A couple of tips when deciding where to apply to graduate school

Now that September is full swing, this year’s application cycle for graduate school is well under way. Around this same time in 2013, my undergraduate research mentor reached out to me to let me know that he was submitting the manuscript from my research (that I did back in 2008) for publication. Before this point, I had been teetering with idea of going to graduate school since I was not climbing the corporate ladder fast enough. However, I did not consider myself a competitive candidate. Once I got his email that said that I would be a co-first author on a publication, I knew that it was now or never.

Before I started applying to graduate schools, I went back to my alma mater (Notre Dame) to meet with my undergraduate research mentor in person to get advice on how to be a competitive applicant for that year’s application cycle. He offered two pieces of advice that I think that all prospective graduate students should follow:

  • make a list of schools to apply to that have AT LEAST three or four research faculty that I would be interested in working for. That way, if I don’t get my first or second choice, I wouldn’t regret my decision for attending a particular school
  • only consider research faculty that have research that you are genuinely interested in and NOT the person’s name/fame

My biggest reasons for choosing IU for graduate school is that I was interested in several of the research faculty at IU and the state of the art mass spectrometry facilities. I originally came into IU as an analytical chemistry major. However, while doing summer research prior to my first year officially beginning in August, I decided that I wanted to go back to organic chemistry. I am incredibly thankful that IU was a place that allowed me to change majors without any hassle. If I had picked a university where I was not interested in multiple research faculty, I do not think the transition would have been as successful.