Education

Graduate School Application Timeline

Below I’ve listed out what you should be planning to accomplish each month leading up to submitting your application for a Fall entry into graduate school. If you’re planning to start in the Spring, adjust by starting 6 months from the application deadline. Still thinking about whether or not you want to pursue a graduate degree? Check out some of my other blog posts on the topic: 1) Is Grad School “Worth It”? 2) Graduate School Application Tips.

July

  1. Do your research: Do your research to find out which colleges have programs, professors, and labs dedicated to the research or topic you’re interested in conducting or learning more about. Talk to professors at your undergraduate institution, employ the internet, ask colleagues. Make a list and rank them in order of precedence to you. Keep in mind that each school charges a non-refundable application fee of somewhere around $75-$100. It can get very expensive just to apply to graduate school so you may have to save up or pare down your list of schools.

August

  1. Take the GRE: When to take the test really depends on how much you plan to study and whether you want to have the option to take it more than once if you don’t get the score you want the first time around. Again, please remember that the exam is not cheap. It will cost you around $200 to take the GRE. Experts probably recommend first taking the test in something like August. I took the GRE twice: once in October and again in December during the application process.
    • For my favorite study resource, click here. The second time I took the test I wanted to improve my score so I utilized online test prep through Magoosh. Using this online tool, I improved my score by 8 percentile points in verbal reasoning, 18 percentile points in quantitative reasoning, and 17 percentile points in analytical writing! They have video lessons, flashcards, and practice questions and tests that help you in every area of the GRE. They also guarantee a +5 score improvement or your money back.
  2. Start drafting your Statement of Purpose: A clear statement of purpose is one of the major pieces that the admissions committee will be paying attention to while reviewing your application. Basically they want to know why you’re interested in pursuing a graduate degree and how you think their program will help you reach your goals. Click here for a brief article on how to write a statement of purpose.
  3. Polish your resume: You’ll need an updated resume to send to each person you request a letter of recommendation from. This will help them write the most personalized letter possible. Additionally, a resume, or portions of it, may be requested as part of your graduate school application or while applying to scholarships. It can also be helpful to send your resume to professors when reaching out about funding opportunities in their lab.

September

  1. Ask for Letters of Recommendation: Most schools will require 2-3 letters of recommendation. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for these. Many schools allow your recommenders to directly upload the letter via an e-mail link. Be sure to send your updated resume and personal statement (even if it’s only a draft) to your recommender so that they can write a more personal letter.
  2. Make a list of Professors with similar research interests: A good way to get a preliminary list of professors you’d like to talk to is to look at which schools have labs dedicated to the research areas you’re interested in or look for journal articles on those topics. Most schools provide contact info for professors on their websites and list their area(s) of specialty. Shoot over a brief e-mail with your resume attached sharing a one or two sentence background about you and why you’re interested in their research area. Let them know you’d like to learn more about the research they’re conducting and that they can learn more about you through your attached resume.

October

  1. Request Transcripts: Official college transcripts will be required as part of your application materials for each school.
  2. Reach out to Professors: If you’re planning to earn a spot in a specific professor’s lab, it’s important to reach out early on in the application process so that they don’t promise away all their funding to other students before you get to them. In my opinion, my persistence in reaching out to professors and being extremely upfront about my intentions to seek funding were paramount to how I was able to get paid to attend graduate school.

November

  1. Perfect your Statement of Purpose: Have a professor or honest friend, sibling, or colleague review your statement of purpose and provide feedback. Once you have a basic statement of purpose you’re happy with, slightly tweak it and save different versions for each school you apply to. Make sure you read the instructions for each application to ensure you’re addressing each school’s prompt in full.

December

  1. Submit your application: Because a school’s application deadline will vary, it’s important to check early on so that you don’t miss it. Some schools have rolling deadlines. When I applied to graduate school the deadlines for those seeking funding and those planning to provide their own funding sources (either paying out of pocket or coming with a scholarship) were slightly different.

Best wishes as you contemplate the next steps on your journey.

Kate

Education, STEM Resources

HiFive Inventor Coding Kit (Ages 7+)

I was only about 7 years old when I first realized I wanted to work in the space industry one day. I used to look up at the stars and dream of exploring our universe. However, growing up I had relatively low exposure to the types of hands on activities capable of sparking an interest in STEM. Tynker Coding for Kids and BBC Learning have partnered to make coding accessible and fun, not only providing kids with the inspiration to pursue STEM careers but also to grow their self confidence in the skills required to thrive in these fields.

When it came time to apply to college, I knew that I would need an engineering degree to accomplish my goals but I didn’t even know what engineers did. It wasn’t until college that I learned how to code but practicing these skills helped grow my confidence in my engineering capabilities tremendously.

With the HiFive Inventor Coding Kit, kids of all ages have the opportunity to experiment with coding in a fun and non-intimidating way whether through block coding for beginners or MicroPython for Advanced Coders. Learners can make their way through structured activities and challenges or venture out on their own to create their very own project. There is even an “Introduction to Python” section with fifteen lessons which takes learners through the basics of coding in Python. Python has quickly become a favorite language due to its versatility and straightforward syntax. Because Python is open source, meaning it is freely available to the public, it encourages open collaboration on the internet.

It wasn’t until college that I learned how to code but practicing these skills helped grow my confidence in my engineering capabilities tremendously.

Each coding kit comes with the following:

  • HiFive Inventor mini-computer
  • Doctor Who and Tynker coding lessons
  • Thousands of activities and challenges
  • External speaker
  • Light up USB LED cable
  • External battery pack
  • Alligator clips

Each kit is powered by Tynker, the world’s #1 creative coding platform that is used worldwide by 60 million kids in over 90,000 schools. The HiFive Inventor is even equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth capability and has sensors that allow it to interact with the environment around you.

As our world continues to rely more heavily on automation, computers and technology to drive innovation, employers will continue to demand a highly skilled workforce with the problem solving capabilities that coding helps to foster. Further, it is increasingly likely that many jobs will require at least a basic level of coding. By exposing kids to these activities at a young age, we are setting them up to be the confident change-makers our world needs.

You can purchase your very own HiFive Inventor Coding Kit here.

Education, STEM Resources

Professional Courses to Boost Your Resume

Are you an aerospace engineering professional looking to boost your resume? I have compiled a brief list of some short courses to help give you an edge in your career.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

AIAA On-Site Courses: Check out the website for a myriad of courses which your employer can bring right to your office from computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to model-based systems engineering to tactical and strategic missile guidance and so many more.

AIAA Online Education: Here you’ll find a long list of courses (of varying lengths) taught by industry experts. All courses are taught online, offering great flexibility.

The University of Kansas: KU Aerospace Short Courses

KU offers a wide variety of options for many disciplines within the aerospace profession. Check out the course catalog for the full list of 50+ classes with many options taught several times throughout the year and in multiple locations. Some examples are “Flight Test Principles and Practices”, “Structural Composites”, “Advanced Avionics” and “Project Management Fundamentals for Aerospace Professionals”. They also offer Certificates of Specialization with many specialties to choose from.

Southwest Research Institute: NASGRO Training

NASGRO is the most widely used fracture mechanics and fatigue crack growth software program in the world. It was developed under a Space Act Agreement between SwRI and NASA. I have personally attended this training program and found it invaluable. It is a 3-day course which takes students through the very basic background of fracture mechanics, which is the basis for the program, as well as through each of the program’s modules with hands-on practice examples. Many industry leaders utilize NASGRO to ensure safe operation of structural components.

Dassault Systemes: Introduction to Abaqus

This course is currently offered online and teaches students not just how to model, submit jobs and view simulation results in the software program, but also teaches the technical basis the program utilizes to solve problems. Abaqus is the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tool I utilized for my graduate school research.

Codecademy: Learn Python 2

Python has quickly become a favorite language due to its versatility and straightforward syntax. Because Python is open source, meaning it is freely available to the public and thus encourages open collaboration, there are many free resources available online. If you’re looking for something a little more structured, this course takes about 25 hours to complete, requires no prerequisites and promises to leave you comfortable enough with the basics to be coding your own script by the end. You can download Python for free here.

If there’s a class you’ve taken and highly recommend, drop a comment!