Grad School Tips: Applying & Surviving Your First Year


This post is for the grad students and aspiring grad students out there.

If you are thinking about applying, in the application process right now, or surviving your first or second year of a program – this post is for you.

I caught up with three members of the Class of 2016 to get their perspective and advice.


  1. Who did you ask for advice when thinking about grad school? I went to a professor for advice about whether or not Physical Therapy would be the right choice for me. We talked it over and came to a conclusion that I should take a job during the summer and see how working life is, then confirm whether or not I want to continue onto graduate school or not.
  2. When did you start preparing? About a month after graduating I started to build my application.
  3. What do you think will be the most difficult part of the process? The hardest part has definitely been studying for the GRE. I’m not the best test taker so I’ve been putting in most of my time to studying for this exam. It’s definitely stressful. The application essay topics are also tricky to navigate. They don’t leave a lot of room to write, so it is hard to say everything I want to say.
  4. What are you most excited about? I’m definitely excited to see where this move takes me. Provided everything runs smoothly (fingers crossed) I’ll be enrolled and enroute to a Ph.D in a field that I really have an interest in!


  1. What are some things you wish you knew before applying to graduate school? I wish I knew that application deadlines for grad programs are different than undergrad and really depend on each individual program.
  2. Who did you ask for advice when thinking about a school or program? I asked my professors and my advisor. I didn’t know how to prepare or where I should even start. Talking to people who were interested in the same topics as me really helped. They were able to give me tips and tricks on what to look for and things to stay away from.
  3. When did you start preparing? I started preparing a little over 6 months before my application was due. This was because I was studying for the GREs and needed the extra time to reestablish my standardized testing skills. During that time, I was also looking at different programs and reaching out to different professors in those programs.
  4. What was the most difficult part of the process? The most difficult part was feeling confident about handing in my applications. I felt like I didn’t have the background or previous experience to be qualified enough for my program, but it turns out that grad programs are filled with people getting degrees in subjects completely different than their undergraduate degree.
  5. If you could go back and do something different, what would you do? I would have of told my advisor and professors about my interest in grad school sooner. I was wandering around, trying to figure out how to get ready and where I should start looking. If I told them sooner, and asked for help sooner I could have of saved myself a lot of stress.


  1. Who did you ask for advice when thinking about a school or program? I primarily asked friends for advice, and they asked professors or mentors. I was late to the game when it came to applying, and I wasn’t very confident about getting in, so I used a lot of online resources and friends instead of professors. Looking back, I should have just been more upfront and talked professors myself. Every time I went to a faculty member they were extremely helpful and excited for me.
  2. When did you start preparing? I started prepping when I got into UVM – I made my concentration Pre-Vet and took school seriously. I didn’t think I would apply to get in to grad school immediately following undergrad, so I slacked off with getting experience. But I finally started really getting relevant animal experience in my junior year. I did the CREAM program which I think is the main reason I got in aside from my grades. CREAM was amazing and it prepared me for the large animal aspect of grad school. I did other internships throughout senior year when I was able to take a lighter class load and could spend more time getting experience.
  3. What was the most difficult part of the process? The most difficult part was getting the application out a full year ago, months and months before interviews or acceptance. It was also difficult for me to get experience to bolster my application. I was out of state and kept busy with school work the first few years of college, so by the time I tried to look for opportunities, they required previous experience or were given to people with connections.
  4. If you could go back and do something different, what would you do? I suggest they take any and every opportunity to gain experience you can get your hands on. If you don’t like something, move on, but you won’t know until you try. I didn’t know how much I would love cows until CREAM. It’s about finding your niche.  I would have started looking for more experiences early on, would have asked for more advice from mentors, and would have put more of myself into my application. When it comes to applications, don’t take yourself so seriously – let your personality and preferences come through. A lot of my application feedback was that I should have added more about myself and to not be stiff and nervous.