ok, so I need my head set straight

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vroomfondel
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ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby vroomfondel » Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:28 pm

I got UIUC, visited, and absolutely love the Physics department. For me (CME), it beats any other department I have visited (including Stanford and Berkeley). I hate the town though. It's full of drunk undergrads, and there are perhaps 6 hangout-worthy spots around the area. I don't mind the cold (it's at least sunny), but the atmosphere is decidedly non-academic as soon as you step out of the Physics building. And it's flat. eff, ell, ayy, tee.

My other realistic option is a Stanford Masters, I would do research and take classes, and it's one year long. I would then reapply. I would be TA-ing and paying out of savings for the Masters. Say about 35K, it hurts, but I saved a lot, so I can manage and still have money left over.

Is it a no brainer? Should I suck it up and go to UIUC. I shudder at the thought of 6 years in the midwest. Does that make me not a real physicist? Am I to live for science alone, and not care about quality of life? A couple of the students I talked to there say that they went for the department, and ended up not liking it at all. If they could do it over, they said, they would choose lower ranked alternatives in better cities.

what say you, physicsgre?

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grae313
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby grae313 » Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:34 pm

vroomfondel wrote:what say you, physicsgre?


Uck, that's a tough one. I saved myself the trouble by not applying to UIUC :wink: If you could make it, you'd have career doors opening up for you. The other road is tougher. I think you're the only one who can say whether you can take it or not. Six years.

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will
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby will » Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:11 pm

Is it a no brainer? Should I suck it up and go to UIUC. I shudder at the thought of 6 years in the midwest. Does that make me not a real physicist? Am I to live for science alone, and not care about quality of life?


Basically.

Really though, many physicists who've 'made it' consider grad school to have been some of the best years of their lives. Six years is hardly a drop in the bucket, and if you aren't going to be happy there then what's the point? A degree that, moreso than one from a slightly lower ranked school, maybe helps ensure you might get tenure at a mid-tier university in your mid-forties?

cancelled20080417
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby cancelled20080417 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:29 am

I hear you vroomfondel. After accepting their offer and declining Cornell, I felt I made a stupid mistake. Well, it is too late now. In terms of research, UIUC is unbeatable, but as you said the environment outside the physics building is no different from a rowdy bar. I might end up being a bouncer at UIUC after 6 years :P
Well, I will go there for now and see how it goes. If it does not work out well, I will apply again this fall ( christ, what the hell am I thinking..I cant believe I am talking about going through the painful admission process again)
Suppose if I apply to Cornell next year, will they straight out reject me for not condering their offer this year, or it won't matter? Will a Prof here at UIUC be annoyed for changing schools? What if I had to ask a letter from Prof here?
I am 95 % sure that I will be happy there, oh well.. *** my *** brain!

VT
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby VT » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:31 am

RG, are you out of your mind?

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jdhooghe
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby jdhooghe » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:37 am

VT wrote:RG, are you out of your mind?


No, he's only sodomizing it.

vroomfondel
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby vroomfondel » Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:49 am

RG, from what I hear it isn't that easy to switch from a PhD program (leave with a masters). I doubt they will be happy, especially if you are on fellowship for the first year. But perhaps if one is really unhappy...

Maybe admissionsprof can shed some light on it.

Will, was that a go to UIUC, or don't?

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will
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby will » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:37 am

A degree from UIUC looks great to employers and will open up some doors for you that a degree from a lower ranked program might not. My point, however, was that a better set of doors comes with being a good scientist, and much like livestock, a good scientist is a happy scientist. If you're miserable, do you really expect to be able to do your best research?

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jdhooghe
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby jdhooghe » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:03 am

I don't know about you but I am at my desk most of the time and I expect Grad. school to be the same. I'm at Chico State right now and although it is a party school there are boundaries to the party/non-party sections of town. Are there not any at Illinois? Besides, it's not like you're going to have free time right? :D


But in all honesty, a close group of friends is really all you need and I gauruntee you'll get some bright ones at UIUC. But then again, that is just me and would give my right testicle to go to UIUC.

cancelled20080417
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby cancelled20080417 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:53 pm

First off, changing graduate school is not difficult, I think. Of course I am not going to change schools without a solid reason coz UIUC has everything going on in Cond Matter.

What ever decision you make right now does not have to be the best decision after an year. Things will get changed and so will your plans. I do not see any reason why any grad schools should frown their eyebrows if their students want to change the school.

That said, you should def consider UIUC if you are thinking of cond matter. Forget about Stanford, it is just the name. If it were Harvard/Berkeley/ Cornell then I would suggest you to go to those places.

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dlenmn
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby dlenmn » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:54 pm

As I understand it, changing grad schools is fairly common and generally not all that difficult. (Although Cornell claims to be an exception. See "Transfer Students").

admissionprof
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby admissionprof » Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:57 pm

vroomfondel wrote:RG, from what I hear it isn't that easy to switch from a PhD program (leave with a masters). I doubt they will be happy, especially if you are on fellowship for the first year. But perhaps if one is really unhappy...

Maybe admissionsprof can shed some light on it.


It is not that easy. We've all been burned by students coming to our university and, within a few months, applying to leave. We've basically lost the funding, and some student on the waiting list didn't get in because of someone who didn't want to be there. For that reason, many places frown on those who apply from other good programs, unless there are very good reasons for the move ("I fell madly in love with someone who has moved to your area"). It is much harder than getting in in the first place.

That said, I know nothing about the thought processes of top 20 schools. Maybe they are happy about stealing each other's students.

If you really have second thoughts, you could e-mail Cornell and ask if it would be possible to rescind your declining their offer. It may be that they are getting fewer acceptances than before, and are going to the waiting list. Since you are stronger than anyone on their waitlist (by definition), they might be willing to do that...

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Helio
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby Helio » Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:43 pm

I meet one of the former undergrads from there and she said that basically the Champaign side is party and student side, while urbana is the place for professors, etc. But that is just an account from 12 years ago

megatron
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby megatron » Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:37 pm

admissionprof wrote:
vroomfondel wrote:RG, from what I hear it isn't that easy to switch from a PhD program (leave with a masters). I doubt they will be happy, especially if you are on fellowship for the first year. But perhaps if one is really unhappy...

Maybe admissionsprof can shed some light on it.


It is not that easy. We've all been burned by students coming to our university and, within a few months, applying to leave. We've basically lost the funding, and some student on the waiting list didn't get in because of someone who didn't want to be there. For that reason, many places frown on those who apply from other good programs, unless there are very good reasons for the move ("I fell madly in love with someone who has moved to your area"). It is much harder than getting in in the first place.

That said, I know nothing about the thought processes of top 20 schools. Maybe they are happy about stealing each other's students.

If you really have second thoughts, you could e-mail Cornell and ask if it would be possible to rescind your declining their offer. It may be that they are getting fewer acceptances than before, and are going to the waiting list. Since you are stronger than anyone on their waitlist (by definition), they might be willing to do that...

How exactly does the waitlist work? For instance, say RG declines Cornell as he has. Does Cornell then automatically admit the next person on the waitlist to keep a constant number of prospectives, or is it only until the number of decliners goes over a certain point? Any other interesting information about the process?

admissionprof
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby admissionprof » Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:12 pm

megatron wrote:How exactly does the waitlist work? For instance, say RG declines Cornell as he has. Does Cornell then automatically admit the next person on the waitlist to keep a constant number of prospectives, or is it only until the number of decliners goes over a certain point? Any other interesting information about the process?



I can only speak for my own school. We do not automatically go to the waitlist after every decline--it wouldn't be practical and would cause complete chaos near the end. Remember, we make 2-3 times as many offers as we eventually want. In late March or early April, if the total number of declines indicates that our guesstimated number of acceptances was too high, then we'll admit a couple from the waitlist. And so on. The only time it actually gets to the "someone declines--someone from the waitlist is in" stage is on April 15th. Even then, it's a crapshoot since some students simply never respond (and the people on the waitlist have other offers and can't wait). One possibility is to inform students in China that "April 15th" means Chinese time, and that the offer will disappear if they don't respond by then (but then if they ask for a few more hours, give it to them). That's noon over here, so it gives time to make a couple of last minute offers, if necessary.

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grae313
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby grae313 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:19 pm

admissionprof wrote:If you really have second thoughts, you could e-mail Cornell and ask if it would be possible to rescind your declining their offer.


Great idea!! C'mon RG, come to Cornell with me!

cancelled20080417
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby cancelled20080417 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:18 pm

Thanks admissionproof for the helpful info. But a Prof at UIUC has made a good faith effort to take me in his group and I do not want to turn him down. The physics community is not like a fish market where you meet people one day and never see them again; I will have to constantly get in touch with Profs there at UIUC and other places. Therefore, I am sticking with my decision for now.(sorry grae :( )

I still see no reason why UIUC should be pissed if I decided to leave them next year. How can I be sure that I will be happy there after December( I mean after 6 months or 1 yr or whatever)? It may happen that I may lose interest in the type of research I am very enthusiastic about right now. I am not saying that I will, but this is a non trivial possibility. What if I do not like the community? Are not these good reasons to transfer? Visiting one day does not tell us whole lot about the campus community.
I do not see any reason why any grad schools shud frown at students willing to transfer to another institution for reasons mentioned above. I do not why chinese students transfer( or why students trasfer from your University), but if I have to transfer, then I am just going to say: I WAS NOT HAPPY, which I think is a suffient reason to transfer.


I read that article about Cornell and I do not understand why Cornell is so rude to transfer applicants. They mention that Profs will have no time to get along with transfer students :shock: what is that suppose to mean?

so vroomfondel go for UIUC and if you do not like them after a semester, transfer to another place. It is not difficult and it should not be made difficult. Done!

vroomfondel
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby vroomfondel » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:39 pm

RG, would love to believe you. Talked to a chair of admissions at a top 10 recently, and he said that they considered transfers begrudgingly...you need to have a great reason. "I am not happy" may or may not be good enough. who knows

I'm still considering all options, of course. Thank you all for the valuable input.

christopher3.14
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby christopher3.14 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:59 pm

Just to put my two cents in, but I just came back from the Open House at UIUC and I was actually impressed. Earlier on here I stated something "crazy" had to happen for me to pass up on Columbia and its great area and financial offer...but it pretty much happened.

The research at UIUC is amazing. And I was surprised that the area wasn't as bad as I had thought. Coming from the west coast it, of course, was a big difference for me. But the Urbana part of town is really quiet and chill. The Champaign part is fratty, drunk, and gross. And avoidable, which is great. But you're right, it is pretty dull.

But it's not like your committing academic suicide by going to Stanford or Berkeley, you know? Out of all the schools in the world you have the luxury of picking between some of the top ones. So you should go with the one that gave you the best "feel."

cancelled20080417
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby cancelled20080417 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:51 pm

Talked to a chair of admissions at a top 10 recently, and he said that they considered transfers begrudgingly...you need to have a great reason. "I am not happy" may or may not be good enough. who knows


Could you ask him why they are not willing to consider transfer applicants? Also what on earth could be a good reason to leave a place other than saying that you were not happy there! I mean, when we make our decision, what is the first thing we ask! Is not the whole deal about happiness? I am happy coz I like the research, I am happy coz location is great, I am happy coz there is a sorority house right next to the physics building(lol) and the list goes on.... If happiness is a deal maker than why is happiness not a deal breaker?

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twistor
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby twistor » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:27 pm

I would be TA-ing and paying out of savings for the Masters. Say about 35K, it hurts, but I saved a lot, so I can manage and still have money left over.


Is this a wise investment? There arent that many jobs in physics for people with physics masters degrees.

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twistor
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby twistor » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:29 pm

RG wrote:I still see no reason why UIUC should be pissed if I decided to leave them next year.


Because you're making a long term commitment by going to graduate school

vroomfondel
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby vroomfondel » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:20 am

sorry twistor, perhaps I am not explaining myself well. The option is PhD at UIUC now, or Masters at Stanford and apply for PhD again.

What will I add to my application in 1 year doing Masters? I have at least one (probably two) pub coming out in the next few months (with the research I am doing now) which should show up on next year's application. That NSF Honorable mention, although it probably won't buy much. Maybe good research at Stanford (unlikely, in 6-7 months)...

IMO: Negligible loss of time, since my masters classes will count for PhD coursework. Just effort and money. If it will buy me a better 5 years down the road, I will take it.

One way or another, I'm getting the damned doctorate. I couldn't think of any better way to spend my life than doing research.

vroomfondel
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby vroomfondel » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:23 am

And RG, as twistor said: there is money being spent on you whether you are TA or on fellowship. \

Realistically, it would be difficult for you to tell in 6 months whether you like the place or not: it usually takes that long to start research.

doom
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby doom » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:39 am

Let's see, you can get paid to go to a great school and earn a PhD, which is your eventual goal....

OR, you can PAY to go to a great school and go through this whole agonizing application process again starting in like 8 months.

Easy. Go to Illinois. The Midwest is a great place to live, and Chicago isn't that far away. And really, I don't hear about grad students engaging in much mountaineering expeditions, so the flatness won't be that bad.

Worst case, get your master's from Illinois in two years and apply again. And maybe you won't have to go through quals again, I'm not sure.

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twistor
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby twistor » Wed Apr 09, 2008 7:47 am

vroomfondel wrote:sorry twistor, perhaps I am not explaining myself well. The option is PhD at UIUC now, or Masters at Stanford and apply for PhD again.

What will I add to my application in 1 year doing Masters? I have at least one (probably two) pub coming out in the next few months (with the research I am doing now) which should show up on next year's application. That NSF Honorable mention, although it probably won't buy much. Maybe good research at Stanford (unlikely, in 6-7 months)...


Then I actually see this as a possibility. I know someone who transferred between institutions from a masters to a Ph.d. program. It actually worked out quite nicely because some masters classes were applied towards the Ph.d. meaning they didn't have to be retaken. However, this is also probably rare.

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quizivex
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby quizivex » Wed Apr 09, 2008 7:28 pm

doom wrote:Let's see, you can get paid to go to a great school and earn a PhD, which is your eventual goal....

OR, you can PAY to go to a great school and go through this whole agonizing application process again starting in like 8 months.


yeah that's exactly what I was thinking... to me the best answer seemed just so obvious.

Even if you had a hard time deciding between the two schools, and the midwest and drunk people turn you off a bit, the difference between free tuition and a $20K+ stipend for a PhD vs. paying $35K wfor a masters without even a guarantee you'll make it back into a good PhD program is so drastic I wouldn't ever have thought about this...

Edit: As for quality of life, I agree happiness is what's most important. I hear lots of you guys are turned off by the atmosphere and surroundings of UIUC... Is what you're saying that outside of the physics department, UIUC it just like a typical state school dominated by lousy students whose only expertise is drinking? Or were you talking about the neighborhood? I still think you should start UIUC and if it's really bad then consider transferring.

vroomfondel
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby vroomfondel » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:06 pm

yeah, ok. decision made. I'm going to UIUC. We'll see what happens.

doom
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Re: ok, so I need my head set straight

Postby doom » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:16 pm

Sounds like you got your head set straight now. I hope you love Illinois. :)




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