Well, I'm glad that's over.
On Wednesday, I accepted an offer of almost full funding from the UC Irvine philosophy department. By "almost" I mean that I was waitlisted for funding and the spot I got was actually a California resident spot, so what would have been my stipend is being used to pay for the out of state tuition. This only affects the first year, since it only takes a year to establish residency in California.
When I was applying and waiting anxiously and so forth, I wasn't able to find many resources online that were helpful, so I thought that I would post what I have learned over the last year for the benefit of everyone else who is looking for this sort of information. First, I'm going to give the strong and weak points of my application so there will be some context, and then I'll say what happened in terms of results and when.
|School||PG Ranking||Initial Result||Final Result||Notes|
|Rutgers University||2||Rejected via conventional mail March 12|
|Princeton University||3||Rejected via e-mail March 5|
|Stanford University||6||Vague responses to repeated email inquiries; finally got unofficial rejection in response to an email on April 8; official rejection via postal mail today (April 18)||Approximately 180 applicants for 8 spots|
|Harvard University||7||Rejected in response to email inquiry March 5||Approximately 240 applicants. They didn't say how many spots there were, but they list 52 current graduate students (if I can count) on their web-site, so probably about 10 spots.|
|UCLA||7||Rejected via email February 22|
|UC Berkeley||12||Wait-listed via email March 17||I told them I was very interested in their program but probably couldn't come because Lauren had been rejected by their physics department. I did not hear from them again after this.|
|University of Southern California||16||Wait-listed via email February 27||Rejected via email April 13||I don't know how many students applied, but the word I got (through unofficial channels) is that they made 9 offers and all 9 offers were accepted. I was the first of two students on the wait list.|
|Yale University||16||Rejected via email February 25||In a cover letter to my writing sample (I used the version of this paper which was reduced to meet the 10,000 word limit for Religious Studies), I asked that it be brought to the particular attention of Kenneth Winkler, since it criticizes an assertion he makes in his book Berkeley: An Interpretation. This gambit evidently did not pay off.|
|UC Irvine||20||Accepted via email January 30; told that the graduate chair would be "working on putting together a financial offer for" me.||Offered partial funding via phone on April 15 (see below)|
|UC Davis||35||Accepted with full funding via email February 22; received funding details via email February 28||Turned them down because their physics department isn't any good|
|Boston University||50||Wait-listed (position 7 or so) in response to email inquiry on March 12||See below||Over 200 applicants for 6 spots|
Lauren and I thought we were doing pretty good when we both got in to UC Irvine before the end of January. There was a period of relief. Irvine and Davis both paid for me to visit them in March (note: when you do this, you will be expected to pay for your airfare out of pocket and it can take several weeks to be reimbursed), and I liked both departments. Lauren got in to a wide variety of physics programs and spent a lot of time flying hither and yon. At some of these places, she mentioned that we were getting married, and that she wouldn't be able to come unless I got in there or somewhere nearby, and in several cases the physics department wrote to the philosophy department, but it doesn't seem to have done much good so late in the admissions process. I wonder if it would have been better to mention the "two body" issue up front. The reason we didn't is that we had been advised by professors at Penn that there is still a lot of discrimination against women in physics and it is much worse for married women. Accordingly, we decided not to bring this up until after Lauren was accepted.
When I visited UC Irvine, we were told that, due to the UC system budget crisis, there was not yet funding available. Six letters were in the process of being sent out. I was confident that I was one of them. When I didn't hear anything I wrote to the graduate chair and was told that I in fact offered position 17. Meanwhile, I was in contact with USC where I was in position 1 on the waitlist for admission with funding. When Lauren visited Davis it became clear that this wasn't going to work for us, so I was counting on USC. Boston U got thrown into the mix as well, which wouldn't have been a particularly great option, comparatively speaking, were it not for the fact that Lauren got in to Harvard.
You are ordinarily expected to make a decision on which school you will attend by April 15. Come the middle of April, I was still sitting on wait lists. This was the point at which the process became really stressful. Lauren managed to get extensions from the three schools she was serious considering, depending on where I got in, until the 17th. On the 13th I was rather shocked to be rejected by USC. I emailed UCI and Boston again, a little bit panicked. I started looking at technical jobs in the Boston area, and evaluating the possibility of reapplying after a year. I got conflicting advice from Penn professors on reapplying. When UCI and Boston didn't get back to me I called them on the 14th. By this point I had learned that there were only two or three people ahead of me at UCI and that, in the past, when other departments hadn't filled all of their spots at UCI the funding had sometimes gone to the philosophy department, so I was guardedly optimistic again. I had heard on March 31 that 2 of the 6 spots at Boston were already filled. When I called I learned that that number was now up to 4, but couldn't get an exact number on how many people were ahead of me. I was told that one of the two people who had an offer outstanding had been "unresponsive" as they were trying to get a hold of him, so the process might continue through the 16th.
I called both places again shortly after noon (east coast time) on the 15th. No news. Finally, shortly after 10AM California time (1:00PM here on the east coast) the graduate chair for UCI called me and said that he had an offer of almost full funding for me, and described the details. He said he needed an answer immediately. I said I needed to talk to Lauren and to Boston University. When I pressed for time, he told me that he had classes to teach that would occupy him from 11AM to 5PM, and before that point he had to either start the paperwork for me or call the next person on the wait list, so I would have to get back to him within 30 minutes. I'm not making this up. Fortunately, Lauren wasn't in class, and I had her financial offer from UCLA (which is where she is going) handy, and we had already investigated commutes and such pretty thoroughly, so I was able to get a hold of Lauren on the phone, and we decided that if Boston did not have a fully-funded offer for me I would accept this one (we weren't sure what we were going to do if they did have an offer). I called Boston, and everything was still up in the air, so I accepted at Irvine.
An interesting note: on the 14th, Lauren wrote to UCI's physics department telling them that she wouldn't be coming because (among other factors) I still had not received any funding. Very shortly after I received my funding offer, the physics department contacted her to ask if she would be able to come now that I had funding. The physics department was recruiting her fairly aggressively; it is not clear whether this had anything to do with the resolution to my funding situation.
This post has been mostly narrative, because my experience is mostly all I have to draw on in terms of advice on the process. In retrospect, here is what I would do differently:
It all worked out alright for me in the end, by the grace of God (there were a lot of people praying). Best of luck to everyone else!Posted by Kenny at April 18, 2008 6:11 PM
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