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How NOT to apply for graduate studies March 10, 2007

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Physics, Science.

I am on the Graduate Recruitment and Admissions Committee this year. What it means is that within our department I am part of the group of three people who look through applications of prospective graduate students and decide who would be the best candidates to become grad students in our department. I will write later on what the application should have in order to be successful. Today I wanted to mention some things the applicant should avoid. Well, first and foremost, the applicant should aviod NOT following what we say in the advertisment or on our admissions pages. That is to say, we, as any other physics department in the US, require each applicant to fill out an application form. In our case, this application form is on-line, whch is very convenient for both applicants and us. We specifically say that we need this form — and this is not just another burocratic requirement — it conveniently contains GRE/TOEFL scores, basic info about the applicant, letters of recommendation, transcripts (as attachments), … In other words, all that we need to make an informative decision on who to admit in one place!

And then there is another thing — personal communication. If we contact the candidate and he/she does not reply for weeks, it tells us something about the applicant and his/her intentions (for instance, we don’t want some applicants from overseas to use the deparment to get visa and support for a year before they leave for engineering or computer science — believe me, it happens more often than one might think… so we learn to root those out in the first place). But then there are also other types of e-mails. Oftentimes I get messages from prospective students that go something like that (quote):

“I have gone through website for the vacancy of phd studentship. I intend to do my Ph.D in CONDESED MATTER PHYSICS. As my interest lie within your frame of research work, I would like to join for Ph.D in your esteemed group. Please consider my application for the same. I will be glad to work under your guidance. … I want to become a part of your group to pursue exiting projects.”

Come on! It is sooo clear that this person didn’t even look at our DEPARTMENTAL website, leave alone mine! For starters, my “official” website clearly states that my research interest is theoretical particle physics. And so my group and I are doing just that, theoretical particle physics. Second, if this person looked through our advertisments, he/she would clearly noticed that all communications should have been directed to our admissions chair, not to the person who submitted the ad… So I’m inclined to treat those messages as spam… but I don’t, I faithfully forward them to where they are supposed to go in the first place, our admissions chair…


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