Category Archives: Preparing for Grad School

Applying to Grad School – Jump Starting your Personal Statement

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Personal statements are the absolute WORST! Be it for college or grad school applications, it can be extremely tricky to sell yourself in however many pages schools allot nowadays. It is especially hard for grad schools because you need to somehow summarize all those fancy qualifications you have while making it a bit more interesting than a simple reading of your resume. Ugh. It kind of just makes you want to put them off and procrastinate for as long as possible, huh?

NO! STAHP! DON’T DO IT! DON’T SUCCUMB TO THE NEED TO PROCRASTINATE!

Phew! You still with me here?

Trust me, procrastinating is the last thing you want to do! In fact, having your personal statement done early enough to get a couple of proofreads in can make a world of difference! But how can you get the motivation to even start it?  Hmmm…

Well, here’s some tips and tricks for getting a jump start on writing your personal statement! As the title suggests, I warn that this advice is directed towards grad school applications, but some of the tips are applicable to undergrad applications as well! So behold, personal statement tips (specifically for grad school applications)!

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Grad School Jargon 101

So, I remember when I was applying to different grad schools, there was a lot of jargon on the departmental admission pages, like “Comps,” “Candidacy,” “Assistantship,” etc. I pretty much just assumed I’d figure it out as I went along, and I did, sorta. However, it might have made my life a bit easier if I knew what any of these things meant ahead of time, instead of learning it during orientation when they were explaining to me how to get my PhD…

So, below are some common terms that you’ll see as you look through grad school admission websites and what they mean. I will admit, I had to look some of these up myself because they aren’t relevant to my program (or they are relevant, but I figured I’d just learn what it was last minute :3), so bear with me. Hence the reason for sources! Please correct me if I incorrectly defined anything or let me know if there is anything I should add!

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General Grad School FAQ

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Deciding to attend grad school can be a very scary decision to make. This is especially true if you are the first in your family to do so. I was. I knew nothing about grad school. I didn’t even know it was an option for me until more than half way through my college career, yikes. Yet, somehow, here I am.

Nevertheless, finding answers to all my questions was quite difficult. Either it was personal and I didn’t want to open up that much to my colleagues or I just thought the answer was so obvious that I would look like, for lack of a better word, a dumbass.

Welp, fear no more. Here are some commonly asked questions I’ve found are commonly asked about grad school, yet never truly discussed in pulic. If there are any that you feel I’ve left out, please leave a comment below and add to the conversation!

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Applying to Grad School – Emailing Professors 101

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So it was around this time of month that I had started emailing potential research advisers at the various universities I wanted to attend. I wanted to make sure that before I actually applied to the schools, the professors I liked were accepting students. I mean, there’s no point on waiting an application fee on a school that doesn’t can’t offer you the research you want, right?

Sounds simple enough, until you start writing the email and stare at a blank screen for hours.

Does it make sense? Do I sound desparate? Is it too boring? Is it too long? Will they even read it? What if I sound stupid! Ahhhh! *runs in circles*

Well, having been there merely a year ago, I give to you the recipe for a good introductory email to potential research advisers!

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Applying to Grad School – Application Tips

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Do note that this advice is steered towards US universities and focus on grad school applications. However, some advice is pretty universal so I hope this helps, even if it doesn’t completely apply!

Applications are annoying. They’re even more annoying when you add all the school stuff you need to do on top of them like classes, midterms, homework, etc. If you’re lucky, you’ll come out a little more sleep deprived than usual… If your not, well… None of that talk because this post is meant to help you survive the torment of grad school applications!

So how do you survive? Well start early and plan ahead of course.

You thought I was going to say something more clever huh? Sadly, as cliche and repetitive as this advice is, it is the best advice anyone can give you when it comes to juggling applications on top of everything else you have to do.

So, here’s a few things that you should start looking into and preparing so you can get ahead of the curve!

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Applying to Grad School – Organization Tips

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Applying to schools takes a lot of time, effort and research. Unfortunately, this whole process can get chaotic rather quickly and the universities seem to blend together. However, it is important to keep track of certain information, especially when narrowing down your choices.

Here are some important things I feel are important to keep track of:

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Questions to Ask Before Joining a Research Group

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Hello!

For those of you that are like me, and trying to find your place in a lab to call home, here are a few questions that are important to ask prospective advisers and potential labmates. A combination of these questions give you a bit of insight into both the research being performed and work environment you will be a part of. This way, you can be sure you’re making a good choice when you officially join a lab. Note that some questions are repeated for both the grad students and the faculty, because believe it or not, their answers might differ quite a lot.

Also, a special note to be sure you ask these questions to a large sample size and also talk to both the happiest and grumpy grad students in the same lab, so you get the full picture.

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