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Research Options the summer in between undergraduate and graduate school?

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So now that many grad programs have started sending out admission decisions, I've been thinking about what to do the summer in between undergraduate and graduate school. I'm seeing that most REUs and internships don't sponsor students beyond their senior year. Would it be a good idea to apply for temp jobs in industry? Or do many grad programs allow rising first years to start the summer before their program begins? 

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Or do many grad programs allow rising first years to start the summer before their program begins? 

I've heard at recruitment talks that some PIs don't mind paying incoming students out of grants for a month or two if they have legitimate interest in the group, however some places might have official programs to start early (for all I know)...ask! Also consider whether you want to go hard the summer before starting grad studies. I, personally, am taking at least a couple months off this summer to rest up before ~5 years of 70 +/- 10 hour weeks.

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Depending on the PI, they may pay for you to start a month or two early. This means you get a head start on research and are pretty much guaranteed to be in their lab. However, it may not be the best idea if you don't know who you want to work for. If you work for Professor X and choose Professor Y when you officially have to choose, it may cause hurt feelings or bitterness. If you're interested in this, it's one of those things you should ask professors about during visit weekend.

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Ask POIs about starting in the summer. A lot of (most?) Chemistry programs have this as an option. 

 

My advice would be to not worry too much about choosing a research group/POI. If you are interested in doing your PhD with a superstar professor  for whom *everybody* wants to work for, then impressing them during a summer project would give you a head-start on the competition. On the other hand...some programs expect you to rotate through several labs before making a commitment to thesis advisor, anyway. The POIs will understand that you want to explore your options and find the best fit within the Department (they've got to put up with you as much as you have to put with them!).

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Thanks for the advice! I have a PI picked out at the institution I'd like to attend...I'll ask some students in his lab if it's possible to start the summer before when I go on the visitation weekend. 

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Unless you have to start working during the summer to secure a position in your particular lab, I would take the summer off. I stayed in my undergraduate lab for the summer, and looking back, I wish I had taken a break. In grad school you don't really get time off, so rest up while you can.

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This is a fair question to answer at grad recruitment weekend. Some of the grad school chairs offer this information, but you may have to ask: "Can I start working in the summer for Professor___________. I am really interested in his/her work.

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ask the PIs you like when you're on visits whether they'll let students start early. weigh your options at that time. i strongly suggest you give yourself a break before jumping into the deep end haha

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I highly recommend the summer rotation if it is an option at your graduate school. It is great to just start rotations without having to worry about classes, TA'ing, and all of the other first year events. All of my prospective schools offer a summer rotation, and the graduate students recommend it. It also doesn't hurt to begin your stipend in the summer!

 

If you would like something else, there are a lot of summer internships, especially for the government and private sector, that are for students. Even if you are currently not enrolled in school but a fall 2013 grad, you are still eligible as long as you provide an acceptance letter to the program.

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I've spoken to a couple professors who told me that option was available to me if I decided to move in the summer. It seems that a lot of professors will take in one or two incoming graduate students if they have funding. Also, some schools have summer programs for incoming graduate students. I am strongly considering starting in the summer, it'll help me get my foot in early and get comfortable in a new environment when I don't have to teach. Part of me would love taking the summer off, but I don't think it is financially possible.

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So now that many grad programs have started sending out admission decisions, I've been thinking about what to do the summer in between undergraduate and graduate school. I'm seeing that most REUs and internships don't sponsor students beyond their senior year. Would it be a good idea to apply for temp jobs in industry? Or do many grad programs allow rising first years to start the summer before their program begins? 

I think it would be nice to start early, but I personally won't do it. The summer between undergraduate and graduate school is probably the only "free" time you'll ever have for a real long time (or ever?). I've seen some people got burned out after their first semester in grad school, or got mild/severe depression. I took 2 weeks off before I started grad school and I wish I've had taken longer break before I start.

I am telling you this because grad school doesn't work as the same as undergrad. You can't predict research progression or know exactly when you'll be able to graduate (4-8 Yrs?). This is something that's out of your control. Some professors won't graduate a student unless he/she publish a first-author paper in a top journal (as in top 5% in your field), grad school itself is a very stressful environment.

Edited by Quantum Buckyball

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i largely agree with what synorg and Quantum Buckyball said. Personally, I took 4-6 weeks off in the summer / transition between undergrad and grad school. My program started 3-4 weeks early prior to the fall semester began to pick up new techniques, instrumentation, and so forth at the core facility.

 

I considered myself a pretty flexible and adaptive person, hence I didn't come to my current location 2 days before my program begin. Taking time off allows me to recharge for the next couple years to work as a lab slave, assuming I can't take a month long break after qual exam.

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