2 years and tens of thousands of dollars
March 25, 2010 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I've been recommended for admission to the graduate program I applied for!! Just a few questions...

I know that this is a fairly common question, but I have a few other concerns which are tangential...

Main question: What should I be doing now that I've been "recommended" for admission by the specific college itself. The university Grad department still hasn't accepted me, but this is pretty much guaranteed, right? Is there anything that might happen where I won't get in after being recommended by the college?

Secondary: They don't decide assistantships until after the new fiscal year (in the summer). What should I be doing now to position myself as best as possible for an assistantship, and to set myself up in case I don't get one (which is very possible). I'm going in fall 2010, but haven't filled out a FAFSA yet... is this an issue?

Also, what should I do to thank my letter of recommendation writers, aside from a hand written note?

Is there anything else I should be thinking about? I just got the email from the program yesterday that they were recommending me for a position, so I'm both excited and nervous... it's going to be a pretty big change in my life, and I don't want to mess it up, but I don't have much experience with this sort of thing.
posted by codacorolla to Education (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak in terms of the admission recommendation, but I can speak for the thank-you note.

A thank-you note should suffice to your recommendation writers. If one of your recommendations was from a professor that mentored you or went above an beyond, you may want to craft a thank you e-mail to him as well as CC the dean of the college as a nice touch.

If you want to do the thank you gift, perhaps the simplest thing you could do would be to offer to take out one of your writers to lunch as thanks.
posted by seppyk at 10:01 AM on March 25, 2010

Thank you Coda for asking this! I'm in a similar situation and am asking the same questions. You're not alone!
posted by Wulfhere at 10:09 AM on March 25, 2010

I recently got into grad school...I baked some cookies for my always-hungry professors who wrote recommendations. I think they appreciate the visit more than anything!
posted by supernaturelle at 10:28 AM on March 25, 2010

At least in my university, the graduate division just makes sure that you meet the minimum GPA/GRE requirements and then the department actually decides to accept you or not, so around here, that wouldn't be a given. Although around here, the graduate division wouldn't tell you if they approved you or not.

If you don't get an assistantship, don't go (IMHO) unless it is a system (like the poli sci department at my university) that everyone gets assistantships in the 2nd year. Even then, I wouldn't do it. (This is for a PhD, right? MAs work differently.)
posted by k8t at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2010

FAFSA - As far as I know, you can fill out a FAFSA at any point in the year to qualify for aid. You can probably fill it out now and revise it if your financial situation changes for the fall. I'm sure the university's financial aid dept will be able to give you the correct answer once you are accepted by the grad college.

Also, same experience for me - I was accepted by the grad program first, and then they pass on the application materials to the grad college where they make sure you have all of the forms and test scores, transcripts, etc. In some cases, it was to avoid having to pay an application fee to the grad college if you ended up not accepting an offer. I don't think it should be a huge concern as long as most of your paperwork is in order!

Congrats and have fun with it!
posted by sararah at 11:03 AM on March 25, 2010

Graduate admissions are usually handled at the departmental level, as you know. But graduate schools like to maintain the fiction that they're more than just a collection of departments, so they maintain this formality. But it's generally a formality.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:04 AM on March 25, 2010

At my university, the department recommends the students they want, and then the Grad division checks for undergrad degree and GPA. So you should keep an eye out for communications from the Grad division - they might want a new transcript or other information from you before processing your admission.

If you don't hear anything from the Grad division for a few weeks, contact the department/college that recommended you to see if there's something more you need to do.

And yes, if your funding is uncertain, you should fill out a FAFSA now. Some of the scholarships we give out depend on the student showing need on their FAFSA.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:05 AM on March 25, 2010

In terms of funding, at least around where I am most non-TA financial aid is paid out of professors' grant money, and so being useful and attractive to as many professors as possible (preferably the ones with grant money) would be your best bet. I wouldn't be pushy about it, but emphasizing that you're interested in their area and have applicable skills may help you out. If you're accepted, you should definitely visit the department, and that's a good chance to meet with professors you think you might want to work with.

Checking their financial aid policies would also be a good idea.. no department I looked at had any notion of need-based financial aid for graduate students, so a FAFSA would have been a waste of time. Apparently this varies by department/university though.

And, to nth the other comments, in the universities I applied to, the graduate school as a whole just maintains vague requirements and does basic administrative work to centralize some of the more common requests from departments; decisions are made by a committee of faculty and sometimes a few grad students.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:20 PM on March 25, 2010

FAFSA is based on last year's (2009) income. So yes, do it.
posted by mareli at 1:13 PM on March 25, 2010

This completely depends on your field, what degree you're going for, what country you're in.
Ask your undergrad professors for advice if you don't feel comfortable posting that here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:20 PM on March 25, 2010

Yes, you are basically guaranteed admission to the university. Don't worry about that part. In terms of funding, you can't really do anything more about fellowships (they decide that based on your initial application), but reaching out to the prof(s) you're interested in working with and seeing if there's anything you could do (unpaid, of course) to get started would be useful. Demonstrating that you're committed to going will go a long way. I wrote a grant proposal in the summer before my first year with my future advisor, and I think that was really helpful in showing her my work. You could also look around for external scholarships and grants in your field and apply for those, but those are harder to come across.
posted by emilyd22222 at 3:29 PM on March 25, 2010

I got in, officially, this weekend. Thanks for the help everyone! I'm not going to be on campus until I actually start in the fall, but I'm going to start trying to learn as much as I can about the program, and start talking to the University financial aid office.
posted by codacorolla at 8:06 AM on March 29, 2010

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