The top 3 things you need to get into grad school

The following content originally appeared December 29, 2015 as the post “The top 3 things you need to get into grad school?” on the Vanderbilt University blog Materials and Methods: A blog for emerging biomedical scientists. ASCB has reprinted it here as a service to our readers who are applying to graduate school. There will be four articles in the series.  

Admittance into graduate school is a whole different ball game from getting into an undergraduate institution. These days, students have to have years of experience and preparation before being competitive for the best graduate programs. With this in mind, how should you focus your preparation for graduate school once you’ve decided you would like to pursue further education? Hear from real admissions committee members on what they consider are the most important factors in graduate school applications.

What are the top 3 criteria you look at in an application for a biomedical program and why?

  1. Previous research experience: the length of time, the type of environment (Research 1 institution or Liberal arts), and the understanding of projects (found in my conversations with the student, personal statement, and letters of rec)
  2. Enthusiasm for grad school and research; graduate school isn’t just about “learning more about science”, its about learning how to think like a scientist
  3. Some amount of academic success (not as important as research experience), so I can be confident the student can make it through our coursework

-Dr. Beth Bowman

  1. Meaningful research experience and a passion for the work that was performed. The applicant should be able to discuss their science with an appropriate degree of expertise.
  2. A strong enough academic performance as an undergraduate to provide confidence that the applicant can handle the graduate coursework.
  3. Evidence that the candidate can handle some adversity and still succeed.

-Dr. Todd Graham

  1. Research Experience – Because it provides some perspective on the life of a graduate student
  2. Interesting Extracurricular Activities (not necessarily a ton of things but rather one or two in which the students shows enthusiasm for and drive) – Because it provides additional life experience/maturity
  3. Personal Statement – Because it gives a window to the applicants personality

-Dr. Maria Hadjifrangiskou

About the Author:

Dr. Beth Bowman is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Research, Education, and Training at Vanderbilt University and Assistant Director of Biomedical Graduate Programs (@BiomedVandy) and co-Director of the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy. Here, she direct admissions and recruitment, teach students in the first year, mentor students throughout their graduate career, and develop programming that will enhance their education. Her passion is to help bourgeoning scientists on their path through guidance and mentoring.