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What surprised you the most going through this whole process?


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I was surprised that I got into...anywhere.   Background story: I only have a 3.2, and a guidance counselor told me not to bother applying anywhere.  She said I wouldn't get in anywhere decent.  I

Just how much I sat on GradCafe...

That sometimes things you won't even allow yourself to dream can--against all odds--occasionally come true.

[Please don't hate me if that didn't happen for you; I certainly didn't think it would for me.]

Ditto... I still can't believe my luck. :rolleyes:  I'm almost afraid to say it and jinx it! 

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A few don't even update their website, and no longer do what they advertised on their pages (!).  

 

:lol: Ah lab websites... The poorest-managed websites in existence.

 

I should know. I was put in charge of updating my lab's website, and it took me a year just to figure out how to edit a webpage. That's what happens when overworked graduate students are given the task of updating a lab website.

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Visits were the most important thing. I ended up hating a school that I thought I would turn down all my schools for (and was rejected anyway), and was accepted to and loved two schools including one reach that I decided to apply to last minute. I wish I would have visited the schools before I even paid the app fee!

 

 

This scares me because I accepted an offer at a school that I never visited. I actually didnt even think I was still in the running at this school because I never heard anything from them (no interview or anything). I emailed to check my status last Thursday and I mentioned I had another offer with the 15th deadline, but that I was still interested in the program. The professor requested we Skype on Friday and I had an offer in my inbox by 7:30pm. The school is in British Columbia while I am in NY so I obviously never visited. The research is a GREAT fit (more so than the other program I mentioned) so I took a leap of faith and accepted. My advisor and I are planning to meet at a conference in June, so that is a bit comforting.

 

 

Didn't mean to scare you. For me, the research fit was there. The area of the school wasn't the best, but I knew that already. For me, it came down to the personalities of the POIs there. The ones that I thought I would like ended up being cold and I don't think my supportive needs as a graduate student matched their mentoring style. I wasn't accepted, so no big deal.

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I usually look at the page of each professor and see the most recent paper he has. If his last paper was more than 2 years ago then don't go there. That professor definitely stops his research mainly because he has a tenure (lazy and no pressure, maybe) or he was promoted to be in a higher position like Director or Programmer.

 

 

Applied: 4/4 (Economics)

Fund: Texas A&M, WSU

Go: WSU

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I was surprised that three POIs interviewed me via skype/phone before the application process. Ath the beginning I thought it was the norm, then I found out it was not that usual.

 

Hey Pat :)

 

Had you emailed them in advance about their interests, or how did that come about?

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Hey Pat :)

 

Had you emailed them in advance about their interests, or how did that come about?

 

hi Tup! :D

 

I emailed them telling about my interests and how they would fit would theirs. I had three pre-application interviews: one skype, one phone, and one live over a cup of coffee (this POI happened to be in Argentina when I contacted him, of course, I knew that ;) ). Another one responded such a detailed e-mail that we didn't need the interview (although he offered to have one). Of course, these were four out of ammm... probably ten POIs I contacted. 

 

See you in Vegas! jajajaja

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I came to learn how bad I am at dealing with unknown and unpredictable outcomes. finishing up my senior year while my mind was consumed about grad school applications for pretty much the entire fall and spring semester was REALLY stressful, would not do it again (I'd take a year off in between or something).

 

Also was surprised by how much location and campus mattered to me, once I went to visit school :).

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hi Tup! :D

 

I emailed them telling about my interests and how they would fit would theirs. I had three pre-application interviews: one skype, one phone, and one live over a cup of coffee (this POI happened to be in Argentina when I contacted him, of course, I knew that ;) ). Another one responded such a detailed e-mail that we didn't need the interview (although he offered to have one). Of course, these were four out of ammm... probably ten POIs I contacted. 

 

See you in Vegas! jajajaja

 

Thanks Pat :)

 

That settles the question for me as to if I should email POIs in advance! :D

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Thanks Pat :)

 

That settles the question for me as to if I should email POIs in advance! :D

 

I was surprised at how effective emailing professors was. I have a slightly unusual interest that is not studied specifically in my field. I emailed a professor randomly hoping he might have something I would want to work on but not too hopeful. My email reminded him of a project he was thinking about in the back of his mind for awhile that he hadn't been able to do anything about. I had a phone interview with him in October and I just couldn't get that perfect project out of my mind. I am going to work with him in the fall. 

 

Emailing professors is the best thing I did in this process. It taught me a lot about the different schools and professors, if and when they replied.

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Did you email the POI before or after you applied?

 

Before.

 

I did not apply to places where the POI had not responded (only one) or I had not contacted (two or three). 

 

And in fact, some of them advised me not too apply since there was little funding for international students or little funding at all hahaha. So they've same me a few bucks.

 

Finally, one of them told me he was not taking students this year :( although it was a great fit. 

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I had the same reaction as well. It would seem that many professors aren't interested in talking unless you've been accepted to their program. Most of the email responses I received were along the lines of: admission decisions are made by a committee, not me...talk to me later if you've been accepted.

 

Despite this, I still found it helpful to email POIs before applying. There was one university where the POI wasn't taking students, one whose research interests differed from the lab's website description, and others who were genuinely interested in talking with a prospective student. 

Edited by dat_nerd
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I emailed before I applied as well. But a lot of professors didn't respond until after I was accepted.

 

 

I had the same reaction as well. It would seem that many professors aren't interested in talking unless you've been accepted to their program. Most of the email responses I received were along the lines of: admission decisions are made by a committee, not me...talk to me later if you've been accepted.

 

Despite this, I still found it helpful to email POIs before applying. There was one university where the POI wasn't taking students, one whose research interests differed from the lab's website description, and others who were genuinely interested in talking with a prospective student. 

 

I think it depends on the field. I was advised to do this by a friend who did her PhD in a top 10 school and now serves in the AdComm of another university. It made sense to me since I could save some bucks if profs were not interested in my project. i don't think they were specifically eager to work with me (otherwise, I would have been admitted to more schools! hahaha), I think it is more usual for social sciences to contact POIs before applying. 

 

However, since this is my first and only approach to US admissions, I cannot give much input. 

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I think it depends on the field. I was advised to do this by a friend who did her PhD in a top 10 school and now serves in the AdComm of another university. It made sense to me since I could save some bucks if profs were not interested in my project. i don't think they were specifically eager to work with me (otherwise, I would have been admitted to more schools! hahaha), I think it is more usual for social sciences to contact POIs before applying. 

 

However, since this is my first and only approach to US admissions, I cannot give much input. 

I agree, I think it's important to contact POIs before applying, but for any discipline. It shows that you are committed to your applications and helps you make sure that you're applying to the right places. My point was more along the lines that an applicant shouldn't expect an enthusiastic or detailed response until accepted to the program.

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The "importance" of contacting POIs is a really difficult matter to decide one way or another. This cycle, I was waitlisted at the place I had the most extensive POI contact, accepted at one place where I had courteous but minimal contact with 2 POIs, and another where I had no contact whatsoever. I was also waitlisted at another place where I reached out to a POI but did not receive a response (they were on leave anyway). At the place where I thought I had a very good fit, and the place where I did my MA and thus had extensive contact...I was not accepted. 

 

Turns out Yale is actually an incredibly perfect fit not only in terms of my existing research/work/interests, but also A) in terms of how I'd like to develop them, and B) how Yale's program itself is evolving. In short, it is easily the best fit out of every single one of my applications, MA place included.

 

So my own data set is highly inconclusive when it comes to making any meaningful correlation between contact and end result. Ultimately, what matters is fit. I remember last year a friend off here was accepted to a place that turned out to be an amazing fit. They did not have any prior contact whatsoever. 

 

My take? Reach out to professors who really strike a chord with you (in terms of their research). Make sure you have something meaningful to say, beyond "Hi, I'm interested in your work.

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All the POIs I contacted got back to me!! I was SOOO SURPRISED!

 

Actually, I only emailed 4 people and I got into 2 out of the 4 schools, referred to an MA at 1, and then the other one rejected me (they lost my GRE scores, i am broke and couldnt follow up).  

 

Unfortunately, so was everyone around me. Surprised, I mean.

Edited by iampheng
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All the POIs I contacted got back to me!! I was SOOO SURPRISED!

 

Actually, I only emailed 4 people and I got into 2 out of the 4 schools, referred to an MA at 1, and then the other one rejected me (they lost my GRE scores, i am broke and couldnt follow up).  

 

Unfortunately, so was everyone around me. Surprised, I mean.

 

It also surprised me to hear stories of lost scores or other application materials. C'on people!!!

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  • 8 months later...

So, what surprised me most....?

 

What surprised me most was that some web pages to program information are buried deep within the schools website with no logical way of navigating to it.  I originally had my heart set on going to grad school in Boston, and decided to check out Tufts for s&g's. I am not sure how I found it, but I somehow navigated to one particular option for program that turned out to be of related interest. I emailed a professor associated with this niche, gave him some info about me, what I am looking for in a grad program, etc...and he emailed me back...to offer his support....and to sit on my advisory committee when/if I was accepted... but wasn't taking students that year.  Since I was not applying at that time, I filed it away. Since then I have gotten a new computer and for the life of me could not find that darn page.  It didn't occur to me to check my email... I just pulled up his email, and was able to search his name and found his lab.   :huh:

 

I have applied to a school on the West Coast that has a similar "issue" as Tufts...the particular niche group/lab I am applying to has no logical way of navigating to it, yet, the webpage in question is a part of the university website and not some random faculty member's webpage. 

 

Then there was the issue of funding...or lack there of.  I had developed a good conversation with the PI of a particular lab at another school, and initiated a meeting.  It wasn't an interview, mind you, I just happened to be visiting that area and since I was already going to be near, thought I'd pop in.  We had a good chat, he gave me a tour, and so on.  Everything was awesome. Then, at the end, he mentions that his funding is running out and even though he has secured new funding, that new funding would not kick in for another year.  And that he may or may not already have a full lab. He didn't exactly say that he was not taking on new students into his lab, but kind of hinted that I should consider applying to another lab....even making a recommendation as to which one...or that I might have to pay for the first year out of pocket...Still applied, though. 

 

Speaking of websites, I noticed at least two programs had two different due dates each...depending on which part of the website you were on.  

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