SINCE it's grad application season, I want to tell you the best advice I received about applying to grad school: choose an advisor, not a program (yes even in umbrella programs) 🧵 1/x
Ultimately, your grad school experience usually depends MUCH MORE on your advisor than the program itself. Your advisor is your mentor and will have great influence on your career, when you graduate, your mental health, etc 2/x
Step 1: think about the programs you're interested in applying to
Step 2: look at the faculty pages for the program. Some professors have their own websites while some do not, but they should all have blurbs on the program website about their research 3/x
Step 3: are there any advisors whose research you're interested in? If not, rethink whether you want to apply there or not
Step 4: go to Google scholar and type in their name. What is the kind of research they're doing now? (It may not quite be the same as their website) 4/x
**caveat: I think it's more important to pick an advisor who is good for you than the exact topic you're interested in. You can learn to love a new research topic, it's harder to change how your advisor mentors you 5/x
Step 5: if your preliminary assessment says that they might be a good fit, send them an email and ask if they're taking grad students (not all professors are) Also ask to talk on the phone (yes, I hate talking on the phone but it does give you a better idea of who someone is) 6/x
Your email doesn't have to be the world's most amazing email -- just send it. Here is a copy of the email I sent to my advisor 7/x…
Step 6: talk to them on the phone. Ask lots of questions. Some I asked were:
What kind of research is your lab doing now?
What is your mentoring style?
How often do you meet with students?
Do students work on projects independently or are projects shared? 8/x
Step 7: ask if you can talk to current/past students via email or phone. My now-advisor told me to do this when we talked on the phone and it was great advice. No one knows the lab better than other students. Remember to send an email to say thank you for talking :) 9/x
Step 8: email current/past grad students and ask to talk to them. You can ask them about their advisor, the lab culture, etc. This is also how I asked if my advisor would be okay knowing that I'm queer. Here's an example of an email I wrote 10/x…
Remember: not everyone has the same experiences with the same advisor. Different styles work for different people. See if you can talk to more than one person in the lab. But if several people say negative things, think hard about that! 11/x
Step 9: follow up with professor if you're interested in their lab and plan on applying. Keep them in the loop about when you've submitted your app, when you are invited to interview (and ask to meet with them) 12/x
Step 10: if you have met them in person and still think they're a good fit for you, that's great! Let them know if you accept your offer and that you're still interested in working for them. Talk to them about it again at the beginning of the school year 13/x
Extra advice: you should apply to places where you think you'd be happy with *more than one* advisor. You never know what could happen and you should protect yourself by going in prepared 14/x
This all made my first year infinitely easier. I had a plan which took away some of the stress of the unknown, especially in a program that does lab rotations during the first year 15/x
tl;dr: I'm glad I took the time to find an advisor I thought would be a good fit for me. I'm very happy in my lab and my advisor is great 😊 16/end

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