Will it be a good idea to apply again?

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hyc34
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Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:12 am

It is over for me this year, and I didn't get into any schools of my choice. However, I do have one offer from a PhD program and I think I can satisfy the requirements for a MS degree there in one year or less. So, I am wondering if it is a good idea to reapply again with the MS degree. I have heard that some schools discourage students to do such a thing, but I am not sure if students like us will be treat the same as the rest of undergrads. Do I still need to present certain reasons for reapplying in my SOP?

baconface
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby baconface » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:25 pm

So let me get this straight... You got into UIUC with a stated interest in CM, something for which they are quite well known and well respected.

If this is the case, please explain what the issue is here!

Ultimately, it's your choice. If you have the money and can stand going through this awful process again, then it's your call. Personally, I would have a hard time understanding why. After all, you did apply there right? I think you ought to be absolutely sure that UIUC is not right for you before even considering reapplying (but maybe you already have). Perhaps you should write out a short explanation (for us or just yourself) as to what aspects of UIUC would make you reconsider their offer.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:22 pm

baconface wrote:So let me get this straight... You got into UIUC with a stated interest in CM, something for which they are quite well known and well respected.

If this is the case, please explain what the issue is here!

Ultimately, it's your choice. If you have the money and can stand going through this awful process again, then it's your call. Personally, I would have a hard time understanding why. After all, you did apply there right? I think you ought to be absolutely sure that UIUC is not right for you before even considering reapplying (but maybe you already have). Perhaps you should write out a short explanation (for us or just yourself) as to what aspects of UIUC would make you reconsider their offer.

Staying at the same university is not that fun.

SSM
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby SSM » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:00 pm

Pfff...

giga17
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby giga17 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:14 pm

I think it's a legit reason not to stay at UIUC for what, 9 to 10 years? If anything, a new environment is needed to stimulate intellectual activity.

Hellas
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby Hellas » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:32 pm

unless you really enjoy cornfields cause then UIUC is the perfect place to be. i would say get your masters and reapply again. just make sure you explain your situation in your SOP

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grae313
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby grae313 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:38 pm

Holy *** dude, how did you get rejected everywhere? Your profile looks outstanding. Is there a red flag somewhere in your application? Did a letter writer screw you over? Something's not right here.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:49 pm

grae313 wrote:Holy *** dude, how did you get rejected everywhere? Your profile looks outstanding. Is there a red flag somewhere in your application? Did a letter writer screw you over? Something's not right here.


I dont have any ***king idea. Maybe its my GRE writing score? Maybe its the prof who I am currently working with? He was a postdoc when we published that paper. The thing that made me suspicious was that when I asked him to write me a recommendation letter, he asked for my grades, so probably he didn't know me too well at that time and has not much to say about my research ability? Maybe he didn't know how to write a decent recommendation letter since its basically his first one? Or maybe it is just my nationality? There are just too many Chinese applying to the U.S grad schools. Hope I am the only one suffered from this bad luck.

asdfuogh
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby asdfuogh » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:05 am

Whoa.. maybe your professors liked you so much that they wrote horrible letters to make sure you go to UIUC?!

I don't think it's a necessarily bad thing that they asked for your grades (maybe they wanted to add more information), but wow, if it's just because of nationality, that sucks really badly.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:08 am

asdfuogh wrote:Whoa.. maybe your professors liked you so much that they wrote horrible letters to make sure you go to UIUC?!

I don't think it's a necessarily bad thing that they asked for your grades (maybe they wanted to add more information), but wow, if it's just because of nationality, that sucks really badly.

The sad thing is that I will never figure out what went wrong.

SSM
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby SSM » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:45 am

Wait, is it different for international students if they did their undergrad in the U.S.?

Believe me, I understand how necessary a change of scenery can be, but hyc applied to all top 20 places for theory, and those outside of the top 10 were Ivys (maybe I missed one). I don't think the disadvantage international students have in the applications is fair, especially in your case, but I know of international students with 990s and outstanding GPAs that couldn't make it into top 20-30 state schools. I hope you didn't take offense to my comment, but getting into UIUC is really outstanding, especially in CMT! To walk away from a school in the top 5 as an international student because the place you live is boring seems a little harsh, but maybe I'd do the same if I lived in Urbana-Champaign.

bfollinprm
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:55 am

SSM wrote:Wait, is it different for international students if they did their undergrad in the U.S.?

Yes, it is. At most schools they're considered domestic students (except for tuition purposes, which can cause some problems at state schools, but only when funding is really tight).
hyc34 wrote:Maybe its my GRE writing score?

Maybe at some of those schools, but certainly not all.
Maybe its the prof who I am currently working with? He was a postdoc when we published that paper.

If he didn't like you, why would UIUC accept you? If it's another letter writer, maybe, but it would have to be really bad to overcome your profile (unless it was your primary research adviser, but, as I said before, why would you have been accepted to UIUC if he didn't like you? He must have plans to fund you if you stick around...)

I would check with the admissions people at the universities you applied to and see if all your information was sent in when applications were considered. The fact that only your home institution accepted you makes me think that maybe a letter didn't get sent, your transcripts went missing, or there's been some other calamity. If so, there's certainly no shame in getting your masters and trying again next year, if you can stomach the reapplications. If it's someone else's fault, you might even get the schools to waive the (re)-application fee for next year to make it a little more palatable cash-wise.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:13 am

bfollinprm wrote:
SSM wrote:Wait, is it different for international students if they did their undergrad in the U.S.?

Yes, it is. At most schools they're considered domestic students (except for tuition purposes, which can cause some problems at state schools, but only when funding is really tight).
hyc34 wrote:Maybe its my GRE writing score?

Maybe at some of those schools, but certainly not all.
Maybe its the prof who I am currently working with? He was a postdoc when we published that paper.

If he didn't like you, why would UIUC accept you? If it's another letter writer, maybe, but it would have to be really bad to overcome your profile (unless it was your primary research adviser, but, as I said before, why would you have been accepted to UIUC if he didn't like you? He must have plans to fund you if you stick around...)

I would check with the admissions people at the universities you applied to and see if all your information was sent in when applications were considered. The fact that only your home institution accepted you makes me think that maybe a letter didn't get sent, your transcripts went missing, or there's been some other calamity. If so, there's certainly no shame in getting your masters and trying again next year, if you can stomach the reapplications. If it's someone else's fault, you might even get the schools to waive the (re)-application fee for next year to make it a little more palatable cash-wise.


Maybe UIUC has different policies towards students graduated from it. Last year, some of the Chinese undergrads there also get the only offer from UIUC, although their profiles are not as "good" as mine (I really have no confidence to say that my application is good now after tons of rejections). I will definitely check with the admission people, but it does not seem to be the case that some materials are missing as many materials can be checked online.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:20 am

The thing that I regret doing is that I waived my right to view recommendation letters.

Shadowknite25
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby Shadowknite25 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:35 am

This is the reason why I chose not to waive my right to view the recommendation letters on my last application. In case all my applications got rejected, I really would like to find out if one of the professors screwed me up (so I can go talk to him).

giga17
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby giga17 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:40 am

hyc34 wrote:The thing that I regret doing is that I waived my right to view recommendation letters.


To be honest, profs would expect this. If you don't waive the right, they will probably get more suspicious and cautious.

Shadowknite25
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby Shadowknite25 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:07 am

Well, how do they find out that you did not waive your right?

TakeruK
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby TakeruK » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:52 am

I am pretty sure that when the profs go to write your letter on the online system, it tells them whether or not you have waived your right. For application systems that sent me a copy of the email requesting a letter from my prof, the email itself mentioned that I have waived my right to see the letter.

Furthermore, I don't know if this is true of all schools, but most schools' applications say that I can only see the letter after I have enrolled as a student at that school (I think it's because this comes from the right that students have to view their own student record...however it's only "my" student record if I am a student there!)

So, honestly, all the rights-waiving stuff is to comply to some Freedom of Information Act and it's not actually meaningful. Profs would expect you to agree to waive your rights, and may not write a letter if you didn't tick the box.

But, maybe if you asked your letter-writers, they would be willing to share their letter with you?

scintillahx
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby scintillahx » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:59 am

The schools you applied to probably got more than 500 applicants, and there would be lots of people with good grades and standard test scores, and maybe good research experience. Either your recommenders didn't do a good job, or you didn't explain your research interest clearly enough in your SOP...As for the letters, it's fairly hard to get a good letter. Do they know you really well and can describe you in details? Are they actually good at writing letters? I happened to read a letter one famous professor wrote for me two years ago for my REU application, and that letter sucked. She put lots of lofty words in it but that was it.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:16 am

scintillahx wrote:The schools you applied to probably got more than 500 applicants, and there would be lots of people with good grades and standard test scores, and maybe good research experience. Either your recommenders didn't do a good job, or you didn't explain your research interest clearly enough in your SOP...As for the letters, it's fairly hard to get a good letter. Do they know you really well and can describe you in details? Are they actually good at writing letters? I happened to read a letter one famous professor wrote for me two years ago for my REU application, and that letter sucked. She put lots of lofty words in it but that was it.

I am sure one recommendation letter must be good since the prof who wrote this also wrote a recommendation letter for a guy who worked on the same project with me and he got into Caltech last year with 1 publication and no grad courses. However, you might be right since I don't know how good those letters are. It strikes me that all of the universities I applied to have about 12-20% acceptance rate according to last year AIP data, it is not that low.

bfollinprm
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:22 am

Maybe it's the personal statement? If you don't convince them you really want to do physics, it can be a problem. I still think if it's a letter writer, it either (a) wouldn't have been bad enough to exclude you from all the schools on your list, or (b) would have prevented you from getting into UIUC (since one would think they'd trust their own opinion of you).

scintillahx
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby scintillahx » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:38 am

hyc34 wrote:
scintillahx wrote:The schools you applied to probably got more than 500 applicants, and there would be lots of people with good grades and standard test scores, and maybe good research experience. Either your recommenders didn't do a good job, or you didn't explain your research interest clearly enough in your SOP...As for the letters, it's fairly hard to get a good letter. Do they know you really well and can describe you in details? Are they actually good at writing letters? I happened to read a letter one famous professor wrote for me two years ago for my REU application, and that letter sucked. She put lots of lofty words in it but that was it.

I am sure one recommendation letter must be good since the prof who wrote this also wrote a recommendation letter for a guy who worked on the same project with me and he got into Caltech last year with 1 publication and no grad courses. However, you might be right since I don't know how good those letters are. It strikes me that all of the universities I applied to have about 12-20% acceptance rate according to last year AIP data, it is not that low.


I heard from a guy that used to be on the admission committee of Princeton that for all the good applications they got, all they were looking for was one 'sparkling' letter that would convince them. Try to talk to your professors. It's better to ask them for suggestions anyway and be frank about the situation.

ol
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby ol » Wed Mar 07, 2012 8:43 am

hyc34 wrote:I am sure one recommendation letter must be good since the prof who wrote this also wrote a recommendation letter for a guy who worked on the same project with me and he got into Caltech last year with 1 publication and no grad courses. However, you might be right since I don't know how good those letters are. It strikes me that all of the universities I applied to have about 12-20% acceptance rate according to last year AIP data, it is not that low.

Wait a sec. You applied to schools last year and were admitted? Did you apply to any of the schools both this year and last year and were admitted last year? That may be part of the reason why. Also, one of your recommendations is probably bad, and maybe UIUC recognized that that this person writes bad recs and admitted you anyway. I highly doubt it was because of anything you wrote in your personal statements. I would talk to your recommenders and explain the situation. If one of them looks queezy or isn't overly concerned and doesn't want to help you, that's the person who wrote the bad rec.

admissionprof
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby admissionprof » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:28 am

Shadowknite25 wrote:Well, how do they find out that you did not waive your right?


Usually the waiver is mentioned on the form we fill out associated with the letter.

Medical schools will generally not accept letters without waivers, and I generally will refuse to write one (even when it is a glowingly positive letter). Note that if my letter would be negative or even lukewarm, I do tell the applicant in advance, so they have time to get another one.

My own admissions committee will accept letters without waivers, but will give them virtually no weight at all---confidentiality is critical to getting an honest evaluation.

That said, occasionally (very rarely) a very negative letter, with the waiver, comes along, and it is frustrating not to be able to tell the applicant that the letter was the reason they didn't get in. I don't have a solution to this problem.

If you ask schools why you didn't get in, and they are very vague in their responses, then it might have been the letters, and then you can find some different letterwriters the next time.

Shadowknite25
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby Shadowknite25 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:44 am

admissionprof wrote:
Shadowknite25 wrote:Well, how do they find out that you did not waive your right?


Usually the waiver is mentioned on the form we fill out associated with the letter.

Medical schools will generally not accept letters without waivers, and I generally will refuse to write one (even when it is a glowingly positive letter). Note that if my letter would be negative or even lukewarm, I do tell the applicant in advance, so they have time to get another one.

My own admissions committee will accept letters without waivers, but will give them virtually no weight at all---confidentiality is critical to getting an honest evaluation.

That said, occasionally (very rarely) a very negative letter, with the waiver, comes along, and it is frustrating not to be able to tell the applicant that the letter was the reason they didn't get in. I don't have a solution to this problem.

If you ask schools why you didn't get in, and they are very vague in their responses, then it might have been the letters, and then you can find some different letterwriters the next time.

Thank you for the enlightenment. I did not know that. I was just cautious, so I chose not to waive my right on my last application. Funny thing is, it was the first school that accepted me and only within a week. Another reason I chose not to waive my right on my last application was because I knew (not 100% certain) that my professors would not bother to check this kind of stuff for many reasons. One is that I know that they are very laid back and don't care much about this stuff because one of the professors sent me the recommendation letter and asked me to check if he's missing anything. By the way, his letter wasn't very good, which I wasn't surprised since he did not know me much. He kept asking me to refresh his memory of how we first met. Anyways, I noticed that my second professor just sent the exact same letter to all the schools within minutes after he received the request email. I don't think he would bother to change anything. My last professor, however, took his sweet time to write me the letters. It's like he writes a different one for each school at the rate of one letter per week. However, he was so overwhelmed of the request emails I sent him at the end and just submit all letters in one afternoon.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:13 pm

ol wrote:
hyc34 wrote:I am sure one recommendation letter must be good since the prof who wrote this also wrote a recommendation letter for a guy who worked on the same project with me and he got into Caltech last year with 1 publication and no grad courses. However, you might be right since I don't know how good those letters are. It strikes me that all of the universities I applied to have about 12-20% acceptance rate according to last year AIP data, it is not that low.

Wait a sec. You applied to schools last year and were admitted? Did you apply to any of the schools both this year and last year and were admitted last year? That may be part of the reason why. Also, one of your recommendations is probably bad, and maybe UIUC recognized that that this person writes bad recs and admitted you anyway. I highly doubt it was because of anything you wrote in your personal statements. I would talk to your recommenders and explain the situation. If one of them looks queezy or isn't overly concerned and doesn't want to help you, that's the person who wrote the bad rec.


This is the first time I applied to grad schools. The guy went to Caltech graduated one year earlier than me.

jitit
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby jitit » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:20 pm

@hyc,

i think you should wait until you have officially received all of your rejections before you determine this application year to be a failure. then, if it turns out that you are only accepted to UIUC:

it sounds like you would be happier somewhere else. if you can somehow secure a research position for the following year and improve your research experience, recommendation letters, and school connections, then i think you should do that. i know a year is a long time to delay school, but i believe that by this time next year, you will be happy that you did.

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:32 pm

jitit wrote:@hyc,

i think you should wait until you have officially received all of your rejections before you determine this application year to be a failure. then, if it turns out that you are only accepted to UIUC:

it sounds like you would be happier somewhere else. if you can somehow secure a research position for the following year and improve your research experience, recommendation letters, and school connections, then i think you should do that. i know a year is a long time to delay school, but i believe that by this time next year, you will be happy that you did.


I don't think I can stay in U.S without enrolling in a PhD program, since I will have problems with my student visa

hyc34
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:47 pm

Just called Chicago, and they told me that it is basically because my letters are not strong enough and my SOP is not focused, I guess there is nothing I can do right now.

jitit
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby jitit » Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:13 pm

hyc34 wrote:
jitit wrote:@hyc,

i think you should wait until you have officially received all of your rejections before you determine this application year to be a failure. then, if it turns out that you are only accepted to UIUC:

it sounds like you would be happier somewhere else. if you can somehow secure a research position for the following year and improve your research experience, recommendation letters, and school connections, then i think you should do that. i know a year is a long time to delay school, but i believe that by this time next year, you will be happy that you did.


I don't think I can stay in U.S without enrolling in a PhD program, since I will have problems with my student visa



what i said can still apply after a 1 year masters program. develop strong connections with collaborators who want you in their group and you should be good to go.

again, i wouldn't assume that you have been outright rejected yet. there are still some schools pending for you.

bfollinprm
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:46 pm

An F-1 Visa offers the opportunity for a 17 month employment practicum (called Practical Training) in STEM fields, including physics. If you can find gainful employment in a field related to your undergraduate major, you can take a year off and do that under your F-1 visa. Basically, as long as you can find someone to pay you to do research, taking a year off is possible for internationals on a student visa (more than one, however, will cause problems).
http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=9a3d3dd87aa19110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD
Just called Chicago, and they told me that it is basically because my letters are not strong enough and my SOP is not focused, I guess there is nothing I can do right now.

My guess is the SOP was a major player. That matters way more than people recognize--it's where the school can gauge your interest and fit to the university; a marriage that must last 6-odd years. A reapplication after a year of focused research (with a corresponding strong LOR), with a stronger (carefully thought through) SOP tailored to explain your fit in each department you apply to should (imho) get you into several schools in the top 15.

blighter
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby blighter » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:31 pm

bfollinprm wrote:An F-1 Visa offers the opportunity for a 17 month employment practicum (called Practical Training) in STEM fields, including physics. If you can find gainful employment in a field related to your undergraduate major, you can take a year off and do that under your F-1 visa. Basically, as long as you can find someone to pay you to do research, taking a year off is possible for internationals on a student visa (more than one, however, will cause problems).
http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=9a3d3dd87aa19110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD
Just called Chicago, and they told me that it is basically because my letters are not strong enough and my SOP is not focused, I guess there is nothing I can do right now.

My guess is the SOP was a major player. That matters way more than people recognize--it's where the school can gauge your interest and fit to the university; a marriage that must last 6-odd years. A reapplication after a year of focused research (with a corresponding strong LOR), with a stronger (carefully thought through) SOP tailored to explain your fit in each department you apply to should (imho) get you into several schools in the top 15.


I don't know. Sean Carroll basically said not to sweat the SOP so much.

bfollinprm
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:00 am

Opinions can differ, but I'm pretty sure a perceived mismatch between my SOP and the department is what kept me out of places like Washington, Michigan, Maryland, and NYU. I doubt a great SOP can get you into grad school in spite of subpar grades, etc, but a bad one (one that indicates a poor fit with the department, lack of commitment to physics, or a lack of focus on the goals of entering grad school) can certainly lead to a good application getting rejected.

I heard firsthand the chair of admissions at Davis this year say that if a student's SOP reflected a lack of research about the department or displayed a lack of understanding of the character of graduate study, they were rejected out of hand--regardless of application strength. He said the same thing about SOP's that mentioned interest in a field poorly represented by the department (he specifically mentioned string theory and fusion research).

admissionprof
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby admissionprof » Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:14 am

bfollinprm wrote:Opinions can differ, but I'm pretty sure a perceived mismatch between my SOP and the department is what kept me out of places like Washington, Michigan, Maryland, and NYU. I doubt a great SOP can get you into grad school in spite of subpar grades, etc, but a bad one (one that indicates a poor fit with the department, lack of commitment to physics, or a lack of focus on the goals of entering grad school) can certainly lead to a good application getting rejected.

I heard firsthand the chair of admissions at Davis this year say that if a student's SOP reflected a lack of research about the department or displayed a lack of understanding of the character of graduate study, they were rejected out of hand--regardless of application strength. He said the same thing about SOP's that mentioned interest in a field poorly represented by the department (he specifically mentioned string theory and fusion research).



This is generally correct. A bad SOP can hurt. If a student mentions a research area that we don't really have, that hurts. If they talk exclusively about working with a faculty member who is retiring, that hurts a bit. If the SOP is five lines long and/or only talks about their deep and abiding love for physics, that hurts. An SOP that helps would be one that explains any anomalies in the record or a more detailed explanation of the research done and how it matches the department. Most of them, though, have a pretty neutral effect.

giga17
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby giga17 » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:53 am

Admissionsprof, I have a question. If you look at hyc34's profile, what could possibly go so wrong that he doesn't even get one school besides his alma mater? His credentials are really stellar, and I'm flummoxed.

blighter
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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby blighter » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:09 am

bfollinprm wrote:An F-1 Visa offers the opportunity for a 17 month employment practicum (called Practical Training) in STEM fields, including physics. If you can find gainful employment in a field related to your undergraduate major, you can take a year off and do that under your F-1 visa. Basically, as long as you can find someone to pay you to do research, taking a year off is possible for internationals on a student visa (more than one, however, will cause problems).


Actually it's a 17 month extension given especially to STEM students. So that makes it 29 months.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby admissionprof » Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:55 am

giga17 wrote:Admissionsprof, I have a question. If you look at hyc34's profile, what could possibly go so wrong that he doesn't even get one school besides his alma mater? His credentials are really stellar, and I'm flummoxed.



I don't get it either, but his credentials don't show his SOP or letters. Maybe there was a bad letter - that would seem to be the most likely - but I really don't know.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby midwestphysics » Thu Mar 08, 2012 11:09 am

admissionprof wrote:
giga17 wrote:Admissionsprof, I have a question. If you look at hyc34's profile, what could possibly go so wrong that he doesn't even get one school besides his alma mater? His credentials are really stellar, and I'm flummoxed.



I don't get it either, but his credentials don't show his SOP or letters. Maybe there was a bad letter - that would seem to be the most likely - but I really don't know.


Granted the schools that hyc34 applied to are very competitive, but I would expect at the very least a wait-list from one or more. It's really hard to figure this one out. I want to believe that it definitely comes down to a letter maybe more than one, and a pretty damning letter at that. He/She doesn't seem like they would put together an SOP so badly that it would condemn the application. However that would hold better if it was rejections across the board. I wouldn't expect UIUC to overlook a negative letter. So, there has to be some dynamic of his/her application that we're not seeing.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby giga17 » Thu Mar 08, 2012 11:37 am

midwestphysics wrote:Granted the schools that hyc34 applied to are very competitive, but I would expect at the very least a wait-list from one or more. It's really hard to figure this one out. I want to believe that it definitely comes down to a letter maybe more than one, and a pretty damning letter at that. He/She doesn't seem like they would put together an SOP so badly that it would condemn the application. However that would hold better if it was rejections across the board. I wouldn't expect UIUC to overlook a negative letter. So, there has to be some dynamic of his/her application that we're not seeing.


But he's a UIUC alumni, so the UIUC admissions committee probably knows him quite well, and it was a mere formality to accept him. Ironically, the answer to his application situtation may come from his own backyard, if one of his professors is willing to snoop for him and ask the admissions committee.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby admissionprof » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:39 pm

giga17 wrote:
midwestphysics wrote:Granted the schools that hyc34 applied to are very competitive, but I would expect at the very least a wait-list from one or more. It's really hard to figure this one out. I want to believe that it definitely comes down to a letter maybe more than one, and a pretty damning letter at that. He/She doesn't seem like they would put together an SOP so badly that it would condemn the application. However that would hold better if it was rejections across the board. I wouldn't expect UIUC to overlook a negative letter. So, there has to be some dynamic of his/her application that we're not seeing.


But he's a UIUC alumni, so the UIUC admissions committee probably knows him quite well, and it was a mere formality to accept him. Ironically, the answer to his application situtation may come from his own backyard, if one of his professors is willing to snoop for him and ask the admissions committee.



That's an excellent idea. He could ask a member of the admissions committee if he/she could explain all of the rejections, and perhaps get some useful information. If I were asked that, I wouldn't be able to say "Prof. Weinberg talked about your ax-murder conviction and intensely unpleasant body odor" (that would violate confidentiality), but I could say "Profs. Salam and Glashow wrote strong letters", and leave Weinberg's letter unmentioned.... That would be very slightly over the line, but only slightly...

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Thu Mar 08, 2012 3:24 pm

admissionprof wrote:
giga17 wrote:
midwestphysics wrote:Granted the schools that hyc34 applied to are very competitive, but I would expect at the very least a wait-list from one or more. It's really hard to figure this one out. I want to believe that it definitely comes down to a letter maybe more than one, and a pretty damning letter at that. He/She doesn't seem like they would put together an SOP so badly that it would condemn the application. However that would hold better if it was rejections across the board. I wouldn't expect UIUC to overlook a negative letter. So, there has to be some dynamic of his/her application that we're not seeing.


But he's a UIUC alumni, so the UIUC admissions committee probably knows him quite well, and it was a mere formality to accept him. Ironically, the answer to his application situtation may come from his own backyard, if one of his professors is willing to snoop for him and ask the admissions committee.



That's an excellent idea. He could ask a member of the admissions committee if he/she could explain all of the rejections, and perhaps get some useful information. If I were asked that, I wouldn't be able to say "Prof. Weinberg talked about your ax-murder conviction and intensely unpleasant body odor" (that would violate confidentiality), but I could say "Profs. Salam and Glashow wrote strong letters", and leave Weinberg's letter unmentioned.... That would be very slightly over the line, but only slightly...

Actually, one of my prof who wrote me a recommendation letter did go to the admission committee and find out that my application is ranked very high among other applications to UIUC (I am accepted in the first wave) , although he didn't tell me situations regarding other recommendation letters. He was puzzled and so am I.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby midwestphysics » Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:45 am

hyc34 wrote:Actually, one of my prof who wrote me a recommendation letter did go to the admission committee and find out that my application is ranked very high among other applications to UIUC (I am accepted in the first wave) , although he didn't tell me situations regarding other recommendation letters. He was puzzled and so am I.


I guess I didn't pay attention enough, being that you are a UIUC graduate that explains a lot. I'd bet it is one of the letters. Clearly the prof you talked to values you, otherwise he/she wouldn't have looked into it. I'd go chat with the others, you should be able to tell which one or both wrote the bad letter by the way they react to you telling them your situation. If you get a distant, or indifferent reaction you know it's that person. Letter writers, if you picked the right ones are usually very interested in seeing how the students they recommend do as far as admissions, and if they believe in you they'll be just as curious as to why you didn't get accepted. You might get lucky and they'll all but tell you the weaknesses they see in you which pretty much indicates the content of the letter, but look for that lack of surprise reaction for the most likely indicator. If you get one of those all too short lack-luster and generic responses like "well, those places are competitive" with little emotion investment behind it. That probably means he/she didn't think you were competitive enough and you need to find another letter writer. Then again, if all your letter writers show genuine shock you might just be a highly unusual situation where you were obviously qualified but just ended up on the wrong end more than it would historically seem is likely.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:44 pm

midwestphysics wrote:
hyc34 wrote:Actually, one of my prof who wrote me a recommendation letter did go to the admission committee and find out that my application is ranked very high among other applications to UIUC (I am accepted in the first wave) , although he didn't tell me situations regarding other recommendation letters. He was puzzled and so am I.


I guess I didn't pay attention enough, being that you are a UIUC graduate that explains a lot. I'd bet it is one of the letters. Clearly the prof you talked to values you, otherwise he/she wouldn't have looked into it. I'd go chat with the others, you should be able to tell which one or both wrote the bad letter by the way they react to you telling them your situation. If you get a distant, or indifferent reaction you know it's that person. Letter writers, if you picked the right ones are usually very interested in seeing how the students they recommend do as far as admissions, and if they believe in you they'll be just as curious as to why you didn't get accepted. You might get lucky and they'll all but tell you the weaknesses they see in you which pretty much indicates the content of the letter, but look for that lack of surprise reaction for the most likely indicator. If you get one of those all too short lack-luster and generic responses like "well, those places are competitive" with little emotion investment behind it. That probably means he/she didn't think you were competitive enough and you need to find another letter writer. Then again, if all your letter writers show genuine shock you might just be a highly unusual situation where you were obviously qualified but just ended up on the wrong end more than it would historically seem is likely.


I think the prof who I am currently worked with is the one to blame. He said the exactly same thing as "well, those places are competitive" and was not too surprised about my results. Damn! I thought he would be a nice guy, turns out he is just a hypocrite. I don't understand if he was going to ruin my application, why he made me the first author of our publication.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby wie901 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 4:43 pm

It's a bit mean to call someone hypocrite just because they didn't write you excellent letters.
They might just honestly think that you're not as bright as you believe you are...
And isn't it more or less a common practice to put their students as first author?

Did you find someone to check your grammar and writing style in your SOP?
That might also be why the adcom didn't have a positive impression on your SOP.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 4:53 pm

wie901 wrote:It's a bit mean to call someone hypocrite just because they didn't write you excellent letters.
They might just honestly think that you're not as bright as you believe you are...
And isn't it more or less a common practice to put their students as first author?

Did you find someone to check your grammar and writing style in your SOP?
That might also be why the adcom didn't have a positive impression on your SOP.


Okay, may be that is a strong word, but I have worked really hard for 4 years, and if his letter is the reason that I got rejected everywhere, I do believe I have the right to complain. And, of course I have my SOP checked, so I don't really believe that my SOP could ruin everything for me.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby midwestphysics » Fri Mar 09, 2012 4:59 pm

hyc34 wrote:I think the prof who I am currently worked with is the one to blame. He said the exactly same thing as "well, those places are competitive" and was not too surprised about my results. Damn! I thought he would be a nice guy, turns out he is just a hypocrite. I don't understand if he was going to ruin my application, why he made me the first author of our publication.


It may not have been a case of him doing you in just to do it, but if he knows you well enough and you've done a lot of work together and you tout this work in your SOP his lack of enthusiasm about you can be as bad. It is a gamble, someone who should clearly, if you have the background with them, be in a position to write you a glowing letter and does justifies your ability, at the same token someone in the same position who doesn't can damn you I think, simply by it being mediocre. It doesn't even have to be an outright non-recommendation, though that could be the case if this prof is too spineless to tell you the truth that he doesn't want to recommend you.

wie901 wrote:It's a bit mean to call someone hypocrite just because they didn't write you excellent letters.
They might just honestly think that you're not as bright as you believe you are...
And isn't it more or less a common practice to put their students as first author?

Did you find someone to check your grammar and writing style in your SOP?
That might also be why the adcom didn't have a positive impression on your SOP.


Yeah, in general we're too far outside the situation to agree with calling him a hypocrite, though he could be. That determination all comes down to how his relationship was prior to the letter. If he was indifferent then, that's a red flag. However, if he was all about you before, well that's some B.S. on his part. As for 1st authors being common practice, I don't know where you went but I have never ever come across that. In fact, everywhere I know you better have done a lot of work to even be considered as an author in any capacity. Heck at my undergrad I had profs I didn't know coming up and congratulating me on my first paper when I was a second author simply because a undergrad getting any authorship at my school was rare, very rare. You had to have contributed significant original ideas, considerable work, and valuable results. The SOP, could have helped a bad letter put you over. Still, Hyc34 seems to be intelligent, I don't think he would have messed it up that bad. Though if the one letter writer did give you the wrong impression you could have banked on your work with him and had it backfire. But like I said, it goes hand in hand with the bad letter.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby TakeruK » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:30 pm

I think the common practice is that the person who actually writes the paper is the first author (if there was only 1 person writing the paper). If a student knows enough about their project to write the paper (with editing and guidance from the advisor), then clearly the student has contributed enough to be the first author as well.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:43 am

I wouldn't jump to conclusions...I'd say something similar to "Those places are competitive" in response if a student of mine came telling me he/she didn't get into places. I can't really think of a nicer thing to say--something along the lines of "I really thought you were [school name] material; it sucks that you didn't get in" seems a little unprofessional. The best way to see what he thinks is to mention that you're reapplying, and ask what things he thinks you can do to better your application for next time. If he mentions things you think you've done well at (like research), then you know there's a disconnect between his opinion of you and how you perceive yourself, and you might have found your culprit. If anything, the issue is more likely just you found 1-3 people very bad at writing letters, and so while they think highly or at least well of you, they don't put enough effort into showing that on paper. I can't imagine putting a paper out with someone as an undergrad and then having that person unimpressed with you.

As an aside, were any of your letters from professors who culturally identify with Europe or Asia? Sometimes those professors are less likely to give the high praise expected of letter writers at US institutions; they often think of the letter as more of a scout report listing strengths and weaknesses. Listing a weakness in a LoR can be very damaging, even if it's surrounded by positives, since there are so many applicants that adcoms at top schools are in some ways grasping for reasons to reject students.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby hyc34 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:02 am

bfollinprm wrote:I wouldn't jump to conclusions...I'd say something similar to "Those places are competitive" in response if a student of mine came telling me he/she didn't get into places. I can't really think of a nicer thing to say--something along the lines of "I really thought you were [school name] material; it sucks that you didn't get in" seems a little unprofessional. The best way to see what he thinks is to mention that you're reapplying, and ask what things he thinks you can do to better your application for next time. If he mentions things you think you've done well at (like research), then you know there's a disconnect between his opinion of you and how you perceive yourself, and you might have found your culprit. If anything, the issue is more likely just you found 1-3 people very bad at writing letters, and so while they think highly or at least well of you, they don't put enough effort into showing that on paper. I can't imagine putting a paper out with someone as an undergrad and then having that person unimpressed with you.

As an aside, were any of your letters from professors who culturally identify with Europe or Asia? Sometimes those professors are less likely to give the high praise expected of letter writers at US institutions; they often think of the letter as more of a scout report listing strengths and weaknesses. Listing a weakness in a LoR can be very damaging, even if it's surrounded by positives, since there are so many applicants that adcoms at top schools are in some ways grasping for reasons to reject students.


Nope, all of them are white Americans.

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Re: Will it be a good idea to apply again?

Postby midwestphysics » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:54 am

bfollinprm wrote:I wouldn't jump to conclusions...I'd say something similar to "Those places are competitive" in response if a student of mine came telling me he/she didn't get into places.


It's comes down to that old saying, "It's not really what you said but how you said it." It's in the way the prof says it that will tell you, you've got to read his/her body language.




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