A lot of aspiring trainees are ‘taking a gap year’ before applying to graduate school. Typically, they use that time to build skills and make connections that will bolster their applications.
This postbaccalaureate, or ‘postbac’, experience can vary pretty widely – from a course-heavy Master’s degree to a research-focused industry internship.
There are also a multitude of scholarships, fellowships, and grants to support whatever training you might need.
This week, we explore these postbac opportunities with Elizabeth Somsen, who recently finished her training as a Fulbright Scholar and wrote a user-friendly guide to postbacs.
Too Many Postbac Options
Elizabeth Somsen knew that PhD training was in her future, so she spent all four years of undergrad working in a lab. That boosted her resume and gave her confidence that she did, indeed, want to pursue a career in research.
As graduation approached, she started to think about her next steps.
Should she apply to grad school immediately? Should she take a year off to continue working in the lab to gain more experience? How about a Master’s degree in public health to round out her training before earning a PhD?
And what about the study-abroad experiences like the Fulbright or Rhodes Scholarships, or postbac programs like the NIH’s Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA)?
Like many students, Elizabeth had more options than time to pursue them. She decided to apply directly to grad school, and just in case she couldn’t find a position, she’d have full-time work and an application to the Fulbright program as backup plans.
Later that fall, after being accepted to a graduate program, she got an email from the US Department of State – she’d been accepted as a Fulbright scholar to study for 9 months in Turkey!
It was a wonderful experience (she deferred her graduate program for a year) and she has real-world advice to share on how to choose a postbac experience that fits your career goals.
She also takes the time to de-mystify the application process for the Fulbright and other scholarships. There are resources right on your campus that can help, and her strategies will give you a much higher chance of success.
To hear more from Elizabeth, you can read her article “So you want to do a postbac – a guide from a STEM perspective” on Github or find her on Twitter @lizsomsen!