Applying to STEM Grad School: Day 1

As a general rule, I’m going to try not to be political on this blog. It’s not something I want this blog to focus on, and it’s not something I would usually consider pertinent to graduate school applications.


I’ll preface this by saying that I’m female and a minority planning to apply to engineering Ph.D programs, and that I attend a university that is considered to be a particularly liberal bubble (as universities go). As a result, the first month of our new administration hasn’t had a huge effect on me, purely because my life is centered around problem sets, being in lab, and various extracurriculars. Additionally, I have always wanted to live abroad for an extended period of time, so I had been considering foreign programs for my Ph.D before November 8th.

I started creating a list of Ph.D programs that I might be interested in applying to last semester, and the primary metric that I used to compile this list was whether the school had research that interested me. Makes sense, right? I figured that I could narrow down the list over the next few months, apply in the fall, see where I got in, and attend whichever school had the best combination of ranking and interesting research. It might not be an easy process, but it would be fairly straightforward. Some of the schools on my list were in Germany, or Great Britain, or Switzerland, or New Zealand, but most were in the US.

As I look to narrow this list down now, I am confronted with a problem. While I have not been directly affected by the new policies of our new administration, I would consider them to be fairly radical, if not extreme, and we’re only a month into a four (hopefully not eight) year term. At best, the policies continue to be as radical as they have been. At worst, the US becomes an official satellite state of Russia, or we enter World War 3. Nothing in the range between is desirable.

So, knowing this, how do I narrow down this list? In theory, schools with more interesting research should take precedent over schools with less interesting research, but what if the former is in the US and the latter is in Canada? Should I go to Canada before things in the US get worse? Or should I stay in the US and hope for the best? How strongly should my concerns over the current administration factor into my rankings?

I don’t have an answer to this. And it’s not just me struggling to decide.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.



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