Preparing for Graduate School
Once you have determined that graduate school is right for you, think about how to begin preparing and positioning yourself to be a competitive applicant and eventually a successful graduate student. Consider these resources as you begin your preparation:
- Preparing for Graduate School presentation and Timeline for Applying to Graduate School from the Purdue University Graduate School
- Guide to Writing Your Personal Statement
Next, establish your graduate education goals and make yourself more marketable by obtaining experience relevant to your area of interest. This will give you the opportunity to:
- assess your level of interest
- identify the skills and education you need to launch your career
- relate and apply your studies to actual work and professional settings
- acquire new knowledge and skills
- gain hands-on experience relevant to your area of interest
- network with professors and employers
- meet other undergraduate and graduate students
- refine your graduate education and career goals
Unlike your undergraduate experience, the majority of your degree requirements in graduate school may not be predetermined, especially if you pursue a PhD. Instead, you may help define what classes you take and what research or other scholarly activities you pursue. The most successful candidates enter graduate school with a clear outcome in mind.
Use internships, cooperative education programs (often referred to as co-ops), part-time employment, and summer research programs to refine your career objectives. These experiences will help you determine:
- if graduate school is right for you
- what you need to accomplish in graduate school to be successful in your field
Examples of some types of programs you may wish to investigate are:
Gain valuable work experience, establish important contacts, and determine if a particular career is a good fit for you! By interacting with professionals in your field, you can determine the educational requirements for the position you want and decide if attending graduate school is your next best step. Once you know what you're working towards, it's easier to determine the best path to get there. This will make designing your course of study in graduate school easier and more effective.
Consider some of the following resources for internships:
- Environmental internships
- Internships in Indiana
- Internships around the country
- Internship opportunities around the globe
- Internships administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and Oak Ridge Associated Universities
- Internship opportunities from Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities
- Listing of several NASA internship and research programs
- Search for internships and post your resume online
- Science Internships for Undergraduates and Graduates
- Smithsonian Institution internships
- The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars
Summer Research Programs
Work closely with faculty, graduate students, and researchers on actual projects being conducted at the host institution! These programs give you an inside look at graduate school and introduce you to the type of work you may encounter as a graduate student. Anyone considering a career in research or post-secondary academia will also gain valuable insight into the life- and work-styles of these professions.
Begin by exploring some of the following options:
- Summer research programs at Purdue University
Explore a wide variety of programs open to both Purdue and non-Purdue undergraduates.
- Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Summer Research Opportunities Program
The CIC is a consortium of 12 teaching and research universitiesin the Midwestern United States.
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute's (HHMI) searchable database of summer programs
HHMI funds summer research programs focusing on biomedical research and the sciences at colleges and universities around the United States. Please note: When using HHMI's database to locate summer programs, be sure to search by "Active grants only" so your results display only active programs.
- Listing of several NASA internship and research programs
Information about NASA internships, fellowships and scholarships.
- Student Programs at NASA Langley
NASA Langley offers many opportunities for students of all grade levels to work alonside NASA researchers.
- NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program
This program is an on-site mentored research experience that is open to full-time rising undergraduate juniors and seniors with coursework concentrations in engineering, mathematics, computer science, or physical/life sciences.
- Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program
Provides opportunities for students to participate in research at a Department of Navy laboratory during the summer. Participants must have completed at least their sophomore year.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates
Students work with faculty and other researchers at a host institution either within the United States or abroad. Undergraduate students supported with NSF funds must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions.
- Research programs administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Scienceand Education and Oak Ridge Associated Universities
This Web site posts opportunities from around the country in a wide variety of fields.
- Summer research opportunities at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Summer research opportunities may include positions related to theoretical calculations, laboratory measurements, data analysis, computer programming, andelectronics design, fabrication, and testing.
- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) Summer Intern Program
Undergraduate students interested in careers in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or related physical sciences may work with an SAO/Harvard staff member on a research project and attend field trips and discussions. Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
In addition to the above resources, you may also wish to consult with undergraduate advising, career services, undergraduate research, and financial aid offices at your current institution for further assistance.