Paperwork, ’tis of thee, part 2

After sending the first four GRE and TOEFL score reports, I knew I spent a little over $200 to have my score reports sent to four schools, all of which I knew about their policies about supporting documents’ shelf lives. From the moment sending the supporting documents began, I knew I wouldn’t apply to more schools than those I listed here. But, since my credit card was a secondary one, I was left wondering how high was my credit card limit so I could formulate plans in order not to go over the limit. I learned, fortunately, that the credit card limit was $3,000 shared between the primary card and the secondary card, and I would later go on my merry way sending all the score reports I needed to send to schools.

And Luc Vinet, who taught me general relativity, which at some schools would be either cross-listed or graduate, was the first of my three recommenders to actually get around to writing the dreaded letters of recommendation. I knew this at first when I got emails from schools saying that a LOR was processed there. Since he was mostly a coursework-based recommender, I had no objection over him writing me LORs now, as opposed to the research-based recommenders, especially Manu Paranjape, who preferred to wait until mid-November. He seemed eager to use me as a showcase student for “advertising” purposes, given that six (and possibly up to nine; not sure about Chicago, Columbia or Minnesota) schools on my list are schools that have never been applied to by a student from my undergrad before.

Luc Marleau, as a visiting professor (he normally teaches at Laval University) once told me that most strong applicants to US PhD programs had at least two research-based letters; applicants in a masters program who only have one either had no experience in undergrad or let a summer project (or capstone project) evolve into a masters thesis, which is rather common in Canada or in Europe.

As for Luc Vinet: he is well-known in the mathematical physics community, and once was the rector at my undergrad. His general relativity course (and quantum mech 3, too, although I never took it) was very dry mathematically. Perhaps I could blame it on the subject matter, perhaps not. In chronological order, he began with Michigan, and then proceeded with the other schools using CollegeNET, in chronological order of me starting the applications. And then came Tufts, Dartmouth, WUSTL and Notre Dame, in that order. He asked me to send a reminder for Chicago and Columbia the next morning, after getting into trouble for Minnesota. So, supposing that it could take a couple of hours to get it done for Chicago and Columbia, I was a little worried when I went to his office in late afternoon and wondered whether the recs were processed, or even sent out. If worse came to worst, I was even prepared to have Mr. Vinet send a rec in the mail at Columbia.

And so I made my withdrawal final at Vanderbilt by excluding all three recs from consideration. Upon hearing from my mother that the credit card limit was, in fact, high enough to carry out my plan of sending out the score reports, for a total of $US506. Then came the last round of score reports, which meant sending the remaining 7 score reports. After looking at the program catalog on the UChicago website, when looking for the application fees, I realized that there was a department code I omitted from my score report order at UChicago. I even dropped a call at ETS, stating what the problem was, and they asked me to check with the university affected by the mistake before requesting another score report.

In the end, all worked out fine, when I learned from the graduate school’s admissions office at the University of Chicago what the procedure was there for processing GRE and TOEFL reports. Per Lindsey Weglarz:

Because all GRE scores submitted to the University of Chicago are sent electronically to a central database, a department code is not required. Your test scores will automatically attach to your application upon their receipt, provided your biographical information submitted by ETS (name and date of birth) matches your application information. If you do not see your test scores appear on your application within 24 hours of receiving the email confirming we have received your test scores, please let us know and we will manually transfer your scores to your application.

Now I can say that I am done with supporting documents, other than the research-based recommendations, but CVs are usually attached to the apps themselves, rather than as supporting documents to be sent separately.


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