this depends quite a bit on the rest of your profile. E.g. if there are shortcomings (esp in GPA) that could be made up by a good GRE score, it's probably worth it. It also depends on how much time/money/stress taking the GRE would mean to you, and how well you expect to do. Find a free practice test online and see? When a program no longer requires GRE it represents a general attitude that it's not important overall, but the specific adcom members who happen to read your application may still have different views. I assume you've worked in a lab in college, so you could consult your current PI and maybe course instructors as well, who themselves serve on adcoms. You can also email each program's director to try and get a better sense whether GRE is "encouraged but not required" vs "barely considered". One can imagine a school's whole Biosciences division making GRE optional, while the Comp Neuro program in particular still relies somewhat heavily on the GRE Quant score.
  3. Every single grad school app info session I went to, including ones tailored towards all STEM subjects and not just biology, emphasized first thing that rec letters have to be Faculty/PIs - no postdoc, no lecturer, no senior scientist (and oh my of course no students!). If you were working with a lab member, they can co-write and co-sign the letter with your PI; in reality, it sometimes means the lab member writes the entire letter, and the PI who doesn't know your name reads it over in 3 min and signs - but the official name of recommender absolutely has to be the PI, and the link for submitting the letter has to be sent to the PI's email.
  4. If you have a rough school list, look at their application requirements and see if they explicitly state who can write you letters. As a rule of thumb your recommenders should be people who know you as a future scholar/scientist. Some application portals will explicitly say if these people need to hold faculty (and not "staff") positions or certain degrees. If the wording is vague you can email their program director to double check. Your first 2 look like solid choices (if you've worked in any sort of lab for years, the ad com would want to see a letter from that PI regardless of the specific research area). I think some, maybe not all, ad coms will consider the choir director a bit odd. If you believe the first 2 letters will be strong, I'd play safe and find an "average" 3rd recommender, who may not know you super well but is either a nice person or well known in the field. Again each school may want to see different things, some may even encourage you to include one LOR who can comment on your non-academic qualities. It's also never a bad idea to have at least 4 people ready to write for you, just in case one falls ill / ghosts you. Some applications will allow an optional 4th letter. For your reference I was at an info session for Stanford's biosciences phd program, which irrc accepts an extra optional rec letter, so I asked if they'd like to see a letter from a community service organization that I'd worked with for 4 years. The answer was a clear no.
  5. Email the program director / whoever emailed you with the offer to ask. Just be polite and to the point.
  6. Which has nothing to do with Trump's announcement on immigration halt. The user I was replying to thought this "immigration halt" would have to be lifted for international students to come to school, showing that they probably didn't know what the word immigrant means in legal contexts.
  7. International students are NOT immigrants. To get most types of visas you explicitly CANNOT want to immigrate. By definition you're in the US as a temporary guest to do a specific thing (education, tourism, visiting a family member etc.) and are not here to stay.
  8. If someone currently lives there, they should definitely be able and willing to Facetime or Zoom with you to show you the place. Also ask them to whom the security deposit check would be addressed to - it should be the name of a management or leasing company, and you can look up whether that's legit.
  9. This is UChicago's all-campus email about the financial prospect of the university. https://coronavirusupdates.uchicago.edu/apr-7-email-update-2/ Slowed academic hiring and suspended staff hiring (with exceptions) - I think that'd imply that some postdocs would stay another year who'd otherwise have gotten faculty jobs, and that same PI/department may not have the funding to take a new student. Similarly, college/master's grads who'd planned to apply for "staff" jobs (e.g. research technician) now have fewer options and may apply for more grad schools. Also some departments' funding source depends heavily on tuition paid by international students, many of whom won't be able to enroll and thus won't pay tuition. This is not even accounting for everything else going on outside academia. There was a post earlier (not necessarily in your field) where one of OP's offers *rescinded* the funding package, which is highly unusual and reflects how much funding strain that school is experiencing - you bet that program will admit fewer students next year. I do think areas more related to the pandemic e.g. infectious disease/public health may see a different trend, but overall it's likely that acceptances will go down.
  10. Given the pandemic some delays are expected, but your descriptions of Cincinnati and Oklahoma State sound like they really should have let you know already, esp Oklahoma State. Have you tried contacting an alternative person (e.g. program director rather than admin assistant)? Or if they offer a phone number online, just call. At this point it doesn't really hurt even if it shows your despair..
  11. What's your post-graduation plan (job vs phd) and does your dream program have a history of offering better career outcomes? How would the student loan measure against your ability to pay it off in the years following? Remember there's possibility of a recession in the US due to the pandemic, job prospect for the next 1-2 years may not be what you'd expected, and PhD apps are likely to be more competitive as well. Have you explored alternative funding opportunities at the dream school? I heard some people had even ask a program to match funding packages from other schools.
  12. I think in this particular case it's probably safer to go with university-affiliated housing. Even if it's more expensive, or known to have subpar conditions/amenities, you know who you're dealing with and the university's office is not going to disappear on you or go bankrupt or whatever. If the school decides to go remote for fall, they're more likely to be flexible with you breaking the lease than the average landlord. You'll only live there for one year and then you can move somewhere you love next summer. And just think about all the international students in all of history who never get to do in-person tours before signing their first lease in the US. You probably know a few. The vast majority do fine. You can in fact contact agents who specialize in leasing to international students, since they're more familiar with the virtual touring format.
  13. Have you tried contacting any of them? If these programs typically do interviews, you should just assume it's a reject. It's only 10 days from the national deadline for admitted students to decide which funded offer they're taking - they're probably not expecting to do "interviews, offer, wait for your decision" all in 10 days.
  14. Think about how fast you typically form meaningful friendships with others and how you would picture yourself living at either place. Have you thought about what the campus vibe and city life are like at the faraway place vs home? What's your #1 hobby, and are you equally able to keep it going at both places? Do current students at either program say that they feel they have a great support network? Are there non-academic student organization and opportunities to bond with others in the program / school? (Soccer? Ballroom dance? Board game night? Knitting??) Also depends on your field and how "social" in nature your studies will be. If your thesis will involve collaborating with many different people across disciplines, or interviewing subjects, that's a very different kind of PhD from sitting alone in your office staring at your computer 14 hours a day. Do you know your adviser yet? Are they known to, you know, invite students to Thanksgiving lunch at their house, or let trainees take time off when things aren't working out? I'm an international student so I don't what to say from personal experience lol
  15. This is not how you ask for help. List out all the pros and cons that you're currently considering, which factors you think matter the most to you, which aspects you're already sure about and which you're not familiar with. Then others can help you weigh your options or offer information/share their experience.
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