My Higher-ed Journey

Recently, following one of my talks, an aspiring graduate student asked me about my Ph.D. journey. At that time, I replied, I can give multiple talks on this very topic. It got me thinking about writing it all down. Maybe someone will benefit from my experiences. If not, it will be my memoir. I will point out that what I am writing here is based on my experience. I am not claiming that how I did certain things is the only way of doing that thing. It's merely what had worked for me. So here it goes.

Getting Ready -Focus

Right after finishing my undergraduate studies, I decided to focus solely on preparing for higher education. I did not try to find jobs. My goal was clear. I knew I wanted to go for higher education. Getting a job just did not fit in my plan.

There was definitely peer pressure (also extended family pressure). A BUET graduate not doing anything and being bekar (unemployed) didn't sit well with many. But I had my family's support and a very good mentor who not only helped me with the preparations but also made sure I am focused on my goals.

Also, I knew I'll be away from my family for a significant amount of time given my decision of going abroad. So I decided to spend a good amount of time with family and friends. So between the time of graduating and submitting the grad school applications, I was unemployed but worked evidly towards my goals. I prepared and cleared the tests, published two journal papers, prepared SOP and LoRs, emailed profs, traveled with family, hung out with friends, and made memories. Looking back, those ten months were crucial in my journey, both personally and academically.

​Getting Ready -Publish

When I started researching about getting into graduate school, I learned about the requirements of application material such as the test scores (GRE, TOEFL, IELTS), the statement of purpose (SOP), the letter of recommendation (LoR). At that time, I did not find much about publication. But they carry significant weight when it comes to admission decisions. This is where having a mentor is important. Although the internet didn't tell me how important publication was, my mentor did.

Having a publication on your CV (even if it’s in a different field) can help your application stand out when applying to a competitive program (like UC Berkeley's) or make up for a weakness elsewhere in your application. When applying for a PhD program, the professors are looking for some research experience. Having a journal paper tells him/her that you not only have some research experience you are also motivated enough to convert the research into a paper.

So I reached out to my undergraduate thesis advisor and told him that I want to get a journal paper out of my thesis. We discussed what more is needed before the thesis work becomes a good manuscript. Under his remote guidance (I was at Chittagong), I finished the study and wrote the paper. Writing a good paper takes time and effort. And a lot of patience! you need to review it over and over again to make sure everything is good. And it's the hardest the first time. But that was one of my best time investments given the outcome.

Aug 21, 2021