In the last Grad School: 101 post, I opened myself up to questions and comments, and you Persephoneers delivered! In this installment of Grad School: 101, I answer three good questions from the comments.
I highly recommend going into the comments section of that post and reading what other Persephoneers said in response to these comments as well, and look at any comments they had about the piece. Also, two of my answers here are modified from responses I made directly to the question. They’re more generalized answers than specific to the original commenter’s question.
1. Can you provide some more information about your major and where you went to/will be going to school? (From Soitgoes)
Sure! I am a Psychology major with a Human Resources minor. I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior (HR/OB), and I’m attending a large state school in the Southeast U.S. So yes, my information is more geared toward doctorate programs, but the information I’m giving can easily be modified or disregarded based on your program. This is a general guide for a multi-faceted subject, so while my advice (I think!) will be helpful, you can confirm any concerns or questions you have with an advisor or the program coordinator of the program you’re considering applying to.
2. Will my horrible grades from my first year and a half of bio classes affect my grad school apps? I’ve am currently working in my field (anthro/archaeology) in hopes that my work experience will make my grad school apps awesome. (From Lirael)
Work experience will definitely be great, as will having good (read: really good) test scores, to help counterbalance your poor grades at the beginning. My first semester in Comp Sci resulted in a C average, but it didn’t end up hurting me, though, because I got into the exact program I wanted along with half of the others I applied to, and I do think it’s because I excelled in the classes related to the major I am graduating with. I think it would be good to explain the tough first couple semesters in Bio in your personal statement ““ explain that it wasn’t because you were lazy or didn’t care, that it was because your first major didn’t “click” with you and you had a hard time staying motivated and understanding something you weren’t interested in. But, I do not want to give you false hope, either. As one commenter in the last post mentioned, nothing can really make up for lacking in basic requirements, such as GPA or GRE scores. A good explanation and excelling in your testing and research will counterbalance a poor GPA, but you’re really going to have to kick it up a notch with those two things in order to round it out.
3. I’m finishing my undergrad in one field and looking to switch to a completely different one. I am”¦ apparently screwed? (From whatimages)
Definitely not. I’m a psychology major going into human resources and organizational behavior. Granted, I did skew my classes towards human resources by being an HR minor, but really, if you can show your knowledge of whatever field you’re interested in going to grad school for and demonstrate how your undergrad degree will be applicable to the field, I think you will be fine. As other commenters mentioned, it’s particularly easy in softer sciences ““ English or history to sociology, sociology or psychology to anthropology, etc. If you can show the relationship between the two and show how your background makes you a good candidate, then go for it. Bringing the perspectives of other fields and majors to the department is something good grad programs will do, because it prevents stagnation in research ideas and groupthink. Intersectional and cross-field research is also really increasing right now ““ I think being in a different undergraduate major from your graduate major will definitely be considered more of an advantage than it was in the past.
And now, some words of advice from our commenters:
I’m finishing my PhD in English and, let me tell you, my undergrad education, while excellent by any standards (Ivy League), did not prepare me for what my discipline actually means on a professional level. I basically had to relearn how to come up with arguments and play major catch-up with theory. ““ Firstmute, on adjusting to grad school academics
It’s also never too late to go back to school after some time away. Sometimes taking a break from school really clarifies your long-term career interests. I did four years in undergrad, a one year post-grad college certificate, and then worked for three years. Now I’m going back to school in September at UofT for my Masters in a field I didn’t even know existed when I was in undergrad. ““ Maggiemay, on waiting to go to grad school
However, I also want to offer a slightly different perspective. Like you, I am about to start an MA+PhD program (albeit in English), with good funding. However, I started off as a science major, then switched to a different science major, then added on English as a second major in my junior year. I didn’t decide to apply to graduate school until about a year ago, when I was a senior. Thus, even though I too “wrote out my ideal schedule for my entire undergraduate career with my course catalog and degree requirements”, my “ideal schedule” changed a lot. Similarly, most people I know from college switched majors, and about half of them are going to grad school or medical school now. So, while I think your advice is pretty much perfect for the people that start college knowing they want to do grad school in a certain subject, I’d like to remind people that it’s fine to change plans. ““ Flowers, on changing plans
Also, Marrella has some interesting information about graduate non-matriculated credits and how they can prepare you for graduate school as well as make you a better candidate.
In our next installment, we’ll be talking about the importance of research and extra curricular activities, with a strong emphasis on the research. Really strong. Really really.
Leave your comments and questions below, P’neers!