Why grad school? A higher degree can open new doors. It can provide career flexibility and advancement. Furthermore, certain career fields require an advanced degree. According to Michael Sheets’ 17 , ‘For lab-based bioengineering, you really need a PhD to do any original research in the academic or industry space.” This also corresponds to why Madeline Fort ’17 has decided to go to grad school to research microelectronic circuits. She found that in order to enter the specific field she was interested in, graduate school would be necessary. Moreover, a graduate degree is essential if you intend to pursue a career in higher education. If you have any inclination to pursue a professorship position down the line, you should definitely consider graduate school. Additionally, there is something to be said about the increase in credibility upon receiving a graduate degree. The process of pursuing research may be aided by the credibility that a masters or PhD degree adds to your resume.
Olin graduate school applicants have also commented that part of their drive to attend graduate school is to dive deeper into a particular project topic. At Olin, every student completes several fast paced projects on various topics throughout their undergraduate years. With graduate school comes the opportunity to deep dive into a particular topic. Michael says, “I also want to work on a project in-depth for more than a semester or two, which graduate school is the perfect learning ground for.” Another potential benefit is monetary. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with master’s degrees, or higher, on average have a 30% higher annual income.
Not many students come into Olin with a goal to attend graduate school. Instead, it is often a decision that is made gradually during undergraduate years. Ryan Louie ‘17, recalls that he decided to apply for grad school after a data science summer internship during sophomore year (read more about this in part 1). Ryan also commented that the earlier you start planning for graduate school, the better. With numerous application requirements, timing is key.
Taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is an important part of the graduate school application process. This test may give you flashbacks to taking the SAT or ACT test to get into college. It is important to note that it is not always required. Which tests you take depends on what schools and departments you are applying for specifically. Do not be mistaken. The SAT/ACT and GRE are totally different tests that require different preparation strategies. Madeline says the GRE is not like the SAT in that for the GRE you have to memorize numerous specific definitions, patterns, formula, and much more. She recalls that in order to study she reviewed with an online vocabulary quiz program. One of the words she learned, for example, was ebullient which means outrageously excited.
Also unlike the SAT, it has a different grading structure. While the SAT is taken worldwide with over a millions student testers every year, the GRE has only 700,000 testers a year. Additionally, GRE is offered throughout the year with multiple times slots available during the day. According to Madeline, the math portion is significantly different from the SAT. It is more about thinking outside the box. For example, she recalls a math question: “what is the last digit of the value: 2^2222?” To solve this, a tester needs to recognize a pattern.
Certain schools have particular requirements and the application process varies. Generally, applicants need to think about application essays, letters of recommendations, and transcripts. For example, MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate program does not require the GRE test but it does require three letters of reference and an extensive “Statement of objectives” essay.
The best place to receive any post-graduation advice (or any advice about Olin in general) is the post-graduate planning office (PGP). When asked what advice he would give juniors looking to apply, Michael says, “Do the grad school co-curricular! Aarti (PGP office member) and friends are incredibly helpful, and even if you can’t make the co-curricular, definitely stop by PGP.” A ‘co-curricular’ is a semester long class-like program. PGP’s co-curricular is about the ins and outs of grad school. This blog post can give an introduction into the world of graduate school, but for concrete information, the PGP office is the best resource on campus.