Preparing for GRE

Whether you are retaking the test or appearing for the first time, here are some quick tips on preparing for GRE.

There is actually one correct answer to the question, “how should I prepare for GRE?” and that answer is: Practice! Practice! Practice! You probably have never seen a football player reading books about how to play football. You always see that football players are working out and practicing their game and forming strategies.

Begin your preparation with a practice test. Taking a practice test will help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Maximize your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Continue reading

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

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

It’s okay to wait…

Don’t apply to grad school because you don’t think you can find a job.

I worked for a while before pursuing my PhD and my experiences working in public health helped me figure out what I wanted to actually do for a living.  When I realized that I wanted to pursue a doctoral degree, I was able to articulate what I wanted out of the experience and to look for a program that provided that.  Being an older student definitely has its pros and cons. ;)

Rob N. Candler highlights some of the issues you might want to consider when pondering the grad school question:  http://me.stanford.edu/documents/ME_SSO/Advice_Paper_web.pdf

Joshua Rothman also discusses the “Impossible Decision”:  http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/04/graduate-school-advice-impossible-decision.html

Good luck with your decision!

Should I go to Gradschool? Well…do you like trail mix?

Photo taken from Nourish.org

Photo taken from Nourish.org

The decision to go to grad school is, believe it or not, like buying trail mix. At first, this sounds rather abstract, but work with me. It’s true!

You have people that like trail mix for its nutritional value. It’s a healthy, sweet snack that provides you with energy and protein. You can pat yourself on the back for choosing it over, say, a bag of doughnuts.

…Then you have people who just buy it for the chocolate chips, M&Ms and, if it’s a particularly good batch, the peanut butter chips. The pretzels, peanuts and raisins are really just there to say you made/bought a snack with something in it generally deemed as “healthy.”

I happen to fall into the latter camp. I  wanted the candy, and the ability to pat myself on the back for resisting the doughnuts. However, I expected I would have to eat some peanuts, or even lower myself to eat the raisins every once in a while. 55% of my reason for attending grad school was because it just sounded healthy. A bachelor’s degree has become the old high school diploma, so in order to take care of my “health,” with the incentive of a “sweet” degree, I entered graduate school.

Graduate school is a great way to connect with people, keep yourself busy, and do your own research in an area you are interested in, with professors who are just as interested in that material as you are. It will, generally speaking, put you ahead of your peers in the workforce. In addition, each program will have its own variety of chocolate chips (Fellowships, grants, job placement rates, etc.), that really make trail mix tolerable, if not moderately delicious, so there are many good reasons to go to graduate school.

It is, however, full of peanuts and pretzels and those weird, salty, garlic crisps that may or may not cancel out the tasty, sugary good bits. Obviously, graduate school calls for a higher level of output, success, and precision in the classroom and than most undergraduate institutions. Then there’s the thesis/essay/project/dissertation you may have to do…

However, if the promise of chocolate chips and M&Ms outweighs the idea of eating garlic crisps, grad school is a great choice.

In the interest of not over-extending the trail-mix analogy, I’ll summarize by saying one must examine their own  life goals, aspirations, and tolerance for academia. Getting a job could be more of an immediate need, or perhaps you’re just ready for a more immediate form of gratification.

Should you choose the doughnuts over the trail mix, however, there is no shame in this option either. The option of going to graduate school later is also an option. One does not have to enter directly after undergrad (though, I chose to go this route), either. Trail mix is almost never out of stock.

Graduate School? Talk to _____

Indiana University Bloomington (from iugradschool.blogspot.com)

There are some who already knew what they were going to do when they started their undergraduate career.  It took me, however, until my senior year.  Many of my fellow classmates were frantically going to job interviews, and I reluctantly went to a few, not knowing what my actual passion was.

It was not until I made a list of what was most important to me that I figured that graduate school should be on the list.  My family and friends always asked me what I wanted to do, and I always said, Continue reading

Graduate Visitation is a MUST

I often get the question from prospective graduate students on whether graduate visitation is a necessary step in the overall graduate admission process as the prospect of taking time off for travel might be difficult on a tight schedule and/or the cost of travel is just too steep for an individual ready to submit to a few more years of ongoing poverty. The short and simple answer is YES. A visit to prospective institutions, in my opinion, is a must.

The collective knowledge gained from every visit was arguably the single most critical element in the process that helped me determine the right place to dedicate the next 4-5 years of my life. Let me explain. It is the universities’ job to put forth their best foot and convince you that their institution is the one for you. Typically this accomplished through a ton of promotional literature and relentless recruitment on behave of the school. It is safe to say that no schools will falsify this information, but by the same token, certainly no schools will represent their institution in a negative way. With that said, it is the responsibility of the prospective student to discern the institution that best fit their personality, as well as career orientation. And the only ways to truly do this is by going straight to the source and investigate. Here are some tips that may be helpful in the process of graduate visitation:

  • Cost of airfare and hotel rooms are expensive and certainly will add up after about 2-3 visitations. Most universities, and depending on structure of each department, typically have money set aside to fund visitations. Do inquire further at the department office of the program in question. The worst that can happen is a polite, “No.”
  • With all the action happening on the admission side of things, administrative employees are often very busy. This can make them a little grouchy and unwilling to help a lowly prospective graduate student, true story. This is where open communication with faculty members pay off and they are usually very effective at making your case to the administrative side. Even if the admissions people remain uncooperative, the faculty can certainly help fund your trip from their own accounts.
  • Cost of living analysis should be carried out at every institution. Getting a $20k annual stipend to live in Los Angeles is certainly very different from living in Bloomington. Choose wisely.
  • Ask about available scholarships, fellowships, and funding sources for your education. A $250k billing at the end of the graduate career is no fun. I know many in this situation.
  • Inquire into research opportunities and well as teaching opportunities available at the institution. This will insure that you are at a place where you can keep your training relevant and skill set diverse.
  • Nightlife. I cannot stress this enough. It is important for your mental health as well as the mental health of those in your program to have places to just relax, have a beer, and unwind. This vital information is often obtained through current graduate students at the institution. Feel free to ask.
  • Lastly, have at least two professors that you’d like to personally speak with regarding the program and what it has to offer. It is a good idea to do research ahead of time on these professors to strengthen your questions in the context of their work.

Good luck, and have a wonderful visitation day!

Graduate Student Emissaries at Work

Along with blogging, giving student tours and being successful Graduate Students the Emissaries for Graduate Student Diversity also give presentations. Three emissaries gave a presentation on “graduate school preparedness” at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program LEAD Conference on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Bloomington Convention Center.

Carl D., Zelideh M-H., and Alfonse P presented two workshops on “Graduate School Preparedness” at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program LEAD Conference on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Bloomington Convention Center.

~ Photo taken by David N.

And now your waiting? What to do next?

Now that you have sent in your application, you must be wondering what you should do next.  Double check with your school if you need to submit separate applications for fellowships and scholarships.  You will want to investigate these opportunities.  It’s a good idea to talk to faculty of your department to see what departmental opportunities there are to apply for.  Fellowships will provide opportunities for you not only to seek funding but also experience.  What is important about fellowships is that they allow you to be secure regarding funding and during your first year as a graduate student, you can explore other options if your fellowship is only awarded for one year.  If fellowships are not an option, begin looking for other financial assistance either through campus employment or working in the community if you are in need of funding while studying. Many schools and departments have research centers that may be looking for help.  Make sure to be exhaustive in your search.

If you have missed the deadline to apply for fellowships, create a folder and collect information for the next year.  Being prepared will help you keep a foot out front and have all necessary documents, recommendations, and information ready to submit at a moment’s notice.  If you are needing recommendations, do not procrastinate.  Professors will write you a better recommendation if they have time to prepare and not have to use a “canned” letter.

Stay tuned to next month about filing for a FAFSA.

 

The Waiting Game

I remember what January of 2010 was like.  I had sent in all 5 of my applications. I had focused so much energy and time, produced so many drafts of the “perfect” personal statement, paid so much money in application fees, and had sent too many emails to my recommenders.  Although this may seem like a time where you should worry, it is not.

There is nothing eloquent that I can write about this waiting game. Nothing heartfelt or rhythmic.  I only want to encourage you that now is where the confidence in all of your hard work, your academic experiences, your decisions to select the schools to apply to, all of the internet and soul searching, every sacrifice that you have made, and the strength that it took to take a leap of faith to actually begin the application process is going to pay off. You will succeed.

Indiana University is an amazing school and definitely a place where you can thrive and learn and grow into a better academic and professional. And, if this is your choice, I look forward to seeing you at future GPSO events. Don’t worry about shoulda, woulda, couldas….worry about the  “I wills” and the “I can’t waits!”

Relax. Go about your daily routines. Wait for the email notification. And, be patient. The confirmation is coming your way!!!!