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Ten simple rules for aspiring graduate students.

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Newton, Charlotte Coco  ORCID logo
Folsom, Lynde 
Romero-Garcia, Rafael  ORCID logo


Several supervillains have higher degrees—why don’t you? There can be a variety of reasons for wanting to go to grad school and for applying to a particular school and program. But often, one can only tell apart good and bad reasons from hindsight. Failing at something is perhaps the best way to know what can go wrong and what advice would have been useful when considering graduate school applications.We should know: one of us started graduate school 4 separate times, and another learned what a PhD was only after having started one; lost 2 supervisors before even starting to write her thesis, and yet another accepted a PhD offer from the lab where she was working, without considering any alternatives; finally, one of us had applied to graduate schools for 5 years (with 19 rejections) before finally landing a PhD offer from their dream school. We hope that our hard-earned lessons will help you to avoid some of the pitfalls that we ourselves fell prey to. In this article, we address how to choose a graduate program, how to apply strategically, and some of the key challenges that may arise along the way toward graduate school. Conveniently, our advice can be summarized as 10 simple rules . . . so here they are.



Education, Graduate, Humans, Mentors, School Admission Criteria, Students

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PLoS Comput Biol

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)


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The authors acknowledge the support of the Gates Cambridge Trust [AIL], Cancer Research UK [RRG], Alzheimer’s Society [CCN], Merck [CCN], and the Isaac Newton Trust [EG].