I've seen a drop in the number of applicant queries lately, which could be due to the above (a good thing, IMO) or due to graduate students telling their friends that I'm not hiring lately. (I haven't been, but it's because there haven't been Ph.D. students in my exact area, not because I have no research assistantships.)
Ben Perry and Julie Thornton, two of my students at the time, told me at Edmonton in 2002 that they read it and would have been afraid to apply for research assistantships if they'd seen it - which isn't the idea, given their caliber.
The problem is that I often get e-mail such as this:
From: [name omitted]_i20
Date: Fri Nov 4, 2005 3:24 am
Subject: VERY URGENT HELP NEEDED REGARDING ADMISSION !!!
I'm [name omitted], a prospective student 2 fall 2006. My profile goes like this :
Btech. - final yr in Electronics & Instrumentation engg frm a college
affiliated 2 [university omitted], [city omitted].
B.Tech. % - 58% till 3rd yr 2nd sem with 1 uncleared backlog.
GRE - 1220 (q-730, v-490, a-4.0)
TOEFL - 203 to 263
Extra cirriculur -
3 national level certificates 4 paper presentations
1 national level certficate 4 mini project presentation.
few other organising of national level symposia certificates.
Program I intend to join : Computer engineering / Computer science.
IS d school & the department good ??
What do u guys think are my chances of getting admitted in ur univ ?
Can I apply to the univ or is it too high 2 my profile ?
What is the current financial aid situation ?
Waiting 4 ur replies soon,
One of my CIS 730 (Intro to AI) students replied:
From: [name omitted]
Date: Mon Oct 31, 2005 12:12 pm
Subject: Re: [ksu-cis730-fall2005] Urgent help needed regarding admission
hey [name omitted],
dude, u should totally apply to this univ. it is gr8. i am a masters
student 74% til 8th quarter of my degree. i write all my assigns in
l337 so u would totally fit right in. i know that d dean of admin
totally scans this web group every day, so i m sure he'l contact u n e
c u l8 r,
[applicant's name spelled backward]
Names have been withheld to protect the innocent, or the clueless as the case may be. I took out the university and city to minimize undue influence on those of you who administer admissions at your respective universities. As for this particular student, such atrocious queries are all too common.
As you can see here on Dan Andresen's page and here in a Wayback Machine archive from Sanjoy Das's page, Cluebie Grad Applicant spam is very common. As one CIS professor asked, "Do these people have any idea what kind of impressions they are making with such e-mails?" Apparently, they don't know, or they don't care. Sometimes it is that they don't care: I've been told by our grad program director, who heard it from some of our students, that some universities in India (for example) are understaffed and have such high student-to-faculty ratios (low faculty-to-student ratios) that the only way to get attention and letters of recommendation is to bug the living daylights out of faculty until they give in. Apparently one negative ramification of this culture is what we are seeing.