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Thread: Science grad school in the USA and Canada

  1. #1
    Member Ludvik's Avatar
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    Science grad school in the USA and Canada

    To anyone here studying any kind of applied (natural) science in graduate school / a Master's programme in the USA or Canada:

    What's the lowdown in applying and getting admitted?

    Have you been immediately successful in applying?

    Have you found it worthy of the effort to get in?

  2. #2
    Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    I'm going to assume you're thinking about a PhD program. A !aster's is about half like an undergrad and half like this.

    GPA and test scores can go without mention, and you can tack on quality of undergraduate program as well.

    A lot is going to depend on what subject(s) you're considering, what you're thinking about in terms of a career, and what you're doing presently. If you're still an undergrad, you should probably get a research position, either at your U or with a national lab (assuming you're a US citizen), or at some other kind of institution. The national labs have summer intern positions that pay very well, and I know other labs have summer programs.

    I'd also recommend keeping an eye out for any grant, challenge, or award opportunities. Any monetary component is secondary to simply getting CV fodder. Grants and such things stand out as a vetting process - if I don't know anything about you, but I see that you received an NIH grant or DARPA award, I know that, at least for that work, you successfully ran the gauntlet. I know the whole thing is not a meritocracy the way some people like to think it is, but it's something that will help an applicant stand out. Publications are very helpful as well - poster presentations at conferences or being buried four or five people deep in a journal article are fine for undergrads. If you did enough work to be listed as a coauthor, that's a sign that at least you have the capacity and the drive people are generally looking for.

    If you're already put of school, there's still a lot that can be done. It's the same stuff, mostly, but having an internship is more tricky. Most places require an academic affiliation. That holds true for grants as well. Some journals are more open to non -academic affiliated researcher than others - computer science and related fields, say, versus health.

    It's also a good idea to have a solid feeling for the program to which you're applying, and maybe have a conversation or two with the people you'd be interested in working with. No one expects students not to change their minds at least a time or two during the corse of their studies, but if the schools you're applying to don't have anyone in your field of interest, the review board will know it. There's also the chance that the person you're going to speak with sits on the review board.

    I'd also look for programs that include a stipend and tuition. Again, your department/major will play a role here, although generally speaking STEM programs tend to be a better bet.

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