Except for the cover photo, all memes in this post were made by yours truly.
December 15th just went by and this means most graduate school applications have passed. This was my second time applying to grad school – Ph.D. programs this time. The application journey was thrilling, stressful, and a strenuous workout for my wallet.
Like all important undertakings, I reached out to my mentors before embarking.
My letter writers are amazing people. Even when I told them I will be applying to a lot, and I mean A LOT, of universities they stood by me. Thank you for that!
Now comes the first impediment in the journey: writing the Statement of Purpose, also known as the SoP. This fabled document can make or break your application. This piece of document is so vital that any applicant worth their salt will spend anywhere from three weeks to a couple of months perfecting it; scrutinizing the grammar, spicing up the vocabulary, and attaining nirvana as they find their purpose.
Fast forward to December 1st and my first application is due in less than 6 days.
Now you might be thinking, “this isn’t that bad. At least he has his SoP written. This isn’t a literature program so the technical details far out weight the grammar” Unfortunately, unless you call a crisp white document an SoP, I had nothing! But don’t worry. I was motivated and buzzing with inspiration. “I am going to write the best SoP any admission committee has ever set their eyes upon. They would have no choice other than admitting me!”, I said to myself. And two days went by.
After clawing my way through this jungle of writing, my draft was ready. I am particularly proud of my introduction. It really captured the long term goals of my research. I hope the admission committee thinks the same. After a few revisions from some good friends, I was done! Finito!
At least that’s what I thought. Some universities even require a personal history statement. Time to shed more blood, sweat, and tears.
Now comes the second hurdle in this adventure. Deciding where to apply. My track record hasn’t been the best honestly and the application criteria for machine learning Ph.D. programs is brutal. It feels as if you need to already be a fully fledged researcher to even be able to put a foot inside the door.
One great thing about this years applications was that the GRE requirement was waived. Hallelujah! I can pay rent on time!
I can’t imagine what the folks at ETS are going through.
I understand that it costs money to give the exam. But why does it cost $27 to send MY SCORE to a university!?! Are GRE scores some secret nuclear code? Unless we encode them using quantum encryption and mail them sealed in radiation proof containers, they might get stolen or manipulated and the world will drown in ice and fire. Thank you universities for taking a stand and removing this atrocity from the applications. Luckily I didn’t have to submit TOEFL scores either since I am doing a Master from a university in the United States. My bank balance was joyful and screaming with happiness. But little did it know, it was about to meet with an even greater monster – APPLICATION FEES.
I wish I could find out what universities do with all this money. I can’t wrap my head around why an application should cost on average $100. The crazy thing is that some of these universities have poorly made application portals. So they’re definitely not spending it on making the applications process better. I swear one of the places I applied to, the application form was written in pure HTML. It probably hasn’t been updated since the advent of the internet!
Now some universities do offer fee waivers. But unfortunately as an international student, most waivers are ruled out.
Since I don’t have oil money and come from a normal middle-class family, I couldn’t apply to every university under the sun. I had to be selective and strategic. I still ended up applying to more places than an average applicant. What can I say, I really want to get into a good Ph.D. program and be one step closer to becoming a scientist. Moreover, I strongly believe in the adage, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll be among the stars”.
I can’t imagine what my letter writers have been going through. I’m sorry for taking so much of your time.
Today is December 18th and I am glad I am done with the applications. I think I was getting a kick by applying. It’s like swiping right on Tinder. You know the odds are against you, but you still feel exhilarated.
Some of you might think, “the worst is over and now it’s just a patient wait.” I wish that was the case. These next few months are going to be filled with grueling anxiety and a few mental breakdowns. Time to start meditation again.
The distressing part is that statistically speaking most results are going to go like this
Hopefully, I’ll get into a good program. Fingers crossed.