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What to Do: Summer Before Grad School


MaeN
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I'm applying for Fall 2018 and I was wondering what people typically do the summer between undergrad and grad school. 

Most REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates) and my school's research opportunities don't let graduating seniors apply, but there are still internships and a few other academic jobs I can apply for. There are non-academic jobs, too, of course. Depending on where I end up, I may also be able to start rad school earlier in the summer. I definitely want to be doing something, but I'm not sure what.

Any suggestions or perspectives on this?

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I second what @microbenerd2018 said. I spent the summer relaxing and meeting up one last time with all the friends I wouldn't be able to see for a long time, since I moved across the country for grad school. The only actual work I did was light brainstorming for potential fellowship application ideas, and I do mean light brainstorming. 

Edited by 01sonal
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I would also recommend that you take the summer off, if you can. You can even move to your new place early (1 month or so) if you want more time to settle in to your new home before school begins.

However, some people either want to be doing work or need to be doing work (for income). In that case, many programs in our field do allow an earlier start! At my old planetary science program, about 1 in 4 or 5 new students will start early. You can also split the difference...take a few months off then start a few weeks or 1 month early or something.

Finally, although most REUs will only hire continuing students, your undergrad thesis advisor may be willing to hire you to finish up any loose ends after you graduate. Or, you might be able to find some other research arrangement outside of these formal REU or REU-like programs. Between my BSc and MSc, this was what I did (well 2 months of part time research + 2months off). Between my MSc and PhD, I only had 1 month off to move because I finished my MSc thesis, defended it, submitted corrections etc. just a few weeks before my PhD program started.

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I'm all for relaxing, especially in the summer, but I'd suggest paid employment.  It doesn't have to be full time, but graduate school is filled with unexpected expenses and it wouldn't hurt to have a little extra money put away.  If your summer gig is also something fun then that's a plus.  If you have the opportunity to travel (even if just to visit relatives or friends you haven't seen in awhile) that could also be fun.

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I plan on working in the applied sector of my field. I don't view that as a bad thing because I will NOT have that options for several years and it has been nearly 4 years since I last worked in the field. I have a had a 9-5 in an office for too long. I wanna get down and dirty and sleep in tents and have a little bit of fun. 

I guess working in my field would be different from others that would suggest sleeping, having fun or resting up. We shall see. I will only three months, if I get in, before my program starts anyway. 

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10 hours ago, waltzforzizi said:

I plan on working in the applied sector of my field. I don't view that as a bad thing because I will NOT have that options for several years and it has been nearly 4 years since I last worked in the field. I have a had a 9-5 in an office for too long. I wanna get down and dirty and sleep in tents and have a little bit of fun. 

I guess working in my field would be different from others that would suggest sleeping, having fun or resting up. We shall see. I will only three months, if I get in, before my program starts anyway. 

I love archaeology. I worked at a museum in Oklahoma for a few years and got to volunteer with the archaeologist when the BOR inventory time came. They are a repository for NA remains, so I was able to assist in making sure they were all there.  I also spent awhile cataloging and sorting beads that were collected in the 1960s (100k of them!) and helped track down some missing pieces from the collection.  I'm sure you know, but it was not uncommon for museums and archaeologists to trade with each other in the 60s and 70s without keeping records.  Some of our artifacts were sitting at the Smithsonian. 

I worked on collections of Jelks and RK Harris out of the Longest Site and Spanish Fort. If you are in NA archaeology, I can get you in contact with the archaeologist there.  This summer, they are working on Longest again and there is a recent discovery of Bison antiquuis or Bison latifrons in front of the museum that will be excavated.

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13 hours ago, khigh said:

I love archaeology. I worked at a museum in Oklahoma for a few years and got to volunteer with the archaeologist when the BOR inventory time came. They are a repository for NA remains, so I was able to assist in making sure they were all there.  I also spent awhile cataloging and sorting beads that were collected in the 1960s (100k of them!) and helped track down some missing pieces from the collection.  I'm sure you know, but it was not uncommon for museums and archaeologists to trade with each other in the 60s and 70s without keeping records.  Some of our artifacts were sitting at the Smithsonian. 

I worked on collections of Jelks and RK Harris out of the Longest Site and Spanish Fort. If you are in NA archaeology, I can get you in contact with the archaeologist there.  This summer, they are working on Longest again and there is a recent discovery of Bison antiquuis or Bison latifrons in front of the museum that will be excavated.

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@khigh Oh, wow, you've had a lot of experience in CRM! That's great to hear :). Lol, I know all about sorting hundreds of things: rocks, beads, shells you name it! Yeah, sorting through a collection from decades ago with valuable artifacts with absolutely NO context is a pain, but worth it as you learn a lot. 

Hmm, well I am not focusing on NA archaeology in grad school, but I have experience working on a reservation doing survey and excavation with human remains. I also volunteered at the  Southwest Museum in Los Angles and helped sort a collection from a few decades ago. All of my jobs in CRM, USFS and a private firm, dealt with NA settlements or areas of inhabitance. All of the artifacts were lithic or pottery shards, BRM, lithic tools, pit houses and etc. I have worked in the southwest, Mojave desert and along the southern coast of California. If that qualifies me, then please do let know more :). It has been a while but once I sit down and review, I'll be good to go. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm all for relaxing, but relaxing for 2 months is an overkill for me.. Go cross off some bucket list items and make some memories.

I've been dreaming of doing a motorcycle trip around south america for a year now. But I'm stuck in a PhD program where taking more than 2 weeks off straight would get me a "could you stop by my office when you get a chance?"

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33 minutes ago, spectastic said:

I'm all for relaxing, but relaxing for 2 months is an overkill for me.. Go cross off some bucket list items and make some memories.

Maybe it's just me but crossing off bucket list items and making memories would still count as relaxing :P At this point in my life, anything that isn't work is "relaxing". Not sure what this means/implies though, lol.

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1 hour ago, TakeruK said:

Maybe it's just me but crossing off bucket list items and making memories would still count as relaxing :P At this point in my life, anything that isn't work is "relaxing". Not sure what this means/implies though, lol.

I think of relaxing as recharging my will power and whatnot. sometimes, you need to just do nothing, stop and smell the flowers you know? create space.. apparently, it helps with creativity to not be bogged down by the daily grind all the damn time. And when I get my energy back, I'll try to use it to fulfill different goals, whether it's career oriented, personal development, adventure type stuff. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

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I should have traveled over the last summer, but I will this summer.  I had just come off of three European trips in 9 months, so I wanted a cool down period.  I moved 900 miles and established myself here during my (hopefully) gap year.  I do have to say that just working, walking around the lake, and watching sports ball events was fun for awhile. I promised myself one last fun week if I get admitted before buckling down and starting research- Super Bowl week will be the last fun week to have. I can't not participate when US Bank Stadium is 3 miles away.

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On 1/16/2018 at 10:40 PM, khigh said:

I should have traveled over the last summer, but I will this summer.  I had just come off of three European trips in 9 months, so I wanted a cool down period.  I moved 900 miles and established myself here during my (hopefully) gap year.  I do have to say that just working, walking around the lake, and watching sports ball events was fun for awhile. I promised myself one last fun week if I get admitted before buckling down and starting research- Super Bowl week will be the last fun week to have. I can't not participate when US Bank Stadium is 3 miles away.

I can visualize #43 jerseys getting burned on bourbon street right now. haha

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I went to Germany and took a language course for 2 months. It was a great way to keep my brain in the academic mode, but still get away and do some sightseeing. Plus, I was able to scout out my apartment for the academic year, which was extremely helpful.

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