Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Interview #2

So I was away from work interviewing for graduate school from Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening. Not going to record the whole experience here, but I do want to mention some of the salient features, for general interest and to help myself remember.

1) This interview was at a private school. They are (very) well funded in a region where the cost of living is low. Students and faculty alike, pretty much everyone I talked to, made sure to mention this fact. Funding is high, TA responsibilities are light. While I'm ok with being provided this information, it started to annoy me very quickly how often it was brought up. Maybe this is normal, I don't know. But being very much of public school stock, I'm not afraid of the idea of getting by on what is necessary, working hard, etc. Just like I didn't want to apply to work with a renowned adviser because I want to be known for my own work, I sort of feel turned off at the thought of too much funding and too low work requirements because I feel like things shouldn't be too easy. That graduate school shouldn't feel like a posh, relaxed experience. Then again, I may just be crazy. It also made me a tad nervous that some of the people (though certainly not all) that were there were doing science because of the good funding, above and beyond their love for the science that they are engaged in. Bizarre. I much prefer people that <3 science, because let's face it, science is awesome.

2) The department is small, but pretty high powered. I enjoyed all of the faculty members I met with, some of them quite a lot. Even enjoyed talking with the dude that likes to come across as very gruff/iritable/unlikeable. I think it's all a show.

3) There isn't much interaction with the math department, although the math people are pretty solid. This is a big con to this particular school - whereas in other places I could pick up a masters in Stats. enroute to my PhD, this place didn't even require a single stats class to get a degree! I think this is paramount to blasphemy in this day and age.

4) Talking with people and being social is exhausting. I love talking and hanging out, don't get me wrong, but I think even in the last year or so, I've gotten a bit more solitary of necessity. My social circles are smaller than they were in college, and I'm used to spending a lot of quiet time thinking and working, flavored by quality visits with friends. This weekend was highly social, and for me to maintain such a friendly outgoing facade in the face of large groups of people, most of them new to me, for extended periods of time, is realllly exhausting. A little strange to think that this is probably more the case now than it would have been a year or two ago.

5) Considering the pros and cons of interviewing with a group of other prospective students. Someone pointed out that this can be both good and bad for a school potentially... if one of the interviewees is really obnoxious/unlikeable, it increases the chances that the rest of the prospectives won't choose to attend, on the off chance that they'd get stuck with having to deal with the obnoxious person for 5+ years. On the other hand, if it's an awesome group of people, it's in the school's favor. I was glad to get to meet everyone, even if it was awkward to know that there were two other people interviewing for the same position as me (not that I think I couldn't take them, mwahahaha). No one was totally obnoxious, but other than my good friend who was also interviewing, only one other student out of a group of ~10 of us really connected. It would be awesome to work the same place as my good friend though.

6) As part of the weekend, we were shown a bunch of graduate student apartments. It seems like a verrry grown up thing to me to rent such classy places (right now I live in one room with sparse - ie nonexistent - furniture). Also to know that some of the grad students I was talking to were married. And buying houses. Most of me still feels like I'm maybe a sophomore. All this serious heavy-duty real life business is kinda frightening.

All in all, I'm not sure I want to go to this place, although learning more about it definitely improved its chances. The next two weekends I'll be visiting my two top-choice schools, and I'm realllly hoping that I'll fall in love with one of them (making my life/choice much easier). If I really don't like them though, I know I could make this place work, especially if my friend were to choose to go there. We'll see how things go!

1 comment:

Karina said...

If push comes to shove and you're trying to decide where to go to school, you might want to imagine yourself in 3, 4, 5 years since odds are good that you'll be there at least 5. What will 5 years older you think of the place? Maybe if you hate it you'll want to finish faster. On the other hand, grad school will be your 'real world' and you don't want it to suck. Or maybe this advice is completely useless.

What are your non-academic priorities in life and how do you weight them relative to academic priorities? For me it was important to go to grad school in a place where Jon could also be happy for 5+ years and find satisfying employment. Ability to live car-free was also high on our list.