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109: HelloPhD Guide to Grad School Applications – Understanding Your Offer Letter with Dr. Emily Roberts

It’s been an exhausting journey, but you’re nearing the end. You slogged through reams of application forms, personal statements, and letters of reference. You gave up every weekend for two months, traveling to interview at different schools.

But the blessed day has finally arrived when your inbox ‘dings’ with the sound of a grad school offer letter!

It’s time to take everything you’ve learned about research programs, college towns, and faculty advisors and add another layer to your decision making: Can I actually afford to go to grad school?

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102: HelloPhD Guide to Grad School Applications – Crafting the Perfect Personal Statement with Dr. Brian Rybarczyk

Please recount your life story, all of your future plans, and why this graduate program is uniquely suited to fulfill those dreams.  Limit your answer to 140 characters.

Okay, okay, the typical “Personal Statement” prompt on your grad school application is probably not that outrageous, but they CAN feel both cryptic and overwhelming.

Here’s a real prompt from a real grad school application at a major university:

In 1-2 pages, describe your career goals, research interests, past and present research experience, and why you’ve chosen the [Name Redacted] Program for your graduate studies.

This prompt can induce instant writer’s block in even the most prepared applicants.  So where do you begin?

This week on the show, we share tips for crafting the perfect personal statement that will highlight your grad-school-readiness and potential for greatness in a career beyond the degree.

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student filling out grad school application

101: HelloPhD Guide to Grad School Applications – Knowing When, and Where, to Apply with Dr. Beth Bowman

You’ve studied hard, gotten good grades, and spent the last two years working in research labs on campus.  You’re feeling ready for that next, inevitable step: applying to graduate school.

In a perfect world, the next step would be easy.  You’d simply fill out an application, and submit it to every Genetics or Microbiology department in the country.  They’d review your application, and you could sort through your options based on which schools offered you an interview.

But of course, it’s not that simple.  Each school requires a different application form, and steep application fees can severely tax your meager bank account.

You need to do the hard work of screening up front, and only apply to a select group of programs where you can expect to be both successful and happy.

This can be overwhelming.  There are hundreds of graduate schools and thousands of individual programs and departments.  Where should you begin?

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087: How Do I Choose a PhD Program?

Some decisions in life are simple (“Yes, I want cheese on that burger!”) and some are difficult (“Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?”).

On that spectrum, choosing a University graduate program sits closer to marriage than it does to your lunch options.

First, grad school takes a long time – usually 4-6 years – and it sets you rather firmly in a career path that can be challenging to change afterward. It’s a life-decision.

Second, once you choose, you’re committing to a series of events and impacts that will be out of your control. You don’t get a “do-over” when the lab you wanted to join moves away or a postdoc picks up the project you learned about during your interview.

Take a cohort of students at any research university in the country, and you’ll find some that graduate with three first-author papers in just four years.  You’ll find others who never make it to the degree, either due to conflicts with their advisors, projects that don’t work out, or personal issues stemming from the stress of graduate studies.

So we know the stakes are high, but how, exactly, are you supposed to choose a PhD program?

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