Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekend Objectives

I need to gather my receipts and fill out the paperwork for reimbursement for my last couple of graduate school visits, do my taxes, and finish declining the offers from the graduate schools I won't be attending. I'm looking forward to that last one the least. Bureaucracy, forms, and money don't phase me, but trying to let people down politely is a task I don't relish.

It isn't difficult to decline the offers from some schools. My list of acceptances included a couple of safety schools that I was pretty sure I wouldn't attend if I got into stronger program even though they probably would have been fine back-ups and another school whose financial offer was, quite frankly, a joke; I didn't even fly out to visit these programs and thus had no compunction about simply checking the box on the form letter to let them know I was rejecting their offers of admission. With any luck, someone who really wants to go there and will be a great fit with each program is getting moved off a wait list. However, there are two other programs where I think I'll need to send more personal notes to faculty members in addition to using the form or website to let the program know.

There was one physics program where I loved everything except the biophysics faculty, especially after discovering how unhappy seeming the graduate students in the lab group that would have been my top choice were. The director of the graduate program was quite enthusiastic about me, however, offering me a fellowship, inquiring about other offers to try to match them, and asking what it would take to get me to come. I think the best course of action is to send an email to let him know how much I appreciate his offer and enjoyed the visit, but that I have concluded a lab at another university is a better fit.

However, there is another situation that I'm finding still more difficult. By the time I made my last visit, I'd narrowed my list of options down to two, including the school I was visiting at the time, and I didn't mind letting them know this when asked. One of the professors there did a great job of making me feel welcome and trying to recruit me. His work is interesting, and his lab group manages to be ridiculously productive while also being a tremendously supportive, happy place, and I really liked meeting with him and his students and post docs. The professor has also been following up by email a couple of times a week, offering more information about an aspect of the group's work I had questions about, sending links to some papers, and congratulating me on winning a fellowship from his university. There's nothing I dislike about his group. Indeed, if I'd had to flip a coin to decide between my top two choices, I think that would have been happy with either outcome, but there were a few things, like a clear to becoming involved in physics education research while pursuing biophysics research and a stronger k-12 outreach program that made one place feel like a slightly better fit. I'm just not quite sure how to say that or if I even should. Suggestions?

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