So you’ve decided to apply to Grad School…

First, congratulations! You’ve decided to apply to a gradaute program. You have decided to take the first step in an incredible journey. But, as many folks discover, this process is not as clear as one would expect. Rankings, areas of study, thesis or no-thesis, professors, interviews. Where do you even being?

Do the Research

Selecting programs to apply to is important for several reasons: 1) Its where you’ll be spending a significant amount of your time and energy and going to the right program is crucial, and 2) applying to schools, and interviewing when necessary, is EXPENSIVE. To avoid attending an institution that you may not connect with or may not have the opportunities you were looking for, and to save on the various fees that come with graduate applications, do the research. Find out what the school is known for and how they do it: what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, how do they teach it to you, etc. Look into what the instructors do in their work: what research do they complete, how many of them complete research, what are their focus areas. And finally, talk to current students! This one may seem like the most obvious, but it is crucial for your own preparedness. Sending emails, going to campuses if they are close by, discuss the student experience with a current student is one of the most important factors in helping you decide on a program.

Get Started Early

This is a two step process: find out what is needed to apply to the program, and keep yourself organized and on track to apply. While many programs may have similar requirements for application, they are not always exactly the same. Thus, it is important that you look into the requirements of each program early. Starting early means that you can revise essays, can contact references well in advance of deadlines, and cut the “pressure stress” that comes with looming deadlines. But, in order to get started early and stay organized throughout the process, make a checklist! Whether you do this as a word document, or in an excel sheet, or in a notebook, writing down what you need to do is important. Not only does this show you what you’ve done and what you haven’t done, it keeps you on task as well: over the weeks it can take to complete the applications you have it can be easy to forget what you need to do, and to be lax on deadlines. But, having a list can help motivate you to continue on even when it may seem tough.

Talk to Someone

Applications are tough. And there will be moments where you doubt yourself. Where you doubt what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. And while you might think that you can do it on your own, having someone there for you can make all the difference. Whether that is a significant other, your friends, parents, siblings, whomever that may be, establish that relationship and share with them your experience!

While these are just several simple steps, they can be quite helpful when it comes right down to it! In sum, good luck to you on the beginning of this grand journey! There is a phrase in Higher Ed that we often use during interviews: Trust the Process. It will all work out for you, and it will all be ok, and you will make it through.

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.

Reaffirming Experiences


There are days where a graduate program will seem long. With papers to write, articles to read, and the ever looming thesis or job search ahead, it can often feel like your world is a long series of checklists and “ok what’s next.” But, there will also be things that happen throughout your time in the program that will be completely unexpected, wonderful, and remind you of why you’re there.

One such moment happened to me this last week. As a part of the Higher Education and Student Affairs program, masters students are required to have a position on campus working in student affairs to connect and practice those responsible skills learned in class in a professional setting. I have the opportunity to work as a Graduate Supervisor for Residential Programs and Services (RPS). Within this position, I get to work with 20 incredible undergraduate student leaders who serve as Resident Assistants (RAs) within the Residence Hall. One particular RA and I had the opportunity to discuss how they worked with their floor during a difficult situation.

Throughout this last week, many members of the floor community had reported to the RA that they had been woken up at all hours of the morning by their neighbors or other members of the floor being loud. With this happening, it has been difficult for anyone to get a full nights sleep, which has been impacting their ability to attend class, study, and be successful overall in their college experience. In an attempt to discuss this issue with the floor, the RA scheduled a floor meeting early in the morning Continue reading

Summertime for Graduate Students: Should I be Idle?

Summertime can be a variety of things to different people. It can be a time of relaxation, a time to travel, a time to work, or a time to learn. However for graduate students, summer can be a battle of staying productive versus enjoying a mental vacation. Students are forced to ask themselves; do I take the whole summer off? Or do spend the entire season working? While there’s no definitive answer, one thing I learned from my academic advisor while attending Morehouse College, is that a student’s mind should never stay idle. As a result, I believe it’s important for graduate students to find a balance between work and relaxation during the summer, as they do during the school year.

One thing students can do to ensure their summer will be productive is to make of list of goals and work to stick to them to the best of their ability. Their goals could include things such as spending time with loved ones, taking a vacation, studying, or completing work on a research project. After identifying their goals, next, a student should consider applying for a summer job. An effective way to stay productive during the summer is to teach a course within their field of study. Being on campus for a portion of the summer can help a student stay motivated, as well as remain focused on completing his or her own work. Speaking from experience, managing time for both teaching (or working) and studying can be difficult. This past summer session, I taught a math course for several weeks while studying for my own qualifying exams. However, I effectively managed my time by creating a schedule that outlined deadlines to complete my goals on a weekly basis. Sticking to a summer schedule can help students stay organized and achieve their goals if they are committed to putting in the necessary effort.

When the summer begins to come to close and you see new students start arriving on campus for the first time, this is a good moment for reflection. Continue reading

Planning with Flexibility: Some tips for Grads at all levels

The fall 2016 semester is now in full swing, and aside from trying to get back into “the groove” of college working after a busy summer, continuing to plan with flexibility is something that I’ve decided to be more intentional about as a second-year Ph.D. student. There are a few specific academic, professional, and wellness practices that I try to maintain throughout the semester to remain accountable for my goals and matriculation progress:

  • Maintain a physical academic planner.

Although this may seem a bit “old school,” I still find any kind of personal planner to be important for life success. Usually, academic planners are used to maintain important assignment deadlines, campus events, and my daily check-list of things to complete by the end of the day, which typically ends somewhere around 9pm during the week. I also pencil in any meetings that I need to attend, their locations, and times as well. My planners are the 8 x 10 size that I usually buy from Target, but a free one, or smaller version can be just as good to maintain a routine and schedule.

  • Go to see some of your current and past professors/instructors during their office hours.

As a professional level graduate student, it is important that I maintain positive and productive relationships with faculty members at IU. I consider going to visit a professor during their office hours as a way to continue intellectual conversations about topics discussed in class, and also as a way to establish a working relationship for potential academic research opportunities. You could connect with a professor on a pre-dissertation proposal topic to get into an area-specific conference, or even Continue reading

Starting the Second Year


So you’ve finished your first year of a masters program, spent the summer working in an internship that you loved, and now you’ve returned to your bustling campus for your second year. But, what does that second year have in store? Your first year brought with it changes in your life: new school, new classmates, new town, dietary habits, and even possibly a new partner. But now the second year? Mentors and friends can prepare (if one can be prepared) you for the first year, but hardly anyone talks to you about them second year.

As an aspiring second year masters student, this is where I now sit: Continue reading

Hot Topic Conversation: Immigration, Identity, and Inclusion

The dignity of all human beings is respected and their fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are constitutionally protected in the United States. From my experience as an immigrant in past 12 years, I have always believed this, but last night I was once again reassured.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd conversation “Immigration, Identity, and Inclusion” of the series “Hot Topics” for IU faculty, staff, students, and Bloomington community members. The event had 5 panelists, who spoke for about 5-7 minutes. This was followed by questions from the moderators and questions from the audience. At the end, audience, who were still present after the official event end time of 9:00 PM, were divided into smaller groups for further discussion.
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Summa Summa Summa Time…

Where has the time gone?! I’ve always thought the spring semester flew by compared to the fall. And that has truly been the case this semester. I feel like it was only yesterday that I was making vision boards with my sistah-scholars to bring in the new year. And now, it’s April! Spring is here! (Well, the cold temps may indicate otherwise…). But as I look at my planner for the remainder of the semester, it hit me that summer comes after spring…

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Spring is here…go outside

IMG_4050April is by far the busiest month of the semester this year because it is the last at IUB. In lieu of the long hours inside the library or at a desk, get outside. Bring your work, your lunch, your study snack, your coffee, and your laptop outside.

Bloomington has plenty of wonderful park, trails, coffee shops with outdoor seating (my favorite, Hopscotch on the B-Line). Regardless of where you are, take the time to enjoy the outdoors.

A couple other things to do in Bloomington this month: Take in the sights, sounds, smells, and treats the Farmers Market has to offer. The Market reopens the first Saturday in April.

Climb the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower

I’ve found myself stuck inside lately but when I get moving, it helps me process my thoughts so I keep a small notebook in my pocket. This may not be as effective as sitting at a desk with a laptop but it is a healthier choice and YOU come first.