It seems like every prospective graduate student is using the Thanksgiving break to catch up on applications. That’s definitely been my situation; I’ve delayed things far too long (which is quite unlike me), but hopefully I have made up for it these past few days by submitting several fellowships/scholarships and creating final drafts of my statement of purpose essays. With ten schools and a variety of fellowships/scholarships to apply to, I can’t afford to leave everything to the last week before the schools’  deadlines, especially when that also happens to correspond to my final exam week!

To budget my time, I first submitted all the fellowships and scholarships that had deadlines earlier than that of any of my ten graduate schools. Then, I went to work on creating draft after draft of one school’s statement of purpose essay. Fortunately, most universities have similar essay questions, so I can just modify a paragraph at the end that is school-specific.

Once I had done sufficient work for one essay, I put that aside and then did all the “administrative” tasks by filling in the easy stuff of the online applications. This includes writing information about recommenders, writing your address and contact information, and so on.

Some thoughts as I was doing these:

  1. I did them in bulk fashion (i.e., one right after another) and did everything except upload the statement of purpose essays. I felt like that was the most efficient way to do things. Now, when I head back to school, I only have to worry about the essays.
  2. Most applications were part of a university-wide graduate school application form, so I frequently read information that was not relevant to computer scientists but would be relevant to other subject areas. This makes it a little harder on the applicant (since we have to fill in more information than is probably necessary) but it’s easier on the school (only one application website/form needed for the entire graduate school) so I can understand why schools like that.
  3. Some places want me to paste my essay into a “text box,” while others want uploaded PDF documents. I vastly prefer the latter, since there is some LaTeX stuff that I’ve included in my statement of purpose to make it look better, but maybe schools don’t want faculty to be influenced by the aesthetics of the text.
  4. Some schools weren’t specific about whether they wanted me to upload an unofficial transcript or a scanned official transcript. (One school even had contradictory information in two places of their application.) In fact, for two schools, I didn’t realize this until I had actually reached the point in the application where they asked me to upload scans. Fortunately, the registrar emailed me a PDF scan of my official transcript and that solved everything. The lesson is that it’s best to just get an official scan to not leave anything to chance.