Monday, September 14, 2009

Grad School Update

In the past few weeks, I've taken further steps toward applying to grad school, including registering for the GRE and narrowing my list of schools. I've decided to apply to eight schools: Ohio State, U of Illinois, U of Wisconsin, Cornell, UPenn, Columbia, Harvard and MIT. Eight seems a bit excessive to me but given the dearth of graduate admissions stats available, it's hard to gauge my odds for the more selective programs, and even to know which those are.

I had two primary criteria for narrowing my list, and will use those same criteria when selecting a school this spring.

1. Quality of Program - I want to become the best chemist I can, and I believe that the key to achieving that goal is to train with the best chemists working in my area of interest - organic reactions and synthesis. While all the programs on my list have many esteemed professors, five of them: U of Illinois, U of Wisconsin, Columbia, Harvard and MIT are home to many world-class scientists doing truly innovative research in organic chemistry. I would be thrilled to be accepted to any of these programs. Within this criterion, it's also extremely important that the professors respect students. I've heard horror stories of professors making 3 AM phone calls demanding that experiments be performed immediately, and of students regularly reduced to tears by their advisors' cutting remarks. I want professors who demand a great deal, but who are also reasonable and kind. Quality of research and treatment of students are equally important to me.

2. Location - Four years in Williamstown were great, but I'm ready for reurbanization, preferably in the Northeast, where most of my friends are, but within a long day's drive of Cincinnati. This is, however, a slightly less important criterion than the above.

Combine the two and my top choices are (in no particular order): Columbia, Harvard and MIT. I do intend to visit any programs to which I'm accepted, and I can't really say what my preferences are until then.

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