Why Did I Choose Purdue for Grad School?

I believe graduate school is one of the most important decisions you can make for your life. When you are going to college, you may not have the freedom or the means to select the university you want. However, going to graduate school is your own choice, and I felt the pressure to choose wisely. I remember making my list of things that a graduate school should have to deserve my dedication to the application process. I applied to five different universities, but Purdue was always my first choice.

Before selecting the university list, you need to define your own professional goals. And remember, graduate school, especially a Ph.D. degree, will be demanding and time-consuming. So, it is better to put your effort into something you want. Here was my list of priorities:

1) International world rankings: If I spend money and time on a graduate degree, I want that degree to be internationally recognized. And civil engineering at Purdue fulfilled this requisite easily. As a prospective graduate student, here are a few sources to check out:

Purdue Graduate Program Rankings

Civil Engineering Program News

2) Living costs: Did you know that each state in the USA can have different living costs? As a graduate student, the budget is my responsibility. Even for visa purposes, you need to check how much money you will need to have. Depending on the location of the university, you may need much more. Purdue is located in the state of Indiana in a small city called West Lafayette. These characteristics showed me that I could have a better-quality of life on a student budget.

3) Funding sources: Purdue is a massive university with more than 45 thousand students. And to attend this enormous student population, a significant infrastructure is necessary. The university has many student employment options that are incredibly helpful during your academic life.

4) Laboratory infrastructure: To study far away from home, there needs to be a reason. The university needs to have something that I could not find in other places. The impressive Bowen Laboratory is a research facility beyond expectations. With more resources available to you, your research and your career can go further.

5) Purdue spirit: I confess that I didn´t know about it before I arrived at the university, but it ended up confirming my choice to attend Purdue. It is a place where everybody wants to do their best. The students do not wish for grades “enough to pass”; they want to be the best student in the class. Graduate students want to solve big problems in the world. Professors and employees want to help students in any way they can. Everybody is proud to wear Purdue gear and apparel. When you are surrounded by people trying to do their best, you also push yourself harder to achieve more.

One thing that I didn’t know existed, and now is my favorite thing to do in my free time, watch a Purdue game. I love the Purdue spirit! Go Boilers!
Women in Engineering Department - Graduate Women in Engineering Network Leadership Team.

Funding – Where to Search for the Money

I believe, for most of the students who are looking for a graduate school, funding is one of the main concerns. At least it was my biggest fear. How am I going to pay for everything? I asked this question to myself a million times. Today after I got my master’s here at Purdue, and I am working towards my Ph.D. degree, I think I know a few things that could help other students like me.

  1. Start looking for funding inside your own country before you move to the USA. Since I arrived at Purdue, I have learned about the enormous list of countries that offer scholarships to their citizens. Check online and ask inside the universities. I never heard about those scholarships before I got mine, but if you search, you will find some help!
  2. Check other options. If the government of your country does not offer any scholarships, look for programs that help different countries. The first name that comes on top of my head is the Fulbright, but there are many others. Check all the possibilities! You truly need to spend some days in front of the computer searching for everything.
  3. Talk to your future professor. Professors here in the USA have the freedom to choose the student who will receive some type of funding, like the RA – Research Assistant or TA – Teacher Assistant. So, before you select your professor, check if he or she has any available funding.
  4. Next step, check your own department. If your professor does not have any funding available, it is not the end of the world. Sometimes the department itself is looking for graduate students to hire for TA or even GA – Graduate Assistant positions. Those GA positions can be inside the department office itself, like to help with statistics of the students and things like that.
  5. Look in other departments. For example,if you are an engineering student and the engineering department is not hiring anyone, for now, do not give up. Think about your own qualities and check where someone may need your help. The math department usually hires engineering students as well. If you speak another language, the language department may be looking to hire more TA´s.
  6. Check the Purdue jobs website. Purdue is incredibly organized. And the university has a website where you can look for positions available, including GA positions. I found my GA position on this website!  https://www.purdue.edu/studentemployment/site/
  7. Be open minded. Sometimes you can find great opportunities in different and unexpected departments. Did you know that the Women in Engineering is an official department and hires graduate students? The University Residences also hire GA´s for many different programs.

Do not give up on the first no! Keep searching. The difference between success and failure sometimes is just another try!

GA for University Residences.
My boss, my students, and me; working as GA for University Residences, supervising the University Residences Multicultural Connections club.

The writer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Civil Engineering at Purdue University.

Learn more about funding and other resources for graduate school here: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/fellowship/funding-resources-for-students/index.html