Been there, done that.

After six years of grad school, there are a few things I've picked up from personal experience and a whole lot of time talking with other female grad students (AKA procrastinating). I've always wished there had been some kind of handbook about how to handle the whole world of graduate school, so I figured I'd start a friendly place to discuss what it's like to be female in grad school, and maybe pass on some wisdom too!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting In

It's time to start the "guide" part of this blog, and I thought I'd start off with the beginning. You've decided to go to grad school. Now what? This is not limited to females, and can certainly induce a fair amount of stress. I know that when I started looking into this, I was pretty clueless. There weren't any doctoral students at my undergrad institution (does anyone else think calling a place an 'institution' makes it automatically sound like a mental hospital?) so that didn't exactly help matters. I kind of had a grasp of the basics on what I should be doing during my undergrad years, but nothing concrete. Let's make a list, shall we? I like lists. And if you have anything to add, please drop it in the comments (please, please do! I like knowing people are, ya know, reading this. It makes me happy. And you want to make me happy, right?)

  • Grades. If you're planning on continuing on after undergrad, you'll probably want to spend some time working on these (more so than the average student I see, at least!). There's no set GPA or anything for all programs, but a steady stream of C's and below probably is going to hurt your chances.
  • Internships. Find out what you want to do and find the time to actually spend time DOING IT. Or as close as you can. Work in a lab, a law office, go on that archaeological dig, spend time in a hospital, and hope you love it. Love every freaking second you are out there. If you have any doubts about loving it, well, you might need to take stock about what you're doing.
  • Learn how to write. This is something that I wish most college students would ENTER college knowing how to do. It would have saved me a whole lot of headaches over the years of TA'ing while in grad school, and is probably the singularly most important skill you can take with you into grad school. Because you'll be writing a lot. Papers, reports, and academic articles (this will vary depending on your program, obviously), it never ends. I had to learn this the hard way, thanks to not attending school in English until I was older, and it's been really frustrating. No one likes getting papers back dripping red ink :)
None of these are really oriented toward girls, but they are all important. Especially getting your hands dirty in your chosen field before you start onto the next round of schooling. Who wants to spend years of your life doing something you hate?

Okay, anyone got any others? I know I'm probably missing a bunch of stuff!


  1. Hi Meradeth!

    I'm so very glad you've started this blog. Everyone's grad school experience will be unique as each person of course, as you pointed out (mine has been especially so, as you know), but there are different challenges faced by women than men. I'm sure there will be more that I think of as I go along, but some advice I would pass along for folks thinking about graduate school, in addition to what you've already outlined, is to make connections. Who you know determines where you go. It's important for your application to be as competitive as possible (writing well, good grades/scores, and field/lab experience), but you also need someone on the other end that wants to select your application out of the pile of the hundred or so they get every year (hopefully most programs aren't like some I've seen with a hundred people competing for 5 spots). In addition, talking to people working in the field or fields you're interested in can be very helpful in determining whether you want to pursue study in that field. I did get some good advice as an undergrad, but most of this I've had to learn along the way, and I wish that someone had told me when I started. Would have saved a lot of time and aggravation :). Well I think I've rambled on long enough! Keep up the good work--I'll be nice and not ask how your thesis is coming ;)! Best, Stacie

  2. Stacie, this is SO true! Thanks for mentioning it :) Connections are crazy important--I never would have gotten into grad school without them. How did I forget to add it to the list? Haha! Thanks for adding a comment, and I really hope things are going okay for you and yours!