>So if anyone has advice, whether about applying in general or about specific
>programs or schools to apply to, it'd be welcome. As background, I've liked
>Hofstadter's type of work as expressed in _Fluid Concepts and Creative
>Analogies_, and Pinker's _How The Mind Works_ was a recent catalyst, towards
>"this is cool, damnit, I want to help". My assets are a planetary science
>degree from Caltech, with a crappy GPA, and not much releated coursework,
>although I should be able to get a good GRE score. So applying is a bit more
>intimidating than when I was headed for undergraduate school as a high school
I was in a similar situation. I took relevant courses through University of
California extension for 2 years, got straight A's, volunteered in a research
lab for references, and aced the GREs. With that, I breezed into grad school.
I'm sure I could have cut a year off my prep time but I was very low in
In your current situation, I'd recommend prepping for the subject GRE's - get
a book and see how you do. Use some kind of scientific literature search
to identify some people whose work you like (remember the well-known
people have more students to choose from). Read, read, read the
scientific literature. Email some interesting profs, discuss
their work, and see if they're interested in having you. If you're really
short on coursework, I'd recommend taking some; but if they really like
you you can get in with a lot of missing coursework; you'll just have to
take it when you get there. Try to get some applications in this year.
Be upfront about your shortcomings but very clear that you will work
around them. Ask in your application that they tell you what you will
need to get in if they don't accept you this year.
Right now there's a real shortage of grad students relative to the demand
from the professors. This is because the market for people *after* they
get their PhD is pretty poor. So the bargaining is on your side; if they
you'll do good research they will want you.
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