Tag Archive for 'interviews'

I Want To Go To Graduate School To Study Stuff!

What field do you intend to specialize in? All of it.

Far be it from me to discourage anyone from going to graduate school, but this Xtranormal video, which has been floating around for quite a while, demonstrates exactly the kind of vague and unfocused thinking that is exactly wrong for graduate school.

Watch the video after the jump.

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Grad School Applications, Part 1: Why I Chose Grad School

Actually, I just really want another cool hat.

I am officially finished with applications! I received a confirmation email last week from the last school I applied to, telling me that they received all the requisite application materials. Huzzah! Now all that’s left to do is hold my breath.

Actually, I’m not quite finished. I have one interview coming up March 1. They gave me the option of doing it in person at the school or doing it over Skype. As much as I would love to actually go to the school, I think I’ll just do it over Skype. Plane tickets cost an arm, a leg, and an internal organ these days. Fortunately for me, Ben posted a nice entry about graduate school interviews last week, which I will be sure to keep in mind as I prepare.

So now that I’m done, I think it would be a good time to reflect on the whole experience.

Honestly, the most difficult part of the application process was deciding to go to graduate school in the first place. There are a variety of reasons to go to graduate school (the subject of a future post, perhaps?), but for me, there are three main reasons:

1. To Learn More
I do love learning, but, actually, my “love for learning” is not what I’m talking about here. One doesn’t have to be in school to fulfill a desire to learn. In fact, from what I’ve heard about graduate school, I doubt that graduate school is really the place to “learn” — I mean the sort of general learning that goes on in undergrad. Graduate school, for most people, is about conducting research and making a contribution of some sort to their fields of study. Even though you’re called a graduate “student,” I suppose you could think of it more as a job (more like an unpaid internship, am I right?) that happens to be in academia. As with any job, learning happens along the way, but it’s only for the sake of performing specific research projects.

What I’m looking to get out of graduate school is not another couple years of academic indulgence — I’m looking to gain a depth of knowledge and expertise in a particular subject that would make me a unique, valuable asset. Programmers generally don’t have that much trouble finding work, but at the same time, there are so many people competing for the best jobs that it’s hard to stand out and convince employers to hire you. A graduate degree is a good way to demonstrate your depth of knowledge in a field.

2. To Get More (Better) Job Opportunities
This is closely related to the above point. There are myriad jobs available to programmers, but the majority of the best jobs require several years experience or some sort of graduate degree. Deciding whether to tough it out and apply to jobs that I didn’t really want just for the experience or invest a significant amount of money in graduate school was definitely one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever had to make. In the end, I decided that going to graduate school would be a better investment. Even if a graduate degree doesn’t quite give me the running start I’m hoping for in the short term, at least I can be relatively certain that having the degree will help me in the long run.

3. To Take Advantage of Timing
If I had started working and then decided that I wanted (or needed) to go to graduate school in the future, it could have been much more complicated. Many people have also told me how difficult it can be to transition from work-mode back to school-mode. Right now, my life is still pretty simple, and I don’t really have much keeping me grounded to one place, so it seemed like a perfect time to take the plunge.

For those of you out there considering graduate school, what are your reasons? Leave a comment below!

Applying to Graduate School: 5 Tips for Interview Day

I want to go to graduate school. Just let me in.

It’s February 2011 and graduate school faculty members all across the country are sifting through massive stacks of applications, deciding who will be invited to attend the oh-so-exciting INTERVIEW DAY! Not all graduate school programs require in-person interviews, but for most, it is a vital step in the application process.

This time last year, I attended five interviews in five different states within a two-month timespan. I was completely physically, emotionally and financially drained. The format varied from school to school but the purpose was the same- assessing whether the applicants are a) not sociopaths and b) a good fit for the program. Given the kind of programs I was applying to (Clinical Psychology) and my own neuroses, the event felt like an episode of “Survivors” in which the judges were psychologists and the grand prize was a graduate school education.

As someone who survived the process and is now a student interviewer, I hope graduate school applicants find the following suggestions constructive.

Interview Day Tips

1. People are watching!
Consider every minute you are around students and faculty as part of the interview process. The formal one-on-one closed-door meetings are the most important aspects of the interview but it is imperative to be on point at all times. If there is a social event with alcohol, have ONE drink! If you are a smoker, throw on a patch! If you have gastrointestinal issues, eat wisely!

2. Practice Practice Practice!
Think about what kind of questions will be asked and do a mock interview with a friend. Be prepared to answer any question the interviewer may ask. There are many books and online resources discussing the kinds of questions that are asked.

3. Prepare Questions!
Have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewers. There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions. Having a pre-written list of program-specific questions demonstrates maturity and a genuine interest in the school. Consider the day also as an opportunity to interview the school.

4. Be Confident but not Arrogant!
It is a major accomplishment to be one of the top applicants who receives an interview. Be proud of yourself for reaching this point but remember, you have not been accepted yet. Similarly, do not come off overly eager or desperate.

5. Be Emotionally Prepared!
Interviewing is an anxiety provoking process. The first one is the hardest but it definitely gets easier. Self-care is crucial during this time so know what it takes for you to be at your best. For example, get as much sleep as possible before the interview, eat well, and go easy on the caffeine.

One final thing to note is that by the end of the interview day, you will have a much stronger sense of whether or not you belong at that particular school. After meeting the faculty, touring the campus, and exploring the city at my fourth choice school, it immediately became my number one. A few months later, I showed up with a moving truck!

Best of luck as you commence upon this next stage of the graduate school application process.