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9 Things all Graduating Students Should Know

It’s hard when you want to know everything.

That’s the mindset that traps a lot of people beginning their careers. If you’ve recently graduated from college, spent your last year grunting through entry-level work, and feel you’re entitled to some recognition, remember these 9 principles and you’ll be on your way.

1. People matter

Treat people well, not because they’ll always treat you well, but because it’s the right thing to do. This includes never stepping on anyone to step up. If you do, you’ll probably hit them again on your way down.

2. There are very few rules

You don’t have to go to college to be successful. You can live virtually anywhere. You don’t have to get a desk job at a big company. The longer I live, the more I realize that most of the rules we consider to be written in stone aren’t even written down. Make your own rules about your own life.

3. Be completely transparent

People don’t like what they don’t understand. Conversely, people accept what is clear. Don’t hide from reality. Speak truth into peoples’ lives. You may catch some backlash occasionally, but the people who matter will respect and cherish you for it.

4. Always learn

Learning creates knowledge. Knowledge creates expertise. Expertise creates value. You don’t need a teacher. Read a ton and ask smart people hard questions. There are two things people love: 1) being asked for their opinions, and 2) surrounding themselves with people who want to grow.

5. Create value

You aren’t entitled to earn anything. Money is one form of stored value, and it’s transferred when value is created. Figure out how to add value to other peoples’ lives, and money will flow.

6. Your network is vital

Who you know is important. Who you matter to is even more important. Create lasting relationships by helping others, who will eventually help you. Organize those connections (I like LinkedIn), and work to maintain the relationships. When you need them, they will be there for you.

7. Study successful people

Successful people figured something out. Work to figure them out. How did they become successful? What steps did they take? You’ll often find those “overnight sensations” worked hard for a very long time. Look for someone whose work or lifestyle you’d like to emulate; don’t spend time trying to replicate success you don’t even want.

8. Never operate from a position of fear

Fear causes strange and terrible things to happen. It will force bad decisions, impair your logic, and drive you to behave irrationally. It also makes things seem far worse than reality. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?

9. Be humble

Oscar Pistorius made it to the semifinals of the 400-meter sprint in the 2012 Olympics without either of his legs. Mark Zuckerberg is a self-made billionaire at the age of 28. Even if you kill it, you’re still not Overlord of the Universe. Don’t act like it. Cockiness is a career killer.


Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentbeshore/2012/09/10/9-things-every-graduate-should-know/#1109e6188bad


Life After Grad School

The more things change after grad school, the more they stay the same. Or do they?

Nearly five months ago, just hours before my grad school commencement, I sat at the foot of my bed watching a YouTube video on how to properly wear my hood regalia.

For at least 30 minutes, I watched the video repeatedly, squinting, tussling and folding the hood, outfitted with white velvet on the upper side, before tossing it across the room.

I eventually figured out how to wear it — albeit lopsided — and only straightened it when a fellow classmate helped me position it, seconds before lining up for graduation procession.

That experience is much like what life after graduate school has been for me so far — full of questions and moments where I wished someone had offered the practical advice and words of wisdom I needed, as well as tempered my expectations.

There are five things in particular that might be of use to any graduate student preparing to take the leap of graduation:

1. You’ll often forget you have another degree … until someone asks for your updated resume.

This will dawn on you at networking events or if a friend mentions a position you should apply for since you now have a master’s degree. Oops, you did just earn that degree, right?

2. You’ll miss classes, homework and your routine.

For many, working toward something (in this instance graduation) does wonders for morale and focus. The most difficult part for me was recognizing school fed my soul and made me feel like I was actively bettering my life, versus just getting caught up in the working grind.

3. The debt returns with full force.

Weeks after I graduated (and before I had even received the official hard copy of my diploma), thick envelopes full of detailed, line-by-line totals of how much money I owed by financing my education with federal loans poured in. If I could do it all over again, I’d not pay a cent and opt for an assistantship or other means of scholarship funds.

4. Life won’t change immediately after you graduate in the ways you expect …

The moment after you graduate, moments after you leave the hall, auditorium or theater packed with friends, loved ones, fellow classmates and former professors, you’ll wait for things to feel different, but as urgently as waiting for everything to change, life will resume as it always has been.

You might start working a new job if you attended grad school full time or, if you attended grad school in the evenings after work like I did, you’ll resume your job tasks, without the interruption of homework, group projects or looming end-of-semester deadlines. The days will seem longer because work and home will be the only thing constituting your life. You’ll wonder how in the world you managed not having as much free time as you do now, but you won’t know what to do with it.

5. … But life will change immediately after you graduate in unexpected ways.

In the same token, you won’t view life the same because as a grad student, you changed.

Self-awareness and the desire to be intentional about every step forward in your life will consume you. You’ll start to demand more from your friends, family, things you did in your free time, your job — and you may discover that some of those things no longer fit and new ones are needed to complete you.

A journey of discovery becomes the goal and there’s no other decision, no other choice, no other way to exert energy but to pursue life in a new way. Gone is the fear and despair that had grown so familiar. Only courage and the desire to live with unbridled passion, zest and hunger for what can only be a more fulfilling, satisfying and fruitful life remain.

Source: http://college.usatoday.com/2013/05/08/5-things-i-wish-id-known-about-life-after-grad-school/

Student project – Aubree Hill, PhD, Environmental Sciences-Biology

Environmental Sciences-Biology student Aubree Hill is working to develop a treatment for amphibians infected with a deadly fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). She is specifically researching the salamander microbiome—or community of naturally occurring bacteria on the skin—and whether it can inhibit or eliminate growth of the fungus. Aubree and her team captured, swabbed and released more than 350 salamanders this year. They then isolated the bacteria from the swabs and challenged them against Bd to determine their ability to inhibit fungal growth. These so-called candidate probiotic species may then be recommended for therapeutic treatments of infected amphibians.

Aubree also hopes to gain a better understanding of the structure of the amphibian skin microbiome as a whole and whether it varies across taxonomic groups of salamanders, habitat types and seasons. She will use TTU’s new Illumina MiSeq DNA sequencing instrument to help make these comparisons.

Aubree recently presented her research on the salamander microbiome at the Tennessee Herpetological Society annual meeting in Knoxville. Her advisor is Donald Walker.

7 Tips for Surviving Finals

It’s that time of the year again: the dreaded finals time.

I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready to turn in my final term paper, sit on the couch, and veg out for a long winter break. But before any of us can do that, we should prep and work on our finals. Hopefully, it’s no surprise that there are a few studies out there that offer some helpful tips on prepping for the end of the semester, and I thought I’d share my favorite seven from a few different sources.

  1. Create a master to-do list and a schedule for the remaining days in the semester. Break it down by due dates and exam dates and make sure you give yourself enough time to be comfortable, but still get everything done within a manageable schedule.
  2. Triage your study time. Do you think you should spend equal amounts of time preparing for each course? You don’t — proportion your study time; make sure you spend more time on the course where you feel less confident.
  3. Decide if it’s going to be a grand tour or lots of local attractions. Does your professor want a cumulative term paper/final, or are they looking for specific portions of the class? Figure out the answer and respond accordingly with a continuation of the triage method.
  4. Develop summary sheets for each class. Figure out what happened on the important class days and organize or rewrite your notes to help formulate study guides or paper outlines.
  5. Writing and study groups can be helpful if they make sense. My cohort and I have a paper writing group for one of our classes. Though we are all working on different projects, the camaraderie and shared experience are helpful for the writing process.
  6. Pace yourself! I know when finals crunch time comes around, we often turn to marathon study sessions and writing periods, thinking that’s the best way to crank out as much work as possible in as little time as possible; however, this is actually not the most effective strategy. Make the most of the time you have by pacing yourself: focus for shorter periods of time. Take breaks and walk around.
  7. Manage your anxiety. By listening to calming music, stretching or breathing deeply, you can avoid stress and release negative thoughts. Sometimes we avoid anxiety by avoiding the things that are making us anxious (e.g., studying for an exam or writing a paper), which can lead to procrastination and even more anxiety. Listening to music and intentional breathing and stretching can help you manage your energy in a constructive way. I love creating playlists or listening to the same song on repeat the whole time I’m writing. My entire master’s thesis was written to “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed.

I hope you have found some of these tips interesting and/or helpful, and I wish us all luck during this end-of-the-term marathon. Remember the goal is in view

Source: http://gradlife.gmu.edu/seven-tips-for-surviving-finals/

20 Study Strategies for Finals Week

Finals week can be the most stressful time for a student, whether in high school, college or graduate school.

Ensure you’re prepared for your exams with these study tips, which can help you conquer your finals.

Follow this list as finals week approaches (the earlier you prep, the better) so you can ace your exams from start to finish:

1. Create your own study guide.

While many teachers provide a study guide, creating your own can help you understand the material better. Outlining the important information you need to learn can be helpful, both in creation and to refer to during your studies.

2. Ask questions.

Your professors and TA’s are there to help! Ask them questions regarding the material and the exam so that you’re prepared when exam time arrives.

3. Attend the review session.

Review sessions offer vital information on exam format, what will be on the exam and key concepts you should be focusing your studies on.

4. Start early.

If you always start ahead of schedule, you’ll never be cramming the night before an exam. You’ll almost always perform better in doing so!

5. Organize a group study session.

It can be helpful to study in groups – sometimes. Evaluate whether or not studying with others will be beneficial to the subject as well at your learning process.

6. Study things not on the study guide.

Study guides aren’t always comprehensive – they’re just suggestions of the main concepts to learn. Use your study guide for its intended purpose: a guide. Be sure to fill in the blanks with related information.

7. Take breaks.

You won’t be able to memorize or comprehend all the material at once. Balance is key – ensure that you reward learning with break times to recharge and relax.

8. Stay well-rested.

There’s a lot to be said about a good night’s sleep. Make sure you’re well-rested so that you can be fully focused during your exams.

9. Create a study schedule – and follow it.

Splitting the material into chucks you can actually achieve can be very beneficial. That way, you can keep track of what you’ve accomplished instead of looking at the big picture and getting overwhelmed.

10. Prioritize your study time.

Some exams will be more difficult than others, some you may find easier to study for. Some may be worth more of your grade than others. Make sure to evaluate all of your exams to consider and determine all of the involved factors so you can study accordingly.

11. Study for the style of exam.

If it’s multiple choice, you’ll need to know definitions and concepts. For essay exams, focus on your understanding of all the concepts presented, with examples in mind.

12. Quiz yourself.

If you think about and create actual exam questions, you will likely become more familiar with what you need to study and, in the meantime, familiarize yourself with the type of language that will be on the exam. Draft potential exam questions and quiz yourself so that you can set expectations of what you need to focus on.

13. Meet with your professor or TA.

Often times, meeting with an instructor, whether it’s a professor or a TA, can give you helpful hints for what to study and ways to prepare for the exam.

14. Reorganize your notes.

Evaluate and reorganize your notes into what’s important, outlining important concepts, formulas dates and definitions so they’re easy to understand.

15. Pace yourself.

Make sure you stay focused and don’t burn yourself out. A great way to do so is to pace yourself rather than opting for the dreaded all-nighter. You can easily pace yourself by following tips like starting early, creating a study schedule and taking breaks when necessary!

16. Teach classmates.

Learning by teaching is a method that really works! If you work with a study buddy and explain concepts to one another, you’re re-learning the material all over again. It’s a great way to reinforce what you’ve learned and help someone in the meantime!

17. Revolve your focus.

Switching up your subjects is a helpful way to learn everything for your exams while preventing burnout on one topic. Make sure to switch it up before your eyes glaze over! That way, you can keep studying for longer periods of time while maintaining your focus.

18. Color code it.

Create a system that allows you to color code material that’s going to be on the exam by what’s most important, less important, etc. This will help you focus on the most pertinent information and prioritize the material.

19. Visualize.

If you’re a visual learner, it can help to create mind maps or diagrams to visualize how the concepts you’re learning relate to one another. This is especially beneficial when learning concepts that build upon the understanding of one another, like in science courses.

20. Make it fun.

It’s easier to focus if you adapt to studying by quizzing yourself, creating acronyms or rewarding yourself for a job well done. Create a game plan – literally – that allows you to accomplish tasks and be rewarded for each.

For example, why not reward yourself with a piece of chocolate or a sip of your coffee after you’ve accomplished a new chapter or allow yourself five minutes of free time for every chunk of material you digest?

You can even add in fun factors like power-ups every time you learn a new definition and lose a life, which means you add another definition to your list, when you get an answer wrong!


How to ace a job interview

Congratulations! You have just landed an interview for what could be a wonderful job. Now what?

A successful interview will be essential for you to lock in a job offer, and this is your chance to impress the interviewer enough to get hired.

Tips for Acing a Job Interview

Taking the time to prepare will make the interview process, which can be lengthy, run smoothly. You will be able to make the best possible impression at every job interview you go on.

Here’s advice on how to ace a job interview, including tips on every aspect of the interview from preparation through follow-up.

Conduct Company Research

Research should always be your first step after accepting an interview. Gathering background information on employers is crucial to successful interview preparation.

An employer will expect you to know something about the company, and expect you to know why you will fit in well there. You need to be prepared to answer the questions, “What do you know about our company”? and “Why do you want to work here?”

Knowing as much as possible about the company’s past performance and future plans can also help you better explain how you can add value to the company.

Before the interview, review the company’s website, particularly their “About Us” section. Also check out their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social pages to see what information the company is sharing.

Review Glassdoor reviews, salaries, and interviewing information.

Don’t be afraid to contact your prospective employer to request details on the position you are interviewing for. The more information you have, the more comfortable you’ll feel while you’re talking to your interviewer.

Use Your Connections to Get the Inside Scoop

If you know someone who works at the organization or who can put you in touch with a current or former employee, you’ll be able to gather information that can give you an advantage over the other applicants.

Check LinkedIn to see if you have contacts at the company you can use to get insider information. If your college has an alumni network tap that, as well. Ask your connections about the interview process they went through when they were hired, ask what they like — and don’t like — about working for the organization. Learn as much as you possibly can about the company and the job for which you’re applying. It will help you know what to ask, as well as giving you insight into the role.

Take the Time to Practice

Practice makes perfect (or at least leads to improvement). Conduct practice interviews with a friend or family member, and ask for their feedback. You can also record or videotape your responses so you can review your answers and check your body language.

Prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions. Doing so will help you analyze your background and qualifications for the position. You don’t need to memorize answers, but having an idea of what you’re going to say will help you frame a solid response.

Also be ready to respond when you’re asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. Remember, you aren’t simply trying to get the job — you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.

The more you practice, the more self-assured you will feel walking into the interview. Your answers will feel natural, and interviewers will be impressed by your confidence.

Learn Behavioral Interviewing Techniques

In addition to standard interview techniques, behavior-based interviewing is becoming more common. It is based on the idea that a candidate’s past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Behavioral interviews involve you answering questions about how you have handled past situations at work.

The best way to prepare is to make a list of your skills, values, and interests as well as your strengths and weaknesses. For each item on the list, consider a time when you displayed that quality. Take the time to compile a list of responses to common behavioral interview questions.

When answering, describe the past situation, and how you successfully handled it. Make sure your answers are related to the job for which you are interviewing.

Prepare for Different Types of Interviews

It is important to know what type of interview you will have, so you can effectively prepare. For example, you will prepare differently depending on whether it is your first, second, or final interview.

Phone and Video Interviews

You will also have to practice using different technologies if it is a phone or video interview. For both, you’ll need a quiet place to interview, a time when you won’t be interrupted, and the technology necessary to smoothly handle the meeting. Take the time to make sure everything is in working order, and do a trial run, so you’re ready when it’s time for the actual interview.

Out of the Office Interviews

For a lunch or dinner interview, you will want to review polite dining tips before you go. Get to the restaurant a few minutes early, and expect the hiring manager to pick up the check. Check online to get a sense of appropriate attire to wear. You may also be able to review the menu to get ideas on what to order.

Interviewing over a cup of coffee is much less formal, even though it can be a stepping stone to a formal in-office interview. A casual interview is an excellent way to learn more about a potential employer and the people who work at the company. You’ll have more flexibility and opportunities to discuss the role in an informal setting.

Group Interviews

You might also have a group interview, in which you are either interviewed by a panel, or interviewed along with a group of candidates. For this kind of interview, you want to practice both answering questions and being a good listener (which you can show by responding thoughtfully to your group members’ comments and through your body language).

Make sure you know what kind of interview you will be having before you arrive. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to ask the employer or recruiter who set up the meeting.

Dress for Interview Success

You will want to decide what to wear before the interview day. Your first impression is very important, and what you wear is a big part of that first impression. Therefore, you want to make sure you look professional and appropriate for the work environment.

In general, for formal business interviews, men tend to wear a dark suit and tie, and women often wear a dark suit or a blouse with dark pants or a skirt. You should also limit accessories, make sure you are well groomed, your clothing fits you well, and your shoes are shined.

You will be able to dress more casually for a job at a startup, or a job at a place with a casual work environment. What’s important is to wear what’s a good fit for the corporate environment, but even when you’re interviewing at a workplace where nobody has heard the phrase “dress code” you don’t want to look like a slob. Neat and tidy business casual is a good option when you know that a suit isn’t going to be appropriate interview attire.

If you are unsure about what to wear, email or call the person who scheduled the interview and ask about the typical dress code. It is always a good idea to dress just a little bit more professionally than the dress code requires. Your goal is to make the best impression possible.

How to Handle the Day of the Interview

It is very important to be on time for the interview. On time means ten to 15 minutes early. If need be, take some time to drive to the office ahead of time or check out other options for getting there so you know exactly where you are going, how long it will take to get there, and what the transportation and parking situation looks like.

If you’re running late you’ll be stressed, and that’s no way to start an interview for what could be your new job.

Interview Etiquette

Remember that it’s not only the hiring manager who makes the decision on who to hire. Be polite and gracious to everyone you meet from the time you walk in the door to when you leave. The people you meet could be your future co-workers, so make the best impression on them that you can.

When you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist. Make sure you know the interviewer’s name and use it as soon as possible during the interview. If you’re not sure of the name, call and ask prior to the interview.

What (and What Not) to Bring

Remember to bring an extra copy of your resume, a list of references, and any work samples you want to show the employer. Bring a list of questions to ask the interviewer. It’s a good idea to bring a notepad and pen to take notes.

It’s also important to know what not to bring. Do not bring coffee, gum, or anything else not related to the job. Turn your phone off and put it away before you walk into the office.

Try to Stay Calm and Avoid Stress

If you’re nervous, visit the restroom before your interview, and wash and dry your hands so they aren’t sweaty. Take some deep breaths, and remember that this is only one interview and you’ve prepared as well as you can for it. If the interview goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world, and you may even be able to fix it.

During the interview, try to remain as calm as possible. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure what’s been asked and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to frame your responses so you can be sure to fully answer the question.

Also, remember that thorough preparation helps build confidence and relieve stress. The more you research the company, practice answering interview questions, and prepare for the day of the interview, the calmer and more confident you will feel.

Take the Time to Follow-Up

Even though you’ve finished the interview, you’re not quite done yet. End the interview with a thank you to the interviewer, and reiterate your interest in the position. Then follow-up with a personal thank you note or email message restating your interest. This is an opportunity to remind the employer of your qualifications, and to include any details you forgot to mention in the interview.

Avoid Common Interview Mistakes

In addition to doing everything right, it’s important to avoid doing the wrong thing when you’re trying to get hired for a new job or a promotion. What shouldn’t you do when interviewing? Check out the most common job interview mistakes, blunders, and errors interviewees make before you start getting ready to interview. Some of them are minor. Others can make or break your chances of getting hired.

Source: https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-ace-a-job-interview-2058574

A Day in the life of a TTU Grad Student

As told by former Tennessee Tech Master’s student

Any graduate student will tell you that life changes when you go into graduate school. While undergrad varies between intense and laid-back (given whatever major you are), graduate school is a much more focused and concentrated journey into academia. Pictures of burned out, exhausted students with 7 cups of coffee sorted under “grad student” litter stock image sites and google searches. People tell horror stories of forgotten deadlines and rejected proposals, presentations and publications and papers out the wazoo. But how realistic is that when looking at all graduate majors? Are you doomed to sleep-deprived months where you push yourself to the brink to meet harrowing deadlines? Maybe. Probably not. Hopefully not. All I can talk about is mine and some of my fellow colleagues’ experiences as grad students at Tennessee Tech. Hopefully I can paint a somewhat accurate picture of life as a TTU grad student.

What your life looks like depends on your major and concentration.

As Professional Science Master’s student with a concentration in Environmental Informatics and a graduate assistantship split between the School of Environmental Studies and School of Interdisciplinary Studies, a day in the life for me looked different depending on what day of the week it was. Since my major was interdisciplinary in nature, my program of study incorporated coursework in statistics, business, and GIS (geographic information system), and so my classes did not easily relate to one another.

Moreover, since my GA work was split between two schools, I had to parse out my time spent working on each school’s projects equally. These things, coupled with the variable schedules that both schools tended to have for their faculty, led me to have a bit of a perpetual professional and academic “identity crisis”. I was blessed with a flexible work schedule as a GA, but I had to constantly adjust my schedule according to school and work deadlines.

On days where my classes started later, I could sometimes afford to sleep in a bit and get some GA work in before class, but other days were packed from morning all the way until the evening. In addition, each semester’s schedule would be vastly different due to the nature of the classes and the work. Some semesters I found myself consistently being in the office earlier while other semesters I’d have to work late into the evening. I had more late nights at the office than I care to admit.

My GA work also shifted over time. I began my work doing mostly administrative tasks such as document formatting and conducting research for a lit review, so my days would be spent looking at word documents and doing archival research online.

Later on, my duties became more marketing-oriented, such as designing websites, flyers, posters, banners, newsletters, and presentations and recruiting, managing social media, networking, and correspondence. In addition, by my second year of my 2-year program, I started my capstone project which incorporated working as an intern with a supervisor in my field. So, in short, my days were incredibly varied and constantly shifting.

However, some programs necessitate rather strict routines for their students.

For instance, one friend of mine who was a pursuing a Master’s in Biology had a pretty different schedule from mine. She would get up at around 5 am to go into the lab to do work, then attend class, then teach a number of biology labs, and then try to fit in more lab work before going home and sleeping. Class time was heavily overshadowed by graduate thesis research, proposal writing, and teaching.

Often, she would be gone over the weekend to conduct sampling for various biology classes or graduate research projects. She seemed to have almost zero free time and was constantly running from one thing to the next. Talking to other graduate biology students revealed a similar schedule. There was a heavy focus on research, sampling, and teaching and a lighter focus on classwork.

Another program I got to see a more inside look of was the Masters of Business Administration. Since some of my courses fell into that program, I befriended some of the other MBA students I had class with. The general consensus was that the workload was heavy and demanding, and the teachers liked to challenge their students. One friend of mine had a particularly grueling schedule. She worked shifts at the Cookeville Regional Medical Center while simultaneously taking full-time hours and working as a GA for the College of Business. She was also in the process of applying to med school and taking the MCAT. She saw the MBA as giving her a competitive edge when applying to med school. This friend was perpetually working on something, and her schedule was ever-shifting and she was incredibly hard to track down sometimes.

So, daily life varies depending on your program. But one thing stays constant across all graduate majors…

Grad school life is a constant juggling act between work, school, and your personal life

Like I mentioned before, my days were split between classes and GA work. One thing that tended to be a struggle was the constant need to reprioritize my work. At some points, when a big test or paper was coming up, I’d need to shift my GA schedule to allow time to work on it. I would often come in on weekends to work after a particularly schoolwork-intensive week.

On the other time, there would be instances where big work deadlines would sneak up on me and I’d need to push schoolwork to the back burner to complete the GA work in time. When I began my internship that was yet another thing added to the plate of never-ending things that needed my attention. There were many times where I would feel like I’d gotten a great deal of work done in one sector of my life, only to realize that I had a bunch of things to catch up on in another area. This, of course, was the same for my other friends in grad school.

A social life is important to have, but you have to be strategic with your plans

Surprisingly enough, I still was able to maintain a personal life outside of school and work. I had never lived in Cookeville prior to going to Tennessee Tech for grad school, and it took me about a semester and a half until I was able to find some people I really clicked with. Those first months were quiet and focused, and I was a lot more productive on my own. But emotionally, I was very thankful when I did find people to spend time with on a regular basis. Often, I wouldn’t really talk a bunch about grad school because it was a relief to not have to talk about my work. It was nice to be able to sit back and not think and just laugh with friends.

Even still, I found times where my personal life would try to get in the way of grad school. I would get caught up in wanting to be around my friends all the time which would eat into my productivity. In response, I had to make sure to carefully plan out my days and mostly prioritize work over social time. While I wanted to spend time with all of my friends all of the time, I realized that I would only be more stressed if I continued to put off work, and my social life would eventually suffer as well due to that stress.

That’s why, no matter who you are or what grad program you’re in…

Remember to spend time alone to “reset”

One of the most important things I learned is that whatever I was doing, if I felt myself getting overwhelmed, I had to make sure to take a little bit of time alone to “cleanse my palate”. The most relaxing and healing times for me were often spent alone and outdoors, just reading or journaling. If anything, the mere act of scheduling time to just relax is helpful. It helped me remember that I could take time to rest and didn’t always have to be doing something.

In conclusion, grad school is different for everyone! But it poses a massive challenge and will stretch you in many ways. Each day will look different, even if you have a consistent schedule. If anything else, remember to expect the unexpected! This is a wonderful opportunity to grow in many ways.

Written by Amy Stafford

Benefits of Grad School

“Why go to graduate school?”

This is a question that many students ask after completing their undergraduate degree, unsure of whether grad school is really the best way to help them achieve their career goals. Both the cost in tuition fees and the extra length of time out of employment can mean that applying to graduate school is a decision not to be made lightly.

For this reason, it is essential that your overriding reasons to go to grad school are firmly founded. Below is a list of 10 of the most common reasons to go to grad school, which, depending on your field and mindset, should help you decide whether applying to graduate school is the best next step for you.

1. Invest in your future

Although it’s not strictly necessary to have a firm view of your future career before applying to graduate school, it certainly helps. This is because grad school often acts as the academic version of professional training, enabling students to graduate with all the right knowledge in all the right places, ready to jump straight into their desired careers.

Either way, students applying to graduate school should do so with their eyes on the future, seeing further study as an investment in their own potential and not simply as a way to postpone the end of student life.

2. Get noticed in today’s job market

More people than ever are attending graduate school today, and because of this an undergraduate degree alone can sometimes fail to get you noticed alongside equally or more highly qualified candidates. With university education in contemporary society increasingly viewed as more of a rite of passage than a luxury, and 11% of the workforce (in the UK) now holding a graduate degree, bachelor degree holders are struggling to appeal to employers even at entry level in certain industries – especially when up against candidates with PhDs.

3. Get more than a qualification

Whereas much of the worth of an undergraduate degree is in the qualification itself, the most important reasons to go to grad school may be more for the professional skills you’ll gain, the personal development you’ll undergo and the valuable connections you’ll make with fellow graduate students, academics and industry experts.

It’s frequently said that grad school is about much more than obtaining a few letters behind your name and a fancy piece of paper; it’s about developing yourself professionally so that you’re ready to enter the world of work. If you act smart in grad school, by the time you graduate you’ll have built yourself a professional landing mat of contacts and relationships, which will serve to keep you in the field and, ultimately, employed.

4. Pursue your interests in more depth

Although most undergraduate degrees allow students the opportunity to study modules and classes of personal interest, a graduate degree does this to a much greater extent. In order to get the most out of your graduate degree, you will be expected to conduct personal research alongside set study topics, in order to develop your thoughts and ideas regarding something that deeply interests you.

Attending extracurricular activities and meetings, hearing from guest speakers and lecturers as well as full-time faculty members you find interesting, is what makes grad school so diverse and multidisciplinary. For students with passionate academic interests then, the answer to the question “why go to graduate school?” is obvious!

5. Contribute to the world’s knowledge

If you’re someone who wants to contribute to the world within any field, professionally or academically, you’re going to have to know your subject inside-out. For STEM subjects or other highly specialized fields, grad school helps to make that happen. Kylie Rochford, a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University, explains that this was one of her main reasons to go to grad school: “Undergraduate study gave me the opportunity to understand existing knowledge in my field. Graduate school gives me the opportunity to contribute to that knowledge.”

6. Make connections

Grad school is different to undergraduate studies in a number of ways. One difference is that while undergraduate level student life is widely associated with socializing, sleeping late and cramming alone in the library, grad school is much more about connecting with people professionally – not just fellow graduate students but faculty members too.

So while you may have locked yourself away in the darkest corner of the campus library during your years as an undergraduate, as a graduate degree student you’ll need to learn how to network like a pro by honing your ‘people skills’. If that sounds scary, remember that networking doesn’t have to be a dirty word; networking is your friend! In the professional world, networking is something many of us must do to get our feet in the door, and simply means you’ll be connecting with like-minded people within a professional context in order to collaborate, discuss and further your own knowledge, skills and professional circle.

Not only will you be making professional connections, as a graduate student you’ll be making good friendships as well. The very nature of graduate school makes finding friends who are motivated, focused and mature just that little bit easier; your grad school friends could be the ones you end up sticking to for longest.

7. Increase your financial prospects

Bettered financial prospects is a popular answer to the question “Why go to graduate school?” – though it may not necessarily be the most important factor. Even so, a graduate degree has been found to improve the financial prospects of UK workers by over UK£5,000 (US$8,200) more each year, compared to someone holding just a bachelor’s degree. Although this may not seem like a life-changing amount, the additional money accumulated in a working lifetime works out at around UK£200,000 (US$328,700). And that’s just the extra!

8. Get academic recognition

Grad school provides a stable forum to research and explore theories and ideas. If during your degree you conduct any research that is particularly exceptional, the chances are you’ll be recognized for that achievement by the academic community – perhaps by being invited to present your paper at a conference, contribute to a research project, and even receive accreditation in a piece of work published in a journal. International recognition is also a prospect for those who continue their research after graduation, and one day, who knows, you may well become a prominent expert in your field.

9. Work with the best

At grad school you’ll be surrounded by leading thinkers in your field – including both the faculty members and guest experts at the front of the lecture hall, and the fellow graduate students around you. When working with people we’re inspired by and look up to, staying motivated and working hard is much, much easier.

In addition to all these talented people, you should also have access to excellent material resources, potentially including the latest technologies and high-end equipment being used within your field, such as spectral imaging scanners or nanotechnology systems.

10. Gain an internationally recognizable qualification

Although last in this list of reasons to go to grad school, gaining a qualification which is recognized by employers around the world is incredibly important to many prospective graduate students. This is particularly the case for international students and students wishing to work abroad.


Source: https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/admissions-advice/10-good-reasons-go-grad-school


The Graduate School Application Process


So you’ve decided that you want to go to graduate school.

What are the next steps? There are several ways to go about applying for graduate school, but the best approaches are those that are well-planned and start early. The following tips from the Princeton Review outline a well-planned approach to the graduate school application process.

Your Application Timeline

If you’re planning to apply to graduate school, it’s best to start early—it will increase your odds of being admitted. Many graduate programs have rolling admissions, which means applications are evaluated as they arrive (rather than all at once after the final deadline).

Here’s a sample schedule for a student hoping to enter grad school in the fall. This is a best-case scenario which leaves time to craft a great application, resolve unforeseen problems (a lost transcript, a delinquent recommender) and submit with time to spare.


Begin researching grad schools. Take a GRE practice test. Your GRE score will help you determine how much preparation you’ll need for the real deal.


Sign up for a GRE test prep course (we recommend the in-person or online options). Register for the GRE general test if necessary.


Request information from schools that interest you. Consider paying a visit to your alma mater to meet up with a few former professors. They can recommend good programs and may even help you make some connections.


Take the GRE general test. If you’re not happy with your scores, sign up to take it again. Begin drafting your statement of purpose.


Register for the November GRE subject test (if necessary). Finalize your list of prospective schools, and familiarize yourself with the professors who share your research interests at each school. Contact your recommenders. Keep polishing your statement of purpose.


Request official transcripts from your undergraduate institution. Send your recommenders supplemental materials (like your resume, personal statement, etc.) that they can use as a reference. Make contact with students and professors at your prospective schools. Arrange a campus visit if you can.


Have someone in the field and a few smart (and honest) friends read over your personal statement. Take the GRE subject test; make sure that your scores will be sent directly to schools.


Complete and submit all grad applications, keeping copies of every section for your records. Verify that your recommendations have been sent.


Source: https://www.princetonreview.com/grad-school-advice/application-timeline

Preparing for Grad School Interview Questions

There’s one key element that can help separate your grad school interview from the pack: preparation.

Specifically, preparing for the types of grad school interview questions that might be asked. You may not be able to access their exact list, but you can still pinpoint the types of things they’re likely to ask you about, or practice with interview prep questions. By thinking about these in advance, you could ensure that you have solid answers at the ready. This may help you appear—and feel—more poised and confident as a result.

Here are 10 interview questions commonly asked in grad school interviews


  • Why do you want to go here, instead of other schools?
  • What are your research interests?
  • How will you contribute to our program?
  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  • What do you see as the major trends in your field of study?
  • Tell me about you achieved a significant accomplishment?
  • Lists some of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Tell me about your hobbies and interests.
  • Where else have you applied?
  • What questions do you have for me?


We’ve also included a few examples and tips. Review these, then start creating answers of your own.


  • Why do you want to go here, instead of other schools?


Of all the potential grad school interview questions, this one might be the most common. It has a few key elements you could consider:

  • What you like best about that program and university
  • Your familiarity with that school (e.g. showing that you’ve done your research)
  • How, specifically, that program could support your goals and interests

Think about each of these factors when putting together your response. That will help ensure that you’re both focused and sufficiently detailed. After all, answering thoroughly and thoughtfully could help to show your school how much you care, and how much effort you’ve put into your application. Staying focused on these points also means you’ll be less likely to go off on unrelated tangents. Instead, you could sound professional and concise.

Finally, make sure your answers are not only honest, but also constructive. Telling a school you want to attend only because they’re the cheapest option might be the truth, but it’s not a truth that’s likely to help your cause. Try and stick to answers that will show your dedication and enthusiasm, without going overboard and sucking up.


“I like (School X) because of its 1:3 faculty to student ratio. This is important to me because it suggests I’ll get a lot of mentorship. Also, Billy Bob Corndog’s research focus on venomous animals and poisonous plants of the Rocky Mountains aligns very strongly with my interests. It would be great to work closely with him. I’ve also heard great things about the student culture and fieldwork opportunities from Elvira Discovampire, who is a recent graduate.”


  • What are your research interests?


This question could especially be relevant if you’re applying to a more academic or research-focused graduate program, as opposed to one that looks toward a certain career. It’s important to have a detailed answer to this question. That should include a few key elements:

  • Your specific topic (This should be fairly narrow! Your research area isn’t the whole field of biology; rather, it’s poisonous plants and animals in the Rocky Mountains.)
  • Your background and experience with that topic (This includes research you’ve already done, prior coursework, work experience, and similar accomplishments.)
  • Why you’re interested in that topic (Did a mentor inspire you? Or did you have a personal experience that led you to this topic? Make it personal!)

Of course, all of this could vary, depending on what you’re studying, and why you want to study it at that particular school. Feel free to edit those above points if you need to!


“My work is in the area of venomous animals and poisonous plants of the Rocky Mountain region. I first became interested in this topic when I got lost up near the Continental Divide and ate raw elderberries for sustenance. This caused some gastrointestinal issues, but piqued my interest. In college I majored in Biology, and took coursework in Spiders of the Southwest, Rattlesnakes of the Rockies, and Berries You Shouldn’t Eat. I also had a research assistant position with Professor Hiss and together we published our findings as an article called “Beware the Brown Recluse”, which was published in 2005 in the American Journal of Things to Avoid.


  • How will you contribute to our program?


When you’re applying to graduate school, what that school could do for you is an important factor. But the school is also looking for students who could bring something to the table! In many cases, some grad school interview questions will be dedicated to exactly that. Your answer could have to do with your diverse personal or academic background, unique skills, driven personality—whatever you see as your strongest asset. Now is your chance to sell yourself. Be honest, and show the school what a valuable addition you’d be to their community! (One caveat here: make sure you don’t brag. After all, you might be selling yourself, but the focus is on what you can do for the school, not so much on how great you are.)


“Well, I bring a unique research background. For example, I spent a summer in college doing fieldwork that focused on identifying and tracking live nests of poisonous baby snakes. I’m really excited about the advances in the field and love to experience and employ the latest technology, such as heat-sensing devices and snake-tail spray painting. There’s lots of opportunity for collaboration with other scientists and students I’ll meet in the program. I also find my sense of humor comes in handy and can uplift others’ spirits during stressful periods like finals, or getting accidentally injected with venom.”


  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals?


These kinds of graduate school interview questions could be especially crucial if you’re applying to a more career-oriented program—but it’s relevant either way. After all, academia doesn’t exist in a vacuum! You’re pursuing your degree for a reason. What is it? Here are a few tips on how to frame those goals for your interview.

Draw a connection between the degree you’re pursuing, your area of research, and your specific career goals. Show them why your graduate education could be a valuable asset!

If you can, anchor your goals in the school or program you’re applying to. For example, is there a member of the faculty whose work and career you admire and wish to emulate? Have their alumni achievements inspired you?

Point out why your goals are important, not just for you, but for the world, your field, and your community. Will your work help make your city a better place? Maybe your research could inform policy, or help people help others more effectively.


“I really admire Professor Hiss’s professional track – for about ten or fifteen years he focused on snake and spider handling, research and publishing on Australia’s deadliest creatures. Once he had really established himself he stepped into an academic role. I see myself doing the same – learning in the trenches in the short-term, and then teaching in the later part of my career. In America, there’s a notable lack of university-based research centers on venomous animals, and I have a dream of establishing a one. Ideally it would be located in the American Southwest so as to have the best access to the most venomous animals.”

What do you see as the major trends in your field of study?

This question is about evaluating your expertise. You might say you want to study venomous animals, but how fluent are you in that field? Before your interview, make sure you’re familiar with current or recent influential research, especially related to your own topic of study. Be able to speak on the content and findings, the implications of that research, and other relevant details. And don’t be afraid to share your own informed opinions on these topics!


“In the past year, there’s a trend in Europe and in parts of Asia that involves dying venomous animals in pastel polka-dot shades. The rationale is that it will make these animals easier to spot, and therefore avoid, but frankly, I disagree with their choice of color and pattern. Pastel polka-dots can make the animals look harmless and cartoonish and there have been several instances in the past year of people grabbing the animals excitedly and sustaining a toxic bite as a result. I like the approach used in East Africa in the 1980s of implanting a tiny musical device within these animals that plays the theme song from “Jaws”. But that proved too costly so the program was discontinued.”

Tell me about how you achieved a significant accomplishment.

These kinds of grad school interview questions aren’t asking you for modesty—though you do want to stay grounded! Try and focus on something directly related to your field of study, if you can. Then you could use this question to tell a story that demonstrates your competence. Not sure how to frame your accomplishment in a way that won’t sound like you’re bragging? Try talking about the obstacles you had to overcome to get to the finish line, how you overcame them, and what you learned from the experience.


“During my junior year of college we went to Arizona to do fieldwork. One component involved trapping the most venomous animals without being bitten. I won by catching nine scorpions and three Gila monsters in one day. It was tough! I was up all night, hiding under pine needles and behind cacti. But I was determined to take home the prize, which was a trip to Australia to hunt box jellyfish, so I made it happen.”

List some of your strengths and weaknesses.

When listing your strengths and weaknesses, make sure you keep your goal in mind—acceptance to a specific program. Try and focus on strengths that apply to the work you’d be doing as a student there, or as a member of their broader school community. Make sure you illustrate these with concrete examples. As for weaknesses, be honest, but constructive. It might be tempting, but try and avoid the somewhat dishonest strategy of naming a supposed weakness that’s actually a strength. Instead, demonstrate self-awareness by naming a concrete weakness you’ve noticed in yourself, and elaborating on what you’re already doing to try and overcome it.


“My strengths include my passion for the subject – as I mentioned earlier, I’ll stay up all night to catch Gila monsters and scorpions – and my attention to detail. I consistently get very positive feedback on my detailed knowledge of animal behavior. One weakness is that I can get caught up focusing too much on the details. For instance, I’ve been known to work for three hours on one sketch of poison ivy. I’ve been addressing my tendency to obsess by allowing myself a set amount of time to work. For instance, these days I set an alarm so that I allow myself to work for 45 minutes. When the alarm goes off, I have to stop or take a break. It’s been working well so far.”

Tell me about your hobbies and interests.

The other grad school interview questions so far have all focused on your area of study and what you could bring to the program in question. Here’s an opportunity to show them who you are outside academia! You not only get to show that you’re a well-rounded, passionate student with diverse interests. You could also show another side of your personality, values, and forge a memorable personal connection with your interviewers. And if you can do all that while still connecting those interests to the school community, all the better.


“I know in order to keep a balanced lifestyle I have to attend to my health. I’m a squash player – I play 3-4 times per week. I notice your school has some great squash courts, which is a bonus for me! I also love to cook, especially Thai food, and tend to have small dinner parties once or twice a month to be sure I’m getting some socializing in.”

Where else have you applied?

When preparing your answer for graduate school interview questions like this, think back to why you said you want to attend this program. What the interview is trying to understand here is where they fall in your school preference, and how dedicated you are to attending that particular program. So if you’ve applied elsewhere, be honest about it, but also try and explain why you’d prefer their school over the others. And if it’s the only school you’ve applied to, explain that decision to, so they understand why you’re so committed.


“I’ve also applied to University of Arizona’s graduate program, because the fieldwork opportunities would be so excellent. But frankly, the faculty here is stellar, and the curriculum here aligns better with my interests than the curriculum at U of AZ. This is my top choice.”

What questions do you have for me?

This is definitely a question you want to prepare for! The only way you could get it wrong would be if you don’t have any questions to ask. Try to prepare a few, just in case some are covered by your interviewer before you get a chance to ask. And try to be insightful, rather than asking basic questions you could have figured out on your own. You could ask about research opportunities, working with specific faculty, recent faculty or student publications, what career paths graduates have pursued… whatever it is that sparks your interest! This shows that you’re actively interested, perceptive and that you’ve done your reading.


Example: “I recently read a study by Dr. Corndog, on new methods for trapping Gila monsters – since I have unique experience in this practice, I was wondering if there is an assistantship opportunity on his staff?

This is a lengthy list of 10 grad school interview questions, but remember, it’s not exhaustive! Your interview experience may be unique, so be prepared to hear some unexpected questions, or ones not suggested here. If you need to improvise, don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to breathe and think your answer through. Be clear, concise, and polite in your answers, and you could make a solid impression. And maybe even increase your odds of acceptance!

Source: https://www.gradschools.com/get-informed/applying-graduate-school/graduate-school-interview/graduate-school-interview-questions