The Road to Graduate School, Part I

This is my first post to the wonderful world of Voices! I’m very excited to share all that I have learned¬†during the long process of grad school applications, visits, and (hopefully) many acceptances.¬†I guess my setup will be a little different that most. It is already spring break so my “road to grad school” is almost over now. I’ll be writing a lot in past tense but I hope what I have to say helps someone because I really wish I’d know a lot of what I know now BEFORE starting this whole thing. So, here we go!!

Part I: Do I want to go to graduate school?

It’s kind of funny that I ended up in the sciences, biology specifically. In high school, I wasn’t a huge fan of all of my science classes; I actually hated biology. Microscopes gave me a headache and memorizing the parts of a cell just seemed so boring to me. Then, I had chemistry and loved all the chemical reactions and structures! But found it kind of repetitive by the end of the year. Then, there was physics. Oh physics…. we won’t talk about THAT relationship. Anyway, I came to UPS as a chemistry major but declared biochemistry as a sophomore because by that time, I’d had intro bio (BIOL111) here and LOVED IT! I learned bio wasn’t all about microscopes and memorization. Then sometime in junior year I switch to molecular and cellular biology (MCB). It wasn’t really a “decision” to go all bio per say. It actually came down to the difference between one class: would my last elective be bio or chem? I wanted to take cancer biology so I switched my major. Anyway that’s the long-winded explanation of how I got into biology.

Now, why continue to torture myself with classes and homework and all that even after undergrad is over? Well, during my time at UPS, I’ve TA’ed half a dozen or so labs. I’ve also been doing independent research for three years. So it came down to a random conversation with some of my friends where I was lamenting that I’d have to choose which was more important to me, which I wanted to do for the rest of my life: teaching or research. Someone then had the most brilliant idea and I will forever thank them for speaking up. They suggested why not be a professor? Then you get to do both. I was stunned it hadn’t occurred to me before and every day after, it just seemed more and more like the best idea EVER! So, I had a plan, become a professor. Well, that requires a Ph.D so in the summer before senior year I got my research face on and went to work on the Internet to find where there were good programs in my field.

So, the decision to go to graduate school was simple. It is what I need to do to be able to do what I want to do for the rest of my life (wow, that was a lot of dos…). It’s not that I’m scared of the “real world” or of not being in school anymore. And I actually feel that those are the wrong reasons to go to grad school. As many have told me, it’s going to be 6 years of hard work and if it’s not what you love, if it’s not something that you feel you need to do, those are going to be the most brutal 6 years of your life. For me, it will all be worth it.

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