Thursday, January 15, 2009

How do you get into grad school?

Brittni asked that we talk about what to do if one does not get into grad school.  Maybe a better starting point is to talk about how to get into grad school.  Here is an interesting post, guest written by an eminent cardiovascular physiologist, on how to impress a University professor when interviewing to become a part of their lab.

Notice the somewhat typical snarky mood of this blog.  Humor is a good way to keep people reading, but is not always necessary.  Brad asked about anonymity in blogging - well Dr. Isis does blog anonymously.  And she blogs about shoes.


  1. Unlike professional schools and even humanities graduate programs it seems that science grad programs really nail down the student early in regards to what he or she really wants to study. I guess that's why you want to know the person whose lab you are going into.

    Incidentally, you definitely do not want to put anything on a med school application about wanting to be a psychiatrist or surgeon or whatever. There's no guarantee that medical school graduates will make it into any particular residency program, so they need to be flexible. Some medical schools (at least supposedly) have a blanket rejection policy for anyone who talks about a particular specialty before being accepted.

    In science, though, it appears that the reverse is true. People are pigeonholed into a specialty very, very early (like, when they choose an advisor after the first year) so they better know exactly what they want to do.

  2. Graduate schools vary. In some programs you apply to the department in general, and then do rotations through several labs before deciding which one you will work in. This is more common in cell and molecular programs. In other programs, often more organismal/ecology programs, you start working right away in one particular lab and interview with the Principal Investigator (PI) from the lab. You can switch afterwards, but it is a hassle.

    Either way, when looking at grad programs it is a good idea to look for a quality program, but also to make sure that there are individual PIs doing research in that program that you would like to work with.

    I have not heard about med school policies for shooting down applicants with specific future medical fields in mind. I will look into that. But I do know that a good way to be turned down by a medical school is to say that if you do not get in, you may consider a PhD program. Med schools want to hear that you will die if you don't get in, and will try and apply again the following year.

  3. Ok... so say you actually get an interview... how do you follow all of the interview etiquette and still be yourself?

  4. I don't think the two have to conflict. You can be yourself while also presenting yourself well in an interview. For example, there is no reason why anyone should not be able to think about what questions they will get and work on answers so that you already know what you will say on the day of the interview. Everyone should be able to have questions ready to ask your interviewer when the conversation gets quiet. And of course developing these questions involves knowing about the organization with which you are interviewing.

    If you are shy you will need to work on being a bit more outgoing during an interview. But don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Being phony comes through in an interview, and you don't want to do that.