Especially when one is going to apply to a large number of schools (11 is large but not atypical when it comes to theoretical physics in general, and particle cosmology in particular) it is a good idea to get the vitals out of the way (e.g. address, country of citizenship, name) early so that it becomes a lot less stressful. In addition, even one application can be a time sink. It took me ~2 hours to fill out the actual applications for WUSTL and Notre Dame in one sitting; you don’t want to be in a rush when deadlines draw near. All that’s actually left for me to do before I hit “Submit” is to modify my CV in the odd chance I actually submit anything by submission time. It’s one thing to say, “Oh, I’m applying to study at X. Y, and Z” in the abstract; it’s quite another thing altogether to actually do it!
Some applications have time-consuming elements; for instance, Dartmouth and WUSTL (the former on the application proper, the latter on a supplement one has to fill out on a hard copy and then to send on a PDF) asks, in physics, at least, to list all coursework related to your PhD’s discipline, Maryland’s English department also acts like this.
Whenever you know about a department’s policy about supporting documents, you may as well send supporting documents, like a transcript or GRE scores. Tip: if you need to have a document attached to a transcript (I’m looking at you, Michigan, but this also holds true of anyone who needs translations attached to hard copies) you’d better ask for the transcript in person. Some policies regarding how long documents are kept:
- Tufts: Credentials received without an application form and fee are retained for only three months from date of receipt. In addition, if a decision is rendered (acceptance or rejection), your materials will be kept for one year.
- Columbia: Supporting materials that cannot be submitted online are held until the application is submitted (and, from there, until decisions are rendered)
So today, I sent two of the four hard copies I needed to have sent to schools: Michigan and WUSTL. I think it was best not to send all four at once, so as to minimize the risks of mixups at the registrar’s office. So I think I will send the hardcopy transcripts to Carnegie Mellon and to Dartmouth only when the application at CMU will be submitted. Because of these first two hard copies, I will have spent $22.