Ad Astra Per Aspera: Road to PhD

I had got the idea of writing this down for months since I got the oral admission. However, the reason I did not write it down is twofold. On one hand, I could not figure out a good way to line up all the essential events and summarize lessons I learned from this procedure, and on the other hand, I had been really busy these days with many stuff, and unable to have enough time on this.

But things changed today. My vpns fucked up. I finally have some time to get shits done.

I hope anyone who is reading this post will get to know something beneficial for your own applications. This article is intended for those who is going to apply for a PhD abroad, or those freshmen wandering about what they should do if they want to pursue a PhD abroad.

Generally, being a PhD is different from being a MS. Being a PhD requires good english ability, information collection ability, and a mind fully ready for producing knowledges for others to learn, rather than merely learning things produced by great people before. You have to know yourself well, about who are you, what you like, and which life you want to live. They cannot be answered unless you tried, failed, injured, and recovered. Hence, it is always grinding.

This is bound to be a long article. If you want to learn just some important tips I summarized, please directly turn to the last section. Or, if you are interested in reading some story, just look downward.

Backgrounds you may be interested in

Just like an RPG game, I will provide some information about my condition prior to my application first, then we start from the prologue.

University: Nanjing University, Software Institute.
Ranking/GPA: 28/225, 4.40/5
Recommendation Letters: Several Strong Recommendation as RA and TA
Toefl: 111,(L30R30S23W27), my best score:115
GRE: 315

0 Prologue

I was not a so-called top student.

Before I reach to that point, I would like to tell some interesting facts about me. When I was a little kid, I managed to learn how to RUN prior to my parents’ attempt to teach me how to WALK. This was told by my parents and my grandparents, so I promise, that is true.

Since when I was in my high school, I kept on keeping a ranking of around 200th, which made my teachers worrying days and nights. From their opinion, I am talented, but was too “lazy” to work as hard as the best students in the class. In the entrance exeaminations, I breathtakingly got a grade enough for admission into Nanjing University—–from their points of view. It was only me that understands that it was not a gamble, but a bound-to-be. I was never the normal student keeping a steady pace for days and months and gradually make progresses. I loved to let the pressure increase to a critical point, and utilize the external pressure to burst a hell of great effort and inspiration. That was how I ranked from 500 to 40 in the last two years of my high school.

In summary, I am a person who easily find things dull, and constantly seeks for things that satisfies my endless curiosity. For things I am interested in, I learn extramely quickly: I learned piano for 5 years and violin for 4 years, and I was then the front chair in NJU orchestra, and vice chairperson of piano association. But, I hated repeated work, unless I was forced to do so.

Now, why was I not a top student?

I HATED maths. Although I am a student in STEM, if it were not for my high score in English and Chinese, I would not be able to enter NJU. But, I had to learn so. In the last semester for my first year in NJU, I got a 67 in calculus. It was just like apocalypse. I spent the next two yearstrying to catch up for the 67 in my GPA.

But I am good at english. A teacher asked me whether I was born or travelled aborad. I answered her, none of the both and I am a pure domestic Chinese student. I did not even travelled outside this country until the end of my sophomore. Just because of this, I thought that I may be able to get a MS degree abroad since I might not be too struggling getting a good score in G/T.

1 Consuming Knowledge

A semester passed and Spring came. I have to say when I felt the weather is getting warmer, I got a bit too excited and reckless and I for the first time selected some courses in Computer Science Department. That is Electrical Circuit System Experiment and Network Attack and Defense Experiment. These two courses took up soooooo much time of me: and sometimes in vain. I could not remember how many times I asked myself why I was so reckless, and I feared that I would get a “FAIL” in that semester.

But I managed to survive that. And it is always interesting looking back on that period time: at that time I thought that was the worst time in my university life, but looking back on it now, that period is the turning point of my life.

After the course ended, I bacame a member in the Network attack and defence team, and became a TA in the next course as well. Something more I benefited from that is, I became more brave to try and make breakthroughs. Because of this, I performed quite well in the network course and bacame a TA as well later on.

2 Producing Knowledge

I know that I am not good at math, hence I will not do AI. That was suicide. Well, I got quite well with security, why not try it?

Then I started working.

Besides, I worked as a RA in a information retrieval project as well.

Doing research is far different from learning: at least you know there is an answer. I could remenber how many times I got myself lost in the bathroom, rushing out with shampoo on my hair. You are becoming a producer of knowledge, rather than a consumer.

One year passed. No paper published yet.