3 Important Factors When Deciding To Go To Graduate School
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3 Important Factors When Deciding To Go To Graduate School

Remember, you should go to graduate school because it's what you want to do

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3 Important Factors When Deciding To Go To Graduate School

Now that we've all eaten more than our fill these past few days, it's time to remember all that we are thankful for and dive into the holiday season! It's just beginning, and it's so much fun and filled with people and laughter. With the holidays also come reflection over the past year and thoughts to the new one coming up in just over a month. For college students, particularly juniors, that also means that it's time to start thinking about they might want to do after college. For any biology majors out there, medical school really is not the only option out there.

For me, the answer was pretty clear - I wanted to go to graduate school to get my PhD in biology. I arrived in graduate school barely three months after graduating with my bachelor's degree, but ask any of my classmates and you'll find that many of them took a year or two (or more!) after undergrad before they decided to apply for grad school. I was actually surprised by the number of people I met through the application process who took some time off. That's cool. They got more research experience, figured out if they really wanted to go to graduate school, traveled the world, volunteered in their local community, and more! Grad school is not for everyone, and definitely not for everyone who just finished up four years of college, for a myriad of reasons.

So while the current applicants are waiting to hear back about interviews or are just finishing up submitting their applications to grad school, here are some things to take into consideration if you're thinking about graduate school*. (There are also several sites and books that will offer sound advice as well.)

*Keep in mind that these are specific to my experience in biology and while I believe they can be applied for any program in graduate school, they may be specific to biology.

1. Experience

This may be the single most important factor to consider if you want to go to graduate school. Do I have enough experience in research? If not, that's okay! You can always take a year or two to be a lab technician or research assistant, and many people do this before applying. But with experience comes the knowledge of whether you really want to pursue science. Research, and biological research in particular, takes time. Most of the time, experiments don't work. It's not uncommon to spend what feels like forever troubleshooting or optimizing an experiment, only to have it fail or give inconclusive results each time. Research can be really difficult for people who give up easily, or who get frustrated easily by the lack of progress. Having experience in research for a couple years before applying to graduate school helps you figure out if you can persevere through the tough times. Remember, a biology PhD takes about six years, so you can't go in with the mentality to just "tough it out".

2. Scientific curiosity

Maybe this is obvious, but you need to be curious about the world around you! Grad school means you will be researching one thing, diving so deeply into that one topic that you become an expert, but most of us find that one thing by being curious about a variety of topics. It's also good to be curious about areas that aren't your expertise - you never know when you might get an idea from an unexpected place. Thankfully, biology is a large and diverse field, so there's no dearth of interesting topics, and I've said before that it's important to keep an open mind.

3. Are you burned out from undergrad???

This is a big one. If you feel burned out and tired from college, then maybe it's better to take a year or two off from school before going back to the usual grind of classes and assignments and lab. You will be taking classes again in graduate school, and with classes come the usual array of assignments, projects, and exams. If you're not ready to take that on again immediately after your four years of college, then maybe it's time to take a step back and get a little perspective before returning.

By no means is this a comprehensive list of the considerations necessary to make a decision, but these were the three that really helped clarify my situation. I found these three things to be pivotal in my decision to jump straight from undergrad to grad school with only about two and a half months of the summer to make the transition. But I also know that there are many paths to get to graduate school, so make sure to reflect on your goals and make the decision that's best for you. It's okay to be unsure of what you want to do next! Choosing to go to graduate school is a big step, and you want to be sure of your decision so that you are happy with it a year or two (or six!) down the road.

Remember, you should go to graduate school because it's what you want to do, because it makes you happy. No other reason will be enough.



Feel free to contact me if you'd like more advice!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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