Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Future

I've been looking at grad schools this week. Which ones have the best neuroscience graduate programs, what do I need for their application, what's the curriculum and rotation schedule like, etc. There's some obvious ones, like UCSD, UCSF, UCLA, UC Berkeley...but I don't really know much about those outside sunny California. Except Columbia.

I really, really want to go to Columbia. What I like is that their program is very interdisciplinary, but still well established. And they have Professor Eric Kandel! He literally wrote the (8 lb.) book!

The Kandel book, as it is called, despite the presence of two other authors on the cover.

Still, there's one other thing that I've been thinking about. I was tipped off about this program last spring, when someone came into my History of India class and spoke about it. Since then, I've heard of it from multiple other sources, and done some research for myself. One of my roommates is also going to be doing it beginning next (school) year. It's called TeachForAmerica.

The program selects the best and brightest undergraduates to teach in schools in underserved areas for two years. And it's highly competitive. This year, it got some 35,000 applicants and accepted about 4,000 to train and send off into the education world. Something like 10% of the Harvard graduating class applies to this program. What are the chances I will get in?

If by some chance I do make the cut, I have to think about how I will deal with grad school. Grad school is definitely my goal - I want to do research. This is something I've been working for since high school, and it's really my dream. But I've had a charmed life. I've been extremely lucky. I want to spread some of that to kids who haven't had what I grew up with, to help make their lives better and open up all of the opportunities waiting for them in the future. This is also something I really want to do.

The ideal situation would be getting into a graduate program that will allow me to defer for two years, get that teaching experience, and then return to studying the brain. TeachForAmerica is a well-known program, and they have arrangements with many schools to allow such deferrals. Neuroscience, however, is a pretty specific field, and I haven't seen any of those on the list on the website. So it falls to me. I need to call up each of the graduate schools that ends up on my semi-final list and see which ones would allow me to take 2 years before I begin. If none of my top schools will allow it, or if I don't get in to TFA? Then I guess I'll go straight to grad school and find another way to get kids interested in learning. Don't worry, I've got a few ideas on what to do in such a situation...

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