By Katy Krieger, David Nauss and Morgan Willer
Why we chose it: Graduate School! Yes there is the possibility of continuing your education after you leave Oregon State. Whether you want to take a year off or push ahead, graduate school may be a great option. Three of our senior ambassadors are moving on to graduate school and share their experiences with you. Hopefully they can help paint you a clearer picture of the entire application process.
Katy I love the university atmosphere, so to think of spending my life in it was an incredible feeling and I went with it! I have always wanted to go for a PhD in psychology so it was a matter of finding my passion (social psychology) and really capitalizing on programs that would prepare me in the field. Right now all I do is school so naturally the next step for me was to continue on with my education, however, this choice may not be so easy for people and you may want to gain practical experience with an internship, job, or field/lab research.
Morgan My career choice requires that I eventually hold a masters degree. As a teacher I am pursuing my masters in my content, which means I will be studying history at the graduate level. I am choosing to go straight into the graduate school process, without a gap year, because I don’t want to fall out of “school mode” and forget the rigorous study that is required to excel.
David To be a lawyer you have to go to law school. But more than that why do I want to become a lawyer? I love law, I find it fascinating, intricate, abstract and yet at the same time very human and in very real ways effecting people. I also want to do work with a purpose and within the field of law there are many opportunities for me to do that. Secondly like Morgan I would prefer to just power through law school and get going with my career than take a year or two off.
How did we choose our schools:
Katy I started with a big guide to psych grad schools book and moved from there. The book was really just helping me to narrow down my choices and begin to look at factors like what the school offered for financial aid and opportunities and what I had to bring to the table like strong GRE scores and good references. I tried not to limit myself to an area or state because a list of 100 schools can easily go down to 5 that may or may not fit for you. I used my previous experience at conferences to guide me into where to apply. I focused on strong research programs and schools that would allow me to pursue my passion in social psychology as well as provide me with practical skills like teaching experience and statistics courses. Some places on my list include: UT Austin, Harvard, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, Michigan, and University of Colorado.
David I am choosing a variety of schools across the US. Three schools in the Northwest, two schools in California, one school in St. Louis, Missouri and one in Houston, Texas. I choose the schools first because they are all good, some even great schools three schools are top 25, the rest are in or around the top 50 (with one exception of a back-up school). More than the academics though I applied to these schools because I think I can be successful in all of them and feel at home. I am from California so I feel at home there, I have spent these last four years in the Northwest and have many friends here, and I have family that lives in Texas so I also feel comfortable in the south. I know that I will most likely end up living near to where I go to school so I wanted to apply to places that I know I could easily call home.
Morgan I’m applying to several schools in the Southeastern United States, like Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama. I chose these schools first off because of their programs and professors. I have a huge interest in Civil War history, as well as Civil Rights, and much of that history occurred in the South. By putting myself in the center of the history I’ll have many opportunities for research. I’ve also always wanted to live outside of Oregon, have many friends in the states where I am applying, and am looking forward to experiencing a new culture while staying in the U.S. Choosing schools takes a lot of time, especially to properly research everywhere you may want to go. I started this process early last year.
How we prepped:
Katy I started by taking the practice GRE that OSU offered online- come on free is great and it gave me a chance to know what the questions looked like. After that I took all summer to study with some helpful books and flashcards related to the GRE so that I could really do well on the exam. I used a handy guide in my field after that to look at specific programs and I would suggest finding what this kind of guide would be in your field (go ask an advisor in your major) so that you can see the short facts about each place and a general idea of what they focus on. The searching and choosing process was much longer than anticipated, so, I was glad I began months in advance so that the December 1st deadlines didn’t sneak up on me. Also, I kept a huge Excel spreadsheet with each schools information like deadlines, payments, and sent transcripts so that I could stay organized. This list was super handy for my professors giving recommendation letters because it kept them organized as well. I had all of my materials ready for each school and then strategically filled out the basic info on the application, uploaded each essay or document, and then submitted them (at least a day prior to the deadline).
David The first prep is in do you really want to go to grad school and if so do you want to right after college. I know law school is going to be brutal and expensive but for me its still worth it and I want to get it done with so I can start my career. Secondly I would start prepping for the test you have to take (GRE, LAST, whatever). Most schools look very closely at your test score so you need to prepare well for it. Take a class, get study books, prepare as best as you can. I personally only studied from LSAT prep books but I studied a lot from them. This past summer nearly everyday I was studying for the LSAT. If you can afford a class though, I would take one (I wish I had sucked up the money and done so). Next for law school applications it is very simple to apply to schools. The LSAC runs all the applications through their website. In this way you really only have to fill out one application and the rest of the applications copies your information from the first. A month before I wanted to turn in my applications I went and asked the professors who I wanted to write my letters of recommendations for their letters. That way they had plenty of time to write them. They then submitted their letter directly to LSAC. Next I asked OSU to send my transcripts to LSAC with the LSAC special request form. I then clicked sent for all the applications and paid the fee. I sent in my applications in early January, even though the first one was not due till mid February because law schools to rolling admissions so the sooner I send mine in the better chance I had of getting in to the school.
Morgan I started by researching where I wanted to go, and looked at their requirements. Was my GPA high enough? How many recommendations will I need? How about the GRE and writing samples? I compiled all the requirements into an excel spreadsheet to make sure I would not miss anything when it came time to apply. I signed up for the GRE early, and bought a test prep book. I studied for a good three months before taking the test, and even then chose to re-take the test to boost my scores. It’s important to give yourself enough time to take the GRE before you must submit scores to grad schools. A month before my first application was due I asked the professors I was closest to if they would write a letter of recommendation for me. It’s important to ask them very early, in person, and express your thanks. They are doing you a huge favor! It’s helpful to know all the schools, and the dates applications are due ready to present to them, when you ask for a letter. Most graduate programs require three letters. If you are not close to that many professors now would be a good time to strengthen relationships. Finally, when looking at requirements for schools take note if the school requires transcripts from all institutions you’ve attended, or just the most recent. Some schools are picky enough to even require transfer credits from high school advanced placement courses, so plan accordingly.
Materials you will need:
MONEY! But really. Be prepared to pay $50-75 per application, pay for your GRE ($$$) and its supplies, and expect to pay $25 per test score that you send out. Plus any extra money that may be spent shipping transcripts, documents, and other necessities to your schools.
Post-apps and Interviews:
Katy After your apps get ready for the waiting game. it’s awful but everyone gets through it! Try to get a Skype interview instead of a phone interview so that you can rely on nonverbal indicators to help you along in the process. If you are interviewing for the first time, test your phone or Skype, make sure your connection is good and prep for no interruptions, look at your background and clothes and make sure they are professional, and always be early to your interview so that you are the one waiting for them and not the other way around. Nerves are okay but don’t let them consume you; try not to amp up on too much caffeine and speak slowly and clearly especially with Skype. In an onsite interview prepare with ideas of your own- what projects you want to begin with a professor, what your interests are, and what you have done in your undergrad. Also, be ready to be thrown into ten different offices and talk a lot! Sometimes it may not be your first choice professor that wants to interview you so just be ready and know your stuff. In addition, watch out for group interview and don’t be afraid to speak up (or even shut up).