SWE-UCR Mentorship Meeting: Graduate School Panel

As an undergraduate works their way towards their degree, the amount of chances for careers often overruns the idea of continuing education. The most recent Mentorship Meeting, taking advantage of the wide variety of student officers and their experience, put together an informative presentation and question panel discussing the rather complex and daunting subject of graduate school. Among the graduate students present at the meeting were Brian Crites (5th year Ph.D. in Computer Science), Sangavi Pari (2nd year Masters in Chemical Engineering) and Trevor Clark (2nd Year Ph.D. in Computer Science/ Computer Programming)

Before discussing question, brief introductions elaborated how exactly these students became graduate students at all, with surprisingly varied answers. The majority of the students admitted that they did not plan on attending graduate school when they were earning their bachelor degrees. Only one out of the three students on the board had planned to attend beyond their undergraduate education. Such a fact remains a rather unorthodox truth; the possibility of graduate school, even if it is originally (even if firmly) unplanned, can remain an open path for future opportunities.

Among the questions asked were:

Is applying for graduate school like applying for undergraduate school?
Yes, remarkably different. Applying for graduate school is more centric around the reason for continuing research, rather than the student’s personality and drive for higher education. However, the process itself is very similar (a submission of documents, tests, etc.)

Are there resources available from the university to help get into graduate school?
While graduate school provides a critical edge to a career, there are only basic resources for students interested in continuing their education beyond their undergraduate years. The most recommended way to begin the process is to reach out to the graduate universities of interest and express intention of attending.

What is the process of creating and submitting a thesis?
To begin a thesis, one must choose a research topic/project and develop it throughout their years in graduate school. Throughout the process, a compiled report is written and submitted to a committee of people in a shared field of study. If the research is coherent and significant enough to be passed on, then copies are made and saved in archives and the libraries on campus. Tips for those interested in creating a thesis include beginning as soon as possible and to promote consistency, as the document itself is composed of years of work and must include all steps, labs, sources and the like.

Is there an advantage to graduating early (undergraduate in three years, graduate in two)?
Assuming a masters degree, the advantages include being done earlier, being able to work earlier, and being able to make money earlier. However, one will not be able to learn the material as deeply; furthermore, all that time dedicated to studying diverts effort away from crucial networking that could lead to key career prospects. Making the most out of college is essential to a well-rounded education; just focusing on the academic aspect should not exhaust such an exciting, one-of-a-kind experience.

This meeting brought to attention how graduate school, however unseemly or distant it may be, can remain a chance for further development of skills, research and career advancement. Thank you to Brian, Sangavi and Trevor, the hardworking students of the graduate division, for taking the time to bring the idea of graduate school out of obscurity and into the Mentorship Program!

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