Managing Grad School Applications During a Busy Senior Year

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Managing Grad School Applications During a Busy Senior Year


Div Chamria, PhD Student in Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

I applied to 13 PhD programs during my senior year, so I was working on coursework, research, exams, essays, and interviews at the same time. Applying felt like a full-time job. How did I manage? I had a plan. And I stuck to it (for the most part).

Researching your options is crucial. I recommend making a spreadsheet of all the programs that interest you in the summer before your senior year. I started off with a relatively long list and narrowed it down based on research areas, potential research advisors, and factors such as location and program size. This can be pretty time-consuming, but it allows you to make an informed choice on where to apply.

The main application materials you’ll need to work on are your CV or résumé and your statement of purpose. I used mine to highlight my research experience and explain why I was pursuing a graduate degree. Once you have a draft of your statement, I recommend asking advisors, friends, and professors for feedback.

None of the programs I applied to required the GREs. If you take them, I recommend preparing for them during your junior year—studying can take up a significant chunk of time.

If you are accepted into programs, choosing one can be difficult as there are so many factors to consider, such as location, cost, reputation, research opportunities, faculty–student ratio, and campus culture. Talking to current students or alum about their experiences can provide valuable insight, but there is no perfect formula for making the “right” decision. Do your research, visit schools, and choose the program that feels right.

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