Am I ready to go to grad school?

PhD admissions strategy

Deciding to submit an application for PhD programs was a challenging process for me. Although I knew that pursuing a PhD was my ultimate goal, the initial step felt daunting and overwhelming. Once I gathered the courage to apply, I discovered that many of the thoughts and concerns were not as accurate as I initially believed. Here are the four things I thought about in order beat decision paralysis and build the confidence to apply:

1. Perfection versus potential 

Before applying, I was worried that I hadn’t taken all of the prerequisite classes, built the most impressive resume, and checked all of the boxes that would make me a perfect candidate. But admissions committees are not seeking already perfect graduate students. On the contrary, they are looking for students who exhibit potential, drive, and the genuine desire to learn. If you're enthusiastic about your discipline and are willing to immerse yourself in the work, that’s more than enough! 

2. Is Time of the essence? 

When it came time to sit down and get my application together, I felt like all I needed was more time. More time to crystalize my ideas, formalize my thoughts about what I wanted to do, gain work experience, talk to more professors, talk to more students, forge closer relationships. The truth is you will never feel really ready. The truth is that you may never really feel ready. You may never feel like you have all of your ducks in a row. Sometimes it requires a little release and leap of faith to move yourself forward. 

3. Did I do well enough on (insert standardized test)? 

Overcoming the misconception that a less-than-perfect standardized test score is a deal-breaker is crucial. Admissions committees consider a holistic view, and standardized test scores are just one aspect. Highlighting other strengths, experiences, and potential for growth can compensate for perceived shortcomings. 

4. It’s not now or never! 

Taking your time to gain experience, explore interests, and reflect on career goals can be beneficial. Life unfolds at its own pace, and each day presents new opportunities to learn. If you can exhibit patience and consider your time as information-gathering, then waiting another year or gaining some work experience before entering academia might be of value. The pressure of 'now or never' shouldn't overshadow the value of personal and professional growth that time can afford. 

Talia holds a BA in Visual Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MS in Quantitative Economics from UCLA. She will next pursue a PhD in Cultural Economics.


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English strategy MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice law school admissions ACT interview prep test anxiety language learning career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application summer activities mathematics history philosophy organic chemistry secondary applications economics supplements research grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching law psychology statistics & probability dental admissions legal studies ESL CARS SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension PhD admissions engineering USMLE calculus mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills AMCAS French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics dental school diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails data science finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system