I finally got off my ass and made a new homepage of sorts, super-barebones. I decided waiting until I had a publication was going to take forever. Of course, if I keep futzing with this html stuff, I’ll never get any research done. And there’s some problem with Safari’s CSS support — nothing looks quite right — I could spend days trying to fix it.
I saw the final four episodes of Cowboy Bebop last night. Each episode is hit-or-miss — he tries to juggle so many genres at once that my internal association machinery sometimes fries itself. Too many tropes spoil the broth, as they say. But overall I recommend it — much better than serial adventures: lain in which I found it too difficult at times to suspend my disbelief in the face of intense obfuscation, and miles beyond Witch Hunter Robin, which was like My So-Called Craft-Using Witch-Hunter Life.
The other occupation of the week outside of rehearsals was reading grad school applications — at Berkeley they have student reviewers in addition to faculty reviewers for each candidate. I find most of the “objective” criteria a little bogus — GRE scores and GPA tell you something about a person, but the real insight you get into a person is through their letters of recommendation and through their personal statement.
I never got to read my letters of recommendation, but I sure hope they were better than some of the ones I read. To start off, professors should only write a letter for a candidate that they would feel comfortable endorsing — to do otherwise would be disingenuous. My assumption is that all of the letters I would read are from people who think the candidate is a good student. However, some of these letters were a mere 3 paragraphs long, and not even full paragraphs at that. Because I’m a student, I don’t view these short letters as a case of “read between the lines” and assume that the candidate is bad. On the contrary, I conclude that the professor was just too busy to write up a decent letter, and I wish I could castigate them for doing a disservice to the student.
An important aspect of graduate school is that going there is not (often) expected of you — it was for me, but I doubt I’m the norm. The goal of a personal statement should not be to prove to the reviewer that you are a good student per se, but rather to describe why you want to go to graduate school. Presenting a laundry list of your achievements and concluding that you would make an excellent grad student says very little about yourself. Investigating the reasons why you think you would enjoy research is better, and a little critical analysis of your experiences to date is even better.
I’m glad I have very little influence in the process of admissions — I get the impression my views are nonstandard, and I’m sure people have tailored their applications to what the status quo expects.