Siba Smarak Panigrahi

A Bit of Simple Advice on Grad Applications (ft. Dr. Ian Malcolm)

  • The following points come from my gradute applications experience
  • As Honest Trailer for The Lost World Jurassic Park puts it: "A little Goldblum goes a long way", I have tried to add a pinch of Dr. Ian Malcolm to the post (find him in the left column below).

     What have they got in there, King Kong? I have penned down a couple of points which I gathered from personal experience during graduate application period. Do you think you would like to stick around?

     Must go faster
  • You have to search and select labs aligned with your interest.
  • You have to search for scholarships and funding provisions (McCall McBain, Rhodes, KHS, etc.).
  • You have to give several exams which includes GRE, TOEFL, IELTS (do give them as early as you can, do not delay appearing in these!).
  • You have to contact your supervisors or guides for LORs (and remember to ask the number of LORs they can provide).
  • You have to write and share SOP with people who can give suggestions (which will definitely be, um what's the word? Yes, PLENTY!), re-write, re-share, re-write some N number of times (till you get satisfaction or tomorrow is deadline).
So, yes, to cover all these you must go faster

     I'm always on the lookout for another ex-Mrs. Malcolm The application period is tough. Find good people (including parents, obviously) who would help you.
  • When you want to know more about how the program or lab environment is, ping students enrolled in the program (or members of the lab).
  • When you want to know more (or have doubts) about application process, email people mentioned in the application website (someone like graduate program coordinator).
  • When you want someone to review your SOP, share the draft with graduate students and if you get a chance (and feel confident), with your current university professors (by asking if they are available to review it or not).
  • When you want to feel overwhelmed, talk with friends who are also applying to universities widely different than you (hence making you think if you are applying to correct universities or not).
  • When you are overwhelmed, talk with parents.
And so-on. Well, not exactly ex-Mrs. Malcolm, but you get the point.

     See, here I'm now by myself, uh, talking to myself. That's, that's chaos theory. If (hopefully, it doesn't happen) no one comes to read (or even take a peek) this post, then this would be my reaction.

You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could... (this phrase might change original meaning of dialogue, but we will work with this) You should (or must) stand on shoulders of geniuses (graduate applicants who were successful)! I might be repeating this point, but it is worth repeating. Do reach out to seniors (in your interested universities) to ask about their experience so far, lab environment, and funding opportunities (for MSc programs mainly). Additionally, after you are accepted, ask about food, weather, people, commute, and survival tips. However, do not ask about nitty gritty details of application process, because it might have changed since their time and they could unknowingly share wrong information (as mentioned earlier, there are specific people from the university who could help regarding this).

...your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. A classic dialogue! You would have so many (did I write many? it should be 'many many many' honestly) options that you must think 'if you should apply' to this particular position rather than 'if you could apply'. Always remember that you have finite number of LORs and thus an important task is to select which labs or universities would best align your interests and your final goal (most importantly, you should see where the alumni are). When applying to a specific university think (in the following order)
  • is there another opportunity to which I should redirect my energy and application materials rather than here?
  • if I get an accept from here, would it be my dream come true?
  • if I get an accept from here, how happy will I be?, uh, finds a way Ah, one of the classic lines! What is better than this line to (almost) conclude. In admits decision cycle
  • If you get some early accepts, before accepting, wait till almost all the decisions are out (or there is a deadline to submit your acceptance).
  • If you get some early rejects, there is hope that you would get an acceptance late in the cycle.
  • If you get all rejects, there are a ton of other opportunities - AI Residency programs, Research Fellowships and special (research) programs from industry to name a few (This and this link might be helpful).
Basically, do not worry. Keep your spirits up, and remember, life, uh, finds a way.

..., you did it When you are selected, do let me know your story (a minor abridged compact version would work) and this is what I will say to then - You did it!

When you gotta go, you gotta go That's it. I promise I will stop rambling and let both you and me back to our respective worlds. Hope you had a great (or at least good) informative and uplifting time here.

Wish you best of luck in your life! Thank you for reading! (I will keep updating this post, if required.)