Hello world!

This little addition to my home doesn't help either...

Apollo, my new Shiba Inu pup.

As it turns out, applying to graduate school and attempting to survive your last year of college takes alot more out of a student than I expected.  Who knew?  Well, I made it!  Graduate school at UMBC is on the horizon and I will be packing up to move to Baltimore within the next few weeks.  In the interim between now and when my course work starts, it is my utmost goal to get a few blog posts out per week on an assortment of information biological or scientific that I find interesting.

So, what shall we do for today?  Well, for starters, lets talk about graduate school admissions.  The decision to go to graduate school is not one that should be taken lightly in today’s economy.  Below are the tips I received or learned on my own about the graduate admissions fiasco process.  Take my advice as you see fit.  Note: I am NOT part of any graduate admissions board–this is just the process I went through and my thoughts on the matter.  Anything I say does not reflect my school or any other school’s opinion on the matter.

The Good:

Formalities aside, applying to graduate school is a very big step forward in your career as a scientist.  For most college juniors and seniors, there are three major choices that they can make towards their future.  They can go to medical school, to graduate school or they can attempt to work for a few years to fill in their resume.  Having a higher education in this field is incredibly important in moving up on (not only the pay-scale) but in the research community.

This being said, make friends with the graduate admissions secretary at each school you are applying to.  Typically, I received an email within a week of submitting my online application from the secretary stating that everything (or not) was in her office and she was avaliable for questions.  I followed up almost instantaneously, making sure that transcripts, letters of reference and my own cover statement made it to the school in a timely fashion.  They were usually super helpful, provided you were chipper and polite, and were prompt in letting me know if something was askew.

The Bad:

I felt like this 90% of the time...

Does this need a caption?

As thankful as you may be for your professor/boss/co-worker to write your LoR for you, recommendations do get lost in the mail/translation/minds of the recommender, so you must keep on your three people to ensure that everything was put in on their end.  Each school wants something different from your recommender and it is up to you, not them, to keep it straight.  Give them a list that includes: each school’s name, address, form or format wanted as well as the dates in which your application is due.  Hand it to them with lots of praise (and treats, like cookies, always help!) and then ride their ass until you get confirmation from them and the admissions office that the recommendation has been accepted.

(As it turns out, I had to chase down one of my people for over a week to get him to submit the recommendation. As it turns out, he forgot. -_-;)

The other 10% I felt like this.

Again, is a caption really needed here?!?

Another glorious /sarcasm aspect to the admissions process, while we’re on the topic, is the vast differences each school wants out of you, the applicant.  Some schools want everything online, some want it in paper, some want half and half.  Its truly a PITA process and again, it is up to you to keep it straight.  I kept a running list of my usernames, passwords and current application status going on my desktop, as well as on my bathroom mirror.  And I still struggled to keep it straight.

The absolute worst part about the graduate admissions process, unfortunately, is the waiting game.  I submitted all of my applications by December 15th and waited for close to three months before I got my first letter.  Oh! And speaking of letters…Rejection letters are the worst, most horrible feeling an applicant can ever get.  Quite honestly, its like taking a bit of your soul, crumpling it into little bits and then feeding it to rabid hyenas (which is exactly what you did during the application process) and then finding out that you gave the hyenas E. coli and they don’t want to see you again.

All I can tell you is chin up.  It may be the absolute worst feeling in the world, but it does, indeed get better…

The Epic:

The feeling you get when you finally get a “We LOVE you, come to our school.”  There’s no other thing I need to say but that.

Seriously.  That’s it.  I expect all of my readers to be intelligent enough to know how to handle an interview/wine-and-dine date with your school.  If you don’t GTFO ask me!

That, ladies and gentlemen, was my experience with graduate school admissions as a helpless undergrad.  I sincerely hope that it will help you find a bit of clarity, or at least a smile, as you read it.  Especially to those of you out there who will be applying this upcoming fall.  Start early, stay positive and good luck!

I should have another update to you all within the week.  This time, hopefully about something much more sciencey and gooey. Well, maybe not gooey…

Cheers,

The Alchemist Kitten

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