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Preparing An Effective Graduate Application Alison K. Hall, Ph.D. Assoc. Dean Graduate Education Case Western Reserve Univ. School of Medicine Sept 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Preparing An Effective Graduate Application Alison K. Hall, Ph.D. Assoc. Dean Graduate Education Case Western Reserve Univ. School of Medicine Sept 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Preparing An Effective Graduate Application Alison K. Hall, Ph.D. Assoc. Dean Graduate Education Case Western Reserve Univ. School of Medicine Sept 2010

2 Start Early Match the student and the school The application itself What makes an effective essay Letters of Recommendation After the application is submitted

3 Start Early …when is early? When are Graduate Applications Due? How long will it take? When to take general GRE? How to choose schools for applications? Start with a few programs to shape questions

4 Information from websites program description common admissions or individual program what are students and faculty like financial support for students teaching expectations student outcomes contact for more information

5 Match the student and school Often difficult to see student “fit” from website scores grades # offers each year Go to Grad Fairs with a purpose and ask! “demonstrated interest”

6 Match the student and school ABRCMS! NIH Reporter to find T32 grants are they good at training graduate students in field? Sign up for GRE test taker info list Talk with recruiters Rankings…

7 Match the student and school Each program is unique, each applicant is unique How many schools to consider? “safety” school? “reach” school The more well-known/ highly ranked, the more applicants with strong credentials

8 The Application Itself Most are electronic: Embark, CollegeNet Assemble materials first: All transcripts, Test Scores Essays written in Word Contact info for recommenders ask for fee waiver? Plan to submit weeks before deadline

9 The Application Itself Process to identify candidates for biomedical PhD Committee reviews complete applications: 1-3 faculty readers assigned Discuss strengths and weaknesses Interests match program strengths? Strong, relevant letters of recommendation? invite for interview; hold or reject Re-review with interview responses

10 The committee sees “lots” of information… Grades, rigor of coursework, Diversity of the candidates GRE scores, other tests Letters of recommendation Personal statement of objectives Research experience, internships Interview The Application Itself

11 Written statements are important— Info not elsewhere in application Personal Statement Research Experience Teaching Experience Career Goals The Personal Essays

12 How to start? Answer the prompt! Outline topics Tell a story with real examples Be confident, positive, coherent Avoid repetition be concise Proofread and accept editing

13 Basically, you need to answer two key questions 1.Are you smart enough to do this? Did you challenge yourself or take easy road? How you handle frustration? Confidence? Skill in organization? focus? Explain any gaps Any growing independence in lab?

14 2. Do you want to do this? What motivates you to be a scientist? grad school is way too hard to be fallback plan Do you need a PhD for career goal? How did experience change your viewpoint? education is a business: convince them you are worth the investment

15 What makes an Effective Essay? Why graduate school? why interest area? Expand on research accomplishments Discuss hard work, emerging independence Other relevant experiences that prepared for graduate study (work through school, etc)

16 Research Experience may come from many activities Classroom laboratory Summer program Honor’s thesis Paid technician Masters degree exposure Explore Research own Project, Hypothesis presentation Publications Competence skills

17 Research Experience “clinical stories” may not be compelling Be specific about what YOU did Do NOT turn science into a list of techniques Do reflect the hypothesis, any results Self-reflection is a good thing: How are you different after this experience?

18 Use declarative topic sentences “The most influential experience that led me to pursue a PhD was my work at the X department. My role was to…” “I first became interested in lab work when I was researching lupus at University X as an undergraduate for two summers.” “While I have enjoyed my time in Dr. X’s lab, I am primarily interested in cancer research.”

19 “We need researchers who can work with the huge amount of data the Human Genome Project has generated, and there is a specific need for well trained people to do research on diseases that affect minorities. I decided that I want to be one of those trained researchers that work toward understanding genetic diseases. At that point, I decided to attend the University of X and to take all the genetics courses that were offered.”

20 Maybe Not… “My name is X and I graduated from Y University with a degree in Z.” “As a child, I, like many other boys, was fascinated with animals and dinosaurs. I memorized whole books of dinosaur names…”

21 Distance Traveled “Growing up in a small town in X I had no exposure to scientific research that fascinated me. Nobody I knew attended graduate school… “In this laboratory I had the opportunity to perform techniques I had previously only read about (For example, western blot).”

22 Should you discuss it? If it’s in your statement, can discuss in interview “It was not until I had done poorly in the first two years that I was diagnosed with ADHD.”

23 Fit with Program “I plan postdoctoral work in translational medicine” “I would like to work on vaccine and drug development” DO mention any exposure, like summer intern DO mention individual faculty of interest DON’T tell us why the Institution is great (we want to know about you, not us)

24 How would/should you discuss: Initial bad grades, improved over 4 years A job at Home Depot throughout college Semester off for behavioral health issue Learning disability No teaching experience (never, ever lie)

25 Initial bad grades, improved over 4 years “During the last two years at X I became more focused and aware of my professional goals. This was reflected in an improved GPA, and also the desire to challenge myself by taking high level science courses.” Maturity, self-reflection

26 A job at Home Depot throughout college I gained the ability to communicate with confidence with my supervisors. After four years of work, I recognized a growing desire to be on the front lines of discovery. Commitment to hard work, focus

27 Semester off for behavioral health issue “During my second year in college, I had a personal situation that led me to take a semester off. I came back right away the next semester, aced my summer course and have been steadily working for my goals ever since.” Show program the issue was addressed and is no longer affecting achievement

28 Letter of Recommendation Who should write them? We DO call “missing” informed individuals What do you hope they will say? Mention it! Provide curriculum vitae, identify emphasis

29 Choosing Recommenders Research experience is #1--chose folks who know Choose the Professor, not the graduate student Provide a curriculum vitae and highlight your interaction with recommender Tell why you are interested in the program Due dates, reminders

30 After the application is submitted Student- check with program to see if complete Letters of Recommendation can be a challenge Communicate invitations, declines to director Formulate questions to ask in interviews

31 After the Application is submitted DO a Mock Interview Provide application copy to faculty Make it real: act, dress, time of formal interview (30-40 min) Try out questions Student might prepare a prop 1 page PPT for research, publication Get comments, coaching

32 Start Early match the student and school The application itself What makes an effective essay Letters of Recommendation After the application is submitted


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