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Is it appropriate to mention this in SOP?

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:56 am
by quizivex
Greetings, I'm new to this site.
I'm a capable physics student (not to the extreme) but was hoping to go to a quality graduate school, though have had some bad luck I feel might have hurt my chances...

Please consider the following if you have a minute...

I go to a school where grades probably don't mean much. For instance, students with a 50/70 on an exam often get the same A as a 66/70.

So I know test scores are that much more important for me...

I took the GRE general test, got 800M <deleted for anonymity> 5.5W, which I was happy with. But I was very confident with my essays, and was hoping for a 6, and because test scores may be all I have, I requested a rescore, knowing the grading system is variable and it might go up.
But ETS dropped me to a 4.5. Crazy isn't it?
Either they lowered me on spite for rescoring a 5.5, or the grading system is too fickle to rely on anyway. No way the same essays could be considered excellent one time and mediocre the next.

I've been involved in a good amount of research (in 3 different lab groups), I was supposed to have one publication from each, but each one was scrapped. On one the prof forgot to list me, on another the prof had a family emergency on the other side of the world and so we missed the submission deadline, and on the 3rd the article was denied because it wasn't considered relevant enough to the conference's focus ..

I planned to get a math major too, but had to give it up because the physics and math departments scheduled their required junior fall semester courses (each of which there was only one section) at the same time.

I just wanted to know:
1) Would these things hurt me?
2) Would it be appropriate to mention them casually in an SOP or as an additional inserted page in my application?
3) Does having names on papers really matter as long as you've done research? Even if you have recommendations from those who supervised your research?

Any comment on one or all of these things would be greatly appreciated.

I'll have a good application overall, but since there is some extreme talent out there, I'd imagine I'd be on the borderline of being accepted/rejected from some of the top schools, and I just worry the combination of the above bad breaks could be the deciding factor. I feel I have a right to be dissatisfied with what has happened, but would schools accuse me of complaining?

(Even then I'd rather be rejected for complaining than for having willingly accomplished nothing in college, lol)

Just thought I'd mention for laughs: Guess what.. last spring I got both an acceptance and a denial letter from the same REU program, hahaha!

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:28 am
by tnoviell
I wouldn't mention any of that if I were you. I would talk about the research, not the failure to produce a paper. You should think of the SOP like an interview - you are selling yourself to these people. Why would you want to give yourself a negative aura?

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 8:11 pm
by braindrain
I know that the school keep encouraging us to explain problems, but everytime I hear about job interviews, they say never say anything negative on an interview. I agree with tvoviell, do not mention the failure to produce a paper and just talk about your
research. These things happen all the time, even to the senior scientists and professors. I think the problem at our stage is that we are not the ones in charge. Hopefully, when we do our theses we'll be in charge of paper writing.

But, I wonder if you could do something about reinstating your original writing score. There might be some statistics about the two graders never being so far apart so why are they so far apart now. I think maybe if you complain to ETS and keep saying how unfair that is and it should not have changed that much. Is there a supervisor you can talk to. Maybe you can do something with that.
I mean if any two graders can't be that far apart the lowest one
on your new score and the highest one on the original score are very far apart.

But the question about whether the papers situation will hurt you. It won't hurt you but having them would have helped you. Its one of those unfair things that is not your fault. But, from what I hear about grant writing, some profs. put down the paper title anyway and say 'pending' or 'in preparation'. Can you salvage the 2nd
and 3rd articles, a new submission deadline and a different conference even just to get the experience?


Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:22 am
by quizivex
Yeah I see what yuz are saying, But then again for example, 3 years of research but no papers has a negative air about it too. I probably won't mention any of it, but students should have a right to defend themselves against other people's irresponsibility.

I actually just wrote another letter to ETS, and will send it soon, but I think they'll just laugh at it. When they grade the essays, if 2 graders give scores differing by > 1 point, they regrade it or something. So yes to get such inconsistent scores of 5.5 and then a 4.5, there must have been 6s and 4s in there. I mentioned this, and said they should apply the same method here. But in reality they have no incentive to accomodate me anyway, and since I believe the 4.5 may have been given on spite, I worry they could really screw me over when I take the November physics GRE, either the score itself or not mailing it on time.

Originally when I called ETS and asked how to request a rescore, I asked if you can do it more than once (in case something crazy happened). They said you can do it upto twice, but when I sent the second request in they wrote back saying you can only do it once. Had I known that, I might not have rescored the first time. I mentioned that too. I'm disappointed ETS is so disorganized.

Yeah for the papers I might just write down the titles anyway and say "submitted" or "abstract". When a prof loses a paper, it's just one in a career of 50-100. But for an undergrad, who's only expected to have 0, 1, 2.. , it could be the straw that breaks his whole future. It bothers me specifically cuz in my lab experience I've learned literally nothing. I work at a place where, for instance, the grad students often spend a whole day looking for a particular type of screw.

Thanks for your input.

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:52 am
by tnoviell
There's nothing wrong with doing research and not having a paper...sometimes it's just impossible. I've done research for 4 years straight and only have one publication. Although you may reach interesting conclusions, sometimes there's just nothing to write about.

ETS disorganization

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:24 pm
by braindrain
I'm glad you are going after ETS regarding your writing score. But, no joke about ETS being disorganized. I sent in my additional score report request form. They entered one school twice and left off a school. I asked them why they think I would send the same test score to the same school twice and pay twice for that. You really have to check on what they are doing. Then during my generals we get a 10 minute break as measured by the clock on my computer. I left the room for 5 minutes and wanted to sit the rest of the 5 minutes to rest my eyes and just to sit for a few minutes for a break. The computer asked me should I continue to break and I clicked yes. The proctor came over and did an override without being asked and I didn't even know what she was doing and she started up the test again. I don't think it really affected the score, but that was ridiculous - a decision made by someone who has no clue about sitting in front of a computer for hours or academic work or anything. But the real disorganization came when I tried to enter my additional score report requests prior to the actual test date. There is a 10 day processing period. So, the question was whether the processing takes up 10 days before the test date or 10 days after the test date which would delay your scores by an extra 2 weeks or after the test score availability which delays even more. I called 3-4 times and kept getting different answers plus they said their was no phone number to contact the additional score report people directly. They didn't even know what their own rules were. Like any product or service we would pay for, I still expect good service.

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:27 pm
by astrobio
More ETS disorganization!

This fall, I called ETS because I was registered for the wrong test -- Math instead of Physics. They said, register for the 2nd test, then cancel the first one--because they couldn't actually change the code for what test you're taking in their computer system. Okay!

I have my admission ticket for the math test, but I go online and register for physics (prior to the deadline) and then wait.... No admission ticket for physics arrives. Three weeks prior to the test date, I called them back and was all, "WTF?" and the girl on the phone said I had never been registered for physics! Ironically, I currently possess in my inbox an email from ETS, received on the day that I went online to register for physics, confirming that I had on that day registered for physics!

Because it was so close to the test date, while I was on the phone with her, she changed the test I was registered for in the computer system....

One of these days, I'm going to get around to writing a letter to complain to them. That is just ridiculous!

ETS disorganization

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:39 pm
by braindrain
Be careful they don't charge you twice. It's odd one worker knows what to do and another doesn't.

Me too, I'm going to write in a letter about that proctor taking my break away. Another proctor for the subject test at the same site announced that all the other procotors were wrong and you can leave the test 20 minutes early until the end. I still believe the rules are you can't because if lots of people do that it distracts everyone. I think the name of the game at that site is that the proctors want to go home early.

Maybe ETS should be subject to antritrust laws. They have a monopoly in this business and that's probably related to customer service being so horrendous. We can't choose to hire anyone else.

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:57 am
by schmit.paul
Anyone else find the 4-school score report limit when you sign up completely insufficient? How many people here only apply to 4 schools/fellowships? You either have to be over confident or extremely pessimistic. I wish that they would at least give you the option to request additional score reports for the extra fee when you register for the test, so you don't have to wait for your scores to come out to request reports for all of the other schools and fellowships you are most likely applying to. braindrain, I was told that you shouldn't request additional score reports until after your scores have been officially released (but this is just the one ETS person I talked to), which is exactly the inconvenience they could eliminate by allowing you to order your additional reports when you sign up for the test. The GRE can be such a big blip on the radar during your senior year that it would be nice for at least the score reporting process to be set-and-forget.

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:01 am
by quizivex
Oooh no! That is really insufficient, and dangerous. Many students (inc. myself) will be applying to a large # of schools, and most schools will probably have deadlines late Dec or early Jan.

Since many of us will be taking the Nov test (the spring one is too soon), I now really worry whether the additional reports would get there in time (we already worry about the original 4 reports getting there on time).

I still haven't found a conclusive answer on this forum or any physics dept website whether the Nov test itself is too late for applications. Does anyone know for sure?

How can these silly GRE policies last? The inconvenient test dates, the additional score report policy etc..? They've all been hurting students for so long, and there are obvious solutions to these problems that wouldn't even cost ETS anything, but nothing ever gets changed.

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 9:04 pm
by schmit.paul
I believe most schools are understanding if scores show up late. I emailed Harvard and Stanford directly and they told me they would include scores in my application even if they showed up after the deadline, since just about everyone is in the same position. However, the reality of the situation is that even though they will include the scores in your application, many schools immediately forward applications to admissions committees as soon as they become complete, so anyone fortunate enough to get their scores in by the deadline will have their applications viewed first. But yes, there's never really a problem taking the november test (I took it), but I personally would have been uneasy taking the december test, though as far as I know it is acceptable for most schools (though some schools insist you forward them unofficial scores ASAP if you take the December test, and I'm trying to remember if one of those schools was Berkeley or Stanford).

Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 6:35 pm
by braindrain
What some of the schools are saying after submitting the application which they didn't say before is that they need 10-15 days to process the paperwork. They apparently don't start processing anything until you pay. So, if the Nov scores arrive mid Dec., the processing time cuts through the hollidays into Jan and Dec scores arrive the first week of Jan. plus the 10 days to put the scores into your folders. So anything that didn't create at least a 10 day buffer BEFORE the holidays will end up in the midst of lots of paperwork that's arriving. I'm concerned about that too.

The problem with first requesting scores from ETS after the scores are available is that ETS needs a 10 days processing time. I was able to eliminate that for the subject test by sending my additional requests at least 10 days before the test, but for some reason it didn't work for the generals. They said with the generals they didn't know if people would be no-shows so they wait for score availability.

I have to say the most frustrating element of this whole process is ETS!


Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 6:52 pm
by braindrain
The other thing that bothered me about ETS is that they gave an approximate score reporting date of 5 weeks on the web site, but when you get to the test, they say 4-6 weeks. If it were 6 weeks, I might have chosen an earlier option. I agree that they should know their procedures by now and not mispresent info.

Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 7:01 pm
by schmit.paul

I was told by ETS (or the lady representing ETS on the phone) not to send additional score report requests before your scores have been reported, and I was specifically calling about the subject test at that point. I would have figured requesting scores before you've even taken the test would be an even bigger no-no...did they tell you something else? Have you checked to make sure your scores have arrived at the institutions for which you requested additional score reports?

Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 7:20 pm
by braindrain
The problem with ETS is if you call twice with the same question and get a different person you get a different answer. I believe I did ask about that when I called about the subject test and was told ahead of time was okay. In fact I called up ETS to check and my additional schools were in the computer ahead of time waiting for me to take the test. Not true for the generals. If you request the subject additional scores right after you take the test since the scores are not yet available, that is still okay because it takes them at least 10 days to grade the papers and get the scores so your additional request processing time occurs at the same time as the grading time. If you request the additional scores when the scores are available, I believe you just added 10 days to the arrival time of the scores to your school that you didn't have to which for nov. people would cut into holiday time. That was my understanding and yes its frustrating to even get this info out of ETS. No, I haven't confirmed anything arrived because the schools want that 10 day processing time, because I'm busy, and because the schools say don't contact us they'll let us know. So, no, I can't prove anything.

If you look on the small print on the additional score report form itself (right above your signature but below where it asks for registration or confirmation number) it says: if you enter a future test date, the scores won't be reported until the test scores become available, if you enter a previous test date, the scores will be reported up to 10 business days after your additional score report request form arrives at ETS.

Posted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 5:26 am
by schmit.paul
yeah, I ordered mine by phone...perhaps I should have looked at the paper order form a little closer.