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Brianne Docter

Second Year Student pursuing a PhD in Cellular & Molecular Biology at University of Michigan

Brianne Docter


What things were you looking for while searching for a graduate or professional school program?

I was looking for a relatively large program at a well-respected school, where I could have lots of opportunities.

What advice might you give to an undergraduate about their graduate or professional school search or application process?

Start finding people to write you letters of recommendation months in advance so that they can have plenty of time to write them.  Try to apply to a variety of schools including a couple of ‘safety’ schools that you’re very likely to get accepted at, even if they wouldn’t be your first choice.

What opportunities did you take advantage of to help prepare yourself for graduate or professional school?

I got involved in research both at GVSU and outside of GVSU (during the summer). I also was a member of some science clubs that occasionally had grad students come in and talk about the pros (and cons) of grad school, as well as give advice about applying.

How did you distinguish yourself from other candidates applying?

I had a lot of research experience and strong academics.

What were the main factors you considered important when comparing grad/professional schools?

Program reputation, location, and the number of professors doing research I was interested in.

Was there a process or strategy that you used to narrow down your top schools of choice?

I narrowed them down to schools with excellent programs and excellent reputations, and then just went with my gut and picked the one I wanted.

What approaches and techniques did you use to prepare for a standardized test? How often? Did you find that successful?

I used the free powerprep software that’s on the GRE website. I went through one of the practice exams to get used to the format of the questions as well as the layout of the testing interface. They also had a list of math topics to review, which was helpful since I hadn’t used some of the equations since high school.  I knew from others’ experiences that studying vocab words for months didn’t pay off in the end, so I skipped doing that.

I just spent the Saturday before the exam going over the practice questions and reviewing the math topics, and then I reviewed the math equations again the night before. It worked fine for me; I wouldn’t have done anything differently.