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MIT student blogger Abby H. '20

Finally, I Wrote a Post about Grad School by Abby H. '20

"grad's cool"

I applied for biology Ph.D. programs this past fall and interviewed at several schools in January and February. The process was incredibly familiar01 tbt applying to MIT >4 years ago and yet so different from anything else I’ve done. This post contains some reflections on that, but I also recommend reading echoe’s post from a couple of years ago for those of you who are just now wrapping up undergrad app stress and need02 I know how you guys are something to worry about for the future.


Why did I apply to Ph.D. programs?

It’s the thing you do if you major in life sciences and want to get a good research job.

It’s ~5 years of subsidized training in a field that I appreciate. I’m not one of those people who rambles on about how fascinating biology is. If anything, when I talk about cool biology stuff, it’s an attempt to get my smarter peers interested in it so that they might bring their outside skill sets03 Where would the science be without the development of new techniques and instruments? to the field.

I am not someone who dreamt of being a scientist as a little girl. In elementary school, I wanted to be an artist, the kind that stands at an easel and holds a palette of oil paints and wears a beret. In middle school, and to some extent even now, I wanted to be Nardwuar. In high school, I thought I might want to be an anesthesiologist because they made good money. When I applied to MIT, I said I was interested in Course 10 (Chemical Engineering), but that was mostly because I had taken IB Chem04 funny enough I am a bio major despite my lowest IB score being HL Bio and gotten a 7 my junior year. I thought that numbers like that revealed where I was most competent and therefore what I should study. I didn’t even like chemistry that much. I don’t even think I liked science that much; it was just the area of the pool that “smart” people like me were encouraged05 My parents did not go to college. While they pushed me to pursue college, I did not get much guidance on that besides <em>don't waste your time on a liberal arts degree</em> and <em>you need to go somewhere that will give you a scholarship</em>. I'm going to graduate MIT soon with a science degree and no debt, so I guess everything went according to plan. to swim toward. Going to college did not provide me with a sudden jolt of clarity about what I wanted to do next.

Now that I’ve spent the last few years in “science,” I’m on friendly terms with it. So I applied to grad school to be trained to be a good biologist (and also because I think it would be cool to *~*~*discover*~*~* something). While standing at a lab bench all day is not something I would put at the top of the list of things I am most passionate about (I am, after all, a normal human being), it is something that I like just enough to be okay with doing it for the next five years (and maybe more). Furthermore, I am not incredibly confident in my ability to get a job right now, especially now that the economy/job market has been upended by a pandemic.06 Of course, I didn't know that was going to happen when I applied. This lack of confidence was largely due to unfamiliarity with being “professional” and “corporate” and “wearing blazers,” but now that I’ve dabbled in those a little as a result of Ph.D. interviews, they don’t seem as impossible.  I know (and knew then) that consulting and business stuff do not suit my interests or skills, so why attempt the career fair rat race? Apply to grad school and remain a student… perpetually.

Grad school just felt/feels like the right thing to do right now.

 

How did you choose your schools?

I admit that I could have planned this part out a little better. At the beginning of last summer, I had no idea where I wanted to apply. There was a vague desire to find a place with decent enough name recognition that people wouldn’t be like “what’s that.” There was also some inkling of wanting to go somewhere that was slightly less traditional, such as a grad program within a medical school or at a university that doesn’t have undergrads. However, one of the biggest things I took into consideration was geography. I knew that I didn’t want to go back to the South. I have complicated feelings about the South. I knew that I wanted out of Boston ASAP. I liked the time that I spent in the Bay Area, but so does every yuppie MIT grad who moves out there. I also enjoyed the time I had spent in New York City.07 Where else would a girl want to spend her twenties? Additionally, I knew I could get really cheap housing there with a friend of mine. I ended up applying to four schools in NYC and two schools in the Bay Area, based off of some recommendations from my PI and the gut feeling that I got from the programs’ websites.

Additionally, I had heard that the best programs to apply to are ones that don’t enforce specialization in the beginning. Umbrella programs, with (at least initially) fluid inter-departmental boundaries, tend to accept more applicants than the specialized programs. Often in bio Ph.D. programs this takes the form of a unified Molecular Biology department with divisions like genetics, biophysics, computational, biochemistry, etc. It makes sense, if you think about it. An immunology program might only have 2 or 3 slots, but an umbrella biology program would have 10-15 or 20-30 slots to fill. I prioritized umbrella programs but applied to a couple of more niche08 BIO PUN ALERT stem cell programs at certain schools.

 

What was the application process like?

  1. CV/Resume: A list of things you have done and are in the process of doing. I made mine and then revised it after a meeting with someone at CAPD. It had my three09 My current lab at MIT, the internship I had last summer, and the lab I was with in high school. Yes, I included my high school lab, because the research I did there was somewhat advanced and also because I wanted to make the research section a little longer to balance out the extracurriculars section. I was careful not to emphasize that that was research I did in high school (because really it wasn't! I was at a university working with grad students). research experiences on it and then a long list of various non-school things I do at/not at MIT. Though I have read elsewhere that grad schools generally don’t care that much about your extracurriculars,10 which makes me sad because I'd love to talk to faculty about college radio I still wanted the admissions committees to see what I do when I’m not being a pipette robot.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Letters from three or four people who are familiar with you and the kind of work you are capable of doing, preferably from the field whose programs you are applying to. The most valuable letters are from research advisors. At some schools, the most competitive applicants will have letters from three different research advisors. Unfortunately, I had only been with one lab since starting at MIT, and I had stayed there the whole time. That gave me one very strong letter… and nothing else. Of course, I had done an internship in industry over the summer, but I was not sure that a letter from my supervisor there would be valuable because my advisor was not faculty at any academic institution and also because I thought I had done a bad job there. I ended up asking her anyway because I had enjoyed my time there and I didn’t have another research advisor I was comfortable asking. My high school research experience seemed irrelevant; though I liked my mentor there, I think it would have come across as a little desperate if he wrote my third letter based on what high school me was like in lab. So I was stuck without a third letter-writer until my Course 7 advisor offered to write one for me. That was a considerable weight off my shoulders, but I still wanted to get a fourth recommendation from someone for those schools where a fourth letter was allowed. I had a professor in Course 9 who had taught me in a small-ish class/complementary CI-M11 Communication Intensive - Major: You have to take at least two of these in your major to graduate. These classes require a significant amount of writing and presentation. write the fourth letter for me, though she had some reservations12 She told me that in her experience on grad admissions committees at MIT, letters from instructors were typically not very useful, but that she would write a letter anyway if I needed her to. about not being able to comment on my research experience. About a month and a half before deadline, I emailed each of my recommenders a copy of my CV, a list of the schools/programs I was planning on applying to and their deadlines, and an explanation of what I thought their perspective13 e.g. my current PI could speak on my research skills, my internship PI could say something about how I adapted to my new research environment in industry, my academic advisor could provide some insight into my academic improvement over the semesters he had advised me since my grades were pretty bad my freshman spring, my professor could also evaluate my academic potential and my ability to communicate could offer for my application.
  3. GPA/Transcripts/GRE scores: The numbers part of the process. Often there are hard cutoffs here to narrow the pool. I had a 4.5/5.0 GPA by the time I applied. It took a lot of work to get it that high, but even still I was not sure it would be high enough in light of the contents of my transcript. As a small aside, whenever I brought up concerns (to certain people) about my GPA not being high enough, they would be dismissed with a “oh well they’re not going to care if you get a C in Medieval Literature lol” or “that’s actually pretty good for MIT.” The thing is, my C’s aren’t in “fluff” courses. In fact, I’ve always done well in the classes that are considered the least important by highly STEM-focused people. I have C’s in 8.0214 Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism and 7.03(!).15 Genetics I got a B in 7.016.16 Intro to Bio I couldn’t find anything on The Forums about this kind of situation besides a few “yeah that’s not good”s. I was convinced that those grades were going to tank me. The whole time I was writing personal statements I was worried that it was a waste of time because they wouldn’t look at my application after seeing that C in Genetics. It’s all speculation. I have no insight into what happens in those committees. It appears that that C didn’t matter all that much to the majority of schools I applied to who still invited me to campus for an interview (a big caveat here is that it’s a C at MIT, which might make the committees a bit more sympathetic).  GRE scores are important sometimes, too, but I made a conscious decision not to apply to schools that required the GRE general test. Luckily for me, a lot of molecular biology Ph.D. programs have dropped that requirement in recent years. This is not true for every Ph.D. program, but maybe it will be soon. I had previously planned to write a whole rant blog post about standardized testing, but I’ll save you the click: I think the GRE is obsolete as a tool for predicting preparation for graduate studies (as do a lot of other people); it does not make sense that an exam for entrance into graduate school a.) is best taken early on in your college years when you’re still in SAT mode and have all the math/verbal skills necessary to do well on the exam and b.) relies on formulaic essay-writing and cheap tricks to trip up and stratify test-takers who haven’t spent hundreds of dollars on test prep and aren’t accustomed to the common traps. If the GRE administrators could show me how their formulas actually apply to the work that grad school requires, I would reconsider my position. But currently it looks to me like yet another cog in the machine of social reproduction. This isn’t even coming from some bitter test-taker who got a low score. I’ve always been good at standardized tests, and the GRE was no exception. I took it and did great but came out of the exam feeling deeply unsettled by the whole racket. I hope it mysteriously vanishes and everyone gets their $160 back.
  4. Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose/Research Statement/Diversity Statement: Almost but not exactly a cover letter for your application. There is not enough of a difference between personal statements and statements of purpose to get bogged down in making them conform to PrepScholar.com’s distinctions. Usually the application will provide a little more detail on what is expected in terms of content and word count. Basically, you introduce yourself and your background, why you’re applying to that program specifically/why do you think the program is a good match, what you want to do with your training, faculty you would be interested in working with, and anything else that would be relevant to a committee member who has decided to give your application a shot. I ended up tailoring each of mine to the schools fairly heavily due to big differences in program affiliations (i.e. my “why grad school here” spiel switched up a bit depending on if that specific program was connected to a medical school or hospital) and in suggested word counts (I was asked for personal statements ranging between 600 and 1500 words). As a side note, I find the “why do you think you would be a good fit here” aspect of these essays irritating. I had never gone to any of those schools to check out the campus and culture or whatever. All I had to go off of was their websites and some encouraging words from my post-doc in lab.17 She's been my direct mentor throughout my time in lab and we happen to both be leaving at MIT at the same time--she got a faculty position offer recently! It seemed a little ridiculous to explain how I fit into a place that I had never experienced, so I focused more heavily on discussing how my research prepared me for grad school.18 ironically, also something that I can't know for sure until I spend some time in grad school One school I applied to didn’t ask for a personal statement; instead they wanted a Research Statement of up to 750 words describing my most meaningful research experience (the main question, how I approached it experimentally, what results I got and how I interpreted them, what I would do next). That one was actually really hard to write because most of my research boils down to “I put the drugs on the cells and waited to see if it would kill them.” The two California schools I applied to asked for a Diversity Statement, a brief essay on my background and any obstacles I faced in pursuing my education. It’s always been hard for me to write about my ethnic background,19 What Does It Mean To Be Mixed so I talked about sports instead. Anyway, this part was definitely the most time-intensive part of the application process, largely because it feels so unnatural to write in that mode. I like to put jokes in my writing. I like to assume familiarity. I like “personal,” but those essays felt far too formal to leave any imprint of personality.

 

What were interviews like?

I was far too stressed to enjoy my interview weekends. There’s some more detail on that in my post from February.20 it was a much simpler time, many years ago... The schools tended to use the time as both recruitment and refinement. So they’re feeding you the finest wine21 you know it's good stuff when the choices are simply <em>Red</em> or <em>White...</em> who am I kidding I am just a child with no taste who will never be able to discern between good and bad and cheese while also sitting you at tables with faculty who might be judging your etiquette. I felt watched all the time. Were they taking note of how I slipped off to the bathroom for twenty minutes to avoid the third mandatory mingle session of the day? Is this current grad student evaluating whether or not they would want to be friends with me? Will I be judged for not eating this godawful chicken that’s covered in cinnamon? Why is this faculty member asking me about my favorite bands to emerge from the post-9/11 NYC music scene? Is this optional pub night with students really optional? Am I asking smart questions? Mix all of that doubt in with a couple of interviews that went awry and assignments that were due regardless of my little interviews and you’ve got E X H A U S T I O N. I was so tired that I skipped several semi-mandatory events just to rest.

me standing in front of a sign for the martha stewart center for living at mount sinai

me and Martha Stewart @ Mount Sinai

The interviews themselves weren’t even as terrifying as I was expecting. My post-doc had warned me that some faculty can be pretty ruthless in their questioning, almost as if they’re trying to make you slip up. She recommended reading at least two papers from each faculty interviewer’s lab to become familiar with their research because they could ask me about it. I did not have time to do this. On the day of my first set of interviews, I was in a room with several other applicants who were getting some last minute studying in before their interviews. I looked over and saw a girl who had printed out a faculty member’s CV and annotated it. The interviews were only thirty minutes long; I hadn’t even considered studying peoples’ CVs. And it turns out that I didn’t really need to. Most of the preparation I needed was reviewing the papers I had co-authored and writing summaries of my research. The most background research I did on any faculty was to read the research summaries on their websites.

a striped wall

a Sol LeWitt (the color room guy) piece @ Weill Cornell

More technically: Getting to interview is a big deal. If you make it to this stage, the school has already made a favorable preliminary judgment about you and wants to see if you would fit in well with the program in person. The faculty who interview you are chosen either by you or by an administrator matching you based on your interests. I had 3-5 interviewers for each school, 30-40 minutes each, but I have heard that some other places do wild stuff like 12 interviews at 20 minutes each, spread over 2 days. I did not do any group interviews, but then again the whole thing felt like a group interview anyway. The basic anatomy of an interview was something like this:

Interviewer: Tell me about yourself.

Me: [insert short biography]

Interviewer: [says something about themselves that relates to my background]

Interviewer: Tell me about your current research.

Me: [describes my two years of research in the Walker lab at MIT]

Interviewer: [asks question about the subject] AND/OR [points out a similarity between our areas of research]

Me: [attempts to answer question] AND/OR [remarks on the similarity]

Interviewer: Let me tell you about my research. [tells]

Interviewer: Any questions? About this or about the program?

Me: 1. Why did you choose to work here? 2. How did you end up studying what you study?

Interviewer: [talks about their scientific journey]

Interviewer/Me: Time for next interview! Thanks for talking to me!

It wasn’t too bad unless the interviewer got persistent about a question that I didn’t really know the answer to. It’s hard to defend a project that is not wholly yours; however, I can see how “um that’s just how my post-doc does it” is an unsatisfying reply. The whiplash of going from one nice and successful interview to the next scary and unproductive interview is something that left a bad taste in my mouth at one school in particular. My worst interview was with an older faculty member who wasn’t very conversational. He asked what I wanted to do after my Ph.D. and I confidently22 There has long been a kind of stigma attached to Ph.D. students who sell out and go into non-academic fields; this was at an institution that repeatedly stressed to us that it wasn't like that there and that faculty have friendly ties to industry. told him “probably industry.” He told me that I should reconsider because academia would be best. No smile or sarcastic intonation. Just “you’re wrong.” I found myself struggling to come up with questions to ask him because he wouldn’t give any more detail than was explicitly asked of him. I asked him if he got many Ph.D. rotation students in his lab and he said “No, not American ones. They usually leave.” I asked him why he chose to work at that school and he said “Because they offered for me to be the director of [sub-program not specified here for the sake of anonymity].” I have no idea why this guy was interviewing prospective students. The other interviewers I had were very similar to my MIT interviewer from back in December 2015: interested in having a conversation.

the skyline from UCSF's stem cell building

the view from the stem cell building at UCSF (architecturally a very interesting structure)

I also feel the need to add that because I applied to a couple of smaller programs, I ended up going to faculty members’ actual homes for dinner. At some places, these dinners would be before the interviews; other places would schedule them the same day or the day after. In all cases, the faculty would say that the dinners were not meant to be part of the interview process, but I can’t help but think they inform their decision in a major way. Can’t make small talk with the other applicants? You’re probably not a good fit. Showing visible signs of exhaustion after a full day of travel and recruitment programming? Doesn’t look good. I’m not a very conversational person, so this is kind of stuff is one of my circles of hell.

a fishbird in a creek on berkeley campus

a cool bird @ Berkeley

 

What happens next?

One or two weeks after interviews, you get a decision. I like that part better than undergrad admissions; the turnaround time on those is understandable yet unbearable. I also liked that I could generally get a read on whether or not my interviews went well enough for me to be admitted, so I knew what decision to expect. It’s a weird kind of intuition that you just don’t get out of the black box of college admission decisions. Around the same time23 Yet another way that this part is different from undergrad admissions: all the interview invites get sent out weeks or sometimes a month before the rejection emails. So if it's February and everyone at The Grad Cafe got their invites the first week of January, you know that you're not getting that invite. that I was getting these decisions, a couple of schools finally got back to me to let me know that Regretfully We Cannot Offer You Admission. It felt a lot like last summer when I was several weeks into my internship and got an email out of the blue from some random company Regretfully Informing You That We Cannot Offer You A Position and Join Our Job Network To Apply For Other Postings.

 

 

How did you choose where to go?

I asked this question to most of my faculty interviewers. They gave great answers, but one of them was honest enough to say “Well, there isn’t exactly a surplus of academic jobs currently, so getting an offer from a place like this was great. I learned to love it after I got here.” Now that I’m done with the process, I feel a similar way. I didn’t apply to so many places that it would be a tough to narrow it down. I also didn’t apply anywhere that I couldn’t see myself going, so any choice I made (if I had any choice to make at all) would probably be a good one. A girl at a couple of my interviews applied to twelve top programs and had gotten interview invites from nearly all of them. I have no idea where she’s going to end up, but her choice was almost definitely much harder than mine.

After interviewing at my first school, I was convinced that I would probably get in and enroll and be plenty satisfied there, to the point of almost cancelling the other interviews. Good thing I didn’t: I’ve officially committed to the very last school I interviewed at. I’ll be starting my Ph.D. at Berkeley this fall.

The blogs always stress how important “fit” and “the people” are when it comes to making these difficult decisions. I think the technical term “vibes” encompasses both of those and is the best description of what guided my choice. I enjoyed interviewing at Berkeley, even though I had already mentally committed to a school in New York. After I spent some time there, I just knew.

 

 

Lightning Round!

Caveats? 

Not every discipline is like biology when it comes to grad school best practices. I can only sign off on the above so far as it relates specifically to my experience applying to bio-related programs. Med school is very different. Your experience may be very different.

 

Regrets?

I shouldn’t have applied to stem cell programs. I don’t have any stem cell background really; I just think they’re neat.24 This is not a good reason to give your interviewers. It would have been better to have stuck to applying to the larger programs.

Maybe I regret not going the M.D./Ph.D. route. I’m the kind of person who reads Wikipedia pages on rare diseases and looks at medical oddities for fun. The human body is disgusting and awe-inspiring, and M.D./Ph.D. programs provide you with an extensive background on what these assemblages of flesh do. They’re also subsidized.25 The thought of six figures of medical school debt terrifies me. There’s a reason they’re highly selective.

 

Observations?

  • I’ve run the numbers on three data points and found that faculty who work in mitochondrial biology are great interviewers.
  • A lot of bio grad programs have some ethically dubious billionaire names tied to them.
  • It’s weird how schools will play up their strengths by comparing themselves to other schools. At the medical school-affiliated programs I applied to, there was heavy emphasis on how great it is for translational research to have a hospital on campus. At Berkeley (which conspicuously lacks a medical school), the virtues of basic science26 I am reminded of a Concourse freshman seminar in which the discussion question was something like why do we pursue knowledge. Most people answered the same way: to solve problems in the world. I, of course, had to come up with something different and not basic, so even though I am largely of the mindset that yes, we learn so we can solve, I said that sometimes the goal of knowledge is simply to know more, to understand better. The TA liked my incredibly profound and unique answer, one that surely no one else has ever thought of ever. And yes, everyone on the bus stood up and clapped for me, including Obama, who was listening the whole time. were lauded as a major strength; projects do not necessarily need to be translational as long as they expand our understanding of The Science.

 

Advice?

  • If you’re somewhat certain you are going to apply to grad school, start looking for research experiences ASAP. This will not only help you decide what kind of work/environment is best for you, it will also provide you with a history of recommenders. I do not regret having spent my whole time at MIT with the same lab, but it would have been much less stressful if I had another research advisor to vouch for my preparedness.
    • More research advisors = more connections = more people who have a buddy at the school you’re interested in who might be willing to talk to you about the school. As much as I hate the economy of connections, it’s real and it could make a world of difference for you.
  • If you like to have a lot of choices, apply to a lot of programs. I applied to six, which is on the low end; I ultimately got offers from two of those after interviewing at four. You can’t really predict what your rejected:interviewed:accepted ratio will be, so don’t die trying.
  • Don’t email potential research advisors out of the blue unless you have been referred to them by someone who knows them. I have been given a lot of conflicting advice on this subject. Someone will probably email me telling me this is bad advice. On forums for Ph.D. programs in other areas,27 mostly humanities I have seen things like “I will not accept a student unless they reached out to me before applying.” The biology faculty I have discussed this with, however, generally agree that they have too many emails to read in a day to be dealing with inquiries from over-eager undergrads.28 This is not a contradiction of the above point about reaching out to people your PI knows. Those emails are good to send. The emails that I'm talking about here are more along the lines of Here Is My CV. I Liked Your Lab Website. Should I Apply? which is usually met with either no response or a quick <em>i</em><em>dk apply and see what happens</em>. You are a stranger, after all. That faculty member may not even be a part of the admissions committee. It’s really discouraging to type up a long email to someone only to have them reply with a couple of links to the grad admissions FAQs for their school.
  • It is perfectly fine to take time off after undergrad before applying to grad school. Plenty of people do Master’s programs, research tech positions/postbacs, or something entirely different before applying to Ph.D. programs. Some programs actually prefer29 It makes sense if you think about the kind of investment that the school is putting into you. Who would be more likely to drop out of the program: someone who has done two years of full-time, independent research already or some kid applying as a senior in college who has never worked full-time in research? that you have done a Master’s before applying. For a while, I considered getting a technician job for a year or two before applying. Most of the people I talked to on these interview weekends were working or finishing up Master’s degrees. I am too debt-averse to consider applying to Master’s programs when I know I want to do a Ph.D. anyway, so I went ahead and applied as an undergrad.
  • On the subject of finances, it’s always a good idea to save up any money you can. Application fees can add up. The interview weekends are typically paid for, but often the payment comes in the form of a reimbursement check that gets sent to you a month afterward. You will likely have to front a lot of the costs yourself. Even now, I’m dreading the amount of money I will spend on moving expenses and apartment deposits, but I’ve been saving all along, so it won’t be too much of a shock.

That was a lot of anecdotal information, but I hope it is (will be) helpful to one of you dear readers (someday).

  1. tbt applying to MIT >4 years ago back to text
  2. I know how you guys are back to text
  3. Where would the science be without the development of new techniques and instruments? back to text
  4. funny enough I am a bio major despite my lowest IB score being HL Bio back to text
  5. My parents did not go to college. While they pushed me to pursue college, I did not get much guidance on that besides don't waste your time on a liberal arts degree and you need to go somewhere that will give you a scholarship. I'm going to graduate MIT soon with a science degree and no debt, so I guess everything went according to plan. back to text
  6. Of course, I didn't know that was going to happen when I applied. back to text
  7. Where else would a girl want to spend her twenties? back to text
  8. BIO PUN ALERT back to text
  9. My current lab at MIT, the internship I had last summer, and the lab I was with in high school. Yes, I included my high school lab, because the research I did there was somewhat advanced and also because I wanted to make the research section a little longer to balance out the extracurriculars section. I was careful not to emphasize that that was research I did in high school (because really it wasn't! I was at a university working with grad students). back to text
  10. which makes me sad because I'd love to talk to faculty about college radio back to text
  11. Communication Intensive - Major: You have to take at least two of these in your major to graduate. These classes require a significant amount of writing and presentation. back to text
  12. She told me that in her experience on grad admissions committees at MIT, letters from instructors were typically not very useful, but that she would write a letter anyway if I needed her to. back to text
  13. e.g. my current PI could speak on my research skills, my internship PI could say something about how I adapted to my new research environment in industry, my academic advisor could provide some insight into my academic improvement over the semesters he had advised me since my grades were pretty bad my freshman spring, my professor could also evaluate my academic potential and my ability to communicate back to text
  14. Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism back to text
  15. Genetics back to text
  16. Intro to Bio back to text
  17. She's been my direct mentor throughout my time in lab and we happen to both be leaving at MIT at the same time--she got a faculty position offer recently! back to text
  18. ironically, also something that I can't know for sure until I spend some time in grad school back to text
  19. What Does It Mean To Be Mixed back to text
  20. it was a much simpler time, many years ago... back to text
  21. you know it's good stuff when the choices are simply Red or White... who am I kidding I am just a child with no taste who will never be able to discern between good and bad back to text
  22. There has long been a kind of stigma attached to Ph.D. students who sell out and go into non-academic fields; this was at an institution that repeatedly stressed to us that it wasn't like that there and that faculty have friendly ties to industry. back to text
  23. Yet another way that this part is different from undergrad admissions: all the interview invites get sent out weeks or sometimes a month before the rejection emails. So if it's February and everyone at The Grad Cafe got their invites the first week of January, you know that you're not getting that invite. back to text
  24. This is not a good reason to give your interviewers. back to text
  25. The thought of six figures of medical school debt terrifies me. back to text
  26. I am reminded of a Concourse freshman seminar in which the discussion question was something like why do we pursue knowledge. Most people answered the same way: to solve problems in the world. I, of course, had to come up with something different and not basic, so even though I am largely of the mindset that yes, we learn so we can solve, I said that sometimes the goal of knowledge is simply to know more, to understand better. The TA liked my incredibly profound and unique answer, one that surely no one else has ever thought of ever. And yes, everyone on the bus stood up and clapped for me, including Obama, who was listening the whole time. back to text
  27. mostly humanities back to text
  28. This is not a contradiction of the above point about reaching out to people your PI knows. Those emails are good to send. The emails that I'm talking about here are more along the lines of Here Is My CV. I Liked Your Lab Website. Should I Apply? which is usually met with either no response or a quick idk apply and see what happens. You are a stranger, after all. back to text
  29. It makes sense if you think about the kind of investment that the school is putting into you. Who would be more likely to drop out of the program: someone who has done two years of full-time, independent research already or some kid applying as a senior in college who has never worked full-time in research? back to text