Service Learning Office gives grad admission tips

The event was part of Undergraduate Research Month.
Service-Learning and Fellowships Coordinator Vicky Wilson speaks with freshman Alan Ernst about service and research opportunities Thursday in Memorial Union. The discussion was part of MU's Undergraduate Research Month.

MU Undergraduate Research Month continued Thursday with discussion about the graduate school application process and the ways students can best prepare for it during their undergraduate years. The event, titled "Graduate School and Fellowships: Take Control of Your Future," focused on all aspects of the graduate admission process, including garnering different undergraduate experiences and getting convincing letters of recommendation from former professors. Vicky Wilson, a service-learning and fellowships coordinator with the Office of Service-Learning, led the discussion and urged students to make the most of their undergraduate years by getting to know their professors and becoming involved with many projects and activities on campus. Wilson likened a student's undergraduate experiences to a patchwork quilt and said students need to focus on the individual squares but also build a common theme between all of that work as the thread holding the quilt together. Alan Ernst, a freshman biological sciences major, said he attended as many events as he could, trying to gather information to assemble an academic plan for the next four years. "Every one I've attended really makes me more interested in doing research and helping out," Ernst said. Wilson said Ernst should keep a journal of his daily activities as material for the personal statement section of graduate school applications. Wilson said the strongest personal statements are those that draw on one life experience and connect it to all stages of the writer's education. She also said strong applicants usually also have histories of assuming leadership positions. She had the audience define leadership in their own words and related her personal experience in expanding the number of students visiting the Office of Service-Learning each week. Wilson emphasized working with others and creating something new as the criteria of leadership. "Leadership always involves other people and making a change," Wilson said. Wilson said globalization and international connections are becoming increasingly important to the U.S. economy, making it essential for all graduates to learn at least one foreign language. She said students should also participate in community service activities because it exposes students to ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds that might be different from their own. Kristina Werner, a senior biological sciences major, said she studied abroad four times and has been working at a winery to gain field experience to pursue biology in graduate school. "I've been to a lot of similar seminars, getting a lot of the same information," Werner said, "I think that my strong points are in my field experience." Wilson said students should participate in a mix of campus activities and professional opportunities like internships, depending on what employers and admissions officers value for that particular field of study. "Most students would want to balance to some extent depending on their goals, particularly if they're concerned about fellowships," Wilson said. Two more Undergraduate Research Month events will take place next week. On Tuesday, non-science majors will be the focus of a lecture in S203 Memorial Union. On Wednesday, the celebration will culminate in N232 Memorial Union with the "Hot Pizza, Hot Cocoa and Hot Research!" social mixer for all students interested in undergraduate research. Both events will take place from 3 to 4 p.m.

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