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A behind the scenes look at the graduate experience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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  • An Internship Can Help Change the Direction of Your Career

    Should you do an internship in grad school? Kristin Divis says “Yes!” and once you hear her story, it’s easy to understand why.

    This summer, after graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Illinois, Divis started an exciting, full-time job at Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia is also, as it turns out, where she’d worked as an intern for several years while in grad school.

    I spoke with Divis earlier this year, shortly before she graduated and not long after she accepted that full-time offer. She wanted to share her reasons for doing an internship, what she learned, and why you should consider doing one, too. Here’s what she had to say...

  • More Than Just Buzzwords: Social Media as a Tool for Personal Branding in STEM

    nspired by nothing more than a joking remark from a colleague on the importance of securing a unique domain name before someone “stole it,” I made my personal website, RituRaman.com, in my second year of graduate school. Luckily for me, launching this website was the first step in an ongoing attempt to develop a coherent web presence and recognizable personal brand.

    Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that terms like “personal brand” can often come across as meaningless buzzwords used by millennials to justify a relatively self-centered use of social media. When used without context, they make me cringe and feel pretentious – and I understand if they make you do the same – but this blog post isn’t about the philosophical clash between personal modesty and taking selfies. Rather, this post is about crafting your online presence in a way that best represents your personal history, your interests, and your future goals.

    Now that we’ve moved past the obligatory disclaimers, I will attempt to distill the social media lessons I’ve learned over the past few years into a few pithy steps.

  • Grad School 101: How to Find Fellowships That Are Right for You

    Let’s talk funding.

    Maybe you've heard someone say, “There’s a lot of money out there, you just have to look for it,” and thought to yourself, "Great, but where do I look?" Don't worry - we've got you. Our brand new Fellowship Finder database is now live. It showcases over 1,100 fellowship and grant opportunities that help students fund their graduate studies, and it features a new search process, with lots of options to make your search quicker and more precise.

    Fellowship Finder specializes in awards offered by external funders: government agencies, private foundations, corporations, and other entities outside of the university. We also include a handful of campus opportunities such as those offered by the Graduate College. Best of all, Fellowship Finder is a curated database, meaning that real people (we here in the Office of External Fellowships) make sure that the listings we include are truly useful to graduate students.

    How does the database work? Let’s take a look.

  • Grad School 101: Making Your Skills Make Sense Outside Academia

    I’ll start with the good news: as a graduate student, you have a ton of fascinating, impressive skills. You know how to do lots of different things, and you know how to learn even more of them. The bad news really isn’t so bad, just initially frustrating: many of those amazing skills you have aren’t always going to make a ton of sense to people outside your field, let alone outside of academia entirely. At least not at first.

    Does that mean those skills aren’t valuable outside academia? Absolutely not. It just means you have to be creative and translate them. By shifting how you think and talk about your skills, you can help potential employers see the links between what you've done and what they need—and make it easier for them to hire you. And you’ll also make it easier for yourself to discover and explore broad, interesting career options.

  • Grad School 101: The Faculty Interview

    There’s nothing quite like a faculty interview to get you tied into knots. The stakes are high, the formats can be awkward, and it’s not really like anything you’ve done before. So it’s easy to be scared, anxious, worried, nervous, apprehensive—or just plain super-freaked-out. And that’s normal. But it’s a good idea to be some other things, too. Here are some ideas...

  • Stop the Hamster Wheel: Making Plans in Grad School

    Graduate school can sometimes feel like running on a hamster wheel, like you’re in constant motion but not really sure that you’re getting anywhere.

    There are a ton of one-week deadlines (I have to write that literature review by Tuesday!) and a few five-year deadlines (I’ll defend my dissertation!), but bridging the gaps between those can be tough. And that makes it hard to figure out whether you’re headed in the right direction. Planning can help you build those bridges effectively, preparing you to make choices with your goals in mind so you don’t just keep spinning until you’re dizzy.

    So what makes a good plan? What will help you leave the wheel to the hamsters and make the most of grad school? Here are some approaches we recommend...

  • SAGE Advice for My Past Self

    We caught up with some of the members of this year’s SAGE (Students Advising on Graduate Education) board to ask them just one question: If you could give your first-year-grad student self one piece of advice, what would it be?

    Their responses were funny, honest, and totally on point.

  • Welcome to Grad Life, a New Blog about the Illinois Graduate Experience

    Welcome to Grad Life. With over 10,000 graduate students on the Urbana Campus, there are as many narratives to the University of Illinois Grad experience as there are individuals.  Our grads hail from all corners of the world and are researching, studying, and teaching to try to solve some of the toughest problems of our time. Whether you’re attending classes in person or online, pursuing a Master’s degree or a PhD - this is a place to share and shape your graduate school experience.