Putting all your eggs in one type of basket...

Nov 07 2011 Published by under Grad School

I have been getting a fair number of emails from undergrads that are applying to grad schools and there appears to be one common theme to them all.  What do you think about these schools?  It seems most of these kids only have their eyes set on the cream of the crop top level schools and nothing below them.  I have to remind them that for every kid admitted to some program at Dana Farber or UCB or Cornell, there are handfuls of them that get a rejection letter.  My biggest piece of advice to them is to diversity their application portfolio, I know I did.  This is sort of like what you did when you were a punk ass high school student applying to colleges and your guidance counselor probably gave you the same advice.  Apply to some wish list schools, some that might challenge you to get it, and some that are your safe schools.

Here is the breakdown of my grad school applications:

-Schools that would only let GR in to use the bathroom before campus police escorted him out.

-Schools that would let GR in if he had compromising photos of trustees or program directors.

-Schools that would let GR in if he could only spelle good.

-Schools that would let GR in he would promise to behave according to rules of polite society.

-Schools that would let GR in if he would just pay the $35 application fee.

-Schools that would let GR in if he has a pulse.

So why not apply to some wish list programs, a few solids ones, and one or two you "know" you could get into.  Otherwise if you get roll snake eyes on every single application you are going to be sitting out another before going to grad school.

6 responses so far

  • chall says:

    isn't it called "hinging your bets?"

    I know that I would do one thing differently (dilligently* might be the word I'm looking for) if I were to look around for grad schools now. I would look more into the Prof/research program than the uni status in itself. Then I would apply for more than top10 (obvious reasons) and then see where it lead me.

    *I never really applied for grad school like the US, even so - I looked for the bacteria I wanted to work with and what not... not really doing my home work as well as I should have done looking at it in hindsight?! Then again, I got a good post doc out of it etc... but somethings might have been very different considering the support from former grad prof/dept etc.... *half cynic*

    • I think its "hedging your bets" but we here at Occupy Scientopia don't like to use the word hedge because it reminds us of those dirty hedge fund managers on Wall Street.

      I think they apply this way is because a growing majority of biomedical sciences graduate programs are doing rotation systems, so its not like you are locked into a lab when you show up. The rotation system has been much debated with neither side coming to any sort of consensus, but I think it influences student to look at programs versus individual labs.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Lucky break running into those trustees in Vegas, eh GR?

    I'm going to agree with chall that one of the most fundamental duties in this particular mentoring interaction is to get the undergrad to understand that general University reputation, and rep for undergrad Bachelor's, means little. Science rep in the chosen field is the key.

    My other key advice is - "I know dude but still, you have to LIVE there for 6 years."

    • My other key advice is - "I know dude but still, you have to LIVE there for 6 years."

      Ding, ding, ding! That is one of the biggest things of all, I know you will spend most of the time outside the lab but if you hate the fucking snow, don't go to Michigan. If your people start to wilt when the temperature climbs above 80 F, what the hell are you doing in Texas?

  • Dr 27 says:

    Exactly!! The school I ended up choosing was not even on my radar. My application there was an accident. I did apply to some top schools, which rejected me (hey, their loss, I did published almost half a dozen papers in the 5+ years I was there). But indeed, diversification is the key. I didn't spend much time doing research, but I did know I didn't want to be in school in a major city (Chicago, NY, LA). I also didn't want to be in a hell-hole. I wanted some quality of life, and I think I found it. But, if I could go back, I'd tell my old self not to waste money with Ivy leagues and shoot for a few safety schools along with some moderately-hard-to-get-into schools and take it from there. Also, proximity to family would be a major thing.

  • psj says:

    I was not 100% sure I wanted to go to grad school, so I applied to 2 grad schools that had well-regarded programs in the field I wanted to go into. I figured that if I didn't get accepted by a program of my choice, I'd do something else instead. It worked out okay (I got into both, to my surprise), though I sometimes wonder what I'd being doing now if neither had taken me in... My backup plans were pretty fun.

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