Retaking GRE

Many students every year face the dilemma whether they should retake the GRE or not. There is no standardized answer to this question. But one must consider different factors to decide if retaking is in their interest or not.

First of all, one must understand the admission process. Independent of what school or what program you are applying, your application is evaluated considering many of your qualifications. GRE is only one of them. Not necessarily, the most important by any means. A typical admission committee consists of Continue reading

Attend Events!

This post goes out to every undergraduate who has walked by a sign that says “interested in graduate school, stop in” and passed right by.Networking is everything. Well, not everything, but it will definitely give you a definitive edge.


Meet people, talk to students, and ask professors for help. Never shy away from an open door.

This is a simple concept to hear but a hard one to follow. The concept also gets a bit metaphorical. Just remember to always talk to new people. You are never sure who you are going to meet or how they are going to affect your life.

One of my favorite professors once said, “you should learn something new everyday, but you don’t know who or what it will come from.” Just being present is half the battle.

I am terrible at reaching out to professors, meeting new people, and getting outside of my comfort zone. I am not a huge advocate of pestering new faculty members, but I do know how important it is to be open to new experiences. If you don’t go outside you will escape the rain, but you will never see the sunshine.

So, the next time a student is coming to your campus to talk about their experience of getting into graduate school, the next time a professor is willing to stay after class to hear about your hopes and dreams, the next time you could go to a conference to hear professionals speak about their work, the next time there is a professional panel, or the next time you have the opportunity to learn something new, take it! Take it, take it, take it!

Grow, learn, and develop into a better person. Life is a journey. It’s not about the destination, it’s about how you got there. Take the road less traveled and be better for it.

Wrap It Up

First off, congratulations! If you are at this step in the application process you are further than most. Many students see how difficult it is to apply to graduate school, and if they were on the cusp, they will shy away from the task. This is not you, so you should feel proud.


That was the good news, here is the bad. Continue reading

I Recommend You Ask Early

Applications are daunting. They take a long time to complete and right when you’re at the finish line, the giant jigsaw puzzle you have been working on for months will still be missing a crucial piece out of your control: Recommendation Letters.

What Is a Letter?

Recommendation letters are like the icing on a cake for an application, they give insight into who you are from a perspective other than your own. Unfortunately, most letters are generic. Selection committees want to see that they are there, but, much like your test scores, they are only a piece of data for most. Still, they need to be there, and when these letters are sterling, they will help an applicant shine out above the rest.


My advice when asking for a letter is to ask EARLY! I am talking months early. Continue reading

Contacting students at your prospective graduate program: Any questions off-limits?

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.



Words of Encouragnment for the Halfway Point

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!


Tips for Letters of Recommendation

There is a song in Spanish that says, reloj no marces las horas… clock, don’t mark the hours. This may be one of your thoughts as you sit on your couch on a Friday night to work on applications, only to realize that five hours have passed, and you have barely scratched the surface of your application.

Thankfully there is a section that you don’t have to worry to much about…you’re letters of recommendation…WRONG!!  Continue reading

Requesting Letters of Recommendation…the Right Way

When it comes to completing the graduate application process, one of the most important things I learned was to treat each piece of the application as if it is the only component that will determine whether or not I am accepted into a program. Personal statement. Make it the best piece I had ever written. The CV/resume should be without spot or wrinkle, formatted perfectly, as if that alone was my ticket in. Recommendation letters. Wait, do I really have control over these since a faculty member is writing it on my behalf? Of course you do! Continue reading

“Out to lunch”

Bloomingtonians seem to have an almost pathological love of lunch. Between noon and 1:00pm every day, a huge proportion of the campus shuts down as the staff heads off to eat. It’s like the nostalgic, small-town satire where literally everything in town (even the stray dogs) hangs out an “Out to Lunch” sign as soon as the clock strikes noon. I know that’s the traditional lunch time but 1) who actually gets an hour  for lunch? (The answer: IU Bloomington), and 2) I worked at the University of Minnesota for about 7 years and never saw anything like this! Bloomington is very weird in this regard.

So, this massive lunch-hour exodus has two important implications for graduate students. The first is obvious: don’t try to get any university business done between noon and 1:00pm. Don’t try to sort out a registration anomaly, file paperwork for a research grant, or contact the department of your minor advisor to get a form signed. Don’t!

The second implication is less obvious. Since 90% of the population of Bloomington, IN goes to lunch at the same time, this means the restaurants are clear and accessible at every other time in the afternoon. Beyond that, you will find that a few establishments even have discounts if you go for lunch after 2 or 3pm.

What does this have to do with you? Well, as a graduate student, you probably do not keep regular 9-5 hours. If you are like me, you are working from like 7am – 3am most days. As such, “lunch time” need not be at noon. It’s not like you’re punching a clock or staying compliant with  federal labor laws: you can eat whenever you want to! Sure the little Blooming Foods deli behind Nick’s English Hut is pretty crowded at 12:18pm but, if you go in three hours later, you will find it nearly empty and that  many of their pre-packaged deli stuff is on 30% discount.