Thursday, August 31, 2006

what am I up to now?

I'm a bit busy lately with work and other assignments, hence I'm not flooring the application paddle now. However, I am still working on different aspects of my app.

My co-author and I are trying to repackage our research paper for another journal. It is not an "A" list, it is still quite a respectable publication. Hope to get the paper in, or at least into the review stage, so that I can mention it in my SOP. Hence I am targeting to complete it by end-Sept at the latest.

I am also talking to a faculty in one of my top choice school. The email exchange started well last week, until I shared my research interest and CV. It has been a week since I last emailed the faculty and I have not received a response. Is she busy? Out of town? Maybe she forwarded my email to her colleagues for their opinions? Or maybe she thinks that I cannot-make-it? Just sent a friendly note last night to check if my last email has been received.

In addition, I am waiting for my TOEFL score - it should come by next Friday. Hopefully it will be good enough. I will also meet up with my last recommender to pass him my recommendation package. More waiting games to play.

Come Oct, I will get back to my hardcore application mode again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Don’t plan with a rainy day in mind

A few days ago, I read the devotion that I first read on my wedding day 3 years ago. For a few days before my wedding day, the weather was very wet. So much so that we were a little sick then. During that few days, we kept praying for good weather to come, especially on the wedding day itself.

I still remember that I woke up very early on the wedding day. Around 5am. Or was it 4am? Anyway, the first thing that I did was to look out of the window to check the weather in the midst of darkness. The sky had a dangerous tone of red - a sign of heavy downpour that was to come. My heart sunk a little as I walked away from the window and prepared to do my daily devotion.

The devotion was from Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest. The focus of the devotion for the day was that as we plan, we need to plan alongside with God. Not only for "spiritual" plans but also for practical and day-living stuffs. One of the main point, in bold, was "Don’t plan with a rainy day in mind." When I saw that, my heart was lifted. To me, it was the assurance from the Lord that the day would surely go on well and nice for us. Sure enough, the day went prefectly for my wife and I. Not a drop of rain was seen on that day.

As I revisited this devotion a few days ago, I felt that God is reminding me once again. Firstly, I need to constantly humble myself before Him as I plan, and that He must be part of the plan. Lately, with all the work and preparation, my walk with God wasn't as regular and consistent as I would like it to be. So this is a very timely reminder for me.

Secondly, I need to forget about the "Plan B", the"what-if", the fears. Personally, I feel that I have put in my very best to strengthen myself as an applicant. Doing the research paper, getting out of my comfort zone to make contacts, scoring well for the GMAT, writing drafts after drafts of the SOPs, etc. On one hand, if I fail to get in to any schools, I know that I have done the best that I could so there will be no regrets. On the other hand, I fear that the pain of failure may be harder to bear. And what if I fail? What's next? What's my Plan B?

Chamber advices:

You cannot hoard things for a rainy day if you are truly trusting Christ. Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled . . ." (John 14:1 ). God will not keep your heart from being troubled. It is a command— "Let not. . . ." To do it, continually pick yourself up, even if you fall a hundred and one times a day, until you get into the habit of putting God first and planning with Him in mind.

How appropriate! Thank God for His reminder, teaching and promise. I shall continue to pray and commit this journey into His caring hands with faith and trust. May He help me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

another great meeting

Had a very good meeting with a Prof who received her PhD from one of the school that I'm applying to. Met up with her to find out more about the program, people and place. Overall, the impression that I took away is very positive. The school is great but very demanding; faculty are top-rated and dynamic; living environment is friendly but not too happening (which is fine with me). Simply put, a good place to pursue a PhD in my field of interest.

This Prof was also quite encouraging about my chances. She seemed quite impressed with my GMAT and background, and I think she thinks I have a shot. Of course, she also added that I should consider some safety schools, which I think I have done. Also, she suggested that if I can get the research paper pending/reviewed/published somewhere, it would strengthen my application.

The best thing that came out of this meeting is that she will try to link me up with a faculty in the school that I'm applying too. I have had wanted to contact this and another faculty, but dropped the idea of doing so as the responses that I received from other attempts weren't positive. The only response I received told me that there is no Phd program in my field of interest. Now with the help of this Prof, I guess things should move better. Talk about the power of social network. Speaking of which, I'm not one who is comfortable of utilising my social network. I sort of feel bad troubling others with my troubles. Hence I always try to find my own way and path as much as I can. But I guess in life, one must know how to make use of the social network to progress.

Once again, thank God for the open door.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Took the TOEFL

Yap, took it 2 nights ago. Wasn't in the best condition for the test. Had a fever and bad stomach 2 days before the test. On the test day itself, I was having a bad headach, an uncomfortable tummy, and an ulcer on my tongue.

Futhermore, I didn't really prepare for the test. Was unable to get my hands on a full-scale prep test so I did not really know what to expect. So I kind of screwed up the first few minutes into the test. Managed to recompose myself after awhile. And I think I was the oldest test taker that day... very much older than everyone else.

Ok ok... enough with all these excuses. I just hope that I can clear it well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

first taste of rejection

Well, my co-authored research paper did not pass the 1st round of submission, as the journal is not considering additional manuscripts on our topic for the time being. Now we will need to prepare the paper for submission to another journal. More words, more work.

Although I'm a little disappointed with the first rejection of my first submission, I guess such outcomes are not uncommon in academia. I'm disappointed but not discouraged. I will move on and see what comes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

research paper submitted

Just submit my (co-authored) research paper for publication. Hope it can get through.

Is there a catch?

When things are going tough, when the mountain seems to be too high, when there are obstacles after obstacle, you wonder where God is. You wonder where God is leading you to. You wonder what God is trying to tell you. You feel down, isolated, drained. You wonder, "Is it worth it?"

When the situations become better and easier, when you are ascending the mountain nicely, when you are slowly but surely overcoming obstacles after obstacles, when doors are being opened for you, you thank God. You thank Him for His presence and providence. You thank Him for opening the doors. Yet at the same time, you secretly wonder when will God finally slam the door in your face, bolt it with the strongest lock in the world, and tell you that right from the start, this journey is not meant for you. "But I helped you along so that you can build up your hope. But, dude, it is time to end the party." You secretly secretly wonder, "So what's the catch for all these opened doors?"

We sometimes have this wrong impression of God because we are humans who have the tendency to believe in what we can see, touch and hold. We want to believe in ourselves, relying on our might. We want to believe in our network, who knows so-and-so. We want to believe in our achievements and track records, that these will be impressive enough to get you what you want. It is easy and easier to believe in all these.

In contrast, to believe in God, who is physically invisible, is tough. It takes faith to put everything in the hands of the Sovereign Lord, who we cannot even see, much less touch or hold, physically. In fact, that's faith - believing in what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Being sure and certain. Of our hope and what we do not see.

So as I continue to journey on, I am reminding myself to journey on with faith. Faith in God who promises that all things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Whatever is the outcome, I know that it is part of God's plan for me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

school's recommendation - prepare early

Saw this advice in Georgia State University's Application Instruction document for international applicants:

"We recommend that you begin the application process at least 18 months in advance of your desired semester of entry."

The bold appeared in the doc as well. An excellent piece of advice.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

a great meeting today

I met up with a Prof who was the lecturer and tutor of a few modules that I took as an undergrad. On the agenda:
i. to find out more about one of the university that I am interested in (he had his PhD there, but from another school)
ii. to ask him to be my recommender.

I thought the likelihood of him being my recommender was very slim, as I didn't really establish a relationship with him during my studies. Moreover, it had been 5 years since I graduated. So I wasn't confident about him agreeing to help with the recommendation. Nevertheless, I was very excited when he agreed to meet up.

I talked to him for about 45 mins to find out more about a particular school that I am applying to. The Prof shared candidly about the school and its environment. Initially, he was a bit shocked after hearing the schools that I am applying to. He hinted that I better have had done well for my GMAT. After hearing my GMAT score and working experience, he was very encouraging. He gave me the impression that I shouldn't have problem getting in.

Nevertheless, he still advised me to considering applying to some "safety schools". This is because the top schools are quite competitive to get in. There is a possibility that I get in without funding. By having safety schools, I would at least guarantee myself with some financial support. He added that safety schools are not bad schools - there are people who graduated from lower ranked schools and are doing well as researchers. I thought he gave a very good advice: Instead of looking at the brandname, look for schools where there are supportive supervisors who can help you to write good thesis.

Just before leaving his office, I asked him would it be OK if I were to approach him as my recommender. I was just hoping to get a good recommendation from him. He said it was no problem at all and he would like to write me a strong recommendation. What a fantastic surprise! Thank God for opening the door once more.