First off, I’d like to congratulate noel and everyone else who has gotten into graduate schools thus far. Considering the economy, applications are up and it’s even more competitive than ever. However, I have had some friends get rejected and start to freak out, which is of course, natural, and I asked, why do you want to go to graduate school?
I got the response: I want to be a professor. Okay, I said, of what? Um..a research professor, she said. Okay…why?
The pause really didnt come to me as a surprise. Yes, the economy is bad right now. However, graduate school should not be looked at as a way of escaping the real world. Grad school is hard, you will feel stupid, you will be frustrated and there will be multiple times you want to quit.
But, but..Boyie, I <3 chemistry. Bull. Crap. Maybe 1% of the people in graduate school love chemistry. People have multiple reasons for doing it, and most dont involve loving chemistry, but the thing is, most people who eventually succeed have /STRONG/ motivations to do it.
But, but…Boyie, I’m smart, isnt graduate school the next logical step? Again, I have seen LOTS of smart people drop out. Why? Various reasons such as “I just didnt think it was right for me”, “I felt stupid”, “I dont want to spend 5 years working on the same problem”, and “I just dont like research.” All those answers are things that could have been avoided. I am fortunate enough to attend a prestigious program and I know people would kill for the slots that have just opened up as a result of people dropping out. So really, think about why you want to go to graduate school.
When I was applying, my father and my undergraduate research advisors asked me the following questions as a reflection of sorts to see if I had the strength of will to make it. So, I present to you, the questions I was asked.
1) Why chemistry?
2) Why graduate school?
3) What do you see yourself doing in 5, 10, 15 years?
4) Is a PhD really required for that?
5) Again, why graduate school?
6) What do you like about research?
7) Name five influential people in your chosen field.
8) What did they do?
9) What do you want to contribute to science?
10) What do you want to contribute to chemistry?
11) Are you okay with feeling stupid?
12) Are you okay with slamming your head against a wall?
13) Finally, why graduate school in chemistry?
Yes, there were 13 questions, three repeat, but looking back on it it’s a very important question. So, for those of you about to enter, I highly recommend doing this exercise. Be honest with yourself for the answers, and g’luck!