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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How to Get Into Graduate School

Shelley Batts has all the right answers [Guide to Getting Into Graduate School for the Sciences]. You need to read her entire posting but here's the short version to tempt you ...
  1. Spend your spare time doing research.
  2. Cultivate awesome letters of recommendation.
  3. Take the relevant classes, but have a few other interests too.
  4. Have a reason why you want to do research.
  5. Read the literature, know the basics, and a few tough surprising facts.
  6. Know your interviewers, and their research.
  7. Shell out the money for a GRE tutor if you are a nervous test-taker.
  8. Apply to schools based on labs, not the US News and World Report Rankings.
  9. Email professors you are interested in working with.
  10. Follow the funding.
  11. Good scientists don't always make good mentors.
  12. Don't be afraid to get out if it isn't working.
  13. Stand up for yourself, and keep at it.
  14. Share most of your ideas, but keep a few to yourself.
  15. Apply for NRSAs.
  16. Be curious.
  17. Know some science lineage.
  18. Know who won the Nobels that year, in your field.
  19. Email the students in the program, and in the lab.
  20. Find out where/what students from that program are doing now.
  21. No second-choices. Nothing but science will do.
  22. Be professional, talk shop, ask what projects their students are doing.
Some of these only apply to Americans but on the whole it's excellent advice for everyone. Be sure to pay close attention to #21. Ignoring that advice is problably the second most common mistake that applicants ever make. The most common mistake is ignoring #2 or thinking that there's no relationship between #2 and #21.

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