A current graduate student in a program you are considering can be your inside guide to what it is like to be in that research group. With them also being your potential colleague, you also do not want to start off on the wrong foot. Questions to avoid asking are gossip questions which include but are not limited to: who “has beef” with who, if someone is single or confirming/denying rumors of their advisor. Also, remember graduate students are very busy so if there are questions that can be answered via the group website or the schools website, make sure to use these resources first before asking them.
As we are crossing the halfway mark of another semester, we are “knee-deep” in our studies. We usually began stressing over assignments/project deadlines coming up, wondering if we’ll pass that class or get that much needed C, B or A in another one. In the midst of all of this, I want to encourage you with these quotes:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” –Thomas A. Edison
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gogh
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis
Keep your head up, you’re more than halfway through!
When one is asked to research potential graduate school programs, what exactly does that consist of? Similar to researching for an undergraduate institution, this process is just a level above as the decision you make could help catapult your career. The three things people most commonly should look for are:
1. Does the school have the program that you want? Make sure the school has the department and program that most interest you. You also want to make sure that the institution you are considering has at least 3 professors (or advisors) you would like to work for, just in case your top choice is unable to take you for any reason (i.e. loss of funding, does not have enough space to accommodate you, denied tenure, etc.).
2. Location, location, location. When drafting a list of potential schools, know what states or countries will be compatible with you. Remember, this program will last anywhere for 4-7 years so make sure you pick a place where you can deal with the weather and cost of living. A trap that some students get caught up in is the stipend amount; make sure to take into account the cost of living. For example, if you are offered a place in Indiana with a stipend of $24,000 a year and offered a place in California for $27,000 a year, even though the California position is offering more money, you will get more “bang for you buck” in Indiana due to the cost of living.
3. Know the rank of the institution. It is important to know how the programs you are interested in ranks nationally. While you should not limit yourself to only ranked programs, getting your degree from a nationally recognized institution in your field can give you an edge when it is time for you to start applying for jobs. The ranking of various graduate programs can be found here:http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools.
Other concerns such as having a family, medical conditions and job restrictions may also add into your choice for a graduate school.