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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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.

Continue reading Post-Princeton Life: Interview with Jalisha Braxton ’16

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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Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview With Professor Bernadette Pérez

This winter, for our seasonal series entitled “Professorship and Mentorship,” PCURs interview a professor from their home department. In these interviews, professors shed light on the role that mentorship has played in their academic trajectory, including their previous experiences as undergraduate and graduate students as well as their current involvement with mentorship as independent work advisers for current Princeton undergraduates. Here, Rafi shares his interview.

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Professor Bernadette Pérez is a Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities, History and American Studies and a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in Race and Ethnicity Studies in the Society of Fellows.

I met Professor Pérez last semester as a student in her course on Commodity Histories. Throughout the semester, I was inspired by her commitment to interdisciplinary research and her focus on subjugated histories. I was excited to hear about her personal research journey and any advice she might have for a confused undergrad like me. 

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Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Hadiya Jones

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Taylor shares her interview with Hadiya Jones.

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Hadiya Layla Jones, 3rd Year Graduate Student in Princeton’s Sociology Ph.D. Program

What’s your research about?

As a black woman raised in a predominantly white middle-class suburb, I am intrigued, both personally and scholarly, by the diverse manifestations created by the intersection of race, gender, and class. I ultimately desire to study how black middle-class millennials, who are socialized in predominantly white spaces, navigate their identities, and I am particularly fascinated by how this process happens on the web.

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Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Alex Wheatley ’16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20 Part 1

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Emma shares her interview.

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Alex Wheatley ’16 *20

As part of our Spring Seasonal Series, Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, I interviewed two students in the SINSI Graduate Program, Alex Wheatley ‘16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ‘16 *20. Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI) is a scholarship program designed to prepare students to pursue careers in the U.S. government. Students in the program spend two years pursuing an MPA in the Woodrow Wilson School and two years in a SINSI fellowship with an executive branch department or agency (often, but not always, between the first and second years of the MPA program). In the first post on this two-part interview, Alex and Nathan discuss their experiences as SINSI scholars in the MPA program:

 

Emma: How did you decide to apply for SINSI?

Alex:  I saw a SINSI advertisement hanging on a lamp post. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it wasn’t premeditated either. I had been thinking about health-related fellowships, and as I subsequently learned more about SINSI it seemed like an excellent opportunity to dabble in many different aspects of public health, to do good through public service, to be thrown into opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have, and to complete a higher degree with students whose experiences were very different from my own. This was back when SINSI was a six year program that students applied for in the fall of their junior year– one of the toughest considerations was whether I was willing to commit the next six years of my life to a program I had learned about from a lamp post (spoiler: I made the right decision).

Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20

Nathan: I entered Princeton thinking I was interested in a career in public service. At the start of sophomore year, I spoke to Ambassador Barbara Bodine, then the SINSI director, about applying for an internship with an embassy abroad. Through some luck I wound up in Embassy La Paz, Bolivia, working in the Public Diplomacy section. In Bolivia, I assisted to plan and implement programming that engaged hundreds of Bolivians on subjects such as American civil society, volunteerism, and education. Through this work, I developed immense respect for my colleagues and bosses. That summer more or less confirmed my inkling that public service would be a good fit, and I applied for SINSI a few months after during my junior fall. Continue reading Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Alex Wheatley ’16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20 Part 1