How to Prepare for Grad School, out of state, and Hit the Ground Running
May 23, 2013 2:00 PM   Subscribe

I will be moving to Boston for Grad school. I would love a checklist of what I need to do to prepare, A. I guess just the move in general, but most importantly B. Making the most of the MPH program and hitting the ground running- 2 years is gonna go by fast. I have to secure housing. I need to make sure that I have enough professional clothes- so I am gonna raid the Loft clearance rack. Other than that, I am looking to find a free online Biostats and Epi course, and looking into/reading up on How to Network- everyone keeps talking about it, and I am a total introvert- so I know I gotta figure that out so I can get a job when I graduate. If such a doc already exist, or something like making the most of grad school (I already have the book Getting What you Came for) please let me know, or otherwise give me your advice on what you think I should do now to prepare and be successful, what you wish you had know or done. thanks!
posted by TRUELOTUS to Education (2 answers total)
I went to Boston for undergrad and it was awhile ago, so I can't say too much about housing and such today. However, I do have an MPH and I will say that (1) there are a lot of group projects in MPH programs (this seems to be universal, at least in US programs) and that will help you to network naturally. (2) it seems like there is always one person in grad school cohorts that starts inviting people to meet for drinks. take them up on their invitation- especially if it comes early in the first semester.

Oh and free courses online? Check out Hopkins:

Although I am an extrovert, thses two things ensured that I met and still stay in touch with a pretty decent amount of grad school people. And yes, they have helped me get positions or much-needed information in our field and I have done the same.

Good luck and enjoy! It really does go by quickly!
posted by superfille at 2:36 PM on May 23, 2013

Hi, TRUELOTUS. I just finished an MPH and got a job before graduating, so I'll offer my two cents. I am not sure of what to say about the moving logistics. How to handle that will depend on where and what kind of space you are moving to and from. I found roommates on my class' Facebook page and then we found a space together.

You may not need to buy as much professional clothing as you think. I'd expect dress to be causal in classes and for on-campus work. (This may be less true if you're doing a health management track.) Having some professional clothing for the practicum you'll probably do next summer could be useful, depending on what you plan to do. (If you will be working in hospital management, yes, if you'll be doing field research on hookworm, less so.) The only time I've donned a suit in the last two years was for my job interviews.

My advice is to go into the program open to exploring different experiences but with an eye to acquiring expertise and experience towards a certain type of work. Public health is a very broad field, so its a great help to go in knowing you want to concentrate on a certain subject or approach to public health. I imagine you're already enrolling in a particular track within the public health school, but it might be worth taking some time over the summer to consider specifically where you want to be doing after you finish the MPH: doing surveillance for the CDC, research at an academic institution, evaluation for an NGO? Do you want to be a master at statistical programming, a qualitative researcher, a developer of interventions? Forgive me if this advice is too obvious.

Once you know where you want to go you can plan backwards. To get that job, what experience, knowledge and skills do you need? If you're doing the traditional two year structure, your summer practicum will be crucial. You want that job to leave you well positioned to take on your goal job the following summer, so plan your first year around qualifying yourself for a great summer internship as much as you can.

I found it helpful to look at the course offerings and make a tentative plan for the next two years. Besides the basic required courses, what do you want to learn? A mentor in the public health field once gave me the useful advice to focus on learning skills, not information, because its generally easier to teach yourself a set of facts than a new skill.

I would also give plenty of thought to what kind of experiences you want to have outside the classroom. You should consider approaching professors you would like to work for with a friendly email before the start of the semester. (You can figure out who would be interesting to work with by reading faculty profiles and using PubMed to take a look at their publications. Keep in mind that there tends to be a trade off between prestige and accessibility. The big shots are often too busy to be strong mentors.) You want to get to know the faculty because they have a lot to teach and so they can give you a strong reference.

I do have to say I somewhat disagree with superfille. I didn't do all that many group projects in my program (which may be unusual, I admit), and I had a pretty rewarding experience despite not being anything like a social butterfly. Graduate school can be a great place to make friends, but don't consider the partying mandatory. Your peers aren't going to be able to help you get a job right out of school, anyway. At the beginning of your career networking with professors, internship preceptors, and alumni will give you the best bang for your buck. When you arrive on campus, hit up the career resource center for advice on networking. They should be able to coach you on how to make connections with people who can help you get places.

Good luck! Enjoy your two brief years in public health school!
posted by reren at 3:58 PM on May 25, 2013

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