This morning, a productive time reading 8 (mostly excellent) applications. This afternoon, a less productive time dealing with bureaucracy. Unfortunately, I brought the bureaucracy on myself.
Many good questions have been asked of late. I’ll address a couple quickly now, and get to some others soon.
Katharine (and others) ask if the delay in the deadline will delay the mailing of decision letters in December. Well, as of right now, we’re still planning to be on schedule. Hopefully everyone would have their decision letters by the end of Chanukah (wouldn’t a big envelope be a nice gift!). But, I’ve been trying to keep people realistic through this process, so I feel I should remind folks that P(big envelope in December) < P(Gimmel on the dreidel).
Chetan asked a series of interesting questions, the first of which was:
Having begun the reading, is the optional essay still entirely optional? By that I mean do you see a trend where you favor the applicants that did the optional essay? I personally did not do it, even though I had a topic that could fit (music composition, some very informal research, etc.) because I thought it would be anticlimactic in the context of the entire application, and would distract the reader from the more significant qualities of me. Any thoughts?
I would say that the vast majority of students applying were like you (and, as I’ve said, like I would have been) in not answering the “completely optional” question 13. Students who did answer the question for the most part have have written about their scientific research, computer programs/web sites, robots, music, or art, at least as far as I’ve seen to date. For those of you who answered the question, thank you for sharing your creativity; it has been helpful and often quite interesting. But for those of you who left it as completely optional, no worries — we’re not systematically favoring the applicants who answered it, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that those who have answered the question are better applicants than those who haven’t. Think of it like you’d think of an extra letter of recommendation: sometimes, they’re very helpful and impressive, while other times they’re nice but don’t help terribly much, and we never expect that applicants will send one in.
Finally, I know that another deadline is about to pass for some of you: entries for the Intel Science Talent Search are due at 11:59pm tonight. For those of you who are entering, how has STS’s process been for you?