I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:11 pm

Hi there!

My name is Adam Hauser, I am a condensed matter experimentalist at the University of Alabama, and the chair of our Graduate Recruitment (and admissions) Committee. I did my undergraduate work at Rutgers University, went to The Ohio State University for my PhD, and then spent three years as an Elings Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Santa Barbara before taking a faculty job here in Tuscaloosa.

Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have, most likely about the recruitment and admissions process, but since I declared AMA, I suppose I can't stop you from asking other things. If you would like my *general* opinion on your admissions package but do not wish to be publicly poked at, feel free to send me a private message and I can give you some thoughts. Please keep in mind that these thoughts are my own and do not represent my department or my university, are probably wrong, and only a fool would rely on them. But I am hoping I can help some people as deadlines loom and stress levels rise.

As a shameless plug, I will say that due to strong funding increases here we are aggressively seeking applicants in experimental particle physics (or experimental high energy physics, depending on what you call it at your school), so please take a look at and feel free to contact our faculty in that area if you are interested in this field.

I look forward to seeing your questions.

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:18 pm

One general comment worth noting to everyone - There is HUGE variability year-to-year in the number, demographics, and student qualities applying to any and every school. This is an unavoidable and ubiquitous feature of the graduate application process. Do NOT assume that last year's stat profile will carry over exactly - if you can, apply to many schools, reach for those you want and apply to extra schools that seem "beneath" you - the process is incredibly competitive and gets more so every year. I have seen a great deal of students apply to 6, 8, 10+ schools and only get admission to one! While I understand that there are financial limitations to the number of applications one can put out, the extra time and application fees are a solid investment in yourself in the long run, as at the very worst, you will have more schools to choose from and find the right fit for you.

Schroedingers2c
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:15 am

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby Schroedingers2c » Mon Nov 27, 2017 6:49 pm

Hi Mr. Hauser!

Thanks for your time to do this! I am from central Europe applying to several schools in the US and Canada. Some questions:

Would you advise to contact faculty members one is interested in working with before application deadline?
What is one thing you would have liked to know when you were applying for grad school?
What would you describe as an outstanding SOP (Statement of Purpose)?

Would love the get your opinions on these questions!

Byzantium1453
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 07, 2017 9:21 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby Byzantium1453 » Mon Nov 27, 2017 8:20 pm

What would you guys do if the proposed tax plan is passed and grad student tuition waivers are taxed? Would you play an accounting game or would grad students have to pay more? My dad went got a bio PhD at UAB back in the 1980s and a similar thing happened with state taxes then, but the grad students got reimbursed.

admissionprof
Posts: 369
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby admissionprof » Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:50 pm

As another (now former) admissions director, I can tell you that everyone is hoping the tax on tuition is dropped. Several Republican Senators have explicitly said they are against it and it isn't in the Senate bill. It would be unlikely to survive a conference committee report, even if the Senate bill passes. If it did pass, I suppose there'd be some sort of accounting game - we certainly couldn't afford to increase stipends enough to cover it.

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:15 pm

Schroedingers2c wrote:Hi Mr. Hauser!

Thanks for your time to do this! I am from central Europe applying to several schools in the US and Canada. Some questions:

Would you advise to contact faculty members one is interested in working with before application deadline?
What is one thing you would have liked to know when you were applying for grad school?
What would you describe as an outstanding SOP (Statement of Purpose)?

Would love the get your opinions on these questions!


I would STRONGLY advise contacting faculty members. I think it also helps you determine if you and them are a good fit to each other.

I knew very, VERY little about graduate school applications when I applied - my family did not do PhDs prior to my generation. I only applied to 3 schools, which in retrospect scares the bejeesus out of me. My advice: Apply to a good number and wide range (ranking-wise) of schools that have the work you want to do. Students have applied to 8, 10, 11 schools and only report getting into 1. Is 11 too many? Perhaps. But I would say at least 5-8. Make sure you have at least one safety. Any school in the top 25 is NOT a true safety. Maybe you can get in to a school with 3 applications. But why risk it? At least then, you will know you did everything you could to go to the best possible school. Work the time and financial investment in the long run.

An outstanding SOP should be focused, tell us what you have done, what you want to do, and why. A person with a grounded plan is a person who will often execute. I look to see if the student has made a connection with a faculty member. And I want to see that the person have experience in the lab in a meaningful way. These things all point to someone who will produce when they arrive. There is also no reason to hit the thesaurus - good prose and fancy words are not the same thing. The best way to be sure you have a good SOP is to have a faculty member read it - tell them to "shred it to pieces, I can handle it" or they might not be constructive enough to help you be your best. Any faculty member should be able to tear your statement apart, so don't take it personal - we spend all day writing research proposals, for years. Use our experience.

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:16 pm

Byzantium1453 wrote:What would you guys do if the proposed tax plan is passed and grad student tuition waivers are taxed? Would you play an accounting game or would grad students have to pay more? My dad went got a bio PhD at UAB back in the 1980s and a similar thing happened with state taxes then, but the grad students got reimbursed.


Last I heard, this part got taken out of the Senate version, didn't it?

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:18 pm

admissionprof wrote:As another (now former) admissions director, I can tell you that everyone is hoping the tax on tuition is dropped. Several Republican Senators have explicitly said they are against it and it isn't in the Senate bill. It would be unlikely to survive a conference committee report, even if the Senate bill passes. If it did pass, I suppose there'd be some sort of accounting game - we certainly couldn't afford to increase stipends enough to cover it.


I would expect the accounting game in the now-unlikely case of the tuition tax. I don't see another way to make the money line up, and teaching assistants are a critical part of undergraduate education, especially in STEM.

histoscienology
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:24 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby histoscienology » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:43 pm

Hi Dr. Hauser,

I was wondering if I should add a potential publication that was submitted to a conference (SPIE photonics)? Currently in my third year, I'm going to graduate this December because I can't afford the tuition. I don't have any published work by myself yet but wrote a report for a research internship I'm not sure if I should add it to my application for admission committee (some school request supplementary materials). I'm applying for top schools and heard the chances of getting into one of them is low if one doesn't have any publications. Thank you in advance for answering the question.

Regards,
Yan

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:19 pm

histoscienology wrote:Hi Dr. Hauser,

I was wondering if I should add a potential publication that was submitted to a conference (SPIE photonics)? Currently in my third year, I'm going to graduate this December because I can't afford the tuition. I don't have any published work by myself yet but wrote a report for a research internship I'm not sure if I should add it to my application for admission committee (some school request supplementary materials). I'm applying for top schools and heard the chances of getting into one of them is low if one doesn't have any publications. Thank you in advance for answering the question.

Regards,
Yan


Hi Yan,

It wouldn't hurt to add it - in many SOPs and letters of recommendation I see the mysterious "and a paper will be coming out" quote or some variation thereof. It is hard to gauge if that paper is a serious impending thing, or something that may never get finished - some folks simply assume the paper is never coming. If you attach the paper, we can see for ourselves how far along the work is, which is certainly better than nothing.

Do be sure to diversify your applications somewhat - all top 10 schools is a risky thing. If you would like me to look at your application materials or profile, PM me.

Adam

drrice
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:55 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby drrice » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:19 pm

Dr. Hauser,

With the latest tax plan that has passed the US House of Reps that will make tuition waivers considered taxable income to graduate students how does your department plan to incorporate this new tax plan? Do you foresee a decrease in PhD applicants?

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Mon Dec 04, 2017 2:08 pm

drrice wrote:Dr. Hauser,

With the latest tax plan that has passed the US House of Reps that will make tuition waivers considered taxable income to graduate students how does your department plan to incorporate this new tax plan? Do you foresee a decrease in PhD applicants?



Frankly, I am not high enough in the food chain to know those plans. Personally, I think it likely that the Senate version, which does not have taxable tuition waivers, will be adopted over the House version, which does tax tuition waivers. If you are concerned, the best thing to do is probably to contact your representatives to make your opinions (whatever they may be) known before reconciliation and subsequent voting. Congress cannot respond to those who do not speak.

beaverbullu6
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:02 am

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby beaverbullu6 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:07 am

Hi, I am an international applicant and have very little research experience ( worked full time for one summer; no publications). My previous work was in soft condensed matter physics. Does it look bad if I mention that I am still a little undecided on the area I would like to continue in? More importantly, the applications ask to mention the subfield. Would it be possible for me to apply under condensed matter, and if accepted change the area?
Thank you

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:51 am

beaverbullu6 wrote:Hi, I am an international applicant and have very little research experience ( worked full time for one summer; no publications). My previous work was in soft condensed matter physics. Does it look bad if I mention that I am still a little undecided on the area I would like to continue in? More importantly, the applications ask to mention the subfield. Would it be possible for me to apply under condensed matter, and if accepted change the area?
Thank you


If you are unsure, you are best served mentioning the second field that you might be interested in, and the faculty in that field you may be interested in working with. Contacting faculty in both fields is then recommended to check for fit - you may find you would only want to go to a particular school in a particular field. If there is a drop down box and you have to choose, you can pick where you are leaning to, as long as you mention the other possibility in your statement of purpose.

beaverbullu6
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:02 am

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby beaverbullu6 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:55 am

AdamHauser wrote:
If you are unsure, you are best served mentioning the second field that you might be interested in, and the faculty in that field you may be interested in working with. Contacting faculty in both fields is then recommended to check for fit - you may find you would only want to go to a particular school in a particular field. If there is a drop down box and you have to choose, you can pick where you are leaning to, as long as you mention the other possibility in your statement of purpose.

It's a little too late to be contacting faculty now, isn't it? Anyways thanks for the advice.

AdamHauser
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby AdamHauser » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:52 am

beaverbullu6 wrote:
AdamHauser wrote:
If you are unsure, you are best served mentioning the second field that you might be interested in, and the faculty in that field you may be interested in working with. Contacting faculty in both fields is then recommended to check for fit - you may find you would only want to go to a particular school in a particular field. If there is a drop down box and you have to choose, you can pick where you are leaning to, as long as you mention the other possibility in your statement of purpose.

It's a little too late to be contacting faculty now, isn't it? Anyways thanks for the advice.


Depending on the school, maybe. It can't hurt you, especially if you did put your interest in their group down already - it can take a committee up to a month after the deadline to actually meet and discuss applications. It would also inform your decision should you get in to multiple places. No downside.

Speaking with faculty more is never the wrong answer if you want to work in the field - you will always learn something and be better for it. I don't think that changes no matter how far along your path you get... it is a wonderful facet of life. (Apologies, it is snowing today in Tuscaloosa and I am feeling philosophical.)

beaverbullu6
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:02 am

Re: I am a Grad Recruitment/Admissions Chair - Ask me anything

Postby beaverbullu6 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:39 pm

AdamHauser wrote:Depending on the school, maybe. It can't hurt you, especially if you did put your interest in their group down already - it can take a committee up to a month after the deadline to actually meet and discuss applications. It would also inform your decision should you get in to multiple places. No downside.

Speaking with faculty more is never the wrong answer if you want to work in the field - you will always learn something and be better for it. I don't think that changes no matter how far along your path you get... it is a wonderful facet of life. (Apologies, it is snowing today in Tuscaloosa and I am feeling philosophical.)

I guess you're right, it won't do me any harm to contact some faculty. Their responses might even help me with a few more decisions I still have to make (I'm still trying to find 'safe' schools).
ps. No apologies needed for being a little philosophical :)




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