outside of California, but more importantly, I was introduced to
what it would be like to be a graduate student. That experience
really set in stone my decision to apply to graduate school.
Reaping the benefits of experience
So why add to your already stressful workload by putting in
hours of research every week? I can honestly tell you that the
extra responsibility is worth it in the end, and the benefits go far
beyond getting to apply what you have learned in lecture and lab
to a real-world problem. You will learn to cope with failure. That
is really a make-or-break point for a lot of students when they’re
deciding whether graduate school is right for them.
Can you handle working on a project that might not succeed,
no matter how hard you try for weeks on end? Well, you won’t
know until you try. I went through that disappointment several
times with my own project. I definitely felt like throwing in the
towel on multiple occasions, but my interest in the work I was
doing kept me going. I just kept reminding myself: Wouldn’t it be
amazing if this actually did work? Well, after a while, it finally did.
I did not think about this myself when I decided to do research,
but I’ve learned since that you can publish as an undergraduate.
After two and a half years of hard work, which included plenty of
month-long periods where simply nothing worked, the project
I had started in my freshman year resulted in a publication that
I helped write. Now, not every project results in something that
ate career), but the success and worth of your undergraduate
research experience should not be measured in the number of
publications you produce. By being involved in a research lab, you
have the chance to present your work at national conferences.
Shannen Cravens graduated from the University of San Diego last spring and was president of the USD student chapter. She is now a first-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.
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