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TakeruK

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  1. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from Phoenix88 in I feel my PhD has been a waste   
    I'm finishing my 4th year of grad school too

    I have heard many other people give me similar advice when I started my PhD. That is, they advised me to make sure I am not just a "technician". In my field, that would be someone who writes code to analyze data or collects data from the telescope. However, I think it is much easier said than done for a PhD student to be 100% independent researchers that come up with our own ideas etc. I'm nearing the end of PhD year 2 now and most of what I've done is technician type work.
     
    From observing my colleagues, I would say that the majority of us are performing technician type work too. Perhaps not as much as you are currently describing, so I think that even though you might be doing more protocols type work than you would like to, it is possible that you are not that "far behind" (if it even puts you behind) the others.
     
    The other piece of advice I got after I started here, after my quals, was that a PhD student should aim to be an expert in something by the time they graduate. It does not have to be a research question/topic. For example, one prof here was an expert in using a particular technique for observing astronomical objects. Because of his technical training during his PhD, he was able to utilize the instrument in novel ways and come up with a lot of interesting results in his postdoc and early faculty days. His research during grad school is not really related to his current work at all, except for the type of instrument being used.
     
    So, perhaps not having as much "science" being done might hurt you a bit. But you have a ton of useful skills now. Perhaps a good idea might be to talk with your advisor and spend your last 1-2 years in the lab being a true expert in one of the many skills you have developed thus far? Also come up with research ideas involving this protocol/method to present in your future research statements.
     
    In my field, being an expert in [astronomical object X] will make the people interested in X want to hire you and be interested in you. But being an expert in [observing/analyzing method Y] will also make anyone you can convince that you can use Y on their object of interest want to hire you. So, I think it's important to be an expert in something, but that something can technical thing or a research topic thing!
  2. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from VulpesZerda in Random Advice Before I Start   
    I'd interpret "happy hour" pretty liberally. It doesn't have to be drinks (even thought the example was for beer). My department's weekly happy hour has non alcoholic drinks as well. Some people sometimes even bake yummy stuff to share too. 
     
    I think the spirit of GeoDUDE!'s advice is to remember to take time to socialize with others instead of getting lost in the mindset of "ahh so much work". You will always have "a lot of work" and being the grad student that never wants to socialize is not a great reputation to have. Personally, I try to have lunch with my colleagues every day, spend some time having coffee/going for a walk, and go to the weekly social hour as much as I can. 
     
    But that said, I don't think "general rules" apply to all specific cases. For example, social hour makes me happy but there are some weeks where I just want to go home. Or, during the few weeks leading up to my quals, I felt my free time was limited enough and I'd prefer to spend the few hours I had doing something else instead! So, in these cases, I felt that actually going to the happy hour was making less happy than not going, so I didn't!
     
    i.e. there is already enough pressure in grad school--don't feel bad about going to happy hour if it would make you feel better, but it would defeat the purpose if you felt that it was yet another pressure/demand you must meet!
  3. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from spellbanisher in Random Advice Before I Start   
    That's interesting to learn about how different programs/fields have different perspectives on a PhD! In the physical sciences, it's all about jobs, which is really all about research. Instead of learning work habits etc. in courses, we learn this through hands-on experience in our research work and mostly through guidance of our supervisors. In our field we don't really worry about "high quality dissertations", instead, we worry about publishing papers. Most dissertations in our field are just a compilation of 3-5 papers that we wrote during grad school. They are usually verbatim copied into the dissertation (with a note saying we did so) and then we might write a couple of chapters that link them together in the month or so leading up to the defense.
     
    The purpose of our courses is to aid our professionalism too. However, they are still research focussed. The reason why I had to take geology courses, for example, is not so I can know enough geology to do my own research on it, though. We take geology courses so 1) we can understand the basic jargon and concepts in our geology colleagues' talks/research and 2) we can know what kind of problems our geology colleagues are working on because we might face a future problem that a colleague has already (partially) solved in their field, or vice-versa.
     
    So, we take introductory courses in a wide breadth of subjects to form our foundation. We don't actually do a lot of learning in our own research topic in courses. In most cases, the students who are working in the topic of the course will already know everything that would be taught. We're expected to do most of our actual learning in our research topic in the process of completing the research!
  4. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from GeoDUDE! in Random Advice Before I Start   
    That makes a lot of sense As I said above, I think it's fun to hear how academics in different fields learn/train differently! So, thanks for sharing/explaining. And I hope the clarifications above provide more context to GeoDUDE!'s advice and when one should or shouldn't follow them!
  5. Upvote
    TakeruK reacted to spellbanisher in Random Advice Before I Start   
    History is an interpretative and discursive (in the sense of discourse, not rambling) field. The first thing a professional historian has to learn how to do is "converse" with other works in his area of specialty. They have to learn how to critique and synthesize other historical narratives as well as incorporate them in his own.
     
    In the most of the classes I took at my masters program we would write a longer (12-16 page) historiographical essay that summarizes and critiques the major works(what kind of sources do they use, what kinds of frameworks do they use for interpreting those sources, what does it contribute or how does it move the field forward, and where is it flawed or fallen short) on a particular topic while synthesizing these works to form a different narrative. These skills aren't really learned in undergrad, where the emphasis is usually on allowing students to form their own opinions or interpretations without having to really engage with the existing body of literature on the subject. Whereas undergraduates are taught to focus on content and argument, graduates have to learn how to also focus on method, sources, and discourse (how the historian situates his narrative within the broader literature)
     
    So grad classes train a historian in the art of historiography. They also introduce you to important literature in your fields of study, and possibly some outside ones too,along with exposing you to different methods and styles of interpretation.  Exams provide the breadth of knowledge that will allow the historian to teach a range of classes as well as be conversant in several fields of history. The dissertation, along with demonstrating the students skills in historical analysis, interpretation, research, writing, and historiography, also ensures depth.
     
    Not every program works this way. In many European universities, such as Oxford, you just start working on your dissertation right away. When my undergraduate advisor was a grad student at Harvard in the 1950s, he said it was pretty much sink or swim on your own, whereas other programs want to professionally train their students before they start their research. That was the case with one of my letter writers from my master's program, who went to UC Davis in the 1990s. He and his major adviser didn't even talk about research until after he took his exams, which was in the fourth year of the program. 
     
    As for publishing, it is very difficult to publish in the humanities. A historian will usually only publish at most a chapter or two from his dissertation, and maybe present another chapter or two at academic conferences. But it isn't uncommon for the monograph based on the dissertation to be the first thing a historian publishes. 
  6. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from GeoDUDE! in Random Advice Before I Start   
    That's interesting to learn about how different programs/fields have different perspectives on a PhD! In the physical sciences, it's all about jobs, which is really all about research. Instead of learning work habits etc. in courses, we learn this through hands-on experience in our research work and mostly through guidance of our supervisors. In our field we don't really worry about "high quality dissertations", instead, we worry about publishing papers. Most dissertations in our field are just a compilation of 3-5 papers that we wrote during grad school. They are usually verbatim copied into the dissertation (with a note saying we did so) and then we might write a couple of chapters that link them together in the month or so leading up to the defense.
     
    The purpose of our courses is to aid our professionalism too. However, they are still research focussed. The reason why I had to take geology courses, for example, is not so I can know enough geology to do my own research on it, though. We take geology courses so 1) we can understand the basic jargon and concepts in our geology colleagues' talks/research and 2) we can know what kind of problems our geology colleagues are working on because we might face a future problem that a colleague has already (partially) solved in their field, or vice-versa.
     
    So, we take introductory courses in a wide breadth of subjects to form our foundation. We don't actually do a lot of learning in our own research topic in courses. In most cases, the students who are working in the topic of the course will already know everything that would be taught. We're expected to do most of our actual learning in our research topic in the process of completing the research!
  7. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from Monochrome Spring in Random Advice Before I Start   
    That's interesting to learn about how different programs/fields have different perspectives on a PhD! In the physical sciences, it's all about jobs, which is really all about research. Instead of learning work habits etc. in courses, we learn this through hands-on experience in our research work and mostly through guidance of our supervisors. In our field we don't really worry about "high quality dissertations", instead, we worry about publishing papers. Most dissertations in our field are just a compilation of 3-5 papers that we wrote during grad school. They are usually verbatim copied into the dissertation (with a note saying we did so) and then we might write a couple of chapters that link them together in the month or so leading up to the defense.
     
    The purpose of our courses is to aid our professionalism too. However, they are still research focussed. The reason why I had to take geology courses, for example, is not so I can know enough geology to do my own research on it, though. We take geology courses so 1) we can understand the basic jargon and concepts in our geology colleagues' talks/research and 2) we can know what kind of problems our geology colleagues are working on because we might face a future problem that a colleague has already (partially) solved in their field, or vice-versa.
     
    So, we take introductory courses in a wide breadth of subjects to form our foundation. We don't actually do a lot of learning in our own research topic in courses. In most cases, the students who are working in the topic of the course will already know everything that would be taught. We're expected to do most of our actual learning in our research topic in the process of completing the research!
  8. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from GeoDUDE! in Random Advice Before I Start   
    It might depend on program, but in general, grad students who get all As in their courses are probably spending more than 10 hours per week on each course. We take approx. 3 courses per quarter, so trying hard enough to ensure all As would likely mean about 40 hours per week on coursework. This doesn't leave very much time for research (unless you are going to work 60+ hour weeks, which doesn't leave much time for other balance stuff). 
     
    On our first week, our own professors told us the same thing GeoDUDE! did--all As is bad, all Bs is bad--aim for something in between!
     
    However, like everything on GeoDUDE's list, they are generalizations. I'm sure there exist grad students that can spend less than 10 hours per week on a course and still get all As and I'm sure there are some grad students that don't get all As yet still have issues achieving the work-life balance they are looking for. But in general, I think GeoDUDE's list is sound advice.
  9. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from GeoDUDE! in Random Advice Before I Start   
    I'd interpret "happy hour" pretty liberally. It doesn't have to be drinks (even thought the example was for beer). My department's weekly happy hour has non alcoholic drinks as well. Some people sometimes even bake yummy stuff to share too. 
     
    I think the spirit of GeoDUDE!'s advice is to remember to take time to socialize with others instead of getting lost in the mindset of "ahh so much work". You will always have "a lot of work" and being the grad student that never wants to socialize is not a great reputation to have. Personally, I try to have lunch with my colleagues every day, spend some time having coffee/going for a walk, and go to the weekly social hour as much as I can. 
     
    But that said, I don't think "general rules" apply to all specific cases. For example, social hour makes me happy but there are some weeks where I just want to go home. Or, during the few weeks leading up to my quals, I felt my free time was limited enough and I'd prefer to spend the few hours I had doing something else instead! So, in these cases, I felt that actually going to the happy hour was making less happy than not going, so I didn't!
     
    i.e. there is already enough pressure in grad school--don't feel bad about going to happy hour if it would make you feel better, but it would defeat the purpose if you felt that it was yet another pressure/demand you must meet!
  10. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from rising_star in Conflict   
    For some advisors and/or for some situations, I find it helpful to write an email to my advisor before after each meeting, saying like "Thanks for meeting with me today. I am going to do X, Y, and Z now as we discussed" etc. That way, the prof can correct me if I misunderstood and we're all on the same page. Also, emails like this sometimes also help you keep your own informal/formal log of what you are doing, why you decided certain things, which might be helpful later on in the experiment.
     
    Sometimes I also write up longer email descriptions of current results and questions and send them to my advisor before a meeting to discuss the very same. These emails are pretty helpful summaries for myself too and I cut out and paste some of these emails directly into my "lab" notebook!
  11. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from Luca in Like Watching Sausage Being Made   
    I agree that the whole admissions process is very unpredictable and there is no magic formula that will guarantee success (other than to be awesome at everything and apply to a lot of schools). I think that the mindset "well, the GRE isn't important, so I shouldn't worry about it" is foolish, but so is the thought that "If I do really really well on the GRE, perhaps the committee will overlook other aspects of my application!" is also incorrect. I've also heard similar stories to the one TheFez presented here both by other students as well as being a part of a discussion about applicants with current faculty members. 
     
    I don't think it's a bad thing that grad school admissions vary so much from one place to another and that you can't have a magic formula / list of things to do that will guarantee success. In courses, for most assignments, we know what the expectations are and we know what we need to do in order to get an A etc. But in research, and in "real life", there is no magic formula. You can do everything right and still end up wrong. Or, you can make tons of mistakes but still turn out okay. 
     
    I think it makes sense for people to discuss and ask things like "Is a letter from X better than one from Y?" but I don't think it's possible for people to exactly quantify their "value" or compute some overall score based on LOR+research+GPA+GRE+whatever and then compare to some master list with the magical numbers required for each school. I think this is a good thing -- it would be very depressing to know that all the aspects that make you unique gets compressed to just one number. Maybe it's easier said now that the application season stress is a year away, but I felt a HUGE wave of relief after I finished my last subject GRE (and even after I got the mediocre score). At that point, I knew that I had pretty much done everything I could towards my applications and there was nothing left to do but wait. I knew that some schools might really hate that GRE score but there's no way to know which one and there's nothing I could do about it!
  12. Upvote
    TakeruK reacted to fuzzylogician in All About Interviews: Experiences for the GC Minions   
    These are great tips! I second everything about preparation, proper attire, and what the visit is normally like.
     
    Other general interview tips:
    - Reread all of your submitted materials - SOP, writing samples, anything else. Know what's in them.
    - Try and keep each answer you give down to 2-3 minutes, and set them up so as to invite your interviewer to ask follow-up questions. This is a great way to steer the conversation toward areas where you feel more confident.
    - It's ok to fumble and to be nervous. Thinking about answers to some common questions will help keep you going when you get stuck. Your goal is really just to sound coherent and excited. The rest will follow naturally.
    - Prepare some questions to ask your interviewers. This will come up. Read the school's website in preparation. See more on this below.
    - Feel free to ask graduate students anything, but watch their reactions. Normally grad students will be very honest and share all kinds of information with you.
    - However, not everyone will say bad things about their advisor to a (practically) stranger, so find roundabout ways of getting at someone's character and style as a mentor. Don't take others' (superficial) opinions too seriously, though. There are always going to be personality clashes between people, so the important question is about the trajectory and general past history of a certain professor, and whether you personally feel that you get along with them. Don't ignore glaring warning signs, but don't give any one person's opinion too much weight.
    - Do some basic preparation with regard to potential advisors. Read such things as the "About" page on their personal/lab website, and look at current and recent projects and publications, to have an idea of what their research. I don't think it's necessary to actually read any papers. If you know you'll be interviewed by people outside your subfield, I think it's enough to know what the person generally does. They will not expect you do know details of their work.
    - Above all else, BE POSITIVE. Don't say anything negative about the school you're currently attending, other schools you might be considering, experiences during the interview, etc.
    - Watch out for negativity directed at you in any way. Including, but not limited to, people trash-talking other schools, or gossiping about other students, professors, or prospectives, in an inappropriate way. For me, that's a major turn-off and a warning sign. If they allow themselves to be so off guard during an official visit, it must be even worse on a daily basis.
     
    A couple other relevant questions off the top of my head:
    - Tell me about yourself / your work / your research / your interests.
    There will be some version of this question at some point. Be able to say something intelligent and short. Also be ready to elaborate on something specific, e.g. your writing sample or whatever you proposed as a future interest in your SOP.
    - Why do you want to study [subfield]? What questions do you find particularly interesting?
    Something simple will do, and you are not obligated to actually study anything that you say you are interested in. But if there are particular questions, methods, etc. that you know you want to study more, you could mention that.
    - Do you have any questions for us?
    Be prepared. This will come up. A good question is a question that makes your interviewer feel good about themselves and/or their program. So don't ask if it's true that Prof X and Prof Y don't get along, or that the program recently had a grading scandal. You won't get honest answers and you'll forever be known as the person who asked that question. Depending on what was already covered in the conversation, you could ask about research/collaboration opportunities, courses in other departments, current lab projects, what advanced students are currently working on, what jobs recent graduates have obtained, etc. Avoid yes-no questions and simple questions that are already answered on the website. Another angle is to ask the prof about their own work, projects that may start in their lab soon, what they see as important open questions in the field, what they think have been the most important advancements in the field, etc.
  13. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from ion_exchanger in On Competition   
    I know how you feel. Felt it during both of my application season and even after starting my program!
     
    One thing that helps me "put it in perspective" is that even though there will always be people better than me, these people can't take all of the grad school spots! These great people will get tons of offers and they can only say "yes" to one. And every "no" they give out means another "yes" for one of us
     
    Also, once you are in your program, it helps to remember that we didn't make it this far by luck, no matter how much our inner imposter is telling us so. We are strong candidates and we have worked hard and earned all of this
  14. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from Brisingamen in On Competition   
    I know how you feel. Felt it during both of my application season and even after starting my program!
     
    One thing that helps me "put it in perspective" is that even though there will always be people better than me, these people can't take all of the grad school spots! These great people will get tons of offers and they can only say "yes" to one. And every "no" they give out means another "yes" for one of us
     
    Also, once you are in your program, it helps to remember that we didn't make it this far by luck, no matter how much our inner imposter is telling us so. We are strong candidates and we have worked hard and earned all of this
  15. Upvote
    TakeruK reacted to braaaaaiinnns in My GRE Experience   
    For what it's worth, I was at a top school for the biosciences this summer and part of the internship was a mandatory GRE class. We focused almost exclusively on the Quant skills because those scores were more "important". They also approached GRE scores more like a cutoff, as Monochrome explained very well in this post.
  16. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from jamesshaffer85 in Facing Reality   
    It's also a matter of how much you allow yourself to spend working. In grad school, I think it's really easy to spend way more time than necessary on some things. That is, in order to show your very best work in every thing you do, you would have to spend an unreasonable (in my opinion) amount of hours per week at work. So, I think time management in grad school is really a matter of priorities.
     
    One of the hardest skills I had to learn was to know when to stop working on an assignment and hand in things that aren't my best work. In my (research based) programs (both my Masters and my current PhD program), the priority is research output, not coursework. I decided that I was willing to work around 50 hours per week, and up to 60 hours per week during the school year, where I have coursework. So, I budgeted my time accordingly to make sure I met the goals I set for myself. Luckily, my current school has a useful system of helping us to do -- the number of credits a course is worth is equal to the number of hours we're expected to spend per week. In most cases, this number is pretty good -- I've gotten satisfactory grades putting in this amount of effort. Most of the courses here expect 9 hours total per course per week (total = in class, lab, homework, readings). I usually can't fit all this in 9 hours so I skip the readings and only go through the notes when I need something for the homework. 
     
    I also agree with the setting one day a week off from work. Right now, I am in the midst of preparing for quals so I don't get much time off, but in  my regular schedule, I try to spend 5 full work days in the office, 1 day working at home on homework (i might spend a few hours in the office and a few hours at home), and 1 day doing absolutely nothing related to school. 
     
    After courses are over, I hope to spend on average, 40 hours per week on research and an extra 10 or so hours per week in quarters where I am TAing. I'd also be willing to work extra for important deadlines, like an upcoming conference etc. Sometimes getting to travel to a cool place for a conference is exactly the motivator I need to put in those extra hours!
  17. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from TeaGirl in All Topsy Turvy   
    Congrats on the good news! Here's some thoughts!
     
    1. I don't think pitches are bad by nature. Obviously, pitches with empty promises or unsubstantiated claims are bad. However, while this may be different for the humanities, I think half of a scientist's job is pitching and the other half doing research. When you write a grant, you're making a pitch. When you are defending your thesis proposal to the committee, you are making a pitch. When you are giving a conference talk, you are making a pitch. I think our job as a researcher is to not only do great research work, but to sell it to others and make people care. I would even say it's one's responsibility to make sure the audience of their talk or paper is convinced/"sold" that their idea is correct/worth funding/worth thinking about it. 
     
    2. I'm sorry to say that I forgot whether or not you are talking about MA or PhD programs. I actually think you should consider finances even more strongly for a MA program than a PhD. MA programs are short and, in my opinion, not worth an investment of $10,000-$50,000 (based on the numbers I've seen on gradcafe), unless it's a professional type program where you can get a job right after the MA. But you're in English Lit programs right? I'm also assuming that you are considering a PhD after your MA? At that point, your MA program won't even matter. So, for a masters, I would probably follow the money even if the higher paying school isn't quite as good as the school I'd have to go in debt for.
     
    3. In the end, everything has a value. Some people want to turn everything into dollar amounts. So, you could turn the intellectual value of a degree at each school, how happy you feel there, etc into some dollar amount and basically ask how much are you willing to pay for certain things. I am a hedonist, so I prefer to turn everything into some nebulous units of "happiness". Contrary to the proverb, money does convert to happiness in my scheme (although it's more like negative money is a huge unhappy factor, but additional money beyond what we need to live won't add much more). In the end, I picked the place that had the most happiness (being in California was a huge happiness value). Like fuzzylogician, I also did not end up choosing my highest offer but I definitely did reject schools based solely on money because some offers were just too low to live on. 
     
    Like fuzzy, I also interpreted your post as saying nothing bad about the private school. It does sound like perhaps the public school is slightly better than the private school. But you should also consider the resources available to you at a private school. This year is my first year at a private school, and I feel completely spoiled in terms of resources available to me. Last week, our prof commented that our classroom needed twice as many whiteboards and that some cabinets and tables needed to be removed. When we went into class yesterday, bam! it was done. At UBC or Queen's, my old public Canadian schools, this would have been a process that would have taken weeks -- with debates during department meetings on how to find the budget etc. By the time it's done, our class would have been long over.
     
    Basically, even if the public school might be slightly better, is it $X better where X is the difference between the cost (to you) of each school? I mean, I wouldn't choose a higher paying school for differences less than $5-10k/year. But this sounds like a case where X is much much larger!
  18. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from 1Q84 in All Topsy Turvy   
    Congrats on the good news! Here's some thoughts!
     
    1. I don't think pitches are bad by nature. Obviously, pitches with empty promises or unsubstantiated claims are bad. However, while this may be different for the humanities, I think half of a scientist's job is pitching and the other half doing research. When you write a grant, you're making a pitch. When you are defending your thesis proposal to the committee, you are making a pitch. When you are giving a conference talk, you are making a pitch. I think our job as a researcher is to not only do great research work, but to sell it to others and make people care. I would even say it's one's responsibility to make sure the audience of their talk or paper is convinced/"sold" that their idea is correct/worth funding/worth thinking about it. 
     
    2. I'm sorry to say that I forgot whether or not you are talking about MA or PhD programs. I actually think you should consider finances even more strongly for a MA program than a PhD. MA programs are short and, in my opinion, not worth an investment of $10,000-$50,000 (based on the numbers I've seen on gradcafe), unless it's a professional type program where you can get a job right after the MA. But you're in English Lit programs right? I'm also assuming that you are considering a PhD after your MA? At that point, your MA program won't even matter. So, for a masters, I would probably follow the money even if the higher paying school isn't quite as good as the school I'd have to go in debt for.
     
    3. In the end, everything has a value. Some people want to turn everything into dollar amounts. So, you could turn the intellectual value of a degree at each school, how happy you feel there, etc into some dollar amount and basically ask how much are you willing to pay for certain things. I am a hedonist, so I prefer to turn everything into some nebulous units of "happiness". Contrary to the proverb, money does convert to happiness in my scheme (although it's more like negative money is a huge unhappy factor, but additional money beyond what we need to live won't add much more). In the end, I picked the place that had the most happiness (being in California was a huge happiness value). Like fuzzylogician, I also did not end up choosing my highest offer but I definitely did reject schools based solely on money because some offers were just too low to live on. 
     
    Like fuzzy, I also interpreted your post as saying nothing bad about the private school. It does sound like perhaps the public school is slightly better than the private school. But you should also consider the resources available to you at a private school. This year is my first year at a private school, and I feel completely spoiled in terms of resources available to me. Last week, our prof commented that our classroom needed twice as many whiteboards and that some cabinets and tables needed to be removed. When we went into class yesterday, bam! it was done. At UBC or Queen's, my old public Canadian schools, this would have been a process that would have taken weeks -- with debates during department meetings on how to find the budget etc. By the time it's done, our class would have been long over.
     
    Basically, even if the public school might be slightly better, is it $X better where X is the difference between the cost (to you) of each school? I mean, I wouldn't choose a higher paying school for differences less than $5-10k/year. But this sounds like a case where X is much much larger!
  19. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from aberrant in The Citizenship Issue   
    This isn't an issue that is only limited to the UK/EU. Non-Canadians pay extra tuition at Canadian schools. Non-Americans pay extra tuition at American schools. Even if the tuition is part of the financial package (assuming there is one), the extra costs mean tougher admissions! But I remember not applying to UK schools (even though some things, like getting work visas would be easier as Canada is a Commonwealth country) because there are very limited funding opportunities for non-UK/EU students. Again, this is an issue in Canada and the US too (both countries' major science agency -- NSERC and NSF -- only fund their own citizens!).
     
    Most of the programs I looked at in the UK that didn't provide full funding by the department said that they would only otherwise accept students who win one of the few university-wide competitions for non-UK/non-EU funding. Many of them won't accept you even if you wanted to cough up the extra fees either! So it's extra difficult for international students to get into UK schools, I think!
     
    Also, according to my friend from the UK, who did his PhD in Canada, he said that even if he went back home and went to school there, he would have to pay the extra fees. Apparently, you have to physically reside in the UK/EU for the past 3 years in order to qualify for "domestic" fees. I'm not sure if that was just a particular school or some other aspect of the situation special to him, but if you reconsider getting German citizenship, I think it's worth checking.
     
    But all these extra fees, hassles, etc. are common problems/hurdles for International students all around the world! I understand why this exist -- after all domestic tuition rates are heavily subsidized by local taxpayers. In academia/research, it's such an International community that sometimes it's easy to forget that borders exist in the "real world" Personally, I hope North America will go the way of the EU and have a "North American" tuition rate but that's probably a really long shot!
  20. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from VBD in Like Watching Sausage Being Made   
    I agree that the whole admissions process is very unpredictable and there is no magic formula that will guarantee success (other than to be awesome at everything and apply to a lot of schools). I think that the mindset "well, the GRE isn't important, so I shouldn't worry about it" is foolish, but so is the thought that "If I do really really well on the GRE, perhaps the committee will overlook other aspects of my application!" is also incorrect. I've also heard similar stories to the one TheFez presented here both by other students as well as being a part of a discussion about applicants with current faculty members. 
     
    I don't think it's a bad thing that grad school admissions vary so much from one place to another and that you can't have a magic formula / list of things to do that will guarantee success. In courses, for most assignments, we know what the expectations are and we know what we need to do in order to get an A etc. But in research, and in "real life", there is no magic formula. You can do everything right and still end up wrong. Or, you can make tons of mistakes but still turn out okay. 
     
    I think it makes sense for people to discuss and ask things like "Is a letter from X better than one from Y?" but I don't think it's possible for people to exactly quantify their "value" or compute some overall score based on LOR+research+GPA+GRE+whatever and then compare to some master list with the magical numbers required for each school. I think this is a good thing -- it would be very depressing to know that all the aspects that make you unique gets compressed to just one number. Maybe it's easier said now that the application season stress is a year away, but I felt a HUGE wave of relief after I finished my last subject GRE (and even after I got the mediocre score). At that point, I knew that I had pretty much done everything I could towards my applications and there was nothing left to do but wait. I knew that some schools might really hate that GRE score but there's no way to know which one and there's nothing I could do about it!
  21. Upvote
    TakeruK got a reaction from Monochrome Spring in Like Watching Sausage Being Made   
    I agree that the whole admissions process is very unpredictable and there is no magic formula that will guarantee success (other than to be awesome at everything and apply to a lot of schools). I think that the mindset "well, the GRE isn't important, so I shouldn't worry about it" is foolish, but so is the thought that "If I do really really well on the GRE, perhaps the committee will overlook other aspects of my application!" is also incorrect. I've also heard similar stories to the one TheFez presented here both by other students as well as being a part of a discussion about applicants with current faculty members. 
     
    I don't think it's a bad thing that grad school admissions vary so much from one place to another and that you can't have a magic formula / list of things to do that will guarantee success. In courses, for most assignments, we know what the expectations are and we know what we need to do in order to get an A etc. But in research, and in "real life", there is no magic formula. You can do everything right and still end up wrong. Or, you can make tons of mistakes but still turn out okay. 
     
    I think it makes sense for people to discuss and ask things like "Is a letter from X better than one from Y?" but I don't think it's possible for people to exactly quantify their "value" or compute some overall score based on LOR+research+GPA+GRE+whatever and then compare to some master list with the magical numbers required for each school. I think this is a good thing -- it would be very depressing to know that all the aspects that make you unique gets compressed to just one number. Maybe it's easier said now that the application season stress is a year away, but I felt a HUGE wave of relief after I finished my last subject GRE (and even after I got the mediocre score). At that point, I knew that I had pretty much done everything I could towards my applications and there was nothing left to do but wait. I knew that some schools might really hate that GRE score but there's no way to know which one and there's nothing I could do about it!
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