It’s that time of year again, Potential graduate students have submitted their applications, and current graduate students are beginning to consider new additions to their laboratory and program. Read on for tips for both.
Tips for Potential Graduate Students
- Celebrate. Although it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the continued stress and anxiety of interviews and acceptances, take some time for joy. Submitting applications is a big accomplishment. Congrats.
- Consider mapping out posted interview dates (many programs do this) on a calendar so that you’re prepared for any overlaps. If you have a first choice, you may want to reserve that day or weekend.
- Consider reaching out to current students for advice. This could include students at programs that most interest you (you can often find their emails on lab or program websites) or students you know who have gone through the application and interview process. No question is too small, and with the end of semester nearing, many current students may have extra time in their day to respond.
- Graduate program coordinators are also great resources. Most program websites have this person listed as a point of contact. Part of their job is to help answer questions for you, so take advantage!
- Prepare for potential interviews as early as possible so that things don’t pile up too much last-minute:
- Think about answers to common interview questions. Most people you meet will ask you what you study or what you’re interested in and why you’ve decided to pursue that specific research area or program. Jot down some notes for each answer.
- Think about questions you can ask your interviewers. Having a prepared list of questions that can be easily adapted to any interviewer helps when you’re drawing a blank in-the-moment.
- Determine if you have one professional outfit. If not, consider looking at thrift and consignment stores for price- and environment-friendly options!
- Find a way to carry things around during the day. A small bag or folder will come in handy to keep track of your personal belongings and any papers you get during the interview.
- After each phone or in-person interview, jot down thoughts. It will be difficult later to remember specific details you liked or didn’t like. Taking notes right away can help you make a decision later.
- If you don’t get the interviews or acceptances you were hoping for, try to remember that this is not a reflection on you or your potential as a student and scientist. Lean on others for support.
Tips for Current Graduate Students
- If you know someone who just applied to graduate school, take the time to reach out to them and celebrate that accomplishment! This could be a quick message on Twitter, Slack, or email, or it could be a brief phone or video call. If you work in a lab with multiple students and post-bac staff who may have completed this milestone, consider doing a lab-wide shoutout so that others join the celebration.
- Depending on your program (e.g., direct admission vs. program admission), your lab or advisor may have a direct say in choosing who to interview. If possible, get involved in this process by reviewing applications. If your advisor is uncomfortable or unwilling to have you review the applications yourself, ask if you can debrief their decision-making. Reviewing applications may be part of your career, so get hands-on practice!
- Use this time to reflect on what’s most important to you in a new member of your lab or program. What characteristics, skills, and life experiences do you value? Challenge yourself to understand why you value those things - do you primarily value traits that you embody, or do you embrace diverse perspectives?
- If you have the time, offer your expertise to potential students. Help them prepare for interviews generally or specifically for your own lab or program. Remember that individuals with privilege tend to have greater access to all resources, including current students, so see if you can find ways to reach out to students from minoritized backgrounds in particular. If you don’t have direct connections, consider making your advice publicly available on your lab website or platforms like Twitter.