“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When you’re a kid, that question is an exciting and fun question to answer; the possibilities are endless. As we age, this inquiry seems to get more difficult to answer; until you’re a college student and the question, “What are you doing after college?” prompts some serious anxiety. In addition to being an incredible research experience for undergrads, Polaris is a really valuable opportunity for us to explore those career options. The group has members from a variety of experience levels (new PhD’s, post-docs, and faculty members), all whom approached their current careers from different directions and can offer insight on these various career paths.

A few nights ago, the topic of our post-dinner discussion was graduate school. It was interesting to hear from people that went straight from undergrad into Ph.D. programs, and those who took time off and explored different fields in master’s and Ph.D. programs. Each shared their story and how they made various decisions along the way, and what the pros and cons of their experiences were. It was reassuring to hear from so many scientists in diverse fields of study that there is more than one way to arrive at a successful career.

Several of the PIs who take graduates students also provided insight on the application process – what they look for in students, how to successfully contact advisers, and some tips for putting together a strong application.

All the undergrads left the evening feeling a little stressed out, but with a lot more insight as to how to successfully apply to graduate school. Watch out academia – here we come.