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How Important is summer research to a grad school application?

  1. Sep 23, 2011 #1
    I'm a third year physics student interested in grad school. My marks are ok (85% average), and I should be able to get a letter of reference for grad school based on a 4th year Honours project. How important is a summer research position to a grad school application?

    I can probably get a research position next summer, but I have a job I can't abandon unless it's necessary (my parents run a small computer business and need me to work for them during the summer).

    thanks in advance for the advice
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2011 #2
    I'm assuming your non-US? I've heard that grad schools particularly in the UK put more emphasis on coursework and transcript (grades/GPA) than research/papers, whereas the US does the opposite. They both still value the LORs and statement of purposes the most though.

    However, whether or not research is preferred over coursework, it will certainly still help if you have done research.
  4. Sep 23, 2011 #3
    I'm pretty sure my two summer experiences got me into grad school. The first was with a professor in his lab, the second was an internship at a fortune 500 company.

    I was inspired enough by the second one that it helped me to write a legit, inspired statement of purpose. Also, I'm pretty sure my letters of recommendation were very flattering. You can't get personal accolades like that just by being in someone's class.
  5. Sep 23, 2011 #4


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    Obviously reseach experience can boltster your application for graduate school, but doing it over the summer is not critical Lots of people get into graduate school without any research experience.

    If you're doing a senior project, that can count as research experience. This will give you some experience working on a project that your profesors will have something to write in reference letters. If you don't have such a project course, you may want to place more weight on getting some summer experience.

    One of big reasons to do some research, in my opinion, is to get a feel for what graduate work is like. You'll be sacrificing a lot to enter on that path and so there is value in dipping your toe into the waters. Even if you learn that research stinks and you have to re-think your life plan, you've probably lost far less than coming to the same realization 2 years into a PhD.
  6. Sep 25, 2011 #5
    Thanks for the advice. I'm from Canada, and will be taking an honours project class in 4th year. I had a discussion with my lab coordinator wherein he basically told me that no one gets into grad school without a summer research internship (hyperbole, but he was educated in the US, so that may have something to do with it).
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