Decisions, Decisions: Graduate School?…or Nah

This morning at 8am, I joined my U215 students (freshmen Hudson & Holland Scholars) in our discussion section where we engaged in a very robust conversation regarding the “college for all” crusade and the question of whether or not a college education is really the “golden ticket” to success. My students, who are extremely bright and vocal, shared their various opinions, but by the end of the conversation, they all reached the same conclusion: college is definitely worth it.

As a graduate student, there are times when I ask myself, “Is this thing called graduate school really worth my time, effort, sleepless nights, MONEY, and all of the other sacrifices I have given and continue to give for this PhD?” Even though I have these moments that sometimes manifest themselves in the form of griping and complaining, I still manage to draw the same conclusions as my students: It really is worth it!

If you are grappling with the question: “To go or not to go to graduate school?'” because of the major costs involved (in terms of dollars and cents and the intangible things like time), do not let those thoughts deter you from pursuing a graduate degree. Yes, it’s important to count up the cost, but do not get so wrapped up in the costs that you negate the benefits, both tangible and intangible. Be your own cheerleader and encourage yourself as you prepare your application. Speak to mentors, faculty members, others in your field about your decision. Extra affirmation is always a good thing. It’s simple. If you really see yourself conducting research, diving deep into areas of interest and informing the work in that field, go for it!

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

Research potential graduate school programs – what exactly does that mean?

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:

Other concerns such as having a family, medical conditions and job restrictions may also add into your choice for a graduate school.




What Profit?

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I was driving to Bloomington, my normal routine every morning my first semester of graduate school.  Now I know you’re wondering, “Why drive fifty miles back and forth every day?  Why didn’t you move to Bloomington?”  This is when the flashback noise would begin and the water effect would take you and I back to January 2012. Continue reading

Scariest Part of Graduate School

BOO! Image taken from

Image taken from

TUITION! FEES! BILLS! Words scarier than the most blood curdling horror story for a graduate student.  I think the biggest concern for graduate students right after getting accepted, is figuring out how to pay for your new life as a burgeoning academic. It should come as no surprise that the pathway to higher education is never one paved in gold, with money trees and cash bushes lining the sides; the “poor college student” narrative tends to transform itself into the slightly more adult sounding “destitute graduate student” memoir. This should be looked at as an expectation, rather than a fear, however. There are ways of paying for it!

Continue reading

Graduate School Discernment

At the beginning of my senior year, I happened to unfortunately be one of those soon-to-be matriculating undergraduates that didn’t know what they were going to do.  At the beginning of my undergraduate career, I knew the next 5 years of my life but of course, my path in life changed a couple of times that I never really made an updated 5-year plan.

I applied to various jobs sectors and when interviews never really felt “right”, I then looked into graduate school.  I actively asked my friends and family members what they were thinking and given what they knew about me, what did they see me doing (and more specifically what program).  I’m really glad that Continue reading

Why IU?


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AMPATH is one of the main reasons that I chose a doctoral program in Epidemiology at IU.  AMPATH, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, was established in 2001 as a partnership between Indiana University School of Medicine, Moi University School of Medicine, and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH). Continue reading

Too big? or too small?

Coming to a Carnegie Research 1 institution may seem daunting, especially if you are coming from a small liberal arts college.  However, there are many benefits to a large institution.  First of all, the resources and facilities are plentiful.  It’s easy to find the books and equipment you need.  Even if the campus does not have it, one of the other IU campuses may and it will be shipped to you for free!  In addition, the diversity of the student body allows you to interact with international students, those with different upbringings and backgrounds, and others in a field of study you may not have ever heard about.  Interdisciplinary work can be exciting at a campus like this!

Besides academically, there are plenty of options for extracurricular activities to participate in and get involved with.  Whether you are artsy, political, religious, or just plain ol’ wanna chill with your friends there’s something for everyone!  Don’t get frightened with the size of the institution.  Nothing can be TOO BIG, right?  Super size my graduate degree!! Well, maybe not like that, but a place like IU has everything for everyone (except for engineers ;))!

Ph.D Before 30…Skipping the Workforce

I graduated from undergrad when I was 22. I graduated from my master’s program at 24. I am currently 26 and in the third year of my doctoral degree. I am the definition of the dreaded “professional student” who has skipped the workforce and has continued to matriculate through numerous degrees WITHOUT a single break. You may ask why I chose to not enter the workforce or take a break, and there is really one simple answer.


Each time I applied to a program, there were funding opportunities available for me to attend school tuition free, with fellowships, and with stipends to top the deal. For me, it was a simple decision. I continued to go to school because I was able to do so financially. Although funding was a big part of the decision, I should have considered all the pros and cons of skipping the workforce. Now in hindsight, I can share the good and the bad.

The BAD:

-School is exhausting. I’ve not given myself anytime between degrees to just let things absorb mentally and release all of the stresses that come along with higher education. At times it can be very tiring. It may have been good to at least take a semester off.


-Photo Courtesy of by Jorge Cham


-Plenty of time to transition into academic life. I plan to finish before I’m 30, this will give me plenty of time to make decisions about my academic future, whether I decide to teach or do research, and I even have the option of taking a break once I’m finished. I feel like I’ve given myself a cushion to make crucial decisions concerning my future.

Ultimately, any route you take to higher education should be based on your own wants and needs. Take the time to consider the pros and cons. If your considering going back for your Ph.D and you’ve been in the workforce, I strongly encourage you to do so! Especially if there are readily available funding opportunities  Honestly, looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!