Organizing your choices

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HappyQuark
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Organizing your choices

Postby HappyQuark » Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:00 pm

Taking cues from Grae313's webblog I've been working on a spreadsheet that I've started using to organize my thoughts on which schools I intend to apply to, what research I would be interested in doing at that university and some drop down status indicators so that I can keep track of LOR, Transcripts, Scores, etc. I don't know if what I've put together will be of any use to anyone else but you can download it HERE. I haven't spent much time filling it out but my general method is to track researchers and what they work on and, additionally, I've started highlighting research in yellow in different shades such that darker shades indicate a stronger level of interest. If you have another method of tracking your prospective schools, I'd be interested in hearing it.

Image

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satyad18
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby satyad18 » Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:02 pm

@HappyQuark: Excellent.! Thank you very much for posting your pain-staking work. It really did help me out! :D

CarlBrannen
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:19 pm

I'm always horribly disorganized. I'll give this a try. By the way, I use OpenOffice.org's free tools for spreadsheets, but I don't use it very much.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:22 am

CarlBrannen wrote:I'm always horribly disorganized. I'll give this a try. By the way, I use OpenOffice.org's free tools for spreadsheets, but I don't use it very much.


I constructed the entire thing in excel but I'm on my macbook right now and I'm too cheap to pay for iWork or Mac:Office so I'm stuck using OpenOffice for the time being. I was pleasantly surprised that the conditional formatting and drop down menu both worked.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:43 am

As a bit of a side note:

I'm not sure that I will end up applying to all of the schools listed and in all likelihood I'll remove a couple (e.g. Northwestern, UMass-Amherst and Dartmouth) but I was amazed to find my total expected cost at $1,080.00 for only app fees. It's borderline ridiculous how much money they expect poor college students just to be considered and, in many cases, rejected.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:38 am

HappyQuark wrote:It's borderline ridiculous how much money they expect poor college students just to be considered and, in many cases, rejected.


What are they thinking? The total amount of money they bring in from applications is maybe 150 x $80 = $12,000 so it's probably not enough to fund a single grad student but the effect has to be that they get so many fewer applications.

If it's a matter of reducing the number of applications, I would think that the requirement that there be letters of recommendation would already do that. And the students have to pay to send copies of their transcripts so that already prevents students from applying to all the top 50 physics departments. And besides, only the worst of students are going to apply everywhere, it shouldn't be too much trouble to weed that portion out.

I really don't think a private company would do this. The only explanation I can think of is that the money goes into some sort of fund that the physics department can spend in ways they can't spend any other money. Maybe on a department party.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 19, 2010 2:09 am

CarlBrannen wrote:
HappyQuark wrote:It's borderline ridiculous how much money they expect poor college students just to be considered and, in many cases, rejected.


What are they thinking? The total amount of money they bring in from applications is maybe 150 x $80 = $12,000 so it's probably not enough to fund a single grad student but the effect has to be that they get so many fewer applications.

If it's a matter of reducing the number of applications, I would think that the requirement that there be letters of recommendation would already do that. And the students have to pay to send copies of their transcripts so that already prevents students from applying to all the top 50 physics departments. And besides, only the worst of students are going to apply everywhere, it shouldn't be too much trouble to weed that portion out.

I really don't think a private company would do this. The only explanation I can think of is that the money goes into some sort of fund that the physics department can spend in ways they can't spend any other money. Maybe on a department party.


"We took money from 200 people that didn't get into our program. Let's celebrate by spending their money on a pizza party!"

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby WhoaNonstop » Tue Oct 19, 2010 2:24 am

HappyQuark wrote:"We took money from 200 people that didn't get into our program. Let's celebrate by spending their money on a pizza party!"


I like Pizza.

-Riley

CarlBrannen
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:15 am

Another question: Just how does a physics department handle its books? I have a pretty good idea how the books are arranged at a for profit corporation (chart of accounts, credits, debits, and all that stuff), but I have little idea how a physics department is financially organized. For example, I wouldn't even know if they have a separate checking account from the graduate school or the university.

As a grad student, I've never seen any information on this sort of thing. I would think that if I dug deep enough, I could figure out exactly what happens to grad student fees, at least at a public university.

Hmmm. This seems like the kind of thing that should be googlable.

[edit] Sure enough, googling "chart of accounts"+"department of physics"+"application fees" gets a hit. It seems that the fees go into the department general fund, but as costs rise, they ask for increases. From page 27:

Application Fees
This fee is charged to individuals submitting applications for admission as students to the
University to offset the cost of handling applications and to provide funds for recruiting
students
. For those institutions where the requested increase in application fees exceeds
3%, detailed explanations follow.

o East Carolina University proposes a $10 increase in medical school application
fees to cover increased costs associated with processing applications including
personnel, supplies, postage and printing expenses.

o The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill proposes an 8.3% application fee
increase for Graduate Schools, a 7.7% increase in the School of Law and School
of Dentistry application fees and a 3.1% increase in the Pharmacy School
application fee. The additional funds will defray increasing costs of printing and
mailing applications forms, personnel costs involved in receiving applications,
and operating expenses.
...


At Temple, application fees come under the classification "Spendable Fees", which suggests that these are moneys that the department may spend on their own (as opposed to tuition which goes into a big pot):
http://www.temple.edu/controller/genera ... itures.htm

Hmmm. I wonder where they get the money to pay for the travel expenses of prospective students. I'm thinking it comes out of this pot. So raising the fee means they have more money for recruiting.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby HappyQuark » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:37 pm

Quick update:

I've altered the way things are organized a bit and filled it out according to my own research interests. You can download it HERE.

Image

On the far left I'm ranking how much interest I have in a certain area of research and then on the far right I'm summing each value to get a final score. The general idea is that higher scoring institutions will, in general, have more potentially interesting research available and is therefore typically more desirable.

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grae313
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby grae313 » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:37 am

HappyQuark wrote:Image


Beautiful! I made my own spreadsheet similar to this when I was applying but I wish I had yours then--it's much nicer!

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HappyQuark
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby HappyQuark » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:42 am

grae313 wrote:Beautiful! I made my own spreadsheet similar to this when I was applying but I wish I had yours then--it's much nicer!


All I have to say to this is

"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Since, per the first post in the thread, I borrowed a bit of the format from your spreadsheets you provided on the forum.

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grae313
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby grae313 » Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:25 pm

HappyQuark wrote:
grae313 wrote:Beautiful! I made my own spreadsheet similar to this when I was applying but I wish I had yours then--it's much nicer!


All I have to say to this is

"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."


... Are you calling me fat?

Heh, I missed your mention in the first post :)

astroprof
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby astroprof » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:42 pm

I really don't think a private company would do this. The only explanation I can think of is that the money goes into some sort of fund that the physics department can spend in ways they can't spend any other money. Maybe on a department party.


This is one of the most common misconceptions on this forum. It is highly unlikely that your
application fees will be received (directly) by the department. The application fees are usually
collected by the University, and may be re-directed to the Unit (e.g., School of Engineering, Medical
School, College of Arts and Science), but these fees are almost never seen as direct cash inflow
into a department budget.

There are real costs associated with processing graduate school applications. While most
institutions (and students) have moved beyond the paper forms, the electronic forms still
require processing - from merely confirming that the application is complete (student info,
letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc) to forwarding the information to the relevant
parties (the departmental admissions committee, the Graduate School, or the Office for
International Students). Then there is the cost of developing and maintaining the web forms
(or paying the company that does this), which is decidedly non-trivial.

The cost of processing graduate student applications may be worked into the departmental
budget in the form of additional administrative personnel, but it is an indirect process. In
other words, if 10 fewer students apply to our program this year, we do not suddenly have
$500 (or so) less in our department budget. However, over time, if we have fewer applications,
the College might decide that we do not need as much administrative support, and thus
might reconsider our overall budget and personnel needs.

Finally, the actual people reading your applications have absolutely nothing to do with setting
the amount of the application fee. Your applications are read by faculty members in the
department. We do not see the funds from your fees either directly or indirectly. We merely
read what you have provided, consider the file holistically, and make a decision. We hope
that students choose to apply to our program because they think that our program provides
the appropriate educational and research opportunities for them. We do not want to see
applications from large numbers of unqualified (or under-qualified) applicants, as that is
a waste of resources for all (waste of money and time for the students; waste of time for the
faculty on the admissions committee).

So, please, when the time of indecision arrives (Feb-March), please do not rant about how
inconsiderate it is for a department to be slow about notifying you of your status since
you paid them $$$. You should rant and wail about how slow they are about notifying
you, period.

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grae313
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby grae313 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:50 pm

astroprof wrote:
I really don't think a private company would do this. The only explanation I can think of is that the money goes into some sort of fund that the physics department can spend in ways they can't spend any other money. Maybe on a department party.


This is one of the most common misconceptions on this forum. It is highly unlikely that your
application fees will be received (directly) by the department. The application fees are usually
collected by the University, and may be re-directed to the Unit (e.g., School of Engineering, Medical
School, College of Arts and Science), but these fees are almost never seen as direct cash inflow
into a department budget.

There are real costs associated with processing graduate school applications. While most
institutions (and students) have moved beyond the paper forms, the electronic forms still
require processing - from merely confirming that the application is complete (student info,
letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc) to forwarding the information to the relevant
parties (the departmental admissions committee, the Graduate School, or the Office for
International Students). Then there is the cost of developing and maintaining the web forms
(or paying the company that does this), which is decidedly non-trivial.

The cost of processing graduate student applications may be worked into the departmental
budget in the form of additional administrative personnel, but it is an indirect process. In
other words, if 10 fewer students apply to our program this year, we do not suddenly have
$500 (or so) less in our department budget. However, over time, if we have fewer applications,
the College might decide that we do not need as much administrative support, and thus
might reconsider our overall budget and personnel needs.

Finally, the actual people reading your applications have absolutely nothing to do with setting
the amount of the application fee. Your applications are read by faculty members in the
department. We do not see the funds from your fees either directly or indirectly. We merely
read what you have provided, consider the file holistically, and make a decision. We hope
that students choose to apply to our program because they think that our program provides
the appropriate educational and research opportunities for them. We do not want to see
applications from large numbers of unqualified (or under-qualified) applicants, as that is
a waste of resources for all (waste of money and time for the students; waste of time for the
faculty on the admissions committee).

So, please, when the time of indecision arrives (Feb-March), please do not rant about how
inconsiderate it is for a department to be slow about notifying you of your status since
you paid them $$$. You should rant and wail about how slow they are about notifying
you, period.


Thank you.

CarlBrannen
Posts: 381
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:52 pm

astroprof wrote:This is one of the most common misconceptions on this forum. ... There are real costs associated with processing graduate school applications. ...


Hiring is a cost for private industry, too. But absolutely no companies I know of charge prospective employees for the privilege of having their resume submitted. The fact that application fees are near universal is not evidence that the practice is sane. The history of the human race is replete with examples of insane behavior that was once near universal.

In general, chemistry graduate students don't pay an application fee. For example, Colorado State:

Please do not send a fee payment to the Graduate School. The application fee will be paid by the Chemistry Department for domestic applications.

http://www.chm.colostate.edu/online_ap.html

Also see:
North Carolina State University: http://www.ncsu.edu/chemistry/graduate/application.html
Georgia Tech: http://www.chemistry.gatech.edu/graduate/application/
U. Houston: http://www.chem.uh.edu/graduate/faq.shtml
Clemson: http://www.clemson.edu/chemistry/gradua ... ation.html
U. Utah: http://www.chem.utah.edu/grad_application/index.html
Arizona State University: http://chemistry.asu.edu/graduate/FAQ.asp#appFee
Temple: http://www.temple.edu/chemistry/graduate/apply.html

For many many more examples:
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=application+fees+g ... +chemistry

astroprof
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby astroprof » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:45 pm

Hiring is a cost for private industry, too. But absolutely no companies I know of charge prospective employees for the privilege of having their resume submitted. The fact that application fees are near universal is not evidence that the practice is sane. The history of the human race is replete with examples of insane behavior that was once near universal.


The analogy with private industry is misleading. The costs associated with hiring in
industry are passed along to the customer, in terms of higher prices. While I do not
subscribe to "the student as customer" philosophy (with the corollary that "the customer
is always right"), you could view the application fee as similar to this concept - the
price of your education is slightly higher.

Some of the confusion regarding this issue is related to the ambiguous nature
of graduate students in the sciences (in the US). On the one hand, you are a student;
on the other hand, you are an employee (as a TA or RA). Thus, charging fees for
received goods (consideration of your application; your actual education) makes
sense for the student but not for the employee. We are very fortunate that this nation
has prioritized scientific and technical training, and thus we are able to provide not
only fee remissions for graduate school, but also a stipend (low, but livable) for
graduate students in the STEM fields. This is not the case for professional training
in other disciplines (Law, Medicine, etc). Thus, most physics graduate students
do not incur substantial debt while gaining the educational training and skills they
need for their chosen profession. Unfortunately, this is sometimes translated into
an entitlement - I am studying physics, so I shouldn't have to pay anything related
to graduate school - rather than a privilege.

You raise the interesting examples of Chemistry programs that waive the application
fees. There are also some Physics and Astronomy programs that do so as well, but
that money is almost certainly coming from somewhere within the internal accounting
of the University (from the department budget, the College budget, etc). University
budgets are complex entities, but they do keep track of internal transfers of funds.
For example, our fee remissions are counted both as money coming in (the fees) and money
going out (the remissions); if students take courses in other Units of the University,
the fees associated with those classes are transferred to the other Units, leaving a net
loss for the College since they are paying more in remissions then they are getting back
in fees. None of this money actually moves through the students' bank accounts, but
the administrators always emphasize that fee remissions involve "real money". That's
academia for you.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:17 pm

astroprof wrote:The analogy with private industry is misleading. ...


Your logic is impeccable but fails against the example of chemistry departments most of which do not charge an application fee. Certainly the science department most similar to physics is chemistry.

From my experience, physics professors are, on average, quite liberal. It's surprising to me that they condone a system which gives an inherent advantage to the wealthier graduate students. The only explanation I can come up with is that they never thought very deeply on the subject. Certainly there are absolutely no differences in how chemistry and physics departments do their accounting so explanations based on this get nowhere. And as I showed above, the total amount collected is negligible to the department, but it dominates the expenses of the prospective student.

If you have an explanation for the stark difference in graduate application fees between chemistry and physics I'd like to hear it.

My guess is that there is a tradition among chemistry departments that there be no application fee and that this dates to long ago. Perhaps chemistry is more of an applied science so chemists have more business sense than physicists. Maybe the fee is there because a theoretical physics degree is more similar to a degree in philosophy than chemistry.

I seem to recall that PRL charges people to publish their papers but the majority of the reputable journals charge nothing. This is despite the undeniable fact that the people who publish have much better finances than prospective graduate students. Most graduate students are coming off of 4 years of borrowed money and have no job. Even post docs have a LOT more money.

astroprof
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby astroprof » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:35 pm

There are notable differences in the financial support (and training) of
graduate students and postdocs in the sciences, some of which are due
to "tradition" and others of which are due to market forces. For example,
graduate student stipends for TAs are field dependent (students in the
humanities are almost always significantly lower than those in the
sciences, but even the sciences have slight variations). Postdoctoral
salaries are significantly different - here, chemists are on the low end
and physicists and astronomers are on the high end - as are starting
faculty salaries (with the opposite trend as postdocs: Chemistry professors
tend to make more than Physicists, who make more than Astronomers).
Market forces, the nature of the research activity (need for low level tech
support, for example), and "tradition" all play a role in defining the standard
practices for each field (and could be a really cool dissertation topic for
someone in Economics...).

I do not agree with your argument that the application fees give an inherent
advantage to wealthier graduate students. Most Universities have a process
whereby domestic students can petition to have the application fees waived if they
can demonstrate financial difficulty.

You also bring up the concept of page charges and state that "the majority of
reputable journals charge nothing..." That is incorrect. TANSTAFL: There ain't
no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pay for the cost of copy-editors,
typesetting, printing, and mailing (not to mention the administrative cost for
the journal editors, etc). Most of the journals in physics and astronomy have
decided that those costs should be borne by the scientists who did the research
(more precisely, the grants which funded the research/institutions who supported
the research) rather than by the readers/libraries that purchase the journals. Just
ask your local University Librarian about the relative cost of PRL vs other "reputable"
journals. By lowering the subscription costs (both institutional and individual), these
journals are much more accessible to scientists around the world. And, note, even
journals with page charges will waive those charges if the science is good and the
authors demonstrate that they cannot afford to publish.

In any event, a discussion about page charges and the other financial aspects of
actually completing a research project is a major digression from the topic of this
thread, so I will close with the following: The process of applying to graduate school
is an investment in your future; the time and money you spend now as you identify
the "best" schools (for you) will yield a positive return if you can find a school where
you will be happy and productive for 5-6 years of your life. Don't let the process/costs
derail you from pursuing the career of your choice.

pqortic
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby pqortic » Sat Oct 23, 2010 1:17 am

@ astroprof

Thanks a lot for sharing.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Sat Oct 23, 2010 1:30 am

astroprof wrote:I do not agree with your argument that the application fees give an inherent
advantage to wealthier graduate students. Most Universities have a process
whereby domestic students can petition to have the application fees waived if they
can demonstrate financial difficulty.


I think you're probably right here, but I'd still change things. An example of a good physics department where the application fee is applied only to admitted students is U. Texas, Austin.

astroprof wrote:You also bring up the concept of page charges and state that "the majority of
reputable journals charge nothing..." That is incorrect.


AIP: Usually Page charge
APS: Most are free, exception: PRL
Elsevier: Mostly Free
WorldSciNet: Free as far as I know (I've published at IJMPD)

I've only run into two reputable physics journals that charge the authors (or their institution). They are PRL and PMC. The charge at PRL is $625 and is worth it because they are the top. Phys Math Central is an open access journal so of course they have to charge. Their fee is 950 pounds:
http://www.physmathcentral.com/about/authors/apcfaq/

On the other hand, I know a dozen journals that are free to the author. This past year I've had three articles published or accepted (IJMPD, AIP proceedings, and Found. Phys.) and haven't paid a dime. If I'm wrong on this, please correct with the names of the reputable physics journals that charge fees. Maybe I've been lucky. I do believe that some of the low end stuff lives on page charges.

astroprof
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby astroprof » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:00 am

On the issue of publication costs: the journals either charge the author (page charges)
or the reader (price of subscription). [Actually, some journals have additional income
from their sponsoring entity, and some journals operate at a loss since other titles within
the publishing company can compensate, but these are complications that we can ignore
for now.] The journals that have page charges have institutional subscription prices that
are substantially cheaper than those that do not. While it is also possible to have reduced
subscription prices by having reduced services (on-line only journals, for example), most
(not all) reputable journals provide both print and electronic format.

Research is an expensive activity. I personally prefer to have some of the costs associated
with publishing the results borne by the same grant that supported the original work.

signminus
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Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 12:15 pm

Re: Organizing your choices

Postby signminus » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:29 am

CarlBrannen wrote:An example of a good physics department where the application fee is applied only to admitted students is U. Texas, Austin.

Could you provide a source for this?

CarlBrannen
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Re: Organizing your choices

Postby CarlBrannen » Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:44 am

signminus wrote:
CarlBrannen wrote:An example of a good physics department where the application fee is applied only to admitted students is U. Texas, Austin.

Could you provide a source for this?


Try: "4. Question: Do you accept fee waivers?
Answer: Yes, you may apply without submitting the application fee. We will however, give priority to those that do pay the fee and submit a full application. All applications are reviewed if nearly all applications materials have been sent. If you are selected for admission you will have to pay the fee to accept our admissions offer. All students are admitted with an offer of financial aid."
http://www.ph.utexas.edu/grad_ad_faq.html#4

signminus
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Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 12:15 pm

Re: Organizing your choices

Postby signminus » Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:42 pm

CarlBrannen wrote:Try: "4. Question: Do you accept fee waivers?
Answer: Yes, you may apply without submitting the application fee. We will however, give priority to those that do pay the fee and submit a full application. All applications are reviewed if nearly all applications materials have been sent. If you are selected for admission you will have to pay the fee to accept our admissions offer. All students are admitted with an offer of financial aid."
http://www.ph.utexas.edu/grad_ad_faq.html#4

Wow, that is a thoughtful policy on their part. Although, it doesn't seem that ApplyTexas lets you submit without paying the fee...




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