Which Grad School Fits You?

Off-the-shoulder  Hollister  | Sandals  Vince Camuto

Off-the-shoulder Hollister | Sandals Vince Camuto

Hello, all! Today I have something else I'd like to discuss that's not my outfit. There is more to me than a love of fashion. My life revolves mostly around being a grad student. So now that summer has begun and we are still far from grad school application deadlines, I wanted to share my journey to knowing what grad school was right for me and hopefully I'll give you all something to think about along the way.

I realized I wanted to formulate beauty products 3 weeks before graduating from undergrad. This changed the career track I was on along with what schools I was looking to consider for my graduate degree. 

1. Research the field you want to get into thoroughly. What degrees are most desirable? Think of the skill set you need and see what courses are offered in the grad schools you are considering to verify that they can provide you with the right resources to give you a competitive edge. Many companies have a select few schools that they consistently recruit students from. Attending one of these schools could heavily increase your chance of being employed before you graduate.

2. How flexible are your choice schools' programs? Being able to have freedom to select your coursework and the types of internships or research you can do is the key to not only better match industry expectations, it'll help you enjoy what you do a lot more.

Of course the first companies I checked out were L'Oreal and Estee Lauder. I noticed L'Oreal was beginning to use Green Chemistry for product formulation. Since I was unfamiliar with this area of chemistry, I looked it up. While learning about it, I saw that one of the Fathers of Green Chemistry was a professor at Yale. I decided to email him and ask if he had any availabilities in his lab for the summer for me to do research. After 6 months, I got a position as a research assistant at the Center of Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale!!! 

3. Look into potential internship positions in your top choices. You will get a great feel for the school academically and socially. It can help solidify your decision. While there are schools with great names, that doesn't mean they will have a program that fits you. Harvard, for instance, did not have research focus in Green Chemistry and the professors were not really performing research that could be applicable to what I wanted to do.

When I got to New Haven, I immediately began exploring.

4. Remember that you will be in grad school anywhere between 1-6 years (hopefully no more than that, but you never know with a PhD). Figure out what kind of town you will be living in. What is the environment like? How are the people? Do you feel that this could be a home away from home or are you suffocated? To do your best work and be your best self, you need to be happy.

To my surprise, the New Haven community is pretty impoverished. I expected Yale to care for it more but the school has a long way to go before making the environment around it more pleasant and safe. As for the people, everyone in my lab was very friendly and invited me to do so much with them. I felt immediately welcomed. There were times when I still got very lonely and missed my friends in FL, but I appreciated my new company. Even though there were some cons, I felt the pros outweighed them. Plus, Yale is a life-changing school to attend and I knew that my best connections would be here. There will always be give and take. 

I knew Yale is a competitive school to get into and it has legendary success stories from its students. But I wondered about the stories behind other schools as well.

5. Network, network, network!!! Try to find out where school alums end up. What is the rate of hired vs non-hired people at the time of graduation and even before. Are there salary statistics? Connect with a current student and alum to get a better understanding of their journey.

Since coming to Yale, I've fallen more in love. The people in my program have become my family and I don't know what I'll do without them after next year. I'm having the time of my life. It's more work than I've ever done but at the same time it feels like summer camp. There are weekly potlucks and parties, often involving some kind of fun theme. There are intramural sports and activity-based WhatsApp groups. There are mixers to get to know grad students in different programs. There are many program-based travel opportunities for which you can get enough funding for the trip to be either free or dirt cheap. We have fun getting into school events that have strong traditions behind them. There are so many bars and restaurants to explore. The bonds are immediately strong and they feel like forever. 

I've been able to customize my Master of Environmental Science track to fit what I want to do with my future and I am confident I will not struggle to find a job afterwards the same way I did after undergrad. I also don't see myself getting screwed over with pay. My internship gave me only the tip of the iceberg of how great this place truly is. And for a small town, I can never run out of things to do. This is my home away from home. I couldn't have made a better choice. And honestly, it was the only school I ended up applying to! Yale or bust xD

Hope this has helped some of you!