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My school is offering a graduate school fair in one week, and I am interested in graduate school. I am already planning to take my Biology GRE as soon as possible, but not soon enough to bring the results to the fair. So, how should I prepare myself for this event, this being my first time at one?

Background info:

They state that there will be recruiters there, so I assume formal/semi-formal attire. But do schools really even bother recruiting for graduate programs at these events or is it more of a general advertisement/ tour? I also assume bringing my CV would be smart, but my GPA is not stellar ( 3.0ish at lower-end school), so would that leave a bad impression or no?

The "nail in the coffin" for me is my indecisiveness in what to actually study in biology. My advisors often tell me to only consider graduate school if you have something you are really "passionate" about. I never really felt "passionate" about biology or any subject though, I simply liked it better than others and found it cool. I have done so much in my undergraduate studies that I have liked, such as working in a greenhouse, to doing undergrad reserch in genetics, it is hard for me to set my heart to something.

This is all assuming I could afford to attend grad school without sinking myself further into debt, given I have no more financial aid or federal loans left to my disposal. I have read that some people get "free rides", but those are few, far between, and for the very gifted/focused students I assume. Thanks for your time.

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The schools, will inevitably be trying to sell themselves and attract applicants. However, I would mainly look at this as an opportunity to answer your questions which seem to be

  • Do I actually want to go to grad school?

  • What are the costs/funding situation?

Personally, I would view it entirely as a fact finding exercise, rather than trying to sell yourself and wouldn't even bother bringing a CV, although I suppose it doesn't really hurt.

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A grad school fair is not quite like a job fair, where many people bring CVs and hope to get interviews---no one is expecting you to apply to a grad school at a fair. It is a place for you to go to learn about grad schools: what programs are out there, what they are like.

As for how you should prepare: think some about what you might like to study and what things would be important to you in choosing a grad school. For this, it may be helpful to first try to find general advice on choosing grad schools. Then you can ask appropriate questions to each program.

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Good answers already provided. Additional remarks:

You don't need to make a final choice yet. Try to think of two or three things you like a lot to talk about in your application. No one is going to ask for their money back if you change your mind and move over to a different area of biology after one or two semesters.

Try to get a teaching assistantship. That is a great way of supporting yourself during graduate studies.

You may want to consider working for a year or two before starting grad school. That could help you narrow your focus and could also reduce your undergraduate debt. It's also good self-protection for when a professor tries to tell you you know nothing about the real world out there.

Edited to add

"Free ride" is a term that would make more sense to me in the context of undergraduate studies.

The two most common ways for an institution in the U.S. to support a student's graduate studies are

  • Research Assistant (RA): Here, you are funded by a specific professor's grant. This is more competitive than the next one.

  • Teaching Assistant (TA): If you are in a department that services large numbers of undergraduates, there will be a large number of TAs. I would imagine that Biology would be such a field.

A note about mentors: It is very important to choose as your mentor someone who believes in you. Don't waste your time asking for advice, guidance or recommendations of a professor who has any lukewarm feelings about you as a student.

Once you find the right mentor, your mentor can help you choose grad schools to apply for, give you feedback about your application, and write a strong letter of recommendation. Certainly, a strong showing on the GRE would be a big plus. However, a strong statement of purpose, together with a strong recommendation, would also help counter a so-so transcript.

(I would limit myself to seeking advice from professors who have a strong belief in my academic potential. Anyone else might drag me down and have a detrimental effect on my academic self-esteem.)

Just to mention another option for you: some people find that working in a related field for 1-3 years helps them find out what sub-field(s) they are most interested in. And sometimes the employer will fund part-time graduate study. So that's another option you might want to consider.

  • I would get a job, buti doubti could land one in which I could support myself and start paying back loans. I was told the best time to apply is right out of school, since that's when you have the least commitments. I was hoping my in school interships would count towards narrowing my focus, but I don't really see iT happening. I think genetics is cool, but when I ask myself if I understand it well enough to be good at It don't know. The same goes for genomics, as I have a week comp. Sci background. I have enjoyed plant work, but I lack money to take more plant classes. – Ro Siv Sep 4 '15 at 3:27
  • Student loans typically do not need to be paid back as long as you are at least a half-time student. See studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/… // It sounds like you need a mentor. If you ask about how to find one, write a Question! – aparente001 Sep 4 '15 at 3:34
  • Well I cant really afford anymore school to a useful point. And being a part time student would mean that I have the job to support me & schooling, which is unlikely. I want to avoid private loans, as they are viscous, so my hope was to get good GRE biology scores, & use my undergrad research and "work" experience to make grad schools want to fund me. I also am not sure on what a "mentor" would do for me; the term seems kind of vague. My professors give me plenty of advice given my small college size. This is not to sound ungrateful though, thank you. – Ro Siv Sep 4 '15 at 4:01

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