Unlike most graduate students, I went through the graduate admission process twice. The first time around, choosing work over graduate school was the more logical choice at the time. The second time was fueled by the desire to depart from the industrial culture to embrace something more academic in nature. The difference is simple: industry strives to create products as efficiently with the lowest overhead possible whereas academia strives to expand fundamental pursuits by any means possible. They are truly apples and oranges when compared to one another, each direction with their own rightful merits and shortcomings. I eventually chose the academic route as it gives me the chance to explore a specific discipline while being able to share the findings with colleagues and beyond.
The graduate admission process was much smoother and relaxing the second time around. Here what I learned:
- Use the time to read review articles in the fields that you are interested in. It’ll give you good insight and background to be relevant when given the opportunity to converse with faculty and researchers during the graduate visitation periods.
- Remain in contact with faculty and researchers whose work you are interested in, it’ll help prepare you to make the right decision while selecting future institutions and faculty advisers to work with.
- The period just after you’ve sent in all your applications materials until the first acceptance letter can be quite psychologically taxing. You entire future for the next few years is completely in the air and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. And it’s exactly that, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it at the moment, so why waste time and health stressing over it. Use that time to catch up with friends and family before your eventual departure. I am glad I did just that.
- Once again, just relax. The one thing I wish I did more frequently in California before I left was go to the beach. Not even to tan, surf, or swim. Just to feel the sand between my toes and the sounds of the crashing waves. Homesickness will hit hard, savor the moment.