Thinking about grad school? Meet Malia Anderson, Ph.D.

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IMG_4697Recently, I had an interview with this fantastic woman–Malia Anderson.  In just a couple months, she will have the initials Ph.D. after her name. Malia is completing a doctoral degree in neuroscience, researching cognitive and memory development of the brain. (Something wicked smart like that.) Smarts isn’t what gets you through a graduate program, Malia said, it’s commitment.  I asked what advice she had for people thinking about grad school, and this is what she said:

The earlier you prepare, the better off you’ll be. Law school and business school accept applications in the fall, but most graduate programs take applications in the late spring and close the window by November. The sooner you get your stuff in, IMG_6455the better. (Preparation matters!) Oh, that’s something else to be aware of–there is the traditional method of application submission and waiting to hear back, but there is also a “back door” method of targeting the professor you want to work with. If there is a particular thing you want to study, and a particular professor you want to work under, that professor can probably get you into the university. BUT, don’t go this back door route unless you’re very confident that it is what you want to study and the professor you want to study with. If a professor is going to leverage her network to get you into the school, that’s serious stuff, and you should be committed to going there. (Networking works.)

Be open to new ideas. Don’t go to grad school with absolutely no idea of what you want to do (and I would add, don’t decide to go to grad school because you don’t know what you want out of life.) But, do keep an open mind. It could be that while you are studying and researching, you encounter new ideas and may want redirect your career path.  (New experiences broaden our minds. And that’s a good thing!)

Current students can tell you what it’s really like.  When you visit the campus, everyone is welcoming. Keep in mind there are dozens (or hundreds!) of applicants and only one position. IMG_6452They are looking for the right candidate, but you should likewise be hunting for the right program for you. (Here’s some advice on How to handle that interview.) Isolating a current student away from the “welcome committee” can give you a chance to ask “What is this place really like?” Ask what they enjoy, were surprised by, don’t like, and why. Malia was spot on with this advice.  I also found this to be helpful when I was deciding which law school to go to. Current students told me about the culture, activities, professor relations, job prospects, and student body interactions. Most great schools will have a lot to offer, but finding the “fit” means engaging with the people and getting at what’s beneath the website and brochures. If you want more information about applying to grad school, contact me by email  —


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