Get Ahead in the Race to Graduate Studies

This following article was published on the Career Services Informer (CSI), the official career blog of Simon Fraser University (SFU).  I have been fortunate to be a guest blogger for the CSI since I was an undergraduate student at SFU, and you can read all of my recent articles as an alumnus here.

 

As most students return to school in the upcoming semester, their academic studies and back-to-school logistics may be their top priorities.   However, if you want to pursue graduate studies or professional programs like medicine or law, then there are some important deadlines that are fast approaching, and they all involve time-consuming efforts to meet them. Now is a good time to tackle these deadlines and put forth your best effort while you are free of the burdens of exams and papers that await you later in the fall semester.

race

Image Courtesy of Melburnian at Wikimedia

Speaking from experience, these applications are very long and tiring, and they will take a lot of thought, planning, writing and re-writing. They also require a lot of coordination to get the necessary documents, like your transcripts and letters of recommendation from professors who can attest to your academic accomplishments and research potential.  Plan ahead for them accordingly, and consider using the Career Services Centre to help you with drafting your curriculum vitae, your statements of interest, and any interview preparation.

  • If you want to go to medical school at the University of British Columbia (where many future medical students from SFU will study) in the fall of 2016, then the application deadline is September 15, 2015.  Make sure to get your MCAT scores ready to supplement your application, and note that registering for the MCAT
    earlier can save you money.  Check other medical schools for their deadlines.
  • Similarly, to pursue legal studies at the University of British Columbia (where many future law students from SFU will study) in the fall of 2016, then the application deadline is September 15, 2015. Check other law schools for their deadlines.
  • If you want to pursue graduate studies in the fall of 2016, then you will likely apply for graduate scholarships from the Tricouncil, which consists of NSERC for science and engineering, SSHRC for social sciences and humanities, and CIHR for health. There are multiple deadlines to be aware of, so read the relevant web sites to determine which deadlines apply to you.
    • If you will apply internally through SFU for a scholarship at the Master’s level, then the deadline is December 1, 2015 for all 3 agencies.
    • At the doctoral level, there are multiple deadlines, so investigate each scholarship carefully. Many of you will apply to the NSERC or SSHRC scholarships – they currently have “TBA” (To Be Announced) as the deadlines, so contact the Dean of Graduate Studies Office or your own graduate administrators to ascertain the dates.
  •  If you want to pursue graduate studies in fall, 2016, then you will likely need to submit your graduate applications in early spring, 2016. Thus, the most recent grades that will appear in your graduate applications will be from fall, 2015, even if you will continue to take courses in spring and summer, 2016. If there are certain courses that you definitely need or want to display for those graduate applications, plan your courses accordingly for fall, 2015.

Writing applications for scholarships and post-graduate programs is a long and arduous process, but the potential rewards are enormous.  I took two tough statistics courses in the fall semester before submitting my graduate applications in the spring of 2011. My high grades in those courses helped me to reach the statistics Master’s program at the University  of Toronto – which offered a guaranteed funding package that paid for all of my tuition fees and provided a very helpful stipend.  I am now enjoying a good career as a statistician, and that early preparation and diligence from five summers ago helped me to reach where I am today.  Hang in there, and good luck with your applications!

P.S. Be sure to read my complementary blog post on how to ask for reference letters from your professors to supplement these applications

 

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