The Great Grad School Thread

Discussion in 'General Chatter' started by Saro, Nov 2, 2017.

  1. latitans

    latitans fake fan

    Re: emails, I try to do as much research as possible into the person I’m emailing. So, doing things like reading their research statements on their faculty web pages, reading abstracts or recent publications, stuff like that. Then, I try to reference their work to explain why I’m emailing them. The references don’t have to be too in depth—you don’t have to explain their own work to them lol—but it’s a good way of showing that you’ve thought things through and aren’t just rapid fire emailing everyone in the department.

    For first emails, I also tend to suggest a meeting to talk about interests first, rather than straight up being like “will you be on my committee.”
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  2. Alexand

    Alexand Rhymes with &

    Ok I don't know if this would be better suited for the social advice thread or if putting it here instead is warranted, but I gotta ask:

    how the fuck do you talk to people at poster sessions

    I attended a poster session at the conference I'm at for two hours today...and I didn't talk to a single person. I feel like I fell like I kept just immediately falling into one of two failure modes:
    1. There's already a person/multiple people at the poster, and I don't know how to break my way in. While I'd like to just stand there and listen until I get a chance to speak, I can't actually hear anything past four feet ahead of me. So while I know that the presenter is talking, I have no idea what they're saying. In worst cases there are so many people crowded around the poster that I can't even read it, in which case I really have no excuse to keep standing there
    2. I find a poster I'm interested in, and I have a question I want to ask about it, but I can't find its damn presenter anywhere. They keep wandering off to the refreshments table or something, so every time I approach their poster, I can't find them...
    But it's like...there has to be some Right Way to do poster sessions, right?? talk to people there?? Since everyone else seemed to be talking to someone...(not that I have any good reason to talk to anyone there besides my own selfish interest/curiosity, but if everyone else there was talking to someone, then surely it's the kind of environment where a Good Reason To Talk To Someone isn't required...) I've got one more poster session to go to tomorrow, so I'd like to figure out a way to not feel massively awkward and out-of-place at that one...but


  3. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    I don't want to type my whole response on my phone so I'll do it tomorrow when I have a computer.... But I'm thinking about this and have a few thoughts
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  4. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    Hello friendos, I have just done my first official GRE exam... I got a 169 in the Verbal section (!!!!!) and a 150 in the Quant section (Guh), so doing pretty well, I think, though I really, really need to work at the math component for the next test (ugh 200 bucks...).

    Feeling encouraged and also exhausted.
    • Winner x 3
  5. Chiomi

    Chiomi Master of Disaster

    Congrats! That's absolutely fantastic on the verbal, and good on quant - defs. not worth the 'guh'! You do language stuff, if I'm remembering right, which means a lot of programs frankly won't expect you to be able to calculate your way out of a wet paper bag.
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  6. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    Oh wow sorry I did a dumb and completely spaced this. I apologize.

    Thoughts on poster sessions... I think in some regards they're expected to be kind of a free-for-all, because the non-presenters are expected to kind of wander and talk to whoever has research they're interested in, and people do that in many ways. This means that there are some general expectations but that there's also a lot of leeway.

    Breaking in to a crowded/popular poster:
    • There's really no elegant way to do this, I think. Sometimes it is just a waiting game, if you think you may be able to get in soon. Sometimes people will move to let you see better if there aren't too many people around. If it is very crowded and there's a lively discussion, it might be best to move on until later (though this can be tough if you're at a very small conference or symposium, because there may just not be... that many posters....)
    • I have stood around for like 15 minutes waiting for a turn to ask some questions. I don't think it's weird to do at an event like this, where people are showing off their work and expect questions/talk/etc. (Relatedly - don't feel bad about having the presenter explain stuff, even if you suspect they answered these questions before - they expect to be doing a lot of repeating themselves. It's just the nature of the beast.)
    • I find it to be fine to wait for a bit to even be able to read a poster, especially at a small session where you've had a chance to check out everything else. It's in part a mark of a good poster/exciting work if so many people want to engage with a poster, so I wouldn't worry too much about bothering the person there.
    Missing presenters:
    • Man, that sucks. I understand needing to leave the poster for a moment for various reasons, obviously, but ideally presenters are there for their whole scheduled time, and it kind of reflects badly on them if they're gone for extended periods and it's just to like... chat at the buffet table or whatever. That's pretty unfortunate and kind of hard to really get around. :/ I'd suggest once again leaving and coming back later. It's totally fine to wander a bit.
    I wish I had good ideas for not feeling totally awkward, but I find it to be a pretty awkward and draining experience myself. I mostly just kind of push through the awkwardness because it is a place dedicated to communication in a less structured environment than, like, a paper or big presentation.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
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  7. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    Could be mistaken but I'm pretty sure @Raire is interested in pursuing something in the biological field
  8. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    Yeah, I want to do Tropical Ecology, nothing language wise XD I'm avoiding math heavy things like mathematical models of carbon systems and stuff even though they are really interesting because of my math weakness.
  9. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    I will say it is a big help to have good language and writing skills in the sciences - I was an English major before I switched to bio and I get praised for my writing skills by my advisor and even other department members, which is nice but also like... Hard to deal with lol

    Eta or rather I was undeclared but took a bunch of writing and lit because I wanted to do creative writing
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
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  10. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    I forgot to write but at least one professor wrote back so far and he seems interested, and I think I have a good project idea! I'm waiting for his response to the project idea after he asked me to refine the ideas I had a bit more! I am actually excited about this potential project! I just need to figure out what else to do and send more emails out instead of freezing on "what do I say to this OTHER professors"
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  11. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    OH also I took the GRE a second time and raised my Quant to 158! So 70th percentile (barely)
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  12. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    So. I'm in an argument with my brother, and I'd like some feedback from people who know the USA Gradschool process first hand.

    I emailed two professors in two different universities. Neither of them replied to my emails. The deadline for applications passed. My younger brother insists that it doesn't matter that the deadline passed, many grad schools accept late applications anyways and to try. I've even worked on a personal statement for one of these universities at his urging. But I think it'd be a waste of money in application fees to apply when there is no supervisor/mentor on my side for the application process, when I've been told before that you need to have contacted a professor and there was mutual interest before you go through with an application. Also, I really don't believe Grad schools accept late applications. Am I right? Is he right? We're both getting angry and I'd like to have some feedback to know that I'm not crazy, or to know if I AM crazy so I can adjust and act accordingly.
  13. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    Also, now I've got other people telling me that you don't need to have a mentor/professor picked out for applications. But I've definitely read websites where they're like "if you don't have a professor contacted and we check and nobody has heard from you your application goes straight into the trash".
  14. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    These are probably stupid questions but you know what, I'll own them.
  15. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    For almost all of the schools I applied to, I did not contact anyone. I got into half of the schools I applied to (3, because I had a limit of 6 letters of recommendation). Of those 3, there were 2 that I had not talked to any potential PIs, or even indicated a preference (as far as I remember, it's been a hot minute). For the third, I indicated an interest in two different labs, and one of the two PIs contacted me and we had an interview. (And I ended up joining that lab, which was probably the best choice I could have made, because my PI is really, really great.)

    However, it really depends on the program/school/etc., and also possibly on the culture. For example, some programs expect you to rotate through several labs before one accepts you as a student. That's the case in one of the 3 biology departments at my school (although not the one I'm in, where a particular lab decides to accept you prior to your being accepted). In other programs or in other situations, you may be in direct contact with a specific PI who agrees to have you in their lab, and then you apply. In a particularly competitive or limited program, it might be the latter. I'd definitely pay attention to any instructions on the application information that gives any indication of whether or not contacting is expected/required. Unfortunately, because I've only had this very limited experience, I can't say whether I was just a fluke or if it was a fairly ordinary grad school application/acceptance process, or alternately if I would have had a better chance (and gotten into my #1 school) if I'd been more proactive.

    In regards to deadlines, oh man, I have no idea. My instincts say it'd be best to wait to apply in another round, because there's a good chance that late applications will be disregarded, but then again, maybe not? Definitely the money thing would make me pretty hesitant because it's not cheap to apply to a grad program. (Well, I guess it is in the grand scheme of things, but at ~100 bucks per app, with some variation, it wasn't an insignificant cost for me at least.)

    I'm sorry that I can't be of more help.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
  16. Raire

    Raire Turquoise Helicoid

    Thanks for sharing your experience, it's helpful! I was basing myself off the first university I looked into, which outright says that you need to contact and have the agreement of the faculty for your application to make its way through, and I must have extrapolated it to all universities. I'll be looking at the application information more closely on that subject instead of concentrating on required materials.

    As for deadlines... I get the feeling that it's just done and past. It isn't cheap, yeah, and even if my parents help me with the costs it's more than I want to than ask from them.
  17. Chiomi

    Chiomi Master of Disaster

    Late apps definitely seem like a waste of money unless you have a departmental in. At least you still have a couple days for some of them? Though it's Real Late to be asking for letters of recommendation.

    And my program, at least, doesn't require a mentor. It probably varies widely and is sometimes tied to funding.
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