How Can I Find the Right University for Me?

This video will explain the qualities to consider when looking for a school. After watching this video, you will know understand how finding the right university means finding the right FIT. This video examines the following:

  • Differences between programs in the US / UK
  • Campus locations and settings
  • Academic culture
  • Work sponsorships

A Day in the Life: US Universities vs. UK Universities

Get an insider's perspective on US and UK universities. By the end of this video you will understand the differences in teaching styles, professional opportunities, academic and social differences, and class styles and start building the knowledge toolkit to make an informed decision about which universities suit you best.

Determining Your School List.

This video will explain how a student's profile is viewed by us as well as admissions and how this relates to the determination of your reach, match, and safety schools. After watching this video, you will understand how your scores and achievements will be analyzed to find your reach, match, and safety schools.

Finding the Right Fit

This video gives you 7 key tips on how to choose the most suitable school for you. Instead of paying much attention on university rankings, your priority should be to focus on schools’ location, academic culture, your own career plans, university size, social life and school spirit, and tuition. After watching this video, you will have a clear picture of what you really want from your future school.

Sample School List

This video uses a mock student profile to demonstrate how students with an average GPA and plain scores in standard tests should select their REACH schools, MATCH schools, and SAFETY schools. After watching this video, you will have a basic idea of how to do school exploration and selection.

Researching the Dream School or Program

The task of picking schools to apply to is a daunting one. You’re literally trying to pick the place where you’re going to spend the next 4 years of your life (if you’re applying to college), or the next 2-4 years of your life (if you’re applying to masters or graduate programs). For most of us, this is the first time you’re getting a say in where and how you want to live, as well as the kind of people we want to surround ourselves with. And with this new power comes big questions, questions that can affect the quality of our lives for the next several years.

Honestly, I didn’t do a very good job of asking myself these questions when I applied to college. I didn’t think about whether I’d be happier studying in a city or in a college town. I didn’t think about whether I’d be happier I’d be happier in a student population of tens of thousands or only a couple thousand. I did think about the classes and majors available at each school, but I didn’t think too much about extracurriculars or about the “type” of people that would make up the student population. The concept of a dream school or program during the application season was less about my specific needs than about overarching questions of prestige, academics, and returns. 

Thankfully, I figured out a bunch of these things later on in the application process, when I was travelling around the US visiting the schools to which I'd been admitted. And, even better, I ended up at a college that fit me more than I could’ve imagined – the University of Chicago, a school that’s in a neighborhood of Chicago but not in the middle of downtown, giving a great balance of city and college town. A school that also had an undergraduate population of only 5,000 students (a good size for me). I ended up absolutely loving two aspects of University of Chicago that distinguished it from other schools: 1) its Core Curriculum, which exposed me to rigorous social science for the first time in my life and revolutionized the way I viewed the world, and 2) the intensely driven nature of its student body.

The kicker is – I almost didn’t apply to Chicago. And, I didn’t particularly prioritize it among the applications I sent out, because during the common app process, I hadn’t thought a lot about what I wanted from a school, about what would actually make me happy at a school

What if it’d come down to the application deadline on January 5th and I’d let my supplement essay slip by the wayside and I hadn’t applied to the University of Chicago? What if I’d lost my dream school because I hadn’t known that it was my dream school? There’s so much advertising involved with attracting competitive applicants to a university or a graduate program, but just because a school can produce glossy photos of its beautiful campus doesn’t mean it’s going to satisfy all the criteria that will make you happy for the next 2-4 years.

Thus, when I was applying to medical school, I was determined to learn from my first application cycle experience and do my research better, this time around.

And, in order to force myself to complete a comprehensive research process, I created my secret weapon – my “Med Schools for the win” spreadsheet. 

The Spreadsheet System

Have you ever seen an Excel spreadsheet? Open one up right now to help you visualize my process. You'll see a series of boxes marked by numbers and letters to differentiate rows and columns.  

  • In the first column, I listed all the schools I was thinking of applying to; again, these were just thoughts. 
  • In the first row, I listed all the criteria I was looking for, including student population size, whether the school has a pass/fail grading policy, whether the school has faculty working in global health, etc. I also included the school’s mission statement, as it would give some sense into the different cultures at different schools. And finally, I included important application timeline details such as deadlines for the application, letters of recommendation, etc.
  • And then I proceeded to fill out every blank cell with notes and links. 

Researching medical schools in a serious way takes 1-2 months. It took me 2 months’ worth of free time to fill out each cell in my cell. But at the end of those two months, I had an organized, comprehensive record of all my research, I knew exactly which schools were my dream schools and why, and this saved me hours upon hours while writing my secondary essays and answering the question, “Why is this school the right one for you?” 

This spreadsheet provided further returns when I prepared for my interviews. Before each interview, I’d go through the row of notes and links for that particular school, and at the end of my review I’d know exactly why I was passionate about that school and its program. This allowed me to speak with enthusiasm and conviction in all my interviews, a trait that did not go unnoticed (in spring of 2014, I was accepted into Harvard Medical School).

I can’t tell you what your own criteria for happiness are regarding your college or graduate education. But what I can tell you is that the 10 minutes it takes to think about those criteria and plop them into a spreadsheet will be the start of an incredible journey of research and self-discovery. Furthermore, that journey will not only provide exponential returns in your secondary applications and interviews, it will go far to ensure a large part of your happiness for the next 2-4 years!

Don’t skimp on your happiness. Start your research now and find your dream school(s)!

Can I Change my Major in Grad School?

In this post I share four tips on how you can change your major in grad school: 1) Join the campus club 2) Read books on your target subject 3) Ask your professor for advice 4) Earn professional experience.

As an undergraduate I thought a lot about this question. I studied international relations at UChicago and very much enjoyed my coursework but I knew that it would be challenging to find meaningful work in the subject after graduation.  As a Freshman I discovered my interest in business and began preparing myself to eventually apply to B-School. Here’s how I prepared myself to change my major in grad school. I think it will work for you too!

1) Join (or start!) the campus club in the academic field you’re interested in. Getting involved in the physics, accounting, or economics society is a great chance to learn more about the subject while making new friends. This may strengthen your interest or demonstrate that the field isn’t quite right for you – either way, very helpful learning. Though I was an international relations student, I was interested in learning more about business and finance so I joined The Blue Chips, UChicago’s investment club. In TBC I learned about balance sheets, EBITDA, economic forecasting, equity investing, and portfolio management.  It was a tremendous opportunity for professional growth and the place where I met many of my close friends in college.  My first university mentors were Joshua Sommerfeld and Elsa Sze, senior club members, and they encouraged me to pursue my interest in business, a key turning point for me.

2) Read books on your target subject. This will help you get up to speed quickly on your target field and provide a solid jumping-off point for further study. Few things demonstrate interest like reading and researching independently. A good place to start is by researching the professors in the department at your dream school. Select one of their recent books and read it carefully. Write down questions as you read so that you can send the professor a smart question via email before you apply.  The professor will be flattered a student is independently reading her book and may just message you back to begin correspondence.

3) Ask your professor for advice. As you pursue your new academic path, it will pay big dividends to have a sounding board to ask questions. Many professors have navigated paths similar to the one you are aiming for. The best way to profit from their experience is to ask them for advice! “Professor, do you have any book recommendations?” “Professor, do you know of any research opportunities in the Biology Department?” “Professor, I am aiming to study abroad, do you have any advice?” Charles Lipson, my international relations professor, gave me tremendous advice about my business and academic goals.  This was only possible because I asked!

4) Earn professional experience to demonstrate your competence in a new field.  A successful term as a laboratory technician, research assistant, or intern in your subject can alleviate concerns from the admissions committee.  I bet my internship at Merrill Lynch helped convince the MPhil Admissions Committee at Cambridge Business School to take a chance on me. Of course, the first professional experience is the hardest to earn so spend extra time polishing your CV and target accessible opportunities, the “low hanging fruit” that will propel your studies forward.

If you aim to change your major in grad school there is no time to waste. Begin preparing today by getting involved in the campus club, by reading books from your target field, asking your professor for advice, and seeking professional opportunities. Over the long-term, you can achieve anything you set your mind to… but only if you’re willing to work for it.


Greg Nance

ChaseFuture CEO

*ChaseFuture is now Dyad.

Gathering Knowledge: What to Know When Applying to a Graduate Program

The application process to various grad schools is fully underway right now. This is the most important part of the career of every individual, because the school you choose will have a high impact on future salary considerations, opportunities and available, and more. In fact, the job openings after Masters or PhD is highly positively correlated with the ranking of the school you get your PhD/Masters from. So, applying to multiple schools/programs of various ranks is strongly prescribed to maximize the chances of getting admission in the best possible university. Here are some things to consider:

I. Add 'Flexibility' to Your Choices

However, your search for programs in graduate school must be well focused to a few areas that attract you. You don't want to work/study the best 2-5 years of your life on something boring. To maximize the chances of selection, these programs must also be a match with your long-term goals, given your interests, background, past experiences, and the length of time you are willing to commit to graduate education. In making your decisions, remember that what you think you may want to specialize in could change over time, so make sure all your decisions give you the flexibility you may need later on.

II. Your Department is Important

But beyond flexibility and coursework, what else should you take into consideration? Well, choosing a specific department is another tricky area, particularly for students applying to a Masters program with coursework requirements. Job prospects vary considerably from department to department, and it is generally advised to switch departments only if the work opportunities will be better after the Masters. 

For PhD students, there is more flexibility in the choice of department, until the research is in alignment with your career goals. Although, PhD aspirants do have other areas to consider, like worrying about the departmental requirements for completing a PhD. Certain departments may ask students to leave with a Masters if they do not meet these prerequisites within a stipulated period of time. You should try to figure out if the department just uses course grades and class ranks in making these decisions, or if there are there prelims or qualifying exams and what are the guidelines for them. PhD students should also try to contact professors directly and must inquire into the profile of other students who completed PhD under the professor. 

III. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Both Masters and PhD should feel comfortable asking about passing and failing rates for a program, department, or research group. Knowing your requirements for graduation is important at any level of your education. For Master's programs, figure out if you have a thesis or second year paper to write (and whether that fits within your career goals and expectations, like entering the workforce post-graduation or pursuing a PhD). 

(Similarly, always ask to reach out to students in departments and programs. You'd want to hear from them about other useful information on the department, particularly department politics. No amount of research online can replace personal experience.) 

IV. Think About Your Future Before You Invest

Actually, while applying for a Masters, you must decide if you want to do a PhD next. If you do, you should apply to programs and department that feed directly into Ph.D. programs or those where there is a choice of making this shift. However, if you just want a Master's degree for now, you should do an entirely different type of search: you need to find a great school with a solid terminal Masters program. Why? Because, believe it or not, you will likely get better financial aid package (for shorter master programs), since you wouldn't be competing with students looking to pursue a Masters-PhD degree. Also, if you are applying to an average-ranked masters school, it is better to complete your masters and apply for PhD to a better school.

V. Application Details

After searching for the correct program, the application process can itself be tedious. You have to write personal statements/research statements/letter of intents and have to arrange for letters of recommendation. Talk to your faculty members and/or internship supervisors who can write strong letters of recommendation for you. A strong recommendation letter tremendously affects the fate of your application, so, you must choose the referees wisely and must be someone who can cite incidents and narrate about your strong points. You must have done well in the courses/projects you took with your referee so that he has sufficient matter to write the letter on. Your personal statement is another defining aspect of your application. Personal statements are the mirror in which the selection committee examines a candidate. Your personal statements must not only show your strong academic/research background and future interests, but must also demonstrate how you would be a good fit for the department's profile. Getting help from neutral experts is always a good idea.

With the right choice and correct approach, grabbing a good offer from the best grad school is not very difficult (though it can still require plenty of effort). Apart from the steps mentioned above, it is very important to do well on the GRE and other required admissions examinations (prep for them if you can). And, of course, investigate graduate level syllabi and past prelim questions of schools of interest, if available. After all, you're going for an academic experience. One which can be very expensive, so don't forget to be on the look up for financial assistance, from your home country or from the country of the grad school. I wish you luck in the selection process!


Key Takeaways:

Consider the following when generating a list of potential majors:

  1. Think about your favorite classes and consider your strengths
  2. Read articles you find interesting to discover your passions
  3. Consider future career goals
  4. My University Is Not Famous, So I Have No Chance
  5. Research university websites to narrow your list of potential majors
  6. Research professors and examine course syllabus
  7. Keep a running list of any new interests you develop

You have learned 5 Tips when considering a major change in grad school:

  1. Pivot a major change in grade school into a strength!
  2. AOs and schools want students from varied background
  3. Coming from a different major adds to your uniqueness and creativity
  4. Take courses (online or on campus) as soon as you can that are related to your new major and earn certifications if possible
  5. Join clubs or activities related to the new major to build experience

Keep researching schools here:

What’s My Next Step?

Leverage the takeaways above as you research universities, majors, and consider switching your major. Dyad Mentors are excited to help you discuss and explore your options to uncover the best major and university for you!

Contact the Dyad Team to learn more about the Admissions Office and Process Contactcontact