Still Waiting 2010

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

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zxcv
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by zxcv » Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:27 am

Sure, as long as I'm still not getting any work don,e I'll give my best shot at summarizing some tips!

I would also gladly share my essays with anyone who is interested (send me a PM with your email address).

NSF:

This was my third time applying. Each time I expanded and revised my essays from previous years. This year, I had both objectively better credentials (two publications instead of none, more outreach experience targeting under-represented minorities, one more excellent letter of recommendation) than before and also improved presentation in my essays.

This year my personal experience essay had a dominant "broader impacts" theme (from introduction to conclusion) that I didn't have before even though much of the content was the same. I also identified several ways in which I would do more broader impact activities in the future. For my research proposal, I knew a lot more about the research project I was proposing, so I could give a better outline and a clear agenda for what I would work on, suggesting that I knew exactly what I would do as soon as I got the fellowship. I had specific sections discussing the scientific and broader impacts of my proposal.

I'm convinced that broader impacts presented in a compelling way is the key to winning. It's also the aspect you have the most control over, since there is unlikely to be evidence for it outside your essays.

My review sheets reveal that different reviewers latched onto different aspects of my broader impacts. Two of them were impressed by my discussion about diversity issues, education and outreach, but one reviewer bizarrely only discussed broader impacts from my research proposal (All rated them excellent). Talking about diversity issues is certainly not necessary (I know people who won who didn't) but I think it could make a big difference with some reviewers. With others, it's clearly not something they care about -- so I guess it's good that I had something for that reviewer, too.

DOE:

I used my NSF essays (prior and proposed research) to start with. My research was already falling into a DOE research area, but I rewrote my essay to focus even more on DOE priorities. I also talked about how I would use and have used DOE facilities in my research, and identified very explicitly which DOE programs it would fall into. I don't know if the DOE values some of their listed research priorities over others, but I emphasized mostly Basic Energy Sciences. My research proposal was a creative twist on a category of DOE research mentioned on the fellowship website.

We may find out more about the DOE fellowship selection after it is officially announced, but I expect the key here again is focusing very carefully on the official evaluation criteria -- and your own gut about what program reviewers for an agency want to hear. For the NSF, I emphasized my interests in furthering science, broader impacts/diversity and working in academia. For the DOE, I emphasized my interest in DOE research priorities, using their facilities and eventually working in a national laboratory. In both cases, I made sure that I addressed all evaluation criteria as directly as possible.

quark314
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by quark314 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:09 am

So, I'm *still* waiting for UPenn. I just finished my last campus visit for the 4 schools where I was admitted (three of which I'm seriously considering at this point). I'm having a really really difficult time deciding among the three, and having UPenn still hanging over my head is making things all the more difficult (I know this late in the game I am almost certainly not getting in to UPenn, but if I were accepted it would be my first choice, so having the possibility still out there is distracting and confusing). I'm tempted to call/email and ask about my status, but I don't want to be annoying and I did already email once back at the very end of February (response: application still under review).

Thoughts? Should I bug them again or not? If I contact them, should I mention that they are my first choice?

Dowx
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by Dowx » Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:24 pm

quark314 wrote:So, I'm *still* waiting for UPenn. I just finished my last campus visit for the 4 schools where I was admitted (three of which I'm seriously considering at this point). I'm having a really really difficult time deciding among the three, and having UPenn still hanging over my head is making things all the more difficult (I know this late in the game I am almost certainly not getting in to UPenn, but if I were accepted it would be my first choice, so having the possibility still out there is distracting and confusing). I'm tempted to call/email and ask about my status, but I don't want to be annoying and I did already email once back at the very end of February (response: application still under review).

Thoughts? Should I bug them again or not? If I contact them, should I mention that they are my first choice?
Hi, are you interest in their particle cosmology center? I want to know whether this program has made decisions.

quark314
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by quark314 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:43 pm

Dowx wrote:
quark314 wrote:So, I'm *still* waiting for UPenn. I just finished my last campus visit for the 4 schools where I was admitted (three of which I'm seriously considering at this point). I'm having a really really difficult time deciding among the three, and having UPenn still hanging over my head is making things all the more difficult (I know this late in the game I am almost certainly not getting in to UPenn, but if I were accepted it would be my first choice, so having the possibility still out there is distracting and confusing). I'm tempted to call/email and ask about my status, but I don't want to be annoying and I did already email once back at the very end of February (response: application still under review).

Thoughts? Should I bug them again or not? If I contact them, should I mention that they are my first choice?
Hi, are you interest in their particle cosmology center? I want to know whether this program has made decisions.

I'm interested in observational cosmology, especially Mark Devlin's work. But generally in the US system admissions decisions are made by a committee representing the whole department, not individual groups. The particle group wouldn't be making decisions on a different schedule than the rest of the department.

nathan12343
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by nathan12343 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:44 am

zxcv wrote:Sure, as long as I'm still not getting any work don,e I'll give my best shot at summarizing some tips!

I would also gladly share my essays with anyone who is interested (send me a PM with your email address).

NSF:

This was my third time applying. Each time I expanded and revised my essays from previous years. This year, I had both objectively better credentials (two publications instead of none, more outreach experience targeting under-represented minorities, one more excellent letter of recommendation) than before and also improved presentation in my essays.

I also won the NSF. I don't think there is enough emphasis on the board on winning fellowships, so I'd like to echo ZXCV's offer to share essays. Maybe we should make a whole new topic/subforum specifically about prize fellowships?

I agree that they are really looking for what is in the prompt, it was a little bit hoakey, but where appropriate, I used the language that was in the prompt and the broader impacts documents to emphasize that in that part of my essay I was explicitly filling their requirements.

Specific pointers:

For the research proposal, use bullet points, break it up into sections, use references (i got comments that mine was 'well referenced'), and if you can sacrifice the space, add a pretty picture or useful, explanatory diagram.

Personal statement: While still meeting what's in the prompt regarding your graduate institution, you want to include as much broader impacts material here as possible. I talked about the outreach opportunities available at UCSC as well as my time as SPS VP at the university of colorado. Two of my reviewers latched on the latter as 'leadership experience'.

Previous research: They are looking for a wide variety of research with deliverables, e.g. published papers (preferably first author) and conference posters. All of my reviewers mentioned my published work as well as my work at three different institutions. REU helps.

Letters of recommendation: Echoing the previous research material, you want to have recommenders from a variety of institutions.

I think it's also worth noting that I was only rated 'Very Good' on my intellectual merit by all three reviewers, but that I was rated 'Excellent' on broader impacts by two out of three. It might be the case that broader impacts are actually weighted MORE heavily than intellectual merit, so it pays to try and meet their broader impacts requirements as well as possible.

tdk333
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by tdk333 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 12:28 pm

Just in case anyone is waiting, I got a response from an inquiry from UIUC and they told me they were still making the final reviews and decisions.

delton
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by delton » Thu Apr 08, 2010 12:31 pm

What the heck is up with Maryland???

According to thegradcafe, people are calling poor old Linda and she is telling them they were rejected.

First Linda tells me that they have "a record number of acceptances.. they will be done by first week of March.."

Now I hear they have a massive budget cut and are enrolling less than last year.

I'm so pissed with the way things are being handled I doubt I would go there even if I got in. (Also, my adviser says the department is scattered through different buildings and rather disorganized.)

For crying out loud, just reject everyone already!

rdutta
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by rdutta » Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:26 pm

delton wrote:What the heck is up with Maryland???

According to thegradcafe, people are calling poor old Linda and she is telling them they were rejected.

First Linda tells me that they have "a record number of acceptances.. they will be done by first week of March.."

Now I hear they have a massive budget cut and are enrolling less than last year.

I'm so pissed with the way things are being handled I doubt I would go there even if I got in. (Also, my adviser says the department is scattered through different buildings and rather disorganized.)

For crying out loud, just reject everyone already!
I just went through that this morning. She told me that I wasn't on the list of accepted students and a letter would be arriving at some point. She said that there were ~700 applicants and budget cuts forced them to reduce the number of acceptances this year.

NWU and UPenn are really pissing me off. These guys still seem to still be seriously shaping their incoming class. There is only a week left before April 15th. There had better be a damn good reason they are so behind and leaving us in the dark, because right now it just looks like incompetence. This may just be months of frustration talking, but is it unreasonable to ask for an email that said "you are still under consideration, there was (excuse) and you will be notified of a decision by (date)." ?

quark314
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by quark314 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:53 pm

so Upenn is definitely still admitting people? Do you think it would do me any good to contact the grad coordinator and make it known to them that Upenn is my first choice, or would contacting them just be annoying?

[and yeah, I'm starting to get really neurotic as April 15 approaches, I know]

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zxcv
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by zxcv » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:59 pm

For the research proposal, use bullet points, break it up into sections, use references (i got comments that mine was 'well referenced'), and if you can sacrifice the space, add a pretty picture or useful, explanatory diagram.
I did this, too. Sections, bullet points, pretty picture relevant to my research. One of these sections should be "Broader impacts." I even know winners who bolded terms in the evaluation criteria in their essays. It's certainly hokey, but when someone will glancing over it in just a few minutes, it's what you want to do. Make it as easy to get the big picture of your research and why you're prepared to do it as possible.
Personal statement: While still meeting what's in the prompt regarding your graduate institution, you want to include as much broader impacts material here as possible.
Agreed -- I didn't pay much attention to the prompts. Explaining why you got into science and your career goals at length isn't going to set you apart from other applicants. Instead, I directly addressed the evaluation criteria, and in particular focused almost strictly on broader impacts.
Previous research: They are looking for a wide variety of research with deliverables, e.g. published papers (preferably first author) and conference posters. All of my reviewers mentioned my published work as well as my work at three different institutions. REU helps.
I used sections to divide this essay as well to make it clear all the different experiences I had in different institutions and fields. I arranged material chronologically, with the length of sections corresponding to their relative significance. There are two strategies you can take in this section with regards to the content. Either you can summarize exactly what you did in careful detail, or you can focus more on what you learned from the experience. I have seen successful applications at both ends of this spectrum, but my choice was to include the necessary details to make it clear I knew the point of all my research while focusing on objective accomplishment relevant to evaluation criteria. The evaluation of your research ability by your letter writers is certainly much more important, but that's something you have less control over directly.

Speaking of letter writers, I gave all the letter writers I was reusing from previous years updates on my progress toward my PhD and specific lists of relevant items to update their letters with. And if one of them knows about your broader impacts experience, you should absolutely ask them to write about it. Don't put words into their mouth (unless they ask for it) but as someone who has now written a couple of letters of recommendation for students I've realized how nice it is get help from applicants.

doom
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by doom » Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:01 pm

NDSEG fellowship responses are going out, or at least the rejections. I just got my rejection. Oh well, saves me the trouble of having to turn them down in favor of the DOE SCGF.

Although that means I also can't give any other fellow rejectees hope by opening up a spot for them.

meggo
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by meggo » Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:12 pm

doom wrote:NDSEG fellowship responses are going out, or at least the rejections. I just got my rejection. Oh well, saves me the trouble of having to turn them down in favor of the DOE SCGF.

Although that means I also can't give any other fellow rejectees hope by opening up a spot for them.
I just got my rejection, too. So far, I'm 0 for 4 with fellowships this year haha

johnpauljones
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by johnpauljones » Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:08 pm

meggo wrote:
doom wrote:NDSEG fellowship responses are going out, or at least the rejections. I just got my rejection. Oh well, saves me the trouble of having to turn them down in favor of the DOE SCGF.

Although that means I also can't give any other fellow rejectees hope by opening up a spot for them.
I just got my rejection, too. So far, I'm 0 for 4 with fellowships this year haha
Still no word on SCGF for me...since several people between here and gradcafe have mentioned getting phone call acceptances already, I'm not gonna hold my breath.

meggo
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by meggo » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:20 pm

johnpauljones wrote:
meggo wrote:
doom wrote:NDSEG fellowship responses are going out, or at least the rejections. I just got my rejection. Oh well, saves me the trouble of having to turn them down in favor of the DOE SCGF.

Although that means I also can't give any other fellow rejectees hope by opening up a spot for them.
I just got my rejection, too. So far, I'm 0 for 4 with fellowships this year haha
Still no word on SCGF for me...since several people between here and gradcafe have mentioned getting phone call acceptances already, I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Yeah, same. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna end up with all rejections on fellowships this year. Especially because I found out last week that one of my letter writers wrote me a bad letter (for everything to which I applied). So, I guess I'm not going to consider it a reflection on the rest of my application.

johnpauljones
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by johnpauljones » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:56 pm

meggo wrote:
johnpauljones wrote: Still no word on SCGF for me...since several people between here and gradcafe have mentioned getting phone call acceptances already, I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Yeah, same. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna end up with all rejections on fellowships this year. Especially because I found out last week that one of my letter writers wrote me a bad letter (for everything to which I applied). So, I guess I'm not going to consider it a reflection on the rest of my application.
Yikes, that sucks! How'd you find that out...? I wonder why they didn't just decline your request. My current MS advisor joked about writing me a bad letter so I wouldn't get in anywhere and would have to stay where I'm at (same place I did my undergrad) for my PhD...but I don't think he actually did it. I'd be curious to hear admissionprof or another faculty member's input on the idea of saying no vs writing a negative letter.

meggo
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by meggo » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:20 pm

johnpauljones wrote:
meggo wrote:
johnpauljones wrote: Still no word on SCGF for me...since several people between here and gradcafe have mentioned getting phone call acceptances already, I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Yeah, same. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna end up with all rejections on fellowships this year. Especially because I found out last week that one of my letter writers wrote me a bad letter (for everything to which I applied). So, I guess I'm not going to consider it a reflection on the rest of my application.
Yikes, that sucks! How'd you find that out...? I wonder why they didn't just decline your request. My current MS advisor joked about writing me a bad letter so I wouldn't get in anywhere and would have to stay where I'm at (same place I did my undergrad) for my PhD...but I don't think he actually did it. I'd be curious to hear admissionprof or another faculty member's input on the idea of saying no vs writing a negative letter.
One of my NSF reviewers told me what was in the letter, and the professor I want to work with at Cornell (where I'm waitlisted) told me that the letter was "nasty". The guy I worked for (note past tense) who wrote me the letter is kind of a huge jerk. It's no secret. It was just my mistake to ask him for a letter and to think that he would be professional enough to decline if he didn't think he could write me a good letter.

Lesson learned: don't work for the department d-bag haha

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grae313
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by grae313 » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:25 pm

The advice I've seen is to straight up ask your potential letter writer if they intend to write you a strong letter. Email is probably the best way to ask this question.

admissionprof
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by admissionprof » Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:43 am

johnpauljones wrote:
meggo wrote:
johnpauljones wrote: Still no word on SCGF for me...since several people between here and gradcafe have mentioned getting phone call acceptances already, I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Yeah, same. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna end up with all rejections on fellowships this year. Especially because I found out last week that one of my letter writers wrote me a bad letter (for everything to which I applied). So, I guess I'm not going to consider it a reflection on the rest of my application.
Yikes, that sucks! How'd you find that out...? I wonder why they didn't just decline your request. My current MS advisor joked about writing me a bad letter so I wouldn't get in anywhere and would have to stay where I'm at (same place I did my undergrad) for my PhD...but I don't think he actually did it. I'd be curious to hear admissionprof or another faculty member's input on the idea of saying no vs writing a negative letter.

I've occasionally been asked to write a letter that I know will be negative, and I always tell the student this. They usually ask someone else. In one case, they absolutely had to have me as the letter writer, and I wrote a pretty negative letter (oddly, they got into this summer program anyway). In the case of letters for medical school, I occasionally would like to write a negative letter without telling them, just to save lives.....but I don't, and tell them anyway. Of course, one can damn with faint praise ("this application is worthy of your consideration" is my favorite---of course it is..they paid the fee).

If you have any doubts, just ask (via email) if the letter would be positive.

Note that this is for graduate admissions. For postdoc applications, I write very detailed and honest letters, holding nothing back. In those cases, my own reputation is at stake.

butterfly99
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by butterfly99 » Thu Apr 15, 2010 6:46 am

So, anybody got those UPenn rejections yet? Go to hell, UPenn, I'm off to somewhere much better.

quark314
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by quark314 » Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:26 am

So, anybody got those UPenn rejections yet? Go to hell, UPenn, I'm off to somewhere much better.
Nope. I emailed them a week ago and they still haven't seen fit to respond.

I appreciate that there will be a certain number of people legitimately on the waitlist up to and past April 15th, but to fail to give notice of who is rejected and who is truly still under consideration...

rdutta
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by rdutta » Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:24 am

butterfly99 wrote:So, anybody got those UPenn rejections yet? Go to hell, UPenn, I'm off to somewhere much better.
I got my rejection from UPenn on Sunday (finally). Email directed me to a link on the application. I haven't gotten a letter yet from UMD, but I called last week and was told I wasn't on the admit list.

One more thing.


Dear Northwestern,

When you finally do make a decision, decide to make a decision, find a post office, discover the location of the nearest email-capable computer, or whatever else has stumbled your admissions process (giving you the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to assume your admissions chair is Brett Favre and your nearest computer is at the post office at the bottom of Lake Michigan), you can find me at UC Irvine.

Sincerely,

rdutta

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HappyQuark
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by HappyQuark » Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:45 am

rdutta wrote:
butterfly99 wrote:So, anybody got those UPenn rejections yet? Go to hell, UPenn, I'm off to somewhere much better.
I got my rejection from UPenn on Sunday (finally). Email directed me to a link on the application. I haven't gotten a letter yet from UMD, but I called last week and was told I wasn't on the admit list.

One more thing.


Dear Northwestern,

When you finally do make a decision, decide to make a decision, find a post office, discover the location of the nearest email-capable computer, or whatever else has stumbled your admissions process (giving you the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to assume your admissions chair is Brett Favre and your nearest computer is at the post office at the bottom of Lake Michigan), you can find me at UC Irvine.

Sincerely,

rdutta
I'm confused, is Brett Favre known to be hydrophobic or is unable to swim?
Last edited by HappyQuark on Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rdutta
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by rdutta » Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:12 pm

HappyQuark wrote: I'm confused, is Brett Favre known to be a hypochondriac or is unable to swim?
Brett Favre is an NFL player known in recent years for being unable to make a decision.

I knew it was dangerous using a sports metaphor on a physics forum.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by HappyQuark » Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:46 pm

rdutta wrote:
HappyQuark wrote: I'm confused, is Brett Favre known to be a hypochondriac or is unable to swim?
Brett Favre is an NFL player known in recent years for being unable to make a decision.

I knew it was dangerous using a sports metaphor on a physics forum.
I'm quite aware of who Brett Favre is. I think the confusion came about because I assumed that the Brett Favre reference was supposed to be related to the "bottom of Lake Michigan" reference. As if to say that the computer was under water and the person who needed to get to it in order to send you any information (i.e. Brett Favre) couldn't get there.

Note: I just realized that I said hypochondriac as opposed to hydrophobic. I'm not sure how I missed that the first time I posted but I've since adjusted it.

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grae313
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by grae313 » Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:07 pm

HappyQuark wrote: I think the confusion came about because I assumed that the Brett Favre reference was supposed to be related to the "bottom of Lake Michigan" reference. As if to say that the computer was under water and the person who needed to get to it in order to send you any information (i.e. Brett Favre) couldn't get there.
ditto

rdutta
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by rdutta » Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:42 pm

HappyQuark wrote:
rdutta wrote:
HappyQuark wrote: I'm confused, is Brett Favre known to be a hypochondriac or is unable to swim?
Brett Favre is an NFL player known in recent years for being unable to make a decision.

I knew it was dangerous using a sports metaphor on a physics forum.
I'm quite aware of who Brett Favre is. I think the confusion came about because I assumed that the Brett Favre reference was supposed to be related to the "bottom of Lake Michigan" reference. As if to say that the computer was under water and the person who needed to get to it in order to send you any information (i.e. Brett Favre) couldn't get there.

Note: I just realized that I said hypochondriac as opposed to hydrophobic. I'm not sure how I missed that the first time I posted but I've since adjusted it.
Ah, sorry HappyQuark. I just threw in the lake as a means to make getting to the computer difficult, no direct relation intended with Brett Favre.

matonski
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Re: Still Waiting 2010

Post by matonski » Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:21 pm

Finally rejected from UT Austin. The website status changed today. They had the earliest application deadline (12/1) and were the latest to respond (4/22). So all in all, 3 acceptances, 13 rejections.



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