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How to make an utter fool of yourself April 27, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in education, KREC, rant.

I discovered this recently – well, I rather saw someone discover it for himself just a while ago would be a better way to put it.

Go here to know how the USENET community can be so unforgiving of newbees who arent careful enough to follow time honored conventions ( like reading the manual ) or trying out something before asking for help.

The reason I quote it here is that I get mails very often from friends, acquaintances and friends/acquaintances of acquiantances some who I havent ever met and am unlikely to ever meet. ( Some of these I resolve never to want to meet once I read their mail, I will mention why later on) . These are mails asking for some help/information/tips etc. about applying for graduate school/review SOPs/ask about universities to apply etc.

And this is how I handle the issue. Over the years I have maintained an archive of mails I received and replied to and collated enough material of my own and my typical approach is to send that material through email first and then solicit questions. This is simply in going with the philosophy of a FAQ – that lots of people tend to have similar questions and that we can go quite a length solving the problem by just seeing how others have solved similar problems.

Understandably, people still have specific questions that dont find a place in that material that I am more than happy to take. Sometimes however, I am surprised people return with questions that are not inane by themselves but that can be easily googled for. Now dont get me wrong – I have been involved in several application processes and its been a pleasure helping people. Sometimes however, you get a feeling that your ‘services’ are abused. Here are some of the most unanswerable or not-wanting-to-answer type of questions I have received –

“Should I do a MS or PhD ? ”
“Whether Indian foods are available in City X ?”
“Can you give me a list of faculty members who are working in area X in University X ?”

To put on record my frustration I would like to quote from a mail I wrote a while back –

….with this is that most ppl ask u questions as if they have the right to do it – they do it without doing any background research on their own – to save their time and waste ours……they ask open questions…ask stupid questions …ask vague questions….ask long essay type questions …

i strongly recommend that their questions be
1. specific
2. backed by some research done by themselves
3. reasonable – if they are reasonable enuf, they know what questions are reasonable.

in other words…we gotta be the last resort – not the first casualty….!

The internet has thrown up a vast array of sources and they should be made use of. And its not just me – several graduate students host a separate section on their website – either providing advice or just ranting about why they cannot – mostly for above reasons.

This is an excellent one.

And this is another.

Needless to clarify, the purpose of this post is obviously not to discourage my good friends with whom I go to considerable length ( and even getting emotionally involved in their issues 🙂 ) or even to genuine well-meaning and *reasonable* individuals. Those who matter will understand this, and those who dont understand, well, dont matter.



1. Whats the P-SOP ? « Epistles - August 5, 2007

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