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What are the most important factors to consider when applying to grad school?

Asked Newnan, Georgia

I would like to go to graduate school for either biology or chemistry (I have not decided yet), but I don't know what my focus should be for my applications over the next few years. I know every school will weight certain aspects differently, but overall should I be more concerned about GRE test scores? My undergraduate GPA? Research experience? Course-work? Essays? What would be most important to ace when sending in applications? How can I go about preparing myself for doing well on these parts of my application? #graduate-school #school #college #biology #chemistry

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Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

The most important thing is to have a definite plan and application for the degree in mind. During my many years in Human Resources, I have seen too many times that a person has attained an advanced degree without proper planning and preparation and meaningful application, which, due to such poor planning, was worthless. Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities that require an advanced degree is very important in your decision making process. The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field and attain such an advanced degree.  Getting an advanced degree without sufficient relevant experience in the field could make you less of an attractive candidate for employment. If you are currently employed, it would be very important to share your thoughts about an advanced degree with your superiors. Many time employers will assist with the payment of an advanced degree or advanced training if it will assist the employee in becoming more capable in the job and thus more valuable to the company. Here are some steps that many have found to be important leading up to such a decision.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##
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