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Grad School Advice and Tips

Burning Paradigm

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So, I'm a rising college senior, and I'm more than certain my next steps forward are applying for a graduate program (in public health/public policy/health policy, that general vicinity). I was just wondering if any of you guys are in grad school or know people who are, and what your advice would be for navigating both the application process and the experience itself?
 

Siúil a Rúin

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I have three graduate degrees from two different institutions, so I might be able to help with some specific questions. In general, I would say to show up and do your best. It is a rather competitive environment, so it's best to show your strength or remain a bit quiet about other things going on in life. It is also rewarding because you can learn a lot and as a student, life makes more sense than in the professional world. If you work hard, study everything, your grades will generally reflect the effort.

I'd also say to avoid problem professors, especially for your committee, but even for classes. Take care to choose committee members because a problematic ones can add a lot of headaches to the process. I accidentally had a person on my committee that was dismissive of me and he was also the chair of the department. I got him off the committee by adding a bunch of other people, then submitting to the grad committee that I needed to make my group smaller, so I took him and several others off the committee and avoided offense in the process. You could keep that little trick in mind if needed.

Some people have survived their final thesis/dissertation defense by getting committee members to argue with each other instead of drilling them on questions. IDK, that wasn't my experience, but I thought it was funny to hear about it.

Also, don't expect any allowances to be made, so know your deadlines well in advance. It's very bureaucratic and rigid, so it's best to stay ahead of the game and never assume any accommodations will be made unless you have a legal defense for it.
 

Tiger Owl

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Get someone else to pay for you and get scholarships. There are very few professions that are worth a decade of your best years and crushing debt that cannot be expunged in bankruptcy. If you will have to live on loans, just go to trade school and stay out of debt. You only get one life, don't live it as a slave.
 

Burning Paradigm

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Get someone else to pay for you and get scholarships. There are very few professions that are worth a decade of your best years and crushing debt that cannot be expunged in bankruptcy. If you will have to live on loans, just go to trade school and stay out of debt. You only get one life, don't live it as a slave.

This is true; I'm grateful I have my family's financial support for this decision; I wouldn't even consider grad school (at least not right after college) if I had to pay for it entirely by myself. I appreciate the input!
 

Coriolis

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So, I'm a rising college senior, and I'm more than certain my next steps forward are applying for a graduate program (in public health/public policy/health policy, that general vicinity). I was just wondering if any of you guys are in grad school or know people who are, and what your advice would be for navigating both the application process and the experience itself?
I went to grad school and would be happy to offer my perspective. If you haven't already done so, I suggest you start scouting out graduate programs in your intended field. If you can visit them, that's great, but may be a problem due to COVID right now. Find out the requirements for each program, and the application deadline. Look for a program that has a good reputation in your field, AND one that will offer you an assistantship if at all possible, either for research or teaching. The school should tell you if they will give you an assistantship when they tell you that you are accepted into the program. If they do not, call and ask. Of course, the usual considerations of location and school size apply, but many grad students prioritize funding, program reputation, and advisor/research topic. the last especially if they plan to write a thesis or seek a research assistantship.

In practical terms, you may need to take the GRE exam, and fill out an application and send transcripts as you did for college. Watch deadlines carefully, and try to get a sense of when each school will notify applicants if they have been accepted. That will help if you are accepted at more than one school and need to choose.

Once in grad school, you will find you can focus more specifically on your chosen field. There are usually no distribution requirements, though you can take electives if your schedule permits. Most masters programs will require you to write a thesis, hence choice of an advisor is important. You can sometimes complete your degree by taking an exit exam instead. In that case, research won't be as important, and you may more easily get a teaching assistantship. Depending on what you want to do later, the teaching experience could be beneficial. You will generally be taking 3, perhaps 4 courses and doing research and/or teaching. You will be expected to be more independent, to drive your own learning process more than the average college student. You will probably also be living off-campus, though some schools do have grad student housing. (Still might be cheaper to live off campus.) This means you will be responsible for all your daily necessities: food, lodging, laundry, etc. This can be a big change for students who spent college living in a dorm, eating in a dining hall, and perhaps taking their laundry home on the weekend.

Grad school was some of the best years of my career. Good luck, and don't hesitate to ask if you have more specific questions.

Get someone else to pay for you and get scholarships. There are very few professions that are worth a decade of your best years and crushing debt that cannot be expunged in bankruptcy. If you will have to live on loans, just go to trade school and stay out of debt. You only get one life, don't live it as a slave.
Most master's programs take no more than 2 years and can be very helpful in many careers. Sometimes employers will pay for it. In STEM fields, one can often get a teaching or research assistantship that covers tuition and fees and pays a modest stipend. This might be available in other fields, too, but I am not familiar with them.
 

Tomb1

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In a nutshell:

If your purpose/determination is unshakeable, and you know this is what you want to do, then nobody needs to give you any specific advice. You will figure everything out.

if you are not all-in determination-wise, it is not worth the time and expense.
 

highlander

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I waited to get my masters degree and had my employer pay for it. The masters degree that I got turned into a defining moment in my career that helped propel me to be pretty successful in my field. I thought about getting a law degree getting an MBA or a specialized computer science degree. I took the latter and it made a huge difference because I had knowledge and skills that other people didn't have. So if I had one piece of advice I would select a program that makes you highly employable from the best place you can get into. The other thing is to enjoy school. When i was an undergraduate, I always did the least amount of work to get the best grades. When I got the mastsrs, I really enjoyed learning and it was a much more pleasurable experience.
 

ceecee

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Most master's programs take no more than 2 years and can be very helpful in many careers. Sometimes employers will pay for it. In STEM fields, one can often get a teaching or research assistantship that covers tuition and fees and pays a modest stipend. This might be available in other fields, too, but I am not familiar with them.

My daughter just entered grad school (pharmacology) and she is doing research, that includes her tuition and fees and a stipend. She also has a small scholarship so it should be mostly paid although we can help her too. I know this is the case in many fields, not just STEM.
 

highlander

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My daughter just entered grad school (pharmacology) and she is doing research, that includes her tuition and fees and a stipend. She also has a small scholarship so it should be mostly paid although we can help her too. I know this is the case in many fields, not just STEM.

Yeah it's surprising the amount of scholarships that are out there if you have good grades and apply to a number of different schools and just pick the one that gives you the best deal.
 

ceecee

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Yeah it's surprising the amount of scholarships that are out there if you have good grades and apply to a number of different schools and just pick the one that gives you the best deal.

It came down to U-Minnesota or Michigan State. While it would have been nice to have her in Lansing (and her brother starts in Ann Arbor), Minnesota gave her the best deal and has a better program for her.
 

Burning Paradigm

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It came down to U-Minnesota or Michigan State. While it would have been nice to have her in Lansing (and her brother starts in Ann Arbor), Minnesota gave her the best deal and has a better program for her.

Michigan and Minnesota are schools I'm strongly considering! I'm pleasantly surprised by how many quality public policy and public health programs are in the Midwest. How are they liking it so far?
 

ceecee

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Michigan and Minnesota are schools I'm strongly considering! I'm pleasantly surprised by how many quality public policy and public health programs are in the Midwest. How are they liking it so far?

I've heard nothing but good things from her - the school, the program, the lab, her apartment and just the overall vibe of the Twin Cities area and people. Her brother in Ann Arbor, I think is having some culture shock. In a good way. I mean he's only lived in west Michigan conservative white and bland and went off to a super liberal and diverse school and city. He's bio-engineering so he's also in a dorm with a bunch of other engineering students. But he sounds really happy and glad this is where he decided to go.

I think either of these schools and areas would be a good choice. I suppose weather could be a consideration, especially in Minnesota. Less snow in Ann Arbor.
 

PatrickCarnegie

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Hello, it is very relevant for me, thanks for this topic, thanks guys for answering the question and sharing experience, very useful.
 
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