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A compilation of stories, telescopes, internship resources, and other things radio astronomy.

Graduate School: Applying, Living, Thesising

The Professional Student is a blog about everything grad school from the application process to my experiences living as a grad student, being a parent in grad school, and researching the role of chemistry in the evolution of our universe.

Factors that should (not) influence where you go to grad school

Olivia Wilkins

Over the past couple of months, I've been struggling with where to go to graduate school. I had no "safety schools," so narrowing down my list of schools was virtually impossible. I only applied to schools where I could pursue my research interests (astrochemistry) under people for whom I wanted to work. Trying to decide over research that all sounded interesting and people who all seemed supportive and excited about what they did made choosing where to decline more difficult than where to accept. In the end, I decided to accept where my heart told me to go (cheesy, I know).

But first, I had to consider some non-academic factors.

  1. Location of the nearest Taco Bell(s). My husband and I love ourselves some late night Taco Bell with our video games.
  2. Likelihood of snow days. Northeast: brutally cold all winter; Southwest: very warm all winter; South: Flurries = snow day!; Midwest: Everywhere else in the country is wimpy when it comes to snow.
  3. Number of smileys in emails from PIs... because nothing says good advisor like a smiley face.
  4. School mascot, because even though you don't care about sports in grad school, family will still probably buy you T-shirts branded with some cartoon animal.
  5. Local "exoctic" (?) cuisine. Sushi burritos anyone?
  6. Likelihood of seeing your favorite band/artist perform. Especially if they are a local or regional artist.
  7. Available internet services. Will you be stuck with Comcast or do you get to upgrade to Google Fiber?
  8. Whose office might be down the hall. Can you catch someone else's genius if you shake their hand enough times (which I definitely need because I had to look up "geniusness" to learn that it is not a real word...)?
  9. Proximity of conventions. And I mean conventions like BlizzCon or ComicCon.
  10. Chance of your residence or department catching on fire/crumbling in an earthquake/breaking off into the ocean/being ravaged by some other natural disaster. Okay, for places like southern California, maybe this should be an actual concern.