Graduate School

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Applying to clinical psychology PhD programs: the post-baccalaureate research job
There’s really no way around it: getting into a PhD program in clinical psychology is hard. And it’s not just the application process itself that’s challenging – gaining admission to a well-regarded and funded program can take years of preparation before the application cycle even begins. But there are real things you can do in those key years ...
Decisions, decisions…how to pick a graduate program in science
If you’ve decided to apply to graduate school, you’ve probably found yourself in a labyrinth of endless choices, with each path branching into a maze of research labs, publications, patents, and scientific breakthroughs. As an aspiring scientist, choosing the right graduate program can open a world of possibilities, but navigating the application ...
To biologists – why we should love math
The mention of mathematics often evokes mixed emotions among biologists. While some embrace it as a powerful tool, most merely view it as a black box for their collaborators to navigate for them or as intimidating and unrelated to their study. However, as a Biology PhD student, I firmly believe that math is not scary and an essential and ...
Finding your voice to write a statement of purpose
We all know that we need to distinguish ourselves on our graduate school applications and that the statement of purpose is a crucial space for doing so. I think of this challenge as a matter of “finding your voice.” As I see it, finding your voice is not only a matter of learning how to write in a stylish, distinctive way, important as that may ...
Five tips for managing public speaking anxiety
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is among the most feared things in the world—right up there with acrophobia (fear of heights) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders). But unlike a sheer cliff or a venomous spider, public speaking can’t kill you. But that doesn’t mean public speaking is any less terrifying, and building the confidence ...
How to prepare for data structures and algorithms interviews
When preparing for data structures and algorithms interviews, it’s crucial to put in time reviewing concepts and solving practice interview problems. However, it’s almost equally important to practice the structure of the live interview itself. Here are some tips for communicating and organizing your thought process as you’re being interviewed.
The difference between pursuing a graduate degree in the United States and the United Kingdom
I earned both my undergraduate degree and master's degree in the United States. Once I decided that I wanted to stay in academia and a PhD, I struggled to see myself sitting in the classroom for hours repeating coursework, quizzes, and examination for three or four years and then conducting research on my speciality, which would then take another ...
How to write an effective “Reasons for Applying” supplement for Oxbridge
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about applying to the University of Cambridge or Oxford in the UK. Your grades are stellar and you have plenty of out-of-school experiences to talk about, but unfortunately, they’ve only given you 1000 characters to prove your interest in the program. Moreover, this is your only chance to sneak ...
The long and winding road to my first research publication
In many ways, peer-reviewed publications are the currency of academia. Your list of publications over your career may very well be the deciding factor in whether you receive tenure as a professor. If you are a PhD student, your research group may set strict requirements on the number of publications you have before you graduate (often three ...
How to give effective research presentations
1. Cater to your audience Engaging your audience is vital to maintaining their attention and fostering active participation. Your title slide should be used as an opportunity for you to introduce yourself and connect with your audience. Do not simply read the title! Try to scan the room and make eye contact with people and smile - it will make ...
What they won’t tell you about choosing the right graduate institution
If you're reading this post, you are probably an experienced student. You’ve overcome standardized tests, have had plenty of extracurricular experience, and perhaps even mastered your interview skills. However, one seemingly challenge awaits: choosing the right graduate institution for you. While this challenge seems innocent enough, there is the ...
So, you've decided to pursue a PhD...
You’ve come this far! And if you have asked yourself the important questions—and more critically, if you have responded with honest and intentional answers—you are ready. I don’t suggest going down the PhD path if you think you should, or if you feel like it would be a waste of your past work not to follow through. Your journey has yet to be ...
Tips for crafting art portfolios for Art & Design schools
It’s been a little over ten years now since I applied for design school, and in the time since, I’ve gone from student to teacher in my own right. As a lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design, I’ve learned firsthand how effective a portfolio can be for your creativity, skills, and unique perspective. More so than your application essays, art ...
How to approach biology and biomedical graduate school interviews
The graduate school application process is exhausting. Tailoring multiple applications for each school is a daunting task. A sigh of relief finally arrives when invitations to interview for graduate programs arrive. However, as part of the application process, interviews carry a lot of weight, and most students don’t get a blueprint for what to ...
Graduate School Qualifying Exams: what are they and how can I prepare?
As a graduate student in a STEM field, your program probably has one or more written qualifying exams which you must pass, along with your oral exams, to earn the coveted title of PhD candidate. The written exams cover the fundamental material in your field—generally from courses you took as an undergraduate or a first-year graduate student. These ...
Things I wish I knew before grad school
Graduate school is an incredibly rewarding, full experience. Here are a few things I wish I had known before starting the journey:
Five design tips for a presentation your audience will remember
Whether for class, a project proposal, or a lab meeting, you’ll probably need to make a slide deck at some point in your career. To make it stand out and stick with your listeners, here are some psychology- and research-based design tricks that you can easily add to any presentation, technical or otherwise.
Getting started on a graduate school personal statement
You’re applying to graduate school. You have to write a personal statement. If that blank page is looking a little daunting, here are a few ways to jumpstart your process.
Choosing the right PhD program
There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re applying for a PhD program. Before you begin to fill out an application, here's some guidance that can make this big decision less overwhelming.
You can always change your mind: getting a PhD in a field you didn't major in
Everyone has a story about how they ended up in graduate school. Some people know in high school, or maybe as early as middle school, that a PhD in a certain field is their goal. Most people, however, make this decision while in undergrad. The majority of people pursue their PhD in the same discipline as their major in undergrad, which makes a ton ...
How to be a good mentee
If you’ve ever attempted to find a research mentor, you know how daunting it can be. Without existing research mentors who can vouch for your work ethic, breaking into the research world can be challenging. So, once you’ve found a research mentor, it can be even more overwhelming to think about how to develop that relationship. Whether you’re in ...
How to tackle 10 tough admissions interview questions
Applying to college or graduate school? Interviews will likely be part of the application process! Although interviews can be nerve-wracking, they are a great chance for you to show your personality and give the admissions committee a sense of who you are as a person – in real life, not just on paper! Read on for tips for tackling 10 tough ...
Should you get a PhD? 5 ways to know.
Perspectives on whether people should pursue a PhD run the gamut from cautiously positive to incredibly negative. From the changing financial prerogatives shaping higher education to the casualization of labor and the dismantling of entire humanistic fields, academic hopefuls must navigate an increasingly complicated landscape. Particularly for ...
Going shopping: how to make your list of target PhD programs
You just won a shopping spree to your favorite clothing brand. Elated, you spend your Saturday trying on the entire store (if you hate shopping, stay with me). You try on a shirt. It looks decent. You try on another. Now that looks good on you. After trying on 100 items you like, you buy 15 you love. This is how generating your list of target PhD ...
Secrets to acing the GRE
So, you’ve decided to apply to graduate school? Congratulations! I’d say you’re 50% of the way there. All you need to do now is fill out your applications, submit your transcripts, secure some recommendation letters, and…take the GRE. Yikes!
How to ask good questions during information sessions
So you’ve signed up for an information session – now what? One of the only times applicants can make an impression with admissions counselors in these sessions is during the Q&A. It can be challenging to figure out just what you should ask. What will make a good impression? A bad impression? In that light, here are a few tips to help prepare ...
Be a STAR: strategy for college interviews, job interviews, and more
Talking about ourselves can be hard, especially in a high-pressure situation, like a college interview. The STAR method is a strategy that will help you knock the interview out of the park!
Interview prep: how to get your dream job
It’s a few days before your interview for your dream job — you’re nervous but thrilled just thinking about the possibility. You want to be better prepared for this interview than you have been for any interview before. But where do you start?
Tips for virtual graduate school interviews
Congratulations! You successfully made it through your courses, submitted your graduate school application, got your references submitted, and completed the multitude of personal statements and the research experience essay. Time to think about one of the last and crucial stages of the graduate school application process: graduate school ...
How to write a personal statement if you’re changing fields
Your personal statement must answer the crucial question of any graduate school application: Why are you a perfect fit for a program? To demonstrate that fit, many students craft an academic arc that traces their undergraduate experiences to their current application. But what if your path is more jagged? After switching from an undergraduate ...
So you want to be an engineer...but don’t have a degree in engineering
I was getting my degree in environmental science, at a school without an engineering program, when I realized I wanted to be an engineer. Engineering first called to me in Cambodia, home to the magnificent Angkor Wat complex of temples. The Angkor people constructed a series of motes and irrigation systems at a scale that rivals that of many ...
How to write a personal statement for doctoral/masters programs in the arts and sciences
Writing an academic personal statement for a doctoral or masters program in the arts and sciences is different than writing a college personal statement. Departments will assume that anyone interested enough to apply to graduate school (and spend, for a doctoral program, five to seven-plus years studying) is sufficiently enthusiastic about the ...
The art and nuance of networking
As a species, we have been forced to adapt in many ways over the past year. Whether it be through “masking up” to venture to grocery stores, virtual happy hours with coworkers and friends, or even creating, manufacturing and distributing multiple vaccines to help turn the tide against the virus, we have shown great resilience in the face of ...
The draft-drain-refine approach for personal statements (and other writing)
When I worked at Boston Consulting Group, my teams often produced 300-slide presentations within a few weeks of a client engagement. BCG had a mantra for producing detailed analysis efficiently that I find useful for all forms of writing:
Overwhelmed by the graduate school application process? Here are five tips to help you get started.
Applying to graduate school can seem very overwhelming. When I decided to go back to school, I remember feeling slightly paralyzed by all of the work that I needed to do in order to submit a competitive application, and I wondered how I was going to get everything done while working full time. If you find yourself in a similar position, here are ...
Making your personal statement stand out in just the first two lines
A personal statement is the best (and sometimes only) chance you have to make your application jump off the page. Even if you have outstanding test scores, those scores alone do not guarantee you admission. Which brings us to the personal statement, your chance to show your readers how engaging you are, how you are a future leader in your field, ...
How to answer the 'Tell Me About Yourself' question during interviews
Whether you’re interviewing for graduate school or employment, you may fear being asked this open-ended question: “Tell me about yourself.” For many, this question invokes anxiety, as it’s too vague for there to be a “right way” to answer it. This can leave the interviewee scrambling to think of an impromptu good response. However, with some ...
How to “find your voice”
You will often hear writers talk about “finding their voice.” It sounds like a simple task, but honing one’s voice can take years of practice, study, and trial and error. When you are putting together your applications for college or graduate school, you are likely facing a fast-approaching deadline—so time is a luxury you don’t have.
5 tips for authentic interviewing
There’s something comical about reading articles that coach you on how to be yourself. If you Google “authentic interview tips,” you’ll find articles titled “How to Sound Authentic” and “How to Be Yourself,” which evoke truisms like Oscar Wilde’s “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” and Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true.” But what ...
How to write the statement of purpose for humanities and social science PhD programs
Sometimes also referred to as a personal statement or statement of objectives, this 1,000-2,000-word document is a key part of your application to PhD programs. The faculty reads hundreds of these essays, so, for their benefit and yours, keep your statement clear and simple. There are three essential questions that need to be answered in this ...
Finding patterns in exponent problems on the GRE Quantitative section
One thing about GRE quant questions and standardized test math questions more broadly: if a question seems impossible or like it will take a ridiculously long amount of time to complete… It isn’t as difficult as it seems! Let’s dive right into a practice problem to see an example. Take the following numeric entry problem:
A short guide to using the GRE’s on-screen calculator
The Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE is unique in that it provides a tool that sections on similar standardized exams lack: an on-screen calculator. Though this distinction may relieve those who feel intimidated by math or by standardized exams in general, it also challenges those trying to determine the best strategy for employing its ...
My experience with the “GRE at Home” remote exam
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, ETS has been offering the option to take the GRE at home (right now, through September 2020) instead of the traditional in-person format. Several months ago, I took the GRE in this format, and share some of my experience and advice below.
The mamba mentality: importance of state of mind in academic success
As someone who has been studying psychology for the past decade, I know one of the key ingredients to academic success is state of mind. I started my undergraduate journey at UCLA, and am ending my residency at University of Pennsylvania – I’ve had my fair share of schooling! Over the years, I have developed a phrase for my positive state of mind; ...
Taking a hypothesis-driven approach to cracking GRE text completion questions
When I first approached GRE text completion questions, I did what came naturally to me and what has been reinforced by years of standardized testing: I read the question, read the possible answers, and decided which answer seemed most right using the tools in my toolbelt--process of elimination, logical deduction, and the like. Maybe, if I was ...
The Pomodoro Technique
Maybe you have just begun studying for the GREs; maybe you’re about to write your personal statement for applications; maybe you have a set of formulas you need to memorize. Whatever it is you are setting out to begin, your relationship to that work and how it fits into your life isn't just a matter what it is you want to accomplish, but how you ...
How to join a research lab
Experience conducting research is an important criterion for admission to graduate school, medical school, and industry jobs, yet finding and obtaining a research position can be challenging for many undergraduates. Without background or experience it can be intimidating to reach out; however, by following some simple steps and tips outlined ...
Is getting a PhD in science or engineering right for me?
Before you apply to graduate school in science or engineering, it’s important to take a moment to ask yourself WHY. Many people apply to STEM grad programs because they were excellent students through their undergraduate education, not realizing that graduate school is a very different beast.
The grad school recommendations roadmap: everything you need to know
This blog post outlines key strategies, tips, and suggestions for ensuring you get a recommendation for graduate school that sets you apart. Before the Ask Plan Ahead Start thinking of whom you might want to ask to write your recommendations as far in advance as you can – at least six months, but preferably more. This timeline will give you plenty ...
Our top 10 summer study spaces in NYC
Whether you’ve got summer classes or are looking to get a jump on course reading for the fall semester, NYC offers some incredible spots for all your studying needs. Here are our top 10 summer study spaces in NYC:
Eight essential tips for the GRE mathematics section
I want to give you a few more GRE quant power tips. There are 8. (8 also happens to be my favorite number. I like that it is so symmetric. I like that when I push it over, it is the infinity sign or a pair of glasses or the two wheels of my bike). Anyways…
How to get started on the GRE Math section
How do you feel about math? Let’s take a minute to think about math and how we feel about it. Good memories or bad? Or both? If I were to draw an analogy about math and anything else, it would be a foreign language. You can’t forget what you learned in arithmetic and expect to do well in algebra, just like you can’t forget how to conjugate French ...
How to decide if you should pursue a gap year before graduate school
It might be hard to imagine remaining a student after graduating from college, yet as the working field becomes more selective and applicants more experienced, advanced degrees are becoming increasingly popular. Although most students are confident in their decision to pursue graduate school, they often face uncertainty when deciding whether to ...
7 essential tips for ANY standardized test
Whether you’re applying to college, graduate school, law school, medical school, or even some jobs, standardized tests are often part of the process. They can be intimidating, long, arduous, and confusing, but with some practice, you’ll learn how to overcome any test-taking anxiety and stay focused. Here are a few tips and tricks for going into a ...
What No One Told Me About Grad School: Setbacks Aren't Always Bad
I tell this story because it seems to be the most encouraging thing I tell aspiring or freshly minted graduate students. The summer before my senior year of undergrad, I was accepted to the MIT Summer Research Program. I had an amazing experience, met incredible people, and gained a lot of confidence in my abilities. But in the midst of the ...
How to address your weaknesses in a high-sakes interview
The interview for any job or graduate school can be the gateway to success. Employers want to see potential in their applicants, and how we respond to interview questions reveals a lot about our creativity and ability to think on our feet. Common questions ask us to talk about ourselves, explain why we are pursuing our respective fields and ...
What no one told me about grad school: long-distance means far away
To say that I underestimated moving across the United States is an understatement. I grew up in a small-ish town in Southern California and went to college a short 50-minute drive away. I thought this meant that I had “moved out,” like a real adult. But I would soon learn that going to your childhood home every other weekend to do laundry doesn’t ...
Five elements of a killer graduate school essay
So you’ve taken the GRE/GMAT/TOEFL, got your recommendations lined up, and picked your list of top schools. Now comes the part some people get really nervous about: translating your story into a really powerful application essay that convinces the admissions committee that they just have to have you. Below are five key elements of a strong ...
The (Potential) Impact of the New Tax Bill on Graduate Students
Dear Reader, I'm Lucas, a graduate student in the Math Department at MIT and a tutor with Cambridge Coaching. Like most graduate students, I have intently followed the discussions about the new tax bill, thinking how it would affect my finances. As of this writing, only the House of Representatives’ version eliminates a provision that would ...
How to ace interview weekend for PhD Biomedical Science programs
If you read my previous post, “What to expect during interview weekend for PhD Biomedical programs” you know exactly what you are in for during interview weekend. Now the question is, how do you prepare? You have two goals during interview weekend: 1) Convince the graduate students and faculty members that you would be an excellent fit for their ...
What to expect during interview weekend for PhD Biomedical programs
Congratulations! If you have been selected to interview at a Biomedical PhD program (e.g. Biology, Neuroscience, Biophysics) that means you were selected from a pile of hundreds of applicants. The program is willing to fly you in for interview weekend and take the time to show off its program and city. Let that act as a confidence booster, but you ...
What is graduate level economics like?
Is graduate level economics very different from undergraduate level economics? To many extents, undergraduate and graduate economics is similar, to many others very different. Their similarities reside in the fact that the core ideas and ways of approaching problems are the same. That is, because knowledge builds in layers, they share a common ...
Ten simple rules for giving an effective presentation
Everyone has to give presentations at some point. Whether pitching a new product, presenting at a lab meeting, or giving a talk at a conference, the ability to give an effective, engaging, and persuasive talk cannot be understated. Unfortunately, these skills are rarely taught formally in school. I’ll present ten simple rules that will help reduce ...
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