Tuesday, December 18, 2007

End of 1st semester

Just submitted 1 lit review and 2 research proposals. I think I read over 60 or 70 papers over the last 2 or 3 weeks. Thankfully I could position the 3 papers around a similar topic - otherwise I would have had to read more.

Anyway, will take 1 or 2 days off... get some sleep, enjoy the winter, explore the place, remember Christmas. The would have to hit some light readings, and perhaps start on data collection for some of my research idea.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You know the end of semester is approaching when....

1. You think having a beard and mustache aren't that bad.
2. Your coffee powder is diminishing at a shocking rate.
3. You have so much to do that you don't know what you should do.
4. Your professors provided refreshments during the (last) class.
5. Your professors reminded you to hand in the assignment during the (last) class.
6. You forgot what sleep is.
7. You are glad that there are no more readings to do for the next class.
8. You still a few more readings + another few more readings for your research proposals.
9. You can't wait for the semester to be over.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

How long does it take to do a PhD?

Most schools' FAQ would say 4 to 5 years.

But there is a 3rd year guy who is already on the job market. Amazing... Maybe his two Master degrees help. But nevertheless, it is really amazing.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

1st mini semester report

Just completed the first half of my first semester in the doctoral program. Time really flies when you are overwhelmed with the assignments and readings. I would say that I have enjoyed most of the readings thus far.

Had my mid-term this week. 2 writing assignments and 1 sit-in exams. It felt weird to sit in class for the exams - the last time I sat for an exam was more than 5 years ago. Anyway I think I messed up that paper. Just hope that it doesn't end up being too bad. Although everyone is saying that grades doesn't matter at the doctoral level, I just want to do and give my best.

For the next half, I will be taking 3 seminar courses. I think there will be at least 10 papers to read per week... In the meantime, I hope to get some rest over the next 2 days - clocked 5 hours of sleep max per day for the last 10 days or so. And maybe will try to catch some of the Fall colors. Yet there are 4 papers to read for Tuesday's class....

Thursday, September 06, 2007

2 weeks in

I'm almost 2 weeks into the program. The short story is that the program and demand are more intensive than I have thought. I have 18 hours of classroom time per week. I estimate that for each hour of classroom time, I need to put in at least 3 hours of work... doing the readings, working on the problem sets, preparing the discussions etc. That's makes a total of 72 hours of work per week.

Thus far, the work has been very challenging, especially for the microeconomics and econometrics classes that I'm in. The lack of rigorous mathematically background is making it really tough for me in these courses... (P.S. I'm not even doing a econs phd. Just that my program requires me to take these graduate econs courses.)

Sweat. Persevere. Just do it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

States and state

I have been in the States for about 15 days now. My family is more or less settled... though we are still trying to do up the apartment and explore the places around. I have gone to the campus a few times - it is a pretty nice place.

Although the semester will only start in 2 weeks' time, but I'm in a state of feeling the pressure being turned up a notch. I have printed the readings for one of my seminar course (about 4 articles per week) - they add up to a few inches thick. I have also spoken to the academic advisor on the modules to take for Fall - I may be doing 4 modules (which according to a senior PhD student "is manageable but you must be prepared to work very hard"). Then there is the weather issue to tackle - I have heard that the winter (between December to April) here could be quite harsh.

Guess I will just take one step at a time and see what comes along. So the application is just a prelude... the show is really starting now.....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

a relevant blog

Someone blogged her MIS PhD dissertation journey.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

be notified of new posts in this blog

You can now receive email notifications of new postings in this blog - just submit your email address through my FeedBurner email subscription service.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

one year of blogging

I just realized that it has been a year since I started this blog. Last year this time I was in the process of getting my applications in place. Now I'm in the process of moving over and getting ready for school. How things have changed and how time has flown!

Obviously the pace of blogging has slowed somewhat. And I'm sure it will be even slower once the course start. I'm not sure if I should (or could) continue with this blog - whether it is adding value to anyone.

Que sera, sera.

Friday, June 29, 2007

getting ready for school

It is getting exciting. In just about a month's time, I will be moving to a new place to start my PhD pursuit. In the meantime, I'm trying to do some prep works. Although my field of interest in IS, I have to select a reference track as the foundation of my research methodology. Since my interview in March, I have been debating with myself which research reference track to take - OB or Econs? Econs or OB? Even though my undergraduate background is in economics, it is somehow insufficient for me to do economics at a graduate level. (And I still remember how dry a subject econometrics was to me.) So I thought I would take the OB track and started to read up on OB stuff (e.g. ANOVA, etc).

Subsequently, however, there were some changes among the faculty in the department that I would be joining. And as I spoke to some current students and advisors, all fingers seem to point to economics. So few days ago, I bought the "bible" for microeconomic theory (by MWG). As I flipped through the first few pages, I can see the challenges that lie ahead... Now, I'm trying to brush up on calculus and see if I can learn anything about real analysis before school start. (And no, GMAT's maths/quant is really just for GMAT.)

Actually, I don't know if the econs department would even allow me to take econs as my reference track, much less if I can clear the econs requirements. I'm just going by faith, trusting that God will continue to lead me in this long journey.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some updates....

It has been a while since I last posted, so I guess it is time for an update. My wife and I are in the midst of preparing to relocate to US - will be there for the next 4 to 5 years. Thus far, we are quite on track with most of the things that we need to do... sell the house... sell the car... apply for visa... get the air tickets.... The packing is killing us - we really have no idea where to start. Hopefully, we will be more disciplined in the packing.

Looking back, God has opened many wonderful doors and answered all my prayers. I'm especially thankful that most of the prayers have been answered in ways that are pretty much my heart's desires. However, in a couple of issues, it seems like God has other plans for me. For instance, in the arrangement of my work and involvements in my start-up, it pretty much goes the other way that I have hoped for. My wife also couldn't continue helping out in the business - the extra income would have been very handy when I begin my grad studies. Well, man propose, God dispose. I'm sure He will provide for us...

Beside having to take care of the stuff and arrangements here at home, we also have to start on the stuff there in the US. We have got ourselves a car. Still looking for accommodation - we have visited many online classifieds, but guess we will go there and scout around before deciding. For the academic stuff, I have managed to connect with a handful of students there - and they are extremely helpful. The sad thing is that many of the faculty members seem to be leaving - I'm wondering how it would affect my research... I also heard some rumors regarding the future of the department, and I'm hoping that they stay as rumors.

All in all, we are quite excited about the move. At the same time, we are pretty nervous about the uncertainties of the move, the studies, the next few years. Just have to hold on to the comforting words and assurance that "the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

4th ding

@ University of Maryland

Left with final outcomes from Texas @ Austin (Waitlisted) and GSU.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

3rd ding

@ NYU.

So I have 1 offer and 3 dings from my Tier-A group. All the schools in the Tier-B group have not reached a decision on me yet....

Friday, March 30, 2007

the last 2 weeks...

Ever since I received the 1st admit about 2 weeks ago, my wife and I have started to prepare for the move. We have tried to project our finances and budget - it is going to be extremely tight for us. We are likely to run a deficit every month based on the stipend that I'm going to get. So we may have to touch whatever little savings we have. We think that by the time I graduate, God willing, in 4 to 5 years time, we will be at Ground-Zero, financially. By then we will be in our mid-30s and our daughter will be 7 years old or so. And we will be pretty broke.

We are now trying to sell our house - our humble home for the last 4.5 years. We have to get the permission from the authority to sell; we need to get someone to buy soon, so that all the paperwork can be completed before we go off; we wish to sell at a price that both the buyer and ourselves are comfortable with. It is not easy to do all these when there is a deadline to meet. It is also not easy to say goodbye to the place - small and simple it may be, but we have experienced a lot in it....

We are also trying to find accommodation over in the US. We have been offered a place by a couple who will be returning. It's location is not too bad; it's rental is quite acceptable. However, we thought it might be better to get a slightly bigger place, so that there is enough room for our daughter to roam. Also, we hope to get a nice place so that my wife and daughter will be comfortable there - otherwise, the 4 to 5 years there for them would be hard to get by. But a nice place means not-so-nice rental.

Yes, it is as difficult as it sounds. Yet,we are kind of excited to see how God will work things out for and with us. Will we have enough money to survive? Will we be able to sell our house at our target price? Will we be able to find a nice place to stay over in the US? All we are sure of is that God will provide and God will lead. Yes, He will.

"Be strong and very courageous... Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:7, 9

Saturday, March 24, 2007

2nd ding

As expected, dinged by MIT.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

application status - facts and guesses

So far, I have officially received an admit (A-1), reject (Wharton), and waitlist (UT @ Austin).

I'm quite confident to say that I'm also waitlisted at NYU (A-3) and Maryland (B-2) school. Dings are likely as I think people accepted to these schools are likely to accept the offers.

That's left another 2 schools: MIT (A-4) and GSU (B-3). I think it is mostly likely a ding at MIT.

[Note: The A-1, A-2, etc refers to the Tier-Order of mentioned. It doesn't mean my ranking for the school. E.g. B-2 refers to the 2nd school in the Tier-B list that I have mentioned in this blog.]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

let's talk about the first admit

When I received the unofficial offer email from the PhD Committee Chair, I was happy but, honestly, not as excited as I had imagined.The excitement has been building up during the entire application process as I see God opening door after door for me for this particular school. I was excited when I managed to connect with an alumni from the program. I was very delighted when, through the alumni, I connected with a prof in the program. I was excited when I was asked to have a phone discussion with a more senior prof in the program. So when the offer finally came, the excitement was somewhat relatively muted.

It has been a few days since I received the offer. Finding out more about the place, my wife and I are getting excited about the move. Looking for a church, housing, car, nursery, fun places, hospitals, etc.... Talking about how often she and my daughter should come back and visit the relatives and friends... Things still seem surreal at this point, but we have a fun time thinking and planning for the move.

Yet, over the last few days, my heart has been extremely heavy and burdened. Getting this offer means that I have to leave, at least temporary, the startup that I co-founded over the last 8 years. It is not a good time to leave as there are unresolved issues in the business. Breaking the news to my partners is an extremely high mountain to climb. Discussing the arrangements to be made is going to be mentally and emotionally tough. My hope is that I get to keep, first, the friendships and, second, the partnership with them. If I have to leave the startup completely just to keep the friendship, I would. But I do believe that the research that I will do will contribute to the business in one way or another - and the partnership can still go on with some adjustments to be made.

I'm continuing to commit these burdens to God - whatever will happen with my involvements in the startup, I believe it is for the best for me. It has been wonderful to rely on God all these while - in the application as well as other aspect of my life. I will continue to rely on Him and allow Him to lead and guide me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

waitlisted at UT @ Austin

Just received an email telling me that I've been waitlisted at the school UT @ Austin (B-1).

That's ok, that's ok. I have kinda expected it as I have seen many people posting "admitted" news in a forum. But it is nice for the school to at least inform me about my status. I have yet to hear a single word from 4 others schools that I have applied to.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I'm in.

Received an email from the Chair of the PhD committee that they are preparing an offer letter for me.

I guess that means I'm in, right?

My first admit.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

still waiting....

Over the pass few days, I saw people posting offers received from the same schools and programs that I'm applying to. One of it is for the first school that interviewed me UT @ Austin (B-1). The other is for a Tier A school (NYU (A-3)) that have not contact me at all. My guess is that I'm on the waitlist or will be receiving the rejection notifications from these schools soon.

Actually I'm kind of unemotional now while waiting. Initially (late Jan/early Feb), I was pretty excited and checked my email and app status multiple times daily. Now, I just check with no expectation of any changes in the status. Maybe when I get the first admit, I will become excite again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

one small step forward....

I had my 2nd interview for School A-1 today. It was a face-to-face meeting, lasting about 30 mins. Basically, the issues that were raised during the 1st phone interview were being brought up again. Why were your grades like this? How's your commitment? Why PhD? etc. The Prof was as nice and friendly in person as she was on email.

When it was time for me to ask questions, I asked THE question: So, what's my chance? It was good to hear that I'm pretty high on the shortlist, but ultimately, I'm not in until I'm in. I also find out more about the school and program. It sounds like a nice place to get the PhD - although the program is pretty demanding and the school would not hesitate to drop you if you don't clear the comps.

Generally, things sound positive for me. It is getting exciting....

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2nd interview from the 2nd school

I will be having a face-to-face meeting with another Prof from the school that I last had my interview (A-1). This Prof is the one whom I had been communicating with for the last few months. The Prof is in (my) town this week, and wishes to meet up with my for a chat regarding my application.

I take it as I'm still in the running, which is good. I guess we may talk about my research interest and my seriousness in academia.

By the way, today's devotion was taken from Mark 11:22 - "Have faith in God." How timely. How appropriate. How true.

Friday, March 02, 2007

let's talk about the first ding

Very early this morning, when I received the email from Wharton that I could view the application status, I anticipated it to be a ding. After all, I didn't have any interviews nor did I managed to touch base with faculty there. I woke my wife up (it was around 1 am) so that we could see the status together.

After seeing the outcome, she asked me how I felt. I was actually quite positive... similing away... and didn't feel too bad about it. After all, it is Wharton and so what I have a GMAT 750 + dean's list, etc? I read of some gmatclubbers' profiles (GMAT 780, 5 publications, Master degrees, etc.) who applied to Wharton - the competitions at schools like Wharton are simply tough and these schools have the luxury of being as selective as they wish. Hence I was quite ok about the ding as I went to bed (had no problem sleeping).

Now, half a day after seeing the outcome, I do feel a little "sore". It's not about the outcome but more about not knowing what went wrong with my application. Misfit research interest? Sub-par profile? Weak SOP? I guess it is human's nature to ask Why? Sadly, I will never know.

The negative outcome does shake my confidence a bit for the other applications that I'm waiting to hear (despite that the ding was from Wharton). Nevertheless, I'm keeping my faith.

1st Outcome - Wharton, Dinged

Received an email notification from Wharton in the early hours of Mar 2. Logged in to the application system and saw the rejection letter. It is a straight ding - no interviews, etc.

Wharton was a Tier-A school in my application.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

2nd interview completed

Had a nice conversation with the Prof. Nice and friendly, with some laughing sprinkled here and there. But after putting the phone down, I couldn't laugh much.

Broadly, the conversation covered some issues - 3, to be precise. The first is that because of my undergraduate major, it is unlikely that the PhD Director would allow me to take a particular track/discipline, should I get in. So I need to explore and consider whether I am game/suited to take another track.

The second issue came in the form of a very frank question: "What happened to your (undergraduate) grades? (laughters followed....)" I had a C and a D in my undergraduate transcript. Prof said that people who do PhDs have more of As and Bs (or did she say "more of As than Bs"... anyway....). So I tried to give a short explanation without sounding that I'm justifying too much.

The third issue has to do with how serious they think I am in getting into academia. They have this concern because of my current work. I shared with the Prof my plans and how my work would be useful for research. And this issue is the major bomb. Near the end of the discussion, I asked what was the main weakness of my application, and the Prof said that this was it - how serious am I? The school wants to train researchers who are very keen in pursuing academic careers.

Basically, I think I'm in the shortlist - otherwise, I would not have this conversation with the Prof. But the challenge is on how convinced the ad comm is of my seriousness.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2nd interview invite

Just received an email from a Tier-A school for a discussion (via phone) tomorrow. I have had a good email correspondence with a prof from this school. But it will be a different prof whom I would be talking to tomorrow. Exciting...

Monday, February 26, 2007


Over the weekend, I done up a website to keep track of application outcomes at www.gradjournal.com. Although some websites and online forums are doing this in one way or another, GradJournal.com (GJ) is a little different.

Firstly, it ties the application outcome to the applicant's profile (e.g. GMAT score, GPAs, experience, etc.). This helps others to have a better picture of each offer or reject. Secondly, GJ is more structured than what other websites/forums are doing. Lastly, it focus on B-school graduate programs (e.g. PhDs., Masters, MBAs.)

My wife thought that I'm crazy to spend time and money to do GradJournal.com. I agreed with her. But I guess it is just me - seeing deficiencies in existing systems and doing something about them. One good thing is that doing up the system would keep my mind off the waiting season. Or maybe not. Hope I can post my own application outcomes in GradJournal.com soon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

good news!!!

A piece of wonderful news!

Just received an email from the last school (Maryland (B-2)) that I applied to - that all my supporting documents have been received (although it is now way past the application deadline) and my application will be reviewed accordingly.

Ok, sorry for the false alarm... But I'm glad that my prayers have been answered, that the package has been received by the school. I'm thankful that the entire application process went quite well, with no major screwups.

Now, back to the regular waiting game.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

results are coming in.... for others....

Started to see admit results from other applicants. Some of these admits are to the schools that I applied to as well. Hence I'm getting more emotional about my application status. I don't know how to describe the cocktail of emotions that I'm going through, although I can strike out those that are not in this cocktail, such as Happy, Glad, and Delighted. Sad and Disappointed are also out.

I have not heard from the school that interviewed me 2 weeks ago. Looking back, although I think I did ok for the interview, one area that I could have done better is to show more passion, committment and interest to the particular school. However, it was post-interview that I realized that the school is a better fit than I thought it was. Anyway, just have to wait for the final verdict to be announced.

My wife asked me how would I feel if I don't get admitted to any schools. At this point, I can say that it will not be the end of the world for me. I will be disappointed, but not discouraged. And I believe that whether to go or not is all part of God's plan and will for me (although right now, I still believe that graduate studies is in His plan and will for me). I will remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philipians while he was in chains:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4)

I will rejoice whatever it may be.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

my missing package...

... well, is still missing. One more days to the deadline. Will it or will it not make it to the graduate admission office?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

1st interviewed completed

Just completed a phone discussion with a Prof from UT @ Austin (B-1). The discussion was a friendly one, centered around our respective research interests. I can see some relevance and match between our interests. I was also briefed about the application, funding and assistantship process, as well as the research culture in the school.

Overall, it was a good discussion and ended quite positively. The information gathered in today's session would be brought up to the ad comm. I still have to wait a few weeks before I get to hear the final decision. But it is good to know that I'm at least on the shortlist.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

rejection letter

So I received my first rejection letter....

... for a post-graduate scholarship that I applied to.

I wasn't very hopeful to start with so this rejection doesn't hurt that much. Nevertheless, the extra money would have been handy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

unfolding of my waiting season

To keep track of the events during this waiting season.

Jan 25 - Received an interview request from a UT @ Austin [B-1].
Jan 30 - Phone interview with UT @ Austin completed.
Feb 27 - Received an interview request from a Tier A school [A-1].
Feb 28 - Phone interview with A-1 completed.
Mar 2 - Dinged from Wharton (Operations & Information Management) [A-2]
Mar 9 - Face-to-face meeting with A-1.
Mar 14 - Offered received from A-1.
Mar 24 - Dinged from MIT (Information Technologies) [A-4]
Apr 12 - Dinged from NYU (Information Systems) [A-3]

1st interview invite

Just receive an email from a Prof at UT @ Austin (a Tier B school that I'm applying to). The Prof wishes to further discuss my application and interest. Cool...

Anyway, just to say something about my application for this school. I didn't make any contact with any prof from this school before/during my application. I didn't mention any prof's name in my SOP. I know no one or have no connection with anyone from this school. Yet I still get an interview.

So it challenges the conventional wisdom (which I used to have) that you must/should contact potential advisors or mention profs' names in SOP when applying. Should I get rejected, I believe it has nothing to do with what I didn't do in my application but more with how the school assesses my research potential.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

last application package - missing?

On Jan 10, I mailed out the application package containing my letter of recommendations, official transcripts, etc, to the last school that I'm applying to (U of Maryland). It should take around 12 days for the package to be delivered.

But 13 days have passed and I can't even find a record of my package in the postal service's online tracker. (For the other schools that I applied to earlier, the packages usually were delivered within 10 days.) So I'm a little concern now. What if the package is lost? The deadline is Feb 1. I don't think I would have sufficient time to get my recommenders to submit another recommendation or get another transcript for the school.

All I can do now is to pray....

"Pray continually" 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Beautiful Vietnam

I'm in Vietnam for a few days, hence would not be doing much posting for the time being. A good and well-deserved break after completing the last application.... helps to take my mind off the whole PhD thingy for a while (although I have just logged on to the various schools' systems to check the app status.. haha...)

Friday, January 12, 2007

application process - completed

Yes! I have sent out the very last application package (to a Tier B school). With this, I have completed my application process. A summary of what have been done, spent and achieved.

# of schools applied to: 7
First school applied on: Oct 4, 2006
Last school applied on: Jan 12, 2007

Financial damages

Amount spent: US$1,200+.
Inclusive of tests scores, application fees, postage charges, transcripts, and bank charges. Excluding prep materials (estimated to be around US$40), and value of time spent.

Statement of Purpose/Essays/Personal Statement
First SOP mastercopy draft: Jan 5, 2006
Last SOP mastercopy draft: Oct 14, 2006
Total duration: 9+ months

First customized essay draft: Aug 14, 2006
Last customized essay draft: Jan 12, 2007
Total duration: almost 5 months

Letters of Recommendation

First request made to recommender: July 28, 2006
First recommendation received: Aug 7, 2006
Last recommendation received: Nov 2, 2006

Faculty Contacts
# of faculty contacted: about 10
# of positive responses: 2
# of negative responses: 1
# of slient: about 7

Thursday, January 11, 2007

contacting profs again...

I started to contact more professors a few days ago. Yes, I know it is a bit late, but I thought what harm would it make? So I emailed to 3 professors, and I'm glad that one of them, Prof L, replied quite positively. We are now having a good discussion pertaining to the research that I'm keen to do.

The good thing is that I have not submitted the personal statement for the school where Prof L is in. Hence I have some time to factor in our discussion into the essay.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Conversation with Prof C

I reignited an email exchange that I have had with a prof (Prof C) from one of the school that I'm applying to. While I have sent my CV and research interest to Prof C earlier, I have not received any constructive feedback with regards to my application or interest. The email exchange has been courteous but lacks an in-depth discussion.

But the situtation changed after I emailed the Prof again yesterday. I decided to email Prof C again. I mentioned a specific paper that the Prof C has published and suggested how we could extend the approach. The next few emails that followed focus more on the suggestion. The tone was friendly and positive. Although Prof C still did not mention anything about my chances or application, nevertheless I'm much more encouraged.

Note to myself: This is the 50th post.

Friday, January 05, 2007

emailing professors

Today is the deadline one of the school. Next week there will be 2 other deadlines. I have already made the submissions for these schools so I'm quite cool. Anxiously waiting to hear something from the schools, but still quite cool.

I'm always amazed when I read of others' successes in contacting Profs in the schools that they are applying to. One chap posted "for some of the applications i made, i did write to professor in the department before applying - introducing myself and my interests and asking whether these match their research interests... i got some positive replies..." (italic added.)

Another emailed 13 Profs and received 10 replies. In another forum, someone posted "I am very surprised that a lot of people have not contacted the professors that they want to work with. All of the professors that I have talked with have said that they are shocked, every year, on the number of people who have applied to their department and have either not listed any potential faculty or have listed faculty but haven't contacted any of them."

For me, of the few contacts that I tried to made, I only received replies from ONE Prof. And over the last few months, our email exchange still has not touched on research fit or my chances, etc. So you can guess how I'm feeling after reading those postings above. Now with the deadlines passed or closing in, there isn't much that I can do beside waiting, hoping and praying.

4 more months to go...