Grad School Application Timeline: Senior Year

Hi, friends! Today’s post is the second part to my earlier post on the “Grad School Application Timeline: Junior Year”. In today’s post, let’s talk about what you can do to prepare for graduate school during your senior year!

During your senior year, things get tough because now you REALLY have to worry about applications along with your regular classes. It’s time consuming, but you can do it! As long as you give yourself enough time and are organized about it. Here’s the graduate school timeline for your senior year:

Fall (August-December), Senior Year

Take the GRE again, if necessary

If you’ve taken the GRE once, you need to wait 21 days before you can take it again. This is good, because it gives you a chance to continue studying before re-taking it. Spend some more time studying the concepts you feel weak in. Then, go for it again!

Here's what you should be doing during your senior year to prepare for graduate school applications! Click To Tweet

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Grad School Application Timeline: Junior Year

Hi, friends! I’m sorry I’ve been absent from my blog lately. My classes (I’m looking at you, organic chemistry) and my graduate school applications have been taking up a lot of my time. But in my absence, I learned a lot about the graduate school application process, and I’d like to share it with you all! So I decided to write a post about a good graduate school application timeline. In this post, I will focus on what you should be doing during your junior year to prepare for your graduate school applications.

Grad School Application Timeline: Junior Year | Here's what you should be doing during your junior year to prepare for graduate school applications!

Here's what you should be doing during your junior year to prepare for graduate school applications! Click To Tweet

Spring (January-April), Junior Year

General research

Now that you’ve decided to continue your education through graduate school, start doing some general research on grad programs in your field. How long do they generally take? How much do they cost? Which programs are the best? Don’t get too bogged down on picking a favorite program just yet. For now, just do some research to make sure that grad school is for you.

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My Experiences as a Biology Major

Hi, friends! For the next post in my “Becoming Dr. Aly” series, I wanted to expand on my previous post, “Why I Chose to Study Biology” and talk about my experiences as a biology major, including how I knew it was for me, potential career paths, common misconceptions about biology majors, and advice for future biology majors. Here we go!

My Experiences as a Biology Major

How I Knew Biology Was For Me

I knew biology was for me when I was interested in my high school biology class. Biology, chemistry, and math came naturally to me. I loved (and I still do love) talking about what I learned in science class. I felt like that’s what my brain was wired for, so that’s why I chose to major in biology!

Potential Career Paths for a Biology Major

Among my group of friends, there are two major career paths you can take in biology: medical school or graduate school. Medical school prepares you to be a medical doctor (MD); seeing patients and prescribing medicine. On the other hand, graduate school prepares you for a career in research or in academia (PhD); working in a lab. I know some people who want to do both, an  MD-PhD! Of course, these are not the only options, but those are the most popular. Other, less popular, options are pharmacology, forensics, government/policy, industry, economics, and science communication. Here is a more in-depth list of things you can do with a biology degree!

Personally, I am aiming for a PhD, because I want to pursue a career in research and academia. I am destined for a life in the lab, not in a patient examination room. So, graduate school is my option!

Common Misconceptions about Bio Majors

We all want to be doctors

More often than not, as soon as I tell someone I’m a biology major, they’ll ask me, “Are you pre-med?” Most biology majors are pre-med and are seeking to get into medical school, but not all of us. Some of us, like me, are pursuing a career in research, or in the other fields I mentioned earlier.

It’s too hard

I wouldn’t say that studying biology is hard. I would say that studying biology requires WORK and TIME. People consider biology a hard subject because it’s not something that we easily grasp. It takes a committed person to study hours and hours to understand a tricky concept. As long as you are committed and try your best, you should do well in biology.

Science is an analytical field, so it does not require creativity

The general public usually thinks of science as an analytical field, not a creative one. However, the goal of science is to solve problems and answer questions. How do we do that? By thinking up creative solutions and asking creative questions. We must be creative to come up with good hypotheses and good experiments to test these hypotheses.

Advice for Potential Bio Majors

Don’t give up

You will have some bad days, but that doesn’t mean you should stop! Please remember why you decided to study biology in the first place, and hopefully that will give you strength to keep studying and attending class.

Get help

If you’re struggling, there are many resources that can help you. There are no excuses for you to be struggling. If you need help in your classes, visit the tutoring center or your professor directly during office hours. If you’re struggling mentally, visit the campus counseling center. Take advantage of the resources your school offers you!

Actively seek out opportunities

Opportunities are not just going to jump out at you. Go to career fairs and student activity fairs to find out what’s happening on campus. Graduate and medical schools want well rounded and experienced students, so this is the way to do that. Especially as a biology major, working in a lab can be a help. Opportunities are available, you just have to look for them.

Why I Chose to Study Biology

Hi, friends! This is the first post in my new “Becoming Dr. Aly” series, where I take you all along with me as I work toward my goal of earning a PhD. To start, I’ll tell you why I chose to study biology. I hope you enjoy reading my story!

Over the course of my life, I have wanted to be many things. There was a point in time where I wanted to be a singer, another in which I wanted to be a teacher, or a writer, and another in which I wanted to be a doctor. Still, one of my main passions has been to help people be the best they can be.

Specifically, I have always loved teaching. As a preschooler, I would line up all my little baby dolls on my couch and teach them the alphabet. As an older student, I would help my friends when they had difficulty understanding concepts. To this day, I still enjoy tutoring younger students and my peers. Teaching and helping others just comes so naturally to me.

I also loved science class. I got good grades and the concepts were easy to understand, but I never considered studying biology. When I was fifteen, I took my first high school biology class. I was fascinated by the chemistry, genetics, and cell biology. I found myself doing research on the topics outside of class. I would also be excited to talk about what I had learned in biology class. Still, I had never thought about it as a career path. All of my friends wanted to go into artistic fields, so I thought that should be the right career path for me, too. I felt that I was wrong for considering something else.

During my junior year, a local community college was hosting a summer program for high school students. In this program, we were put into groups to invent and execute our own experiments while taking a college class. I thought it would be a good way to try out the science career and the college experience. Along with a few other students from my high school, I was accepted into the program.

Those were a tough six weeks for my sixteen year old self. I was the youngest program participant and was assigned the position of team leader. Along with the responsibility of being in charge of our project, I had to keep up with my intensive college algebra class.

Everything that could go wrong with the project did. The equipment came late, and when it came, it broke. During the day of the final presentation, some of my teammates couldn’t make it (all due to legitimate reasons). I was left to give the presentation with another teammate who did not understand the experiment.

Still, I liked being able to solve the problems we faced. It was a great experience of making things work despite the challenges. I realized that despite the roadblocks, it was a great learning experience. On the bright side, I aced the college algebra class! That’s when I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in science.

When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what division of science I wanted to pursue: physics, chemistry, engineering, math, or biology, but I knew it was going to be one of those. So, for my first year of college, I took the general requirements for any of those majors: English composition, calculus, physics 101, chemistry 101, and some electives.

Then, I was about to start my second year, my parents were hosting a couple from out of state who are doctors. They were asking me about my schooling. They told me they both majored in biology during their undergraduate years. When they said the word “biology”, something inside of me clicked. I suddenly knew that was where I was supposed to be. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. My dad is an engineer, and I realized I didn’t want to do what he does. He works with mechanical things; I wanted to work with living things. That was when I officially decided to change my major to biology.

One day, I stumbled upon the office of undergraduate research on campus. I thought it would be a great idea to apply to one of the student research programs because I could gain some experience in my field. I did, and I was accepted! I started working full time in a lab the summer of that year.

That summer, I realized exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to become a science college professor and researcher. Once that hit me, I realized, “of course that’s what I want to do!” It made sense, because I’ve always had a passion for teaching and learning.

Ever since then, that has been my end goal: to teach and research in the molecular biology or genetics field at a university.

After I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend graduate school and earn a PhD in genetics or molecular biology.

How did you choose your field of study? What’s your end goal?

Becoming Dr. Aly

Hi, friends! This past week marked the beginning of my senior year of college. So naturally, I have spent these last few months thinking a lot about my plans for future. Specifically, my plans for after graduation. I have wanted to pursue a career in biological research for a long time, so I’ll be taking steps to achieve that goal. In my case, the next step is graduate school.

During my internship at Cornell this past summer, I learned a lot about the grad school application process and about what happens once you get accepted. I want to share my experiences and the things I learn with you all as I begin this journey, so I’m starting a new series on the blog! It’s all about the grad school application process and about life when I finally do start grad school next fall. It’s called “Becoming Dr. Aly”, because that’s my ultimate goal. I hope you enjoy this series and that you learn something from it!

Do you have any questions about the grad school application process? If so, leave a comment or email me! I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll be happy to help you as much as I can.