Narrowing your “research focus”

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Hi everyone!

So as the thought of grad school gets closer, so does the realization that it might be a good idea to start thinking about what you want to focus on as a research topic. But of course, this leads to many questions such as, how do you even go about narrowing your interests? And how refined of a research topic do you really need before grad school? Will my lack of a focus reflect badly on my grad applications? Does this mean I can’t apply to fellowships? Help meeee!

Not to worry, my friends! Hopefully this post will answer all of your questions and more! For organization purposes, this post will be separated into three parts!

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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 – 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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