So you wanna go to grad school?

who-wants-to-be-a-millionaireIt’s that time of the year again, when young, impressionable and in some cases..old, impressionable people who love science are preparing for their graduate school interviews. Ah interview weekends…scary and fun at the same time…i distinctly remember all my interview weekends. I was so nervous!

Here are some hopefully helpful things to keep in mind during your interview weekends

1. Do your homework: typically, they ask you to identify several professors you would like to meet. They also give you an itinerary, so you know who you are going to meet with. Visit the school’s website and find out what their research is about. Search their articles and find the most recent ones. Write down short blurbs about each person and a couple of questions to ask about their research and the school in general.

2. Know your stuff: be able to talk intelligently about the research you’ve done. If you published, make sure you can explain experiments and the results. Practice talking about yourself.

3. Talk to current graduate students: the interview weekend is as much for you as it is for the school. You want to know if the students enjoy being there. You also want to take their advice with a grain of salt. Some students might be further along and jaded, some might be in the early stages of their graduate careers and not really know enough. Talking to enough people will give you a good general idea of what you might be getting yourself into. One of the schools I interviewed had a graduate student who was coincidentally working with a protein that I had worked on and was interested in. As soon as I brought it up, she got upset and told me to keep my hands off her project…*RED FLAG*!…Competitive much? I hadn’t even gotten in!

4. Be yourself: Unless yourself is an opinionated know-it-all…in that the opposite of yourself. Nobody likes a know-it-all. It’s good to appear confident and knowledgeable, but graduate school is a training program. It is good to appear “trainable”. Graduate school is full of smart people, and the fact that you got selected for the interview means that they are interested in you. You do not have to go overboard with trying to impress them.

5. Say thank you: It’s just good manners. After the interviews, I always emailed the administrative assistants who planned the weekends, students who helped walk you from interviewer to interviewer  and at least one of the professors you met with. It makes you memorable.

6. Have fun: not too much fun. I know someone  who went to dinner with the graduate students after the interviews and then to “Howl at the moon”…had too many drinks (3), got “tipsy” and ended up on stage dancing with the dueling pianos! :)…that was a fun night! In my defense,I would’ve done the same thing sans alcohol.


Good luck future graduate students!

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