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  1. Upvote
    Hanyuye reacted to GeoDUDE! for a blog entry, Random Advice Before I Start   
    Hello All,

    I haven't blogged for bunch here, but I thought I would just make a list of advice I thought of as I've been in graduate school a while and am starting at a new school. This advice isn't necessarily unique, but hopefully it will help people anyway.

    It doesn't make sense to apply to a few top graduate schools, it makes much more sense to apply to many top graduate schools. This rational should make sense; if your ultimate goal is to go to a top program, apply to all of the top programs for your best chance. Too many times I see people who target midteir schools and throw in their random MIT/Harvard ect. You might get lucky, but chances are if you are only applying to 1 or 2 top 20 schools, you wont get into a top 20 school. Another way to phrase this is apply to the schools you most want to go to.

    If there is severe weakness on your application, such as bad GPA or GRE, you should be embarrassed about it and act like it. Being embarrassed about it gives off the idea that you are used to being excellent at everything, and this is just a setback that you wish you didn't have. The wrong attitude is "Grades don't matter" or "I just don't test well". Perhaps this is true, but you are trying to sell your self to graduate schools.

    Be honest about how general your research interests are, being super specific does more damage good for the most part! A PhD is a research degree designed to teach you how to solve open problems. The things that matter most are department and advisor, but the research project can be enjoyable as long as it fits in some general research interest. I'm not telling you to research Russian Lit if you are only interested in American Lit, but perhaps the period of American Lit you study can be more flexible. In graduate school you are exposed to tons of new ideas, the development of your research should be affected by them. Apply to work with strong advisors in strong departments and worry about the last 10-20% of research fit later, you will probably find that it doesn't matter anyway!

    During interviews and visiting weekends, be yourself. Because the serious "I need to get into graduate school" version of yourself is probably a lot less likable than your normal self. And people want to accept people they like. Think of it like a first date.

    Write early and often, because eventually you will hate your thesis/dissertation. Everyone I have talked to (including myself, yes, I talk to myself) goes through a period where they hate their research. This period usually comes when you are in the final stages of writing your thesis/dissertation. For me, it came after I finished my MSc Thesis but needed to do revisions after the defense. My committee handing it back to me with corrections and annotations made me want to throw up. I think this stemmed from the fact that I wrote ~50% of it in a 4 week period, when most of it could have been finished a lot earlier!

    Help other graduate students who are struggling in the classes of your specialty. If you are taking a class with your advisor or in your subfield, and people are taking that class for breadth requirement, help them when they need it! This will make it much more likely that they will help you when you are fulfilling your breadth requirement in their subfield !

    Make friends outside your department. Because department politics get old.

    Be 100% honest with your advisor. It makes it much harder for them to give you good advice if you aren't honest. If they say, hey can you write that program for me and have it to me by Friday, but you are swamped, its ok to say "well I have a lot to do this week, perhaps I can get it to you on monday or tuesday next week ?"

    Don't be afraid of Bs. If you are getting all Bs, there is probably a problem. If you are getting all As, there is probably a problem.

    Don't skip happy hour because you have a lot of work. This is pretty self explanatory. You can always go for an hour then head back to the lab. Just stick to your limits, but always try to do something social every day, even if it is just chatting over a single beer for 30 minutes to an hour with someone.

    Learn how to fail gracefully. Because most of the time you will fail, until you graduate, when you succeed. Learning from these failures is the most important thing when trying to get through a graduate degree.

    Anyway... thats all I can think of.
  2. Downvote
    Hanyuye reacted to moyru for a blog entry, I GOT IN!   
    It would appear that my dreams were indeed accurate! Dreamt about a rejection from Stanford and got rejected from Stanford....dreamt about an acceptance from HGSE and I just found out I was admitted into the HGSE TIE program! AHHHHH!

    The official freak out begins!

    Where am I going to live? How am I going to pay for everything? What's my financial aid? How am I going to tell everyone at work?

    I didn't even tell my mom I was applying! Now I need to tell her I'm moving across the country!

    Oh my goodness.
  3. Upvote
    Hanyuye reacted to TheFez for a blog entry, Like Watching Sausage Being Made   
    This week I got a peek behind the curtain at the application review process and it's not pretty. As they say "a little like watching sausage being made".

    At a social function I overheard some discussion about the PhD applications under review (in another department at another school on another planet with no specifics about any individuals, I swear).

    Using a sample size of admittedly N=1, I was struck by the difference in the relative importance various members give to different parts of the application. Some like SOPs some don't place much emphasis in them. Some want a hard number for GREs, others(like many of you I gather)think they are worthless. Some are impressed by pedigree - others almost seem to rebel against the idea. Apparently a sort of weighting system has evolved - but in trying to reach consensus among near equals there appears to be a reversion toward the mean - so that in the end no single part of the application was rendered unimportant.

    In reflecting on how applicants probably need to react to the process I thought about that old joke:

    Two campers are awakened by an angry bear outside their tent. Fearing for their lives they jump out and start to run away. One camper says to the other "I sure hope we can outrun this bear" and the other says "I don't care about outrunning the bear - I just hope I can outrun you".

    With no absolute formula or level that ensures acceptance - how you stack up compared to the next guy may matter the most. (Ah, a true economist - thinking at the margins). If the rubrik depends on a small set of judges who hold very different opinions about what they are looking for the best bet is solid strength everywhere rather than brilliance in one aspect of your work that hopes to compensate for major shortcomings elsewhere. This may not be the situation in a lot places - but I suspect it's more common than not.

    Fez Out.
  4. Downvote
    Hanyuye reacted to TheFez for a blog entry, Think the GRE is useless? Think again.   
    Most people who think that the GRE is stupid and useless also have low GRE scores.

    Like it or not you need good GRE (or GMAT)scores to get into a good program, because like it or not, people with good GRE scores tend (I say tend) to have natural academic abilities far beyond those of mortal men. The GRE is designed to be hard to do really well on (read 85%-90%+) without intuition, insight and reasoning skills - not just grade school math and vocabulary skills.

    For the not-so-lucky end of the gene pool, there's another reason the GRE is useful to ad comms. Because you can do well on the GRE by working hard to prepare for it. So, low GRE scores mean either 1) you are not naturally gifted or 2) you didn't work hard enough at passing it and might not work hard enough in grad school. (What,you think comps don't require the same level of dedication?)

    So you say "I worked really, really hard and I still got a 130Q". You might want to lower your sights(and your sites), head for the chat room, and complain about how useless the GRE is.
  5. Downvote
    Hanyuye reacted to cokohlik for a blog entry, Things are starting to become clear   
    Some things are starting to become clear in my new adventure, and some things still remain a mystery.

    I've been in touch with two graduate students (one is one of my POI's students and one is from hereeee ) and they've been awesome answering all my questions and going above and beyond what I would have ever imagined. I feel so much more at ease about this crazy transition that my husband & I are about to undertake (no matter how much I flip flop in the following paragraphs ... it's true, I feel much much more prepared, peaceful & knowledgable about all this).

    I now have a list of apartments to check out and I'm making a To Do list for when we get to Newark. The #1 thing on that list besides meeting my POI & current students and the like is to try Brew HaHa! which is a coffeeshop there. I have super high expectations. I love coffee and was a barista for two years during my undergrad so I really hope it's as good as it sounds. Their website shows that they make latte art (bears, hearts, etc.) so that's really exciting. (Sorry, I abuse the word "exciting" lately...)

    One graduate student told me about a mandatory TA conference where for two days, everyone TAing in the next year goes to this conference and talks about teaching methods/engaging your students/grading/etc. and oh my goodness it might as well just be renamed "Amy's Heaven Conference" because two days talking about teaching?? Yes please. I'm not sure how UDel can get any more awesome than already is... but I'm sure it will once we visit and meet people and see how pretty the campus is and so on. I'm so ready for classes to start.

    I noticed that my funding stops on May 31, 2013, so I'm a little worried about funding for Summer 2013, but I hope that I'm just overthinking it and it will fall into place. Mostly I'm anxious for my husband, having to find a job. He's in IT but he's multi-talented so I feel like he won't have much trouble finding a job with comparable pay, but I haven't really started looking to see what people in the area/Wilmington/maybe even Philly if we have to are making (trying to get away from that commute).

    I have so much to do before we move! Reading, packing, more reading... Mostly reading.

    Thanks for listening to me ramble on! I wonder how long I'll get to blog on here.
  6. Upvote
    Hanyuye reacted to cokohlik for a blog entry, Preparing for Grad School   
    I really liked and thought it would be fun to make a list of my own.

    1. Officially accept the offer by signing paperwork & sending it back (via post ... ugh.)

    2. Visit Newark! My husband & I will be spending the week of our wedding anniversary in Newark exploring the campus, housing options, perhaps meet my POI, etc. I can't wait! We won't have a rental car but it seems like Newark has pretty awesome public transportation to/from Newark, Wilmington, and the mall I keep hearing about (Christiana, I think?)

    3. Get housing. I read somewhere on the Grad Cafe that housing in Newark can fill up a year in advance. This is not the type of thing someone moving across the country wants to read! The last thing I want is for us to start grad school living in a hotel or something of that sort. I'm hoping we'll be able to get this worked out. UDel's family housing has a waiting list, too, and thus housing isn't guaranteed. I'd say that's our biggest stress factor right now.

    4. Start the job search (for my husband). He has a wonderful job right now that we'll be sad to leave and I'm hoping he'll be able to find something he really likes with comparable pay. (Okay, this is equal stress to housing. )

    5. Go to Disneyland! We have some free tickets that we need to use up. Plus, where better to celebrate than the Happiest Place on Earth? I'd like to be 5 again for a day.

    6. Find out how & when to register for classes (apparently this information will be coming in a welcome package).

    7. Read, read, read! I have a huge reading list to finish before I start grad school. I've been working on it for about a year now, and there's still a ton of books left. Some of them I've already read during my undergrad years, but I want to refresh my memory.

    8. Start watching movies and reading in the Romance languages. I've got to keep those skills up. I bet my first class will be something daunting like "read this 600 page tome in archaic 17th century Italian." That's what I'm expecting, anyway. Do your worst!

    9. Tell everyone. Our families and some close friends know, but I don't think the reality has set in for some of those friends. Hoping to spend tons of time with them before we go.

    10. Pack & move & set up our new place!

  7. Upvote
    Hanyuye reacted to cokohlik for a blog entry, Dreamschoolception: The puzzle grows.   
    Pardon my lame attempt at integrating "Inception" into this title

    I bit the bullet and called my dream school POI yesterday. He kind of laughed and was like, the status of your application is... there is no status. (Cue scene from the Matrix: There is no spoon.) Which in turn made me laugh (internally) because I know that this school has sent out acceptances and rejections. I asked him if I was on some sort of wait list and he said no, because it hasn't gotten to that point -- the faculty are still deliberating, and everyone pulls for who they want to work with but the school also wants the best students. It was still a productive call because I got a timeframe: he'll call me either way with a decision a week from yesterday.

    When we hung up, I got a call right back, asking if the faculty asked him, "would you be willing to change your application from the PhD to the MA?" to which I said "Well yes, but my only hesitation is that I doubt I could afford the MA" and he said that no, it would come with funding, to which I said "of course." If the MA lacks a stipend, I'm not sure what I'll do for living costs --- loans? Hah! (Not trying to be a downer for people who do this, it can be perfectly justifiable, I just can't see myself making that choice). This is the same conundrum I'm in with the MA offer I already hold, but since family are close by, moving costs would be significantly reduced leaving more money in the savings account... :/ And this whole financial "mess" if I can call it that is a large part of why PhD programs are attractive. (Ending my slightly tangential rant about finances now )

    Now what I have to obsess over (there will always be something worrying me! I'm sorry GradCafers!) is this: Maybe, since I told him I'd be willing to change to the MA, he'll just go right into the committee meeting and be like "Oh, she's ok with changing her application to the MA so let's deliberate over that," rather than trying to get me into the PhD and using the MA as a last resort (which is what I naturally would prefer since the PhD program is what I'm really after). I don't know how it'll work, I only hope that whatever it is, it's good, and obviously I can dream for the miraculous PhD acceptance.

    One more worrying thing: He said he hadn't looked at my application in "a while," so now I'm wondering how many students he's pushing for. Then again, "a while" could mean a day for someone who is forgetful, or it could literally mean... a while. Months. Who knows. *sigh*

    Anyway!! I wanted to keep this blog up to date with my latest forays into the muddy waters that is grad school admissions.
  8. Downvote
    Hanyuye reacted to cokohlik for a blog entry, Email from my Dream School!!!!   
    I got an email from my dream school today, asking for an update on any other offers I'm considering (no update, sad day). I wrote back and said that the MA program is still the only offer, but that UMD is sending their letters via post so I might have an offer update for them in a few days. (Post, really? Agony!)

    That's not the good part.

    The good part is when the email asked me to please not accept any offers without checking with (dream POI, who also wrote the email) first.


    That is a good statement right? I thought it was a very serious and positive statement for them to make and of course this isn't an acceptance but it means I'm not out of the running.

    I was also pretty forthright in my response and told them right off the bat that this school is my dream school and that I would accept. (Of course I didn't add that I financially would not be able to accept if there was no funding but ... they fund everyone who they accept, so I didn't think it needed to be said.)

    My imagination is going crazy. I'm 99.9% positive that this email was a good thing.

    Now, naturally, I have to get all paranoid on you for a second and ask this:

    Do you think that they asked for an update on my offers because they want to see how popular I am and admit me if I'm "popular" (i.e., accepted to more than one program) or reject me if I'm not? Because obviously, with one acceptance having applied to 12ish schools, I'm not "popular" this application season.

    I would like to think that the only reason they want to know is so that they can match the offer and admit me. I applied to their PhD program, so I imagine that any offer they make me, I would readily accept in a heartbeat. However, if they're asking so they can say "Well, she only has one offer and Candidate X has three... let's poach them instead," then that's just sad and I'd feel toyed with.

    What do you guys think? Is them asking me what other offers I've gotten not really a good sign? (I do believe that them asking me not to accept without checking with them is a wonderful statement and a great sign...)
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