a tough decision
Alums return to share insights about grad school
by Mike Redd '00
For many graduating seniors, the fall semester is one of
those special times when one must ask, "What am I going
to do for the rest of my life?"
On Tuesday Nov. 9, 1999, the SEAS Undergraduate Affairs Office
helped students answer this question by offering a panel discussion
titled "Is Graduate School in Engineering For You?"
The panel included three Princeton engineering alumni: Andrew
Alleyne '89 MAE, Michele Cooke '89 CEOR, and Kevin
Lynch '89 EE, who helped provide insight into the mysterious
world of graduate school.
Photo by Frank Wojciechowski
Andrew Alleyne gives undergraduates
tips to help make the graduate school decision.
As an added bonus, Noe Lozano, associate dean of the Stanford
School of Engineering sat in on the panel.
An important question on the minds of many undergraduates
is how to decide whether or not to go to graduate school.
Dr. Alleyne, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, discussed
good and bad reasons for going to graduate school.
Reasons to continue one's education include intellectual
curiosity, making a financial investment in oneself, and the
quest for personal growth to find more exciting jobs and careers.
An important reason not to go to grad school is as an escape
route from a bad work experience. Grad school is meant to
be a means to better one's education, not as an excuse to
walk away from an uninteresting job.
Other reasons not to go to grad school include the current
economic boom, or simply being burnt out from the past four
years of school. Dr. Alleyne was quick to point out that the
current economic boom, however, is as good a reason to go
to school as it is to join the workforce. Due to many people
joining the workforce, graduate schools are vying for fewer
students. As a result, some could argue that there is a better
chance of gaining admission to the top schools.
In determining the perfect school, Dr. Cooke, assistant professor
of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst,
pointed out that one of the most critical aspects of a good
grad program is the adviser with whom one would work at a
particular school. Other issues include funding and proximity
to industry locations related to one's particular field.
Dr. Lynch, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
at Northwestern University, encouraged students to pursue
their interests in grad school, and not necessarily study
in the same field as their undergraduate work. He also emphasized
the idea that one's career path may change many times, just
as one's academic interests may change.
Three alums recently returned to their
alma mater to advise undergraduates who are considering
graduate school. From left are Andrew Alleyne ¹89
MAE, Michele Cooke ¹89 CEOR, and Kevin Lynch ¹89
Photos by Frank
So now what? Maybe you're thinking that grad school might
be the best decision after Princeton. Put a little extra effort
into that thesis or independent work so that you can really
wow all of those admissions people. Find the school that is
right for you by using the web or by vis iting different schools--and
don't forget about those niche schools that might specialize
in your field of interest. As far as money, many grad students
work as research assistants or teaching assistants, and people
in Ph.D. programs actually get paid to study.
Weigh your options and figure out what you want to be doing
tomorrow, and hopefully you can answer for yourself whether
grad school is right for you.
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