PhD dream is not (completely) dead yet

devhumor.com_phd_motivation

I have mentioned considering going to Australia for my PhD after my 2.5 US applications have been rejected/semi-rejected (finally have come to terms with not being able to afford Brown, but I will keep telling people I was at least accepted till the day I die). I started emailing Australian schools last week. Apparently the application procedure is very different from what I’m used to. It sort of freaked me out at first.

1. PhD programs are only 3-year long, compared to the 4-year+ length in the US (and we’ve all heard about those who has spent 10+ years on their dissertations). For most schools there is no course work at all. They expect you to know how to start researching right away.

2. They really care about your research background. You need to have at least written an honors thesis in your undergraduate years or have done a research based master’s. Even though I have a taught based master’s in the same discipline, a professor still told me to get a second master’s instead before even trying to apply to their PhD. It really infuriated me, as if my 3.83 GPA was worth shit. Fortunately, a professor from another school thinks my undergrad honors thesis is likely to suffice.

3. You need to nail down your research topic even before you start applying. There is no time to goof around after you’ve started your first semester. You need to write a research proposal and find a supervisor to have him/her agree to take you before you can officially submit your application.

4. They hate American spellings. I have emailed a total of 5 or 6 schools (top schools in the country according to Google) , only three returned my emails. I’m convinced the others didn’t bother to talk to me because I used American spellings in the first few emails (or I may have come across as too snobbish?). I think soon enough I will need to reset my spell check and start dropping all the “R” sounds in the end of words.

5. They don’t need your GRE score. It is the BEST thing in the entire admission procedure. Everyone knows how embarrassing my GRE QA score is. I brought shame to all Asians.

6. Some schools do rolling admission and you can start enrolling anytime you want once you’re admitted, but if you need a scholarship, like I do, you will need to meet some deadlines.

7. Instead of the standard three recommendations, they only need two.

8. They don’t use the 4.0 GPA system. They have one of those confusing British second upper, second lower thingy that really confused me. I actually had to just send my transcripts to the schools in my enquiry emails to check if I’m even eligible, though my GPAs are insanely high.

9. Australians are SUPER slow on returning emails. There is only one professor who does second day reply, but he is Indian.

I’m now at this point when I have to do lots of academic reading for my research proposal, not even knowing if I would be accepted to any school. I haven’t done it in so long! The last time I did it, it was two years ago, and I was still using a pink highlighter! Now I’m using my iPad to save papers (only because I don’t get to do cheap printing in school anymore). I have forgotten most of the things I learned in my research class, so other than reading those papers, I actually have to Google “how to understand statistics in research papers”. I did get my A in my research class like in 99% of the courses I have ever taken. I still remember the terms ANOVA, t-test and p value, but I have no idea what they entail anymore. I was shameless enough to email my professor and ask if she could send me those notes again! Fortunately, I’m still the best student she has ever had, so I’m pretty sure she’ll help. The only problem is she really wants me to go back to the States to get my PhD instead.

Anyway, so my dream for PhD has taken a detour, but it is still alive!

 

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About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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