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How I Went To School For The Right Reasons... And Turned For The Worst


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Whether or not you want to pursue grad school is completely up to you. I am only trying to help.

Are you willing to relocate anywhere? I would start by looking up universities that offer a bioinformatics program. Some are much more CS-focused than others. Then look to see what the admission requirements are. Many will say minimum GRE scores, etc.

I had absolutely no clue what I was doing when I applied for grad school. I figured it out, but it was a struggle. It may be true that you should have been thinking about grad school from day 1. But not everyone knows what they want when they first start college. A lot of people will graduate, get a job, and then decide later they want to go to grad school. There is nothing wrong with that.

Once you have identified some potential programs, try contacting some professors. Just say you are interested in the program and would like to know what it takes. They may even give you some indication as to how competitive things are getting in. Something that is really important though is having your own ideas. Check out of journal articles on bioinformatics and see what interests you. Letting a professor know what you are interested in and what your research ideas might possibly be helps a lot. If they professor likes you, they may put a good word in for you to the admissions people. Get them on your side!

You will need to take the GRE. I was able to get the fee reduced because of my income, but I'm not sure what all of the requirements are for that.

If there is a program you are really interested in and a professor likes you, try finding out if there is a code available to waive the application fee. My application fee was waived.

Don't choose a program based on prestige. Often they are harder to get into and are not always the "best" fit for people. Choose a program that you will be happy at. You want to like the location, the professors, the atmosphere of the university, etc.

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People are going back to school in their 30s, 40's, 50's even 60's. Is it easy? No. Are there any guarantees that it will make them more employable? No.

But there are no sure things. It seems to me you are thinking of the most negative outcome and scenario for every option you are even considering.

Think of it as an exploration. I would meet with an admissions or program advisor. There is no advisor in the world who is going to reply like your imagined scenario "well we have high school students applying so why should we consider you?". Discuss your employment, your interests. It's an extremely tough job market out there --- no one is going to care that you've had periods where you weren't working.

You can always take one course somewhere, even a continuing education course to see if a particular direction is of interest to you.

Also, your point about having to be mr personality and dynamic at marketing yourself etc. I was just reading an article I think in Fortune magazine about how most employers now realize that tech people tend to be socially introverted and even sometimes have a lot in common with people who have Asperger's syndrome. I'm not saying that you have Aspergers, but I think most companies that hire people in the tech field realize they are not going to be dealing with a bunch of Kim Kardashian self-marketing whizzes. Even Mark Zuckerberg is shy and non-verbal and and apparently makes little eye contact in conversations.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

:)

ellemint

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  • 2 weeks later...
Discuss your employment, your interests. It's an extremely tough job market out there --- no one is going to care that you've had periods where you weren't working.

If they don't care I had periods of unemployment then what are they going to look at? I assume they have many applicants and can only accept a limited number of students. How am I going to convince them to accept me? You said to discuss my employment and interests - so that means I tell them about my employment years ago which is irrelevant now, and they are going to say, "it's obvious you showed a lack of interest in the past, so how come you're interested in it now?"

. Even Mark Zuckerberg is shy and non-verbal and and apparently makes little eye contact in conversations.

Um, yeah right. That is impossible, unless if it's someone else who did the work and he took credit for it. You can't make a social network unless if you are an extrovert with a lot of friends and knows what your audience or consumers want. You can't know everyone else out there will want Facebook unless you're an extrovert yourself. Social networking is practically the definition of extroversion. If this continues, historians will one day write about how the "social revolution" has stamped out introversion as a human personality trait. I've seen other threads here from people who were computer science grads and had struggles similar to me, but applied for positions in things like Facebook gaming and social media marketing, and someone responded, "anything to do with Facebook looks good on your resume". Now you see why I don't even want to look at a job description, let alone apply for one. It's obvious that I cannot do this with my personality, and it's not something I could have anticipated a couple of years ago. The question is if there's anything out there that I can do with my personality.

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Once you have identified some potential programs, try contacting some professors. Just say you are interested in the program and would like to know what it takes. They may even give you some indication as to how competitive things are getting in. Something that is really important though is having your own ideas. Check out of journal articles on bioinformatics and see what interests you. Letting a professor know what you are interested in and what your research ideas might possibly be helps a lot.

You're saying that I should contact a prof, not the registrar or admissions people? This is daunting and risky considering if I make myself seem clueless it could hinder my chances. Profs are busy. I remember when I had to talk to advisors during my undergrad they had limited office hours. If I were to email some prof, especially one who's not in charge of admissions, how do I know they actually want to, and have the time to talk to me as a possible applicant and not think I'm just bugging them? Also, I'm supposed to have my research ideas already? I guess it's going to be obvious to them that I'm someone who's looking at going back to school as an act of desperation, not someone who truly is passionate about doing research in a particular subject.

How do I decide where to apply to? If I don't limit myself to my local area I could apply to anywhere in the country or even in other countries which means hundreds of schools I could possibly apply to. How many schools should I send an application to?

Don't choose a program based on prestige.

How do I know if it's prestigious or not? I actually would like to see a list of how hard it is to get into each program. It seems like a total crapshoot otherwise. If I don't know if I have a realistic chance of getting in, then for all I know I may as well play the lottery and get more of my money's worth. The same goes for applying for jobs, but at least I don't normally pay a fee.

Also I should mention this. When I was in my undergrad even and looked for jobs I had a tendency to look for jobs that were probably not typical of my major and leaned towards applying it to other fields. Perhaps it meant that even back then I felt like getting out of my program and doing something else. It may mean I'm not someone who likes focusing on one area but would rather try different things. But mostly it meant I was utterly clueless. I didn't know what kind of jobs I should be looking for or what my "field" is supposed to be. Even today I don't know what my "field" was supposed to be. I know I've made a fool of myself, because I remember going to some companies' information sessions where the company did something different than what I was supposed to be going for. And going to job fairs where I am confused about what companies I should be talking to, and going up to one where they respond that they don't take people with my degree, and they're probably thinking, "what the hell are you doing here?" This is a major reason why I'm unemployed, because I was dazed and confused, especially being away from campus and without their support, what I should be applying for.

If I went to grad school it would be because I want to shift my career and "field" to something else. I don't care so much about what that something else is exactly at this point. The days of looking at course descriptions and feeling interested in it is over. I just need something that I feel I can do (which is only certain areas of computer science) and can get admitted to. The alternative would be to do another 4 year undergrad degree all over again. It's obvious to them that I'm desperately trying to stop the bleeding rather than someone who's been dreaming of a PhD in a specific subject since Grade 6, so how am I going to convince them to admit me?

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Yes yes yes! Contact professors in the department, not the admissions people. You are not bugging them. If they are not willing to talk to you, then they are not worth your time. Many professors love hearing from potential students. So check out their research, they usually have articles they have written posted in their school directory entry. And yes, read up on the field and know what you might be interested in researching. You don't have to have a thesis all planned out, but you can say I am interested in this and I read the work you have been doing on it. Also it doesn't cost you anything to speak with professors, they might know your chances of getting in. Added bonus, if they like you and want you to work with them, then they will put in a recommendation to the admissions people. This can also lead to funding offers since professors are the ones writing grant proposals.

You seem very pessimistic about the whole thing, but the admissions process really isn't like that. A lot of people switch fields. My graduate degree won't really be the same as my undergrad degree. They are sort of related, but I definitely made a sharp turn. My undergrad background is helpful though, since I understand a lot of things other people may not. The same could be true for you. A computer science background would have its own advantages in bioinformatics. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. Think of how things would be for someone with a biology background. They get the biology stuff, but the CS stuff would be harder for them.

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Discuss your employment, your interests. It's an extremely tough job market out there --- no one is going to care that you've had periods where you weren't working.

If they don't care I had periods of unemployment then what are they going to look at? I assume they have many applicants and can only accept a limited number of students. How am I going to convince them to accept me? You said to discuss my employment and interests - so that means I tell them about my employment years ago which is irrelevant now, and they are going to say, "it's obvious you showed a lack of interest in the past, so how come you're interested in it now?"

. Even Mark Zuckerberg is shy and non-verbal and and apparently makes little eye contact in conversations.

Um, yeah right. That is impossible, unless if it's someone else who did the work and he took credit for it. You can't make a social network unless if you are an extrovert with a lot of friends and knows what your audience or consumers want. You can't know everyone else out there will want Facebook unless you're an extrovert yourself. Social networking is practically the definition of extroversion. If this continues, historians will one day write about how the "social revolution" has stamped out introversion as a human personality trait. I've seen other threads here from people who were computer science grads and had struggles similar to me, but applied for positions in things like Facebook gaming and social media marketing, and someone responded, "anything to do with Facebook looks good on your resume". Now you see why I don't even want to look at a job description, let alone apply for one. It's obvious that I cannot do this with my personality, and it's not something I could have anticipated a couple of years ago. The question is if there's anything out there that I can do with my personality.

Mark Zuckerberg is notoriously shy and awkward. Only an introvert would create an ONLINE social network. The extroverts are out experiencing creating real life social networks.

http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerbergs-most-awkward-moments-2012-5

Half of all people consider themselves shy. It's just most put on a social face and you don't know it, especially if you are shy and self-conscious yourself and focusing on yourself and the impression you are making.

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Quote about Mark Zuckerberg from Ben Mezrich who wrote the book that The Social Network movie was based on:

"“.... He’s different. He is an odd guy. he is very socially awkward. We’ll keep seeing photos of him looking really strange,” ...

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/congrats-on-the-wedding-social-network-writer-calls-mark-zuckerberg-very-socially-awkward/

Or how about this article:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-28248716/introverted-its-your-time-to-shine/

to quote the author: "The high-tech industry is full of successful executives and managers at all levels that don't fit the conventional mold of the bold, outgoing leader. They're introverts. Their time has come. And not just in the tech industry, either."

and the business writer further states that:

"Believe it or not, most of the successful CEOs and entrepreneurs I've worked with over the past 30 years have been introverts, and not just a little, either. One CEO confided that he was so painfully shy as a youth that he would nearly pass out from fear if he had to speak up in class."

I truly believe that the only way your personality will interfere with your work success is if you yourself believe so, and stop yourself from trying as a result.

Edited by ellemint
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@ellemint, I guess I'm not an introvert then by your definition. A true introvert to be would not be social whether it's with an online social network or in person. But social networks makes it even more difficult because you are putting your real name, real identity, and everything about you online for all to see, along with who your friends are and how many friends you have. It's different from talking on Depression Forums or even the old MSN and Skype. It's like being in a school where the popular kids wear a T-shirt with "I AM POPULAR" in big bold letters and the unpopular kids wear "I AM A LONER." If I were to make a Facebook or LinkedIn account, all I would get is an account with my real name on it and zero friends. It would not make me any more social but it will make people who see the account think "how the hell does this guy have no friends?" The fact that I'm a loner will be known to everyone who sees my real name on a resume, a bank transaction, etc. Without a Facebook account, I would simply be known to not exist. The existance of Facebook means that once you don't have friends to begin with, you will never have them. No one will want to "like" anyone who has no existing friends without wondering if they were a convicted felon or something "wrong" with that person. Social networking has increased the prominence of extroversion, not the other way around, because people can now flash their # of friends around like a trophy. Every 2 seconds you hear of the "social economy" and social this, social that. The word "social" didn't become so common before social networking existed. The need to be social has never been this high.

If most business leaders are introverts then how come schools constantly try to show the message "90% of jobs are found through networking?" And "It's not what you know but who you know"? My school actually had posters that encouraged students to use "digital nepotism". Yes, nepotism.

I'm tired of people saying I'm not trying, because what do you want me to try? As far as I can tell "trying" means I should get plastic surgery on my face so I can take a physically attractive picture of myself. Make sure it ranks at least an 8 out of 10 on the "hotness scale" which is the minimum standard for someone to "like" my account. Then take steroids so I can post a picture of myself naked. Make sure that surgery has changed my racial appearance so I can get into clubs, pretend to like loud music I don't care about and inject drugs I don't want to try so I can post "I banged 10000 chicks last night" on Twitter, all under 140 characters, random hashtags included. And then next day as I'm recovering from my hangover, I read another headline about how every employer is hiring on Facebook these days. Even on Depression Forums - I don't know if you saw it, but a couple of days ago I saw a video on the homepage about Facebook (the video ran automatically). It started off saying Facebook had no effect on grades but then the smiling PR woman beamed saying a percentage of students use it for educational and professional reasons and how it may help you in job connections. Nothing against that woman personally, but I'm always suspicious of smiling salespeople who act like everything is great. She thinks everyone would take the video as good news... NOT! But the fact is, posting a video of my hangover on Facebook would have done more for my career than getting a degree. That's why there's the saying, "work hard and party hard". We are all Kardashians, expect for a few outcasts like me.

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@depressedgrad, what did you do for your undergrad and what did you do for grad? You can PM me if you want. I think I would rather do something that's even more different than my undergrad but I don't how doable that is. I'm going to make a goal (and hopefully by writing it down here I'll actually do it) to look up a couple of universities' websites sometime soon, like this week, and at least jot down what the deadline is and what are some potential programs I could apply to and some profs' contact information. It may not seem much but I have sworn off not even looking at a university (or employer) website because it feels too intimidating to look at it and be reminded of my past. Hopefully the deadline isn't anytime soon because it's going to take me a long time to get this sorted out, if at all.

I'm thinking this could be a chance for me to move to another part of the country or even study in other countries. But that would give me more hassles like figuring out how to get a visa, how to pay my taxes, and whether I'm legally allowed to work there. It would also expand the # of schools I could apply for which would make it confusing just which schools I choose.

I'm not so sure CS would have an advantage in bioinformatics, for one thing some schools may have found enough candidates who did bioinformatics in their undergrad. Also I think CS and math may be considered "weaker" degrees, as in if someone who knows biology said they picked up some programming or math skills on the side, they would get accepted to certain jobs, but not the other way around. But your anecdotes of people getting in with just a CS background means it's possible.

I just have the fear that if I email profs I may say the wrong things and shoot myself in the foot instead. Also if I'm considering several research areas or programs to apply for as possibilities, I would email all those profs, and if they find out they would think I'm being gimmicky by telling multiple profs that I've read their research papers. Actually, I do need to spend a lot of time reading those papers. Wow, that's a lot of homework.

Your posts have given me a ray of hope in thinking that there may be a future for me after all. At least it has given me a goal to at least inquire into. Maybe at the end of this I'll give up on the idea of going to grad school and realize it's impossible but at least I'll be making more progress towards bettering myself than I have in a long time. I hope something can come out of this.

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I've made a new thread continuing this discussion here (though you can still reply here if you want), as this thread is getting too wordy:

Please reply if you'd like. Especially my 3rd post, if someone could give me advice there. Don't get me wrong with the thread title, I'm by no means confident and I still have my usual depression issues.

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