19 February 2009

Congratulations! I'm pleased to inform you...

I received acceptances to two more PhD programs this morning. One is ranked as a reach for me, and the other is a school within the range that I expected to be accepted to, but is exciting nonetheless. All of this recognition from top programs is pretty surprising to me. Perhaps it's a personal quirk, but I really didn't see myself as standing a chance at these top places (see EU in previous post). I think it's significant that I didn't say "my application didn't stand a chance," but instead made it personal. This might be a characteristically feminine view, but that's a subject for a different post.

Selecting just one program is going to be difficult. There are many factors I'll need to take into consideration. Some of these factors are:
  • The relationship with my advisor. Is this person going to be a mentor, as well as a research supervisor? Are they going to expect me to be in lab from 9-5 M-F? Will they understand women in science perspectives? Can they engage in a normal conversation, including eye contact? Are they communicative about what they'd like me to do? Do our ideas about research (including methods for performing research) jibe?
  • The relationship with my cohort and my labmates. Are the people around me so technically-oriented that I just can't imagine having them over for Scrabble parties? Does my lab plan fun activities together, or are people always competing? Is one-upsmanship prevalent? Am I totally below or totally above my classmates academically?
  • The departmental environment. Are faculty friendly to each other and to graduate students? Are there strange politics? Is there a resource for women in science? Do the graduate students seem happy, well cared for, and supported? Are qualifiers intended to weed out students, or are faculty rooting for you to succeed? Is there money? Are the AAs helpful and nice? Can graduate students try research with several faculty members, or are they pretty much tied to one person when they arrive?
  • The school. Is the department well-situated (and well funded) within the larger university? Does the university have a range of people I could imagine befriending? Is the campus pretty/convenient/central to town? Can I picture myself walking around every day for 4 or 5 or 8 years?
  • The geographic location. Am I going to be very distant from my support networks, and if so, what other support can I rely on? Will I deal well with the lifestyle of the place I'm living? (I applied to schools all over the country, so geography is a non-trivial factor.) Are there outdoor activities I might enjoy nearby?
  • The compensation. Am I going to have to TA or RA forever? Will I be on a grant? Am I getting a fellowship (at some places, I already have fellowship offers)?
Oh my, that was a longer list than I'd realized. Interviews are going to be tough!

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