September 9th, 2021
The School of Meteorology Coordinator of Graduate Programs, Ms. Danika Hines-Barnett, gave an overview of the Meteorology Graduate Program and answered questions that students had.
The first question she answered was how do you know that graduate school is right for you? Hines-Barnett suggested that you start by thinking about what your dream job is, who currently has that job, and what their background is. The next questions to think about are whether or not you like to research and academics and are you considering graduate school for your own goals?
If you decide to apply for graduate school, there is an application process that students should follow. The first step in applying for graduate school is to research graduate programs. You should answer the following questions: What type of program is right for you? What type of research are you most interested in? Where are others with your same goals going to grad school? What things are specific universities researching or going to research within the next few years? As you do your research, she pointed out that you should not be afraid to ask questions for more information. After thinking about these questions, the next thing to look into is the type of admissions that certain universities have early on, so that you know when you need to apply and what type of programs they offer. She explained the difference between deadlines and rolling admissions. A deadline can be either soft or hard. A soft deadline is a deadline with a recommended date to submit the application, but applications can still be accepted after the suggested date. However, if you submit an application close to when offers are sent out, you might not get an offer. A hard deadline means the application closes on a specific date. She strongly recommends having all your application materials together about 15 days before the deadline. On the other hand, a rolling admission means that you can apply at any time during the year.
The next part of the application process is to ask for recommendation letters. She went over who you should ask and who you should not ask. You should not ask family members for letters of recommendation, but you should ask a faculty member that you do know and regularly interact with. You should start building relationships with faculty members early on by talking with your professors and going to office hours on a regular basis. You want a letter from somebody who knows what you are passionate about. She also suggested that you should ask the faculty member for advice about graduate school to break the ice so they can be aware about your grad school interests before you formally ask them for a letter. When asking for a letter, you should be formal, reintroduce yourself, and explain what you’re interested in. You should ask them about 6 weeks before you want the letter to be submitted and give them your resume so they can be better aware of what your research interests are. A student asked how they should build relationships with people we are working with virtually due to the pandemic? Hines-Barnett suggested that you ask them if you can have a covid safe in-person meeting with them. She stated that there are several faculty members that understand this concern and would love to help students build their professional careers even with the ongoing pandemic. Another question was asking if you can ask a professor that has retired, and she stated that it is perfectly okay to ask them because many are still in their offices or active in their committees.
Another component of the application process is the personal statement. OU provides some guidelines on what to include in your personal statement, but some universities do not. It should be around two pages long and thought of as a cover letter and an opportunity to introduce yourself. You should address the past, present, and future of your research. Why you want to go to grad school, what your long term goals are, and related research you’ve done in the past should all be mentioned in your statement. You should not be vague! If you had a bumpy time that is reflected in your transcript, you should explain what was going on and how you overcame it – this shows resilience and determination. Things to avoid include starting your letter off with a cheesy story of a storm that got you interested in weather. Instead, you should hit heavy on your involvement, passions, resiliency, time management, etc. A student asked about if it is okay to mention a specific advisor or specific area of research in the school you are applying to. If you already have a close relationship with an advisor, then yes. Keep in mind that it won’t necessarily hurt your chances of getting in, but it may limit areas of research that you may not even know about yet. If you are unsure, you might leave out mentioning a specific advisor. Some final recommendations included having at least 3 people proofread it and remember your audience.
For CV and Resumes, Hines-Barnett suggests using career services because they are there for YOU and all they do is help students with their resumes. She mentioned that you should start building your resume now by volunteering, looking for research opportunities during undergrad, and offering to do something when someone asks for people to help. She also suggests that you should have at least 2 people proofread your resume.
Some advisors will not accept people that have not reached out to them prior. To connect with potential advisors, you can look at their social media, especially twitter. They will sometimes post if they are looking for a grad student. They may also post about the research they are working on, grants that went through, and you can see if this is someone you’d want to be your advisor. You can also reach out to them via email. You should include some information about yourself including your educational background, what you’re interested in, etc. You can also ask them questions about their program to show that you are interested. If they don’t respond, that is okay. It doesn’t mean they won’t accept you. Some advisors will not talk to you until after you have submitted your application. Remember, no one is ever going to get mad at you for reaching out.
The next few minutes of the meeting talked about qualifications and application review. Do grad schools look primarily at GPA, or do they look at a more holistic view of the application? The answer is that it depends. Some graduate programs will have a minimum GPA, especially competitive programs, and GPA does matter for some larger institutions where there are hundreds of applicants. She also mentioned that many universities are getting rid of the GRE.
If you receive multiple offers you might wonder how you should decide which offer to accept. She recommends that you ask a lot of questions from the potential advisor and other graduate students in the program. It is important to know that your advisor will be a good one – so you should get to know them! Take a look at your admissions package, what are the stipends, tuition waivers, fees, opportunities, etc. You should also know the cost of living in the area you will be moving to because not all programs pay for the cost of living. If your potential advisor is pressuring you to accept earlier, take some time to think about it because you do not need to accept any offer until April 15th. Always remember, trust your gut.
The meeting concluded with some tips from others who have been through the process before. During your undergrad, you should find out if you actually like research, make connections, volunteer for undergrad field campaigns, be involved in professional organizations, and learn how to network. For the application process, you should apply early, be open-minded, and ask a lot of questions. You should also apply to realistic programs, as well as dream programs. Don’t sell yourself short and think you won’t get into your dream program. Also, keep in mind that your relationship with your advisor is more important than your topic.
Danika Hines-Barnett’s contact information is: