Graduate School Application Process (Part III): Interviewing and Decisions

April 15th is the universal deadline for committing to graduate programs across the country. So, just a few short weeks ago, my graduate school application process came to end when I decided to commit to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Psychology Ph.D. program. This decision was not an easy one by any means; there are so many factors to consider when choosing which program is the best fit. For me, the decision came down to thinking back to my experiences during all of my visiting/interview weekends.

The sunset in Madison, Wisconsin during interview weekend

During the interviews themselves, my mind was, understandably, primarily occupied with ensuring that I was putting my best foot forward and engaging intellectually with potential faculty advisers, as well as current graduate students, since I was hyper-aware that everyone in the program was evaluating me. However, the best advice I had gotten before going on my visits was that these weekends are as much about the program evaluating you as a candidate, as they are about you learning more about the program and determining if it is a good fit for you. So, I want to pass on that advice and highlight a few things that I found helpful to pay attention to during interview weekends that ultimately played into my final decision-making process.

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Graduate School Application Process (Part II): Where to Apply

In these crazy times navigating COVID-19 it can be challenging to plan for such an uncertain future. However, in these past few weeks, I have found it comforting to continue to look towards the possibilities of what life may hold in the coming months after this unorthodox semester blends into summer and the academic year begins again. For many of you, you will be returning to Princeton to continue your undergraduate careers. The class of 2020 will be entering the next chapter of their lives, and for me, that means beginning a Ph.D. program in Psychology.

The author with her adviser who she has worked with on her junior and senior independent work. Research advisers are incredibly helpful in the grad school application process.

With so much unknown, I hope to provide some insight into the graduate school application process for those of you that may be considering pursuing an advanced degree. In this post, I’ll talk about the process of selecting which programs to apply to. If you are unsure whether graduate school is the right path for you, check out my last post in this series. If you are ready to dive into the process and begin exploring all of the exciting possibilities and programs out there, read on!

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Graduate School Application Process (Part I): Deciding to Apply

This semester, as I return to writing for PCUR, I will be publishing a series of posts describing my experience with the graduate school application process, applying to a variety of developmental psychology PhD programs. Throughout the process, I was fortunate enough to have guidance from my independent work adviser and other senior members of my research lab on campus. However, even with this support, I often found that the process was incredibly opaque. I spent hours searching for answers to seemingly simple questions, often never coming to a definitive conclusion. I hope to use this series of posts to shed some light on the many facets of the process. Although I can only speak to my personal experience, I hope to provide valuable information that can be helpful to students from a variety of disciplines.

The author posing with a picture book she wrote for her thesis study. She spent the summer before her senior year working in her lab full-time to collect data.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of the application process itself, the first step is deciding whether or not you want to go to graduate school in the first place. Graduate school, especially PhD programs, are long, so before you commit to spending up to 6 years in a program, it is important to make sure grad school is the right path for you.

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Crash Course: Letters of Recommendation

No matter what kind of application process you’re working through, you’ll likely need some letters of recommendation. There are a lot of common misconceptions about how to go about securing these letters that I will explain here; I hope this post will help clear some of them up!

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How to balance Princeton with the LSAT

As my time as a Princeton student quickly comes to a close (it’s scary just thinking about it), it becomes imperative to look ahead to what the future holds for me. I’ve known that I want to go to law school for a while now (see this post for an interview with a current law school student). In high school, I wrote a paper about the practice of child marriage in certain areas of the world, and I began longing to take part in a system that would correct such injustices. Since then, I’ve educated myself on a wider variety of injustices and have come to focus on the American prison system while expanding my interest in the law.

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Looking Beyond the Orange Bubble

Attending workshops and events outside of class can give you a better perspective on your coursework. Think of academic enrichment events as learning experiences rather than as something that takes time away from classes and homework assignments.

It is easy to get caught up in everything going on on campus. Between classes, extracurriculars, and other activities, it feels as if there is no time for anything outside of Princeton. However, in a post at the end of last year, I mentioned the importance of attending outside academic conferences and other enrichment opportunities as a way to strengthen your academic experience. After a great learning opportunity at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) conference in April, I made it a goal for myself to attend more of these events this year. Thus, when I received an email from the Princeton University Mentorship Program (PUMP!) about attending the DISCOVER Summit in Philadelphia on September 13th, I immediately accepted. In this post, I will further expand on how the summit affirmed the importance of looking beyond the “orange bubble”.

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Post Princeton Life: Interview with Isabelle Laurenzi ’15

For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Raya shares her interview.

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Teaching, travel, Congress, the Writing Center, political theory, Yale! Former PCUR chief correspondent Isabelle Laurenzi graduated from Princeton in 2015 with a degree in Religion. She has since gone on to pursue an array of adventures and projects. Most recently, Isabelle completed her first year of a Ph.D. program at Yale in political theory. For our seasonal spring series, I caught up with Isabelle to learn more about her time at Princeton and explorations after. In our conversation, Isabelle and I connected over our shared interest in interdisciplinary studies and the joy of pursuing one’s interests through varied avenues.

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Post-Princeton Life: Interview with Jalisha Braxton ’16

For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Alec shares his interview.

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Jalisha Braxton ‘16 was a member of PCUR during her junior and senior years at Princeton. She concentrated in Psychology, with a certificate in Neuroscience. She is now a third-year PhD student in psychology at the University of Chicago, where she studies cognitive psychology with Professors Sian Beilock and Susan Levine. Her research focuses on math anxiety and math education. I spoke to Jalisha over the phone to discuss her work as a grad student, and how her experience as an undergraduate student at Princeton informed her post-grad plans. I found a lot of what she said to be quite helpful, as I personally am considering pursuing a PhD after graduation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jalisha Braxton ’16 is a third-year psychology PhD student at the University of Chicago.

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Post-Princeton Life: An Interview with Stacey Huang ’16

For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Saira shares her interview.

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As part of the Spring Seasonal Series, I interviewed Stacey Huang ’16, who was an engineering correspondent in the electrical engineering department. Stacey is now pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University. As an engineering student who is also interested in pursuing a graduate degree, I interviewed Stacey to find out more about her research experience.

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Post-Princeton Life: Interview with Melissa Parnagian ’17

For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Rafi shares his interview.

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I met Melissa, the former PCUR Chief Correspondent, in my first precept at Princeton—Professor Duneier’s SOC 101 – “Introduction to Sociology” in the fall of 2016. It was an intimate and difficult precept where we discussed race, gender, and class—conversations that were quite new to me at the time. Many of our discussions from that precept have stayed with me and guided my current academic work. The following semester, Melissa sent me an email telling me to apply to write for PCUR… and the rest is history. This past week, I caught up with Melissa over email to hear more about her time since graduation and her reflections on post-grad life.

Melissa Parnagian ’17 is finishing up her last year at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (HKS). 

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