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If I knew then what I know now...


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1. Start the process as early as possible. Seriously. It's never too early to start. 2. Spend time researching the programs you are considering applying to - read their website, as well as potenti

I'll start with this one. There is no such thing as a safety school. A school is either a good fit or not. A poorly ranked school doing research in everything you're not interested in, will reject you

I've felt kind behind as I waited 3 years after I graduated from undergrad to apply to grad schools. However, I used these three years to find out for certain what I want to do and how to get there so

^ idk, I'm not interested in applying to schools just to be sure I get in.

The end goal for me is not "go to grad school," it's to study what I love and gain the knowledge, connections, and expertise I need to be successful in my field.

If I don't get in this cycle because I applied only to top schools that are perfect research fits, I'm okay with that. I'll take a year off, regroup and get more research experience/pubs, and try try again. At the end of the day, I'll be at a school I love, working with a POI I love, studying what I love, and I won't care if it took me more than one cycle to get there. Better than going to a "loose fit" and dropping out after a year because I'm miserable.

that's exactly my philosophy. I only applied to one program (crazy, I know, but I did my MA there and have a pretty good sense of my fit, chances and my would-be advisor wrote my letter) and if they don't take me this year, I'll keep applying till they do.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I started very early but ended waiting until the last couple of days to submit. If I knew....., I would have make a timeline and set aside school work when I'm behind in applications. I essentially sacrificed my applications for grades.

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that's exactly my philosophy. I only applied to one program (crazy, I know, but I did my MA there and have a pretty good sense of my fit, chances and my would-be advisor wrote my letter) and if they don't take me this year, I'll keep applying till they do.

I love your spirit!  Your would-be-adviser better fight to get you in!!!

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Can someone please explain how I should be expected to contact 2-3 POIs at each school I want to apply to??

 

There are about 10-15 professors who study exactly what I want to study.... I'm pretty positive similar numbers would be true of any focused research interest.

 

I will contact those professors and make sure they have funding before I apply to their programs. If they dont, then I wont apply. I dont get at all how emailing 3 professors at the same school would be beneficial. If anything, it shows that all you care about is getting into the school, not researching your passion.

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Can someone please explain how I should be expected to contact 2-3 POIs at each school I want to apply to??

 

There are about 10-15 professors who study exactly what I want to study.... I'm pretty positive similar numbers would be true of any focused research interest.

 

I will contact those professors and make sure they have funding before I apply to their programs. If they dont, then I wont apply. I dont get at all how emailing 3 professors at the same school would be beneficial. If anything, it shows that all you care about is getting into the school, not researching your passion.

 

I agree, but for a lot of people who post on these sorts of forums.. the academia is the goal, not the research or education or anything else.. academia.. their life is academia.

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I agree, but for a lot of people who post on these sorts of forums.. the academia is the goal, not the research or education or anything else.. academia.. their life is academia.

I must be one of those oddballs then.  I want to be a research scientist, not become a professor.  

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I must be one of those oddballs then.  I want to be a research scientist, not become a professor.  

 

I want to be a research scientist too... that why it is important that I get the perfect training for my field, which would come from only around 15 people.

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I want to be a research scientist too... that why it is important that I get the perfect training for my field, which would come from only around 15 people.

I think it is different for us few science students. Those who are all doing Humanities seem to want academia.  Nothing wrong with that.  

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Anyways, to the OP!

 

-I would have read the specific web pages a little more closely.  One program I applied to required transcripts to be sent to "office" of the niche program I am applying to, not the department, not "Graduate Admissions"....Thankfully that deadline is not until March 1.  

 

-I would have started saving money so I could apply to all the schools I wanted to apply to.  Or at least most of them. 

 

-I would have made use of mind maps for program.  My SOPs were very program specific, and well written, but....I made a mind map of one of the programs I applied to, yet, didn't refer to it for what-ever reason when I was writing my SOP.  I looked over it after I submitted that application and realized I had some good stuff jotted down that I did not include.  

 

-Ugh. Ugh. And, ugh. 

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I would have had more eyes look over my SOP/PS. One of my profs and eventual LOR writers was very vocal about wanting to help me with every part of the application process, yet after having my SOP/PS for 2 weeks she didn't give me much to go with so I awkwardly went with it and definitely didn't write as strong of pieces as I could have. I hadn't mastered the "elevator speech" yet.

 

Also, doing an Honors Thesis. I took an upper level psych course where we designed and implemented our own research ideas, and the entire semester I was kicking myself for not making my research into an Honors Thesis. 

 

For undergrads thinking ahead but not yet ready to apply: Talk to professors and make your face known. I hated going to office hours and sent emails asking about RA positions through email and surprise, no one ever got back to me. Luckily, one of my friends was an RA in a lab and put in a good word for me, but I did not go into Senior year with a cohesive research past and my interests felt very disjointed. However, if you do feel scattered, naps are perfect for mulling things over. I woke up from a nap one day and realized I had been holding myself back a bit as far as research interests.

 

Also, friends who are in a similar position but not quite the same field are great because you can sympathize but you don't have to worry that your BFF is going to take your spot at your top choice~

 

And if you can't get an internship some summer and haven't worked in the service industry, do that. It'll suck but you'll learn about yourself and how to handle being super pissed off without being allowed to show it, which is a pretty good skill to have.

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Absolute best advice, and I'm sure 80% of applicants know this, but -I- didn't when I applied:

 

Get external funding.  I had no idea you could get it before you even applied to schools, but half the people in my current program got in because they came in with NSF funding.  A little too late for this application cycle, maybe, but keep that in mind.  Even partial funding gives you a leg up.

 

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Absolute best advice, and I'm sure 80% of applicants know this, but -I- didn't when I applied:

 

Get external funding.  I had no idea you could get it before you even applied to schools, but half the people in my current program got in because they came in with NSF funding.  A little too late for this application cycle, maybe, but keep that in mind.  Even partial funding gives you a leg up.

 

Do you have any recommendation on how to go about this? When contacting professors, would you standardly add into the email that you are interested in applying for NSF if they are willing to advise it? Or would you wait until after a skype or good conversation to bring it up? also, are you able to do multiple grants with multiple professors at different schools?

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Do you have any recommendation on how to go about this? When contacting professors, would you standardly add into the email that you are interested in applying for NSF if they are willing to advise it? Or would you wait until after a skype or good conversation to bring it up? also, are you able to do multiple grants with multiple professors at different schools?

 

I defiinitely would not include language like that; they would probably find it offputting that you were even asking if you should do it (some programs even require you to get NSF funding before they'll accept you).  

You could casually mention in your personal statement that you've applied for NSF/Ford/whatever grants and will keep them apprised if you receive any, but I would bury that deep in near the end.  If you're interviewing you could also mention that you've applied if the topic of funding comes up, but again I wouldn't ask if you should do it or not, because there's no reason not to.

 

With NSF and similar organizations, I think you just put in a project proposal, and if you get the fellowship it follows you wherever you go, to whatever school and to whatever professor.  There are limitations on certain fellowships but the big ones basically fund you completely so you don't need much more.

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Ok, so would I just put this together on my own then without the assistance of a potential POI? I supose that I could go to my current advisor for some advice related to this? I could certainly do it on my own but I think that being advised/edited by someone in the field would improve the statements a lot.

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Oh you should absolutely go to your current advisor, sorry I wasn't clear about it.  It's something you do want some guidance on from someone who is in your field (they'll definitely give you better advice than I could on the matter!).

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Can someone please explain how I should be expected to contact 2-3 POIs at each school I want to apply to??

 

There are about 10-15 professors who study exactly what I want to study.... I'm pretty positive similar numbers would be true of any focused research interest.

 

I will contact those professors and make sure they have funding before I apply to their programs. If they dont, then I wont apply. I dont get at all how emailing 3 professors at the same school would be beneficial. If anything, it shows that all you care about is getting into the school, not researching your passion.

You simply write an email briefly explaining who you are and why you are contacting.  Briefly include a little bit about why their research excites you and how it matches to what you want to do.  Keep it brief.  Mention you are applying to X Program and Y University for Z Year and politely inquire if they are taking on students (for Z Year).  Then conclude with something like "If you are, would you be willing to further discuss this?"  Do not be long-winded and keep the ball in their court: do not be pushy.  

 

Do not ask if they have funding. You will come across as arrogant.  But, really by asking if they are taking on new students is asking if they have funding.  However, just because a particular professor does not have funding does not mean that you will not be funded.  Some programs offer institutional grants, fellowships, scholarships, etc. and you will not know if you get these until after you apply.  If such aid is offered, it will be mentioned on the[ir] website.  

 

I disagree with your last sentence, but this is just my opinion. 

 

Do you have any recommendation on how to go about this? When contacting professors, would you standardly add into the email that you are interested in applying for NSF if they are willing to advise it? Or would you wait until after a skype or good conversation to bring it up? also, are you able to do multiple grants with multiple professors at different schools?

I would not mention this to professors during initial contact.  Now, if your proposal was accepted, or if even you were a runner up (but no award), that would be different.  The whole point of these NSF proposals--and that is what they are, research proposals--is to demonstrate that you have the ability to formulate an idea and write a proposal.  That is it.  You do not even have to do the proposal and the proposal itself may not even be doable but it does need to be novel. You do not need an "NSF advisor" and it is advised that you do not try to seek one out although it might help to ask if your proposal is properly formatted and/or thought through.  

 

The guidelines, examples, and most everything else can be found here:

 

http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=gpg

 

 Not to sound confusing, but it would be okay to mention that you submitted the proposal to the NSF after you have submitted it.  Do not make the assumption that you will develop a conversation with these professors/POIs.  It would be best if you can make an appointment to swing by their office (or you can just make a cold call as I once did.  I just happened to be in that town for other reasons and decided at the last minute to pop in and say "hello".  I ended up not applying but I did get a ton of awesome advice).  Realistically, you are going to shoot off your emails and then wait....perhaps to a month...before you receive a reply...if they even bother to reply.  And sometimes the reply is a simple "When are you applying and to what program?"  Uh...wasn't that in my initial email...?

 

As for multiple grants from different schools...as far as I know, no.  Some universities collaborate with other universities, and some departments or individual researchers do as well, but they also compete for funding.  I highly doubt a professor at one school is going to fund you while you are also being funded by another professor from a "competing" school even if you are working with the both of them.  You may collaborate with the two, but one of the profs is going to spend his cash on another student.  

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With NSF and similar organizations, I think you just put in a project proposal, and if you get the fellowship it follows you wherever you go, to whatever school and to whatever professor.  There are limitations on certain fellowships but the big ones basically fund you completely so you don't need much more.

I could be wrong but if I remember correctly the amount awarded by NSF is not enough to cover tuition and living expenses, but may still greatly increase your chances of being accepted. However, there seems to be many types of NSF grants available, even those for already attended grad students. 

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Some programs offer institutional grants, fellowships, scholarships, etc. and you will not know if you get these until after you apply.  If such aid is offered, it will be mentioned on the[ir] website.

I interviewed at one program where they said that absolutely every single one of their graduate students was guaranteed funding by the department as a part of being admitted so you really do have to look at more than just what a single professor has for funding.
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  • 2 weeks later...

1) Apply to at least 10 schools, and be prepared to only get to choose between 3 if your lucky. Getting a bunch of interviews does not mean you are likely to be admitted to any one of them.

 

2) have a back up plan. apply early for a post-bacc, real job, internship, or you might end up like me, a reject coming in late to the job process.

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I must be one of those oddballs then.  I want to be a research scientist, not become a professor.  

 

Generally, being a prof is just another step on the ladder for researchers. Most professors in my field are research scientists who just happen to teach. Do you mean that you want to be a technician and never have to stop working in the lab/field? That's what I think I'd like to do.

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