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Additional Advice

Even if you don't want to do a thesis project (which you should), try to get in a couple of research blocks. At CC we have the benefit of having a lot of interaction with our professors. Take advantage of this privilege and try to get to know and work with your advisors or other professors that have taught classes you've enjoyed.

Most programs assume their incoming students will have had a year or two working as a technician in a lab before pursuing a graduate degree. So, if you apply straight from undergrad, don't be discouraged if you are not admitted.
Also, if you consider dropping out in your first year (or two if you are in med school), rumor has it things get better and it is worth sticking it out.

I applied for fellowship support BEFORE entering graduate school and recommend doing the same. National Science Foundation specifically designates some of their fellowships to go to students who apply as undergrads, and so it may be easier to get a fellowship if you apply early. Even though you have to propose a research project, you are not necessisarily expected to do that specific project. Coming up with a project can be difficult but doing the background literature searches can be a good experience in and of itself, even if you don't get the fellowship. Also, applying for support right at the beginning of graduate school (due dates are in the fall) when you're trying to get a handle on an already demanding schedule can be a hassle.

Shop around for schools. The location of and the people at the school are more important than you might initially think (e.g., despite your conviction that you will be in the lab 24-7 and hence don't care where you live, you will find that that isn't the case and a supportive environment is of critical importance). Don't be afraid to ask questions, to harrass slothlike faculty, and to try out new things. Take advantage of lab rotations in order to find out what best suits you. Remember that coffee is your friend.

Thoroughly research the schools that you want to apply to. Check on course pre-requisites, funding, and availability of professors you may want to work with.

When researching graduate schools, make sure that you also research the cities within which they are located! Remember, a graduate student's time will more likely be spent at a quiet coffee shop than at a campus fraternity party. Don't worry so much about a great campus life and concentrate more on a great city (and a great program).

I know that this has been mentioned several times, but you really should be aware that life outside of CC is not as "supportive". I think that the most important thing I learned in my first month in the research environment I am in is that now, more so than ever, you are in control of what you are doing. I learned that I have to be more assertive and tell people exactly what I want out of my position instead of waiting for them to ask. There are people here who never did that, and have worked here for years doing mindless tasks all day. These people don't get much out of the research experience. I am sure that this point is true in any work situation, but I believe that it is more important in the research setting simply because everyone has their own agendas, and potentially no "personal" skills (to put it nicely). This is something that I have seen in many labs, and so you should be aware of it.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/17/2020