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The online portion is fairly repetitive.

The online portion is fairly repetitive.

In conjunction with starting to contact school I also started with the only applications. For the most part the applications are fairly standard asking for contact info, GPA and sometimes deomographic information. Like all parts of the process it is really important to simply keep track of everything.

I listed every school with important information such as:

  • Link to online application
  • Login and Password
  • Due date
  • Unfinished sections of online application
  • Non-online documents required

While normally it is not a good idea to write down passwords I did it for the school since each one had a different requirement, some needed non alpha-numeric characters others required longer length. It is just easier to copy and paste, especially when you have an assigned username.Make a quick reference list of commonly asked information

When pulling out information from an application the required documents are either listed on the application or on the page linking to it. In some cases it is done either on the departmental website or that of the graduate school itself. I know that some of my school provided handy checklists while others sort of buried the information in odd corners.

Early on look for the requirements for the personal statement such as topic, length and formatting. I thought I was done with my personal statements and then I reread the prompt that actually required two separate essays, if I had waited until the last day to turn it in it would have been bad.

A surprise was the requirement of a resumé on a few applications. I had a resumé already made but a full year out of date, it was also written towards getting my a desk job instead of a graduate position. So this had to be rewritten and refocused to a research position highlighting independence, practical skills (machine shop, computers) and ability to overcome challenges. The resumé should complement the personal statement but not repeat material extensively.

Creating an easy reference of the following helps expedite the filling out of numerous forms:

  • Graduate date (estimate it)
  • Physics GPA
  • Overall GPA
  • Last 2-years GPA
  • GRE Scores with percentile
  • Recommender names, positions and contact information
  • For calculating GPA I used my schools GPA Calculator (written for the quarter system).

Do the online applications a little at a time and as a way to take a break from personal statements and GRE study while still progressing forward. Also start to brace yourself for the fees that come due at the end of the application.

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Without applications I have time to actually go to the beach.

Without applications I have time to actually go to the beach.

After a week of hunting I was able to track down and capture the last two letters of recommendation I needed for graduate school. Immediately after securing the elusive envelopes I went to the post office before it closed and mailed my final packets off to varied destination.

When I originally started the process of my applications I thought I would like the completely online applications better then the ones requiring paper packets. Turns out I was completely wrong. The ones that required me to mail in a packet with transcripts, letters of recommendation and other forms are easier. Since I am mailing it I know that I have everything together and that it will make it on time.

No worrying about how or when a professor mailed something or if it was sent to the right address. 

I say this because I am finished with several applications but I am still unsure if a particular professors paper letter (the rest were electronic) made it in time or even made it. It could be lost in large piles of paper and I will never know.

At least I know that two schools will received all the material.

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