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Grad School FAQ

Many of my younger (and I use this term loosely) friends are currently considering graduate school, so I figured why not dedicate a post to answering some of their burning questions? I sent out a request for questions re: grad school to a few people I knew and tried to incorporate as many of their questions into this post, especially those that were asked multiple times. Many of their questions I can’t directly answer because they vary so much between different programs so I will also offer many other resources that can help them answer their questions.

Q: When should I apply for graduate school?

A: Different schools have different deadlines and even different programs have different deadlines. Often these deadlines are in the first few months of the year, so make sure you check these dates out in advance.

Q: When should I start emailing potential supervisors?

A: As early as possible! This will change based on the deadline for the specific program you are applying to but in my opinion, the earlier the better—at least 6 months in advance!

Q: If I want to apply for a research master’s program, do I need previous research experience?

A: The short answer to this is not necessarily. I know several graduate students who had no experience in research until entering graduate school. However certain supervisors or programs may require it, or prefer it so be sure to ask when you are emailing potential supervisors. That being said, if the opportunity arises to do research before going into a Master’s program I would highly recommend taking it—I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t fallen in love with research while doing my BScH!

Q: Do Professor’s typically ask for a CV and/or resume? If you’ve never written a CV before, where is a good source to learn how to write one?

A: Excellent question! You will often get asked for a copy of your CV and here at Queen’s there are lots of resources if you need help learning to write your first CV. Career services is a great place to start. They offer workshops about resumes & CVs, one-on-one appointments and you can also check out books from their library that are a great resource! The Writing Centre can also help you review/work on a CV or resume. Similar resources are likely available at institutions outside of Queen’s as well.

Q: What is the graduate student community like?

A: Again, the answer to this will vary as all programs and schools have different enrollment. At Queen’s the graduate student community is a good size and very active. The SGPS offers lots of different activities that help you to meet other graduate students such as games nights, BBQ’s, coffee hours, day trips out of town, etc. Also, most schools, including Queen’s offer a graduate student orientation week, or activities of some sort which are great for meeting other grads! Within my department here at Queen’s (Biology) we try to have an event at least every few weeks to keep everyone in touch (movies, game nights, etc.) and also have a weekly coffee hour!

Some other questions included: How do I apply for teaching assistantships? What are my funding options? What grades do I need?

I can’t really answer the above questions because they will change depending on what school and program you are applying to. In Biology for example, holding teaching assistantships is part of your guaranteed funding package, but that’s not the same in the Biology department at U of T for example, and is also not the case in many other programs here at Queen’s. Funding is the same way and is very variable, just like admission requirements. For information about things like this I would urge you to a) check the department websites and b) contact the Graduate Assistant for the program you are interested in—they are very helpful and knowledgeable!

Where can you get more information?

  • Grad assistants—I sound like a broken record but they really are helpful! Or can at least direct you where to get help!
  • Get in touch with current grad students in your area of interest. No one knows better than they do!
  • Follow Gradifying! For an inside scoop about Grad School and Grad student life at Queen’s!

If you’re reading this as a someone considering grad school, and have a burning question of your own, let us know! If you’re a current grad student and have something to add, don’t hesitate!

Posted in General, New Students, Student Perspective
One comment on “Grad School FAQ
  1. Hi Amanda
    Great tips for the prospective student, particularly those doing undergraduate studies now. One thing I would add to your questions is in relation to funding. Although programs offer a funding package, students should also be seeking external funding such as those from the Federal (eg SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) or Provincial Governments (eg OGS although this is now administered by each University). As you know application deadlines for Federal grants are often well before the deadlines for applying to grad school, so they need to be thinking about this early, preferably no later than summer between their 3rd & 4th year. Hope that helps!

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