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Did you attend any informational camps before applying to graduate school?

Frank Knight

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Hello ya'll,

I last posted here nearly a decade ago when I was applying to graduate school. I am now on the other side of things as an Assistant Professor. :)

Something I have been giving a lot of thought to recently is how to better recruit students, especially from traditionally underserved populations. My sense from reading applications is that a handful of undergraduates get a lot of feedback on where and how to apply, and a lot of applicants are wandering around in the dark. 

Some of my colleagues run informational camps to provide interested undergraduates information on graduate school, but I suspect they tend to recruit students who are already receiving feedback from other sources. Out of curiosity how many of you attended such a camp prior to applying to graduate school? Even if you didn't attend one, were you aware that they existed? Off the top of my head, I know USC, Michigan and WashU St Louis all run some type of informational camp for prospective students.

Were did ya'll receive information about graduate school before applying? Did you talk to one of your undergraduate professors? 

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I'm probably not the best person to answer this, as I imagine you and I are close in age. I didn't attend any camps, but I've also been out of undergrad for about a decade. I spoke with some people I know in academia to get baseline advice once I decided I was going to start looking into this option. Based on what I heard from them, I used the internet to find as much information as I could.

There are a few things I know now that I wish I knew when I submitted my applications, which is the downside to not having an advisor to guide you through this process, but the information I needed was out there. It just took some looking to find it all. It definitely would have been more overwhelming if I didn't have people in academia I could ask what I felt were stupid questions just to help me get started.

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  • 2 months later...

I also applied to PhD programs after having finished undergrad a decade ago. I did not really speak with my old professors prior to applying, other than to ask for recommendation letters. I wasn't aware that such camps existed, so I definitely did not attend any camps. I don't remember there being anything like this at my undergraduate institution, or even a lot of discussion about graduate school generally. 

When I decided to apply, I bought "Graduate Admissions Essays" by Donald Asher and a GRE study book and worked my way through both of those. I work at a university hospital, so I know plenty of people with PhDs (even if they are in biomedical sciences or similar fields, not poli sci) who were able to give me advice. I was lucky to have access to the writing center at the university that I work at- even though I'm not faculty or a student, they were a super valuable resource in preparing my application materials and to give advice. Also, I attended every virtual graduate school fair I could feasibly attend and asked lots of questions. 

I'm very glad that I sought out external information, since parts of the application process are not intuitive and are very different from something like applying to undergrad or applying to a more traditional job. While most of my applications were rejected, I still have one fully funded offer and one unfunded offer- I think my success here is due to seeking this information before applying (and of course all the lovely people that gave me good advice along the way). 

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