Top ten tips for graduate school applicants
- Get excellent grades in your science classes. If you need help to achieve better grades, having a study buddy or getting a tutor is highly recommended. Do what it takes to gain a mastery of the subject material.
- Get excellent GRE scores. More often than not, this means practicing GRE exams from library books, and/or taking a GRE preparatory course. Practicing teaches you how to take the GRE. To be successful you need the triple threat of knowledge, preparation, and experience.
- Conduct research while you are in undergraduate, whether it is during the year at your university or in internships over the summer. Be sure to conduct independent, thought driven research that you clearly understand and can communicate, written and verbally. Learn how to carefully critique journal articles and how to think about how other results in your line of research may lead to the conclusions that you draw from your own data.
- Review the faculty research interests and see what department and lab you may want to work in during graduate school. In graduate school you do rotations, which are a short amount of research time in an average of three different labs, so you can get an idea of where you want to stay for your PhD research. Read the published literature and get into contact with faculty or graduate students in the lab if you are interested in more information. Make a strong effort to understand the research, and come up with good questions that you can ask the people in the laboratory.
- We want to see your personal side in your statement of purpose, but we also want to see that you are specifically knowledgeable about the research that you have conducted as an undergraduate. We also want to know if you have had any unique experiences or challenges on your road to becoming a scientist, and how your experiences and perspectives will contribute to the diversity of the scientific community. Make sure that a faculty member at your university critiques your letter prior to submission.
- Ask your research advisors to write your letters of recommendation for graduate school. We require three letters, if you don’t have that many research advisors, ask a professor with whom you’ve built a good rapport. Yes, we have received letters where professors were lukewarm about a candidate, and we’ve even received letters where an advisor said that the candidate was not suitable for our program. We want honest letters from your recommenders, and if they can’t honestly give their strong endorsement, we suggest you find someone who can.
- Be yourself, because you are fantastic, and always put your best foot forward. Always use a professional email when applying, stay away from emails such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Refrain from using slang, emoticons or texting abbreviations in your email conversations. Always address faculty as the default ‘Doctor’ when you don’t know their educational status.
- Submit all parts of your application on time. This speaks volumes. If anything is going to be late, communicate this to the department. Make sure that your referrers submit their letters on time too, then give them a hand-written thank you note.
- A shortage of coin doesn’t have to keep you from graduate school. Check out the GRE fee-reduction voucher program for financially eligible individuals. If you qualify for this waiver, you may also qualify to have the Stanford application fee waived. Project 1000 is also a great program for underrepresented students who are applying to graduate school. This program allows students to apply to up to 7 universities fee free, within their list of participants, such as Stanford. Once you are admitted to a program in the Stanford Biosciences, your tuition is paid for, as is medical and dental insurance, and you receive a stipend of $28,500.
- It’s okay if you are not personally ready to attend graduate school for a PhD in genetics right after graduation. There are many graduate students who took time off to travel, who raised children, or who worked as lab technicians prior to attending graduate school. If you are not academically ready for a PhD in genetics, you can always join a post-baccalaureate program to gain additional academic and research knowledge. A master’s program in the sciences can also help you transition from undergraduate to PhD level work, and can prove to faculty that you are PhD material.
Graduate Application Fee Waiver