How to Prepare to Apply to Graduate School

The number one question you should ask yourself is:

"Do I need to go to graduate school to live the life I wish?"

Be honest with yourself. Separate your ambitions from those you’ve gleaned from parents and even well-meaning professors. After all, you are the one who has to put in the time, energy, mental well-being, and money to accomplish this task. Here at IU you are lucky to have such a wide variety of graduate students to talk to. Find out what their life is really like. Talk to those that are happy, and those that are struggling—get perspective. Assess your long-term goals. This includes not only your professional life, but your private life as well. Is getting a Ph.D. compatible with what you desire? Do you wish to work as an applied cognitive scientist in industry, or are you more interested in academia? These questions and conversations will aid you in deciding not only if graduate school is right for you, but also what type of degree you should seek.

Can I take time off before graduate school?

It’s generally okay to take a year or more to work before you attend graduate school. Some students put a lot of energy into their undergraduate studies and are exhausted and can’t contemplate starting an even more intensive program right away. Working before you go to graduate school may also help narrow your interests to provide you the focus you will need. Other benefits include developing greater confidence in your abilities, or simply provide motivation to actually get into the career you want. Once again, the graduate students currently here at IU are a great resource—ask them about their experiences with taking time off before beginning graduate studies. If you can, study and take the GRE your senior year. Many report that it is easier to get a better score while you’re still in the midst of academia.

Students interested in pursuing graduate study should seriously consider the Cognitive Science departmental honors program.

Students participating in the departmental honors program gain research skills, in depth knowledge of a particular cognitive science area, and close contact with individual faculty members. Completion of an independent project and an honors thesis prepares students for study beyond the undergraduate level, allowing them to transform their research interests into focused investigation, original project development, and coherent presentation of research results. Successful participation in the departmental honors program also communicates student commitment and motivation to graduate admission representatives.

A student must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.3 to be eligible for consideration and must maintain this minimum average during their course of study to graduate with departmental honors. If a student wishes to combine honors projects in Cognitive Science and another department or program, every attempt will be made to accommodate such a plan, but the student must discuss this with the director of undergraduate studies to gain approval. Please see the academic advisor to get a copy of the Thesis Guidelines.