How to Get Organized
Applying to Ph.D. programs can be a big commitment. There are decisions to be made, papers to read, fees to be paid, and statements to write. And for me, all of this was overwhelming. That's why I created an excel document to track all program deadlines, faculty of interest, and more! The document is linked to the left, and a mini tutorial is further below ↓↓↓↓↓
* the spreadsheet is modeled on two institutions that I have affiliations to, Virginia Tech and the University of Pennsylvania. I completed my undergraduate education at Virginia Tech, and I am currently at the University of Pennsylvania. I am not strictly advocating for either of these institutions or these professors. However, this provides you a transparent glimpse into how I would have approach applying to both of these institutions.*
Sheets 1 - 3
The academic journal, Nature, published lists of "leading academic institutions" in 2020. I firmly believe that your choice of a program should not be based on these rankings. However, that being said, many of these 'top' programs also have the most funding.
I included the Biomedical Science, Life Sciences, and Chemistry Indices to show you how different programs have different strengths in terms of STEM disciplines.
So, don't pick programs based on their rank, but these lists how I evaluated which programs I would ultimately apply to.
At every institution, there might exist multiple programs that fascinate you. Therefore I created different columns for every program that you might apply to with the institution overarching all of their programs at the top.
Most information can be found on program websites. I would copy an paste directly into the appropriate excel cell. This information will be useful when it is time to write your statements.
At any program you apply to, it's important to make sure there are multiple labs of interest. I recommend at least 3. There is no guarantee that they will have the space or funding to take you during your matriculation year. In the next sheet, you'll see how I filter out programs where I didn't have at least 3 labs of interest.
Programs that I couldn't find more than 3 labs of interest, I marked in red as a sign not to apply to them. As you can see, from Virginia Tech, I would have applied to either (or both) Neuroscience and TBMH. At the University of Pennsylvania I would have (and did) apply to the Pharmacology program.
I did not utilize a sheet like this, but have been asked to create a "tracking" sheet. If you are applying to many programs, this might be a valuable way to organize all of the tasks you need to complete before your deadlines.