As Master’s and doctoral applicants put the finishing touches on their applications and essays in the coming weeks, it’s a good time to assess how future applicants can boost their odds of admission to some of the top graduate programs in the country.
With our graduate school admissions consulting clients we often discuss the importance of working to present evidence of your research foundation in your grad school applications. While some may think this applies to those in STEM fields only, that is just not the case any more. We urge graduate school applicants (especially those presently in college) to connect with faculty and professionals conducting research in fields they are interested in, attend field conferences and academic symposiums –then add new contacts to their network, and add the conferences to their resumes and CVs.
Some top universities, most notably Stanford University, are taking steps to make the process of finding research fellowships, internships and research projects (including those off campus and overseas) easier for students.
This month Stanford launched the brand new online platform SOLO (Stanford Off Campus Learning Opportunities) where Stanford undergrads and grad students have the ability to search a massive database of unique and often funded research opportunities.
For example, a Stanford undergraduate considering a PhD in archaeology might search the site and then find:
- The 2018 Archaeological Field School in Sicily, Italy: As part of the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project, students have the opportunity to develop and pursue a research area in consultation with Stanford faculty, graduate students, and professional archaeologists from around the world for six weeks in summer 2018.
- It’s open to Stanford undergrads from all majors and is 100% funded including travel!
In the past this is something that college students might have stumbled across in conversations with their advisor, but now with an online platform to explore whenever they like, it’s a great opportunity to boost one’s research foundation often at little to no cost and with the effort of just the application.
BUT, what if you’re not at Stanford already? How can you find research positions and funded project opportunities?
Join the professional association that most aligns with your field, become a member, attend their conferences and research their websites. For example, let’s say your passion is Biology and you’re a current college student or a working professional in the field:
- Read about the American Society for Microbiology.
- Read about the 17 academic journals they publish.
- Become a member; it’s only $32 if you’re a college student. (Add to your CV!)
- Start a chapter of the Society at your college. (Add to your CV!)
- Explore their 7 conferences in 2018 across the U.S. Could you attend 1? (Add to your CV!)
- Explore their massive podcast network including many free (no membership required) terrific podcasts on a wide variety of subfields of biology. “Zika by the Slice” seems super interesting!
- Apply for the full-funded ($6,000) ten-week ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF) Program. The application opens in December and closes Feb. 15, 2018 (for current U.S. college students only). (Add to your CV!)
What if you’re not 100% certain of your targeted field for grad school and you just want to get a feel for a university, its faculty, and their curricular offerings? You might be a current high school student, college student or working professional. No problem! Let’s say your passion is Gender Studies.
- Consider this Stanford online noncredit Coursera course; it’s called International Women’s Health and Human Rights and you can start in the course late if needed.
- This course is unique in that you can take it for free OR you can earn a certificate for the course; even if you want to take the course and earn the certificate but the cost is too much, financial aid is offered.
With terrific emerging platforms like Stanford’s SOLO, online journals to read and publish in, free podcasts by some of the most renowned scholars in the world to listen to, funded international research opportunities, and new open courseware options from hundreds of top universities coming online daily, there’s no reason NOT to forge great connections with faculty and dig your way into research opportunities that help your resume or CV stand out. Rest assured that is what your peer applicants are already doing –join in!