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Resources for Postbacs Preparing for Graduate Study

Are you thinking about applying to graduate school? Do you want to make sure you have a strong application? The OITE can provide you with the support and resources to 1) guide you on choosing the right program/school for YOU and 2) prepare you to apply successfully to graduate school programs.

Staff in the OITE can help you decide which programs/schools to apply to, provide feedback on your personal statement and help you prepare for interviews. These individuals would be happy to meet with you. If you make your appointment via email, please include “Advising for Graduate School” in the subject line; if you use the online appointment system, please provide the same information when prompted. In addition, you can always make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss topics including career planning and exploration, the job search, MBTI assessments, interviewing*, and advice on resumes/CVs.

Please consider these important notes when scheduling an appointment:

  • Honor your commitment: If you know in advance you will not be able to attend, contact the person with whom you are scheduled to meet in advance to cancel the appointment.
  • Before your meeting, please send your application materials (i.e., most up to date personal statement, information about schools, CV/resume) so the person you are meeting with will know a bit more about you.
  • If you schedule a mock interview*, practice examples of questions beforehand.

OITE offers group mock interviews for postbacs who are applying to graduate school. This is an excellent way to practice for potential interviewing questions in a supportive environment. They are generally offered during the months of December and January. Registration opens in mid-November. Please keep an eye on your email (OITE-POSTBACS) for opening dates and how to register. We will also post the information here.


Graduate School Application Process

The graduate school application process can seem overwhelming, but students who plan ahead and seek support and advice are more likely to be successful. Advance preparation also alleviates the stress that is likely to strike during this time.

To help you prepare for this step, we have compiled a list of resources to help you: 

Choosing and Applying to Graduate School:

  • Some tips as you are thinking about this process:
    • Decide what type of program is right for you [PhD program (departmental vs interdisciplinary; master’s degree program; or dual degree program (MD/PhD, MD/MPH, DDS/PhD)].
    • Learn about different schools and programs.
    • Determine the admissions requirements for the programs you are interest in.
  • Factors to consider when choosing a program:
    • Structure of the program
    • Program funding and publication record
    • Support from Institutional Training Grants
    • Scientific resources
    • Mentors in your desired research interest area
    • Mentoring philosophies
    • Professional and career development opportunities
    • Teaching opportunities and pedagogy training
    • Program outcomes: Where do graduates go? What percentage complete their degrees? How long does it take?
    • Diversity of the students and faculty
    • Support groups and access to wellness resources
    • Program climate and student satisfaction
    • Geography and cost of living
    • Financial aid


During these virtual Q&A sessions, dedicated OITE staff members will answer questions about applying to graduate programs, writing personal statements, and other general questions. We are going to meet bi-weekly.  These sessions are not consecutive, so you can attend one or more, and as many as you want. 

You can register HERE. This session is for NIH-postbacs only.

The OITE Pre-grad Team have planned a series of workshops focus on the graduate school process. These workshops are offered during the Fall and Spring. Their goal is to  help you reflect on your past experiences and future career goals, offer guidance to help you make an informed decision, learn about the application process, provide advice on writing personal statement and prepare for graduate school interviews. 

The schedule for the fall and spring will be updated by mid-July. All events can be find under OITE Upcoming Events

Choosing and Applying to Graduate School (8/31/22
Writing Personal and Research Statements for Graduate School (9/7/22)
Virtual Graduate Partnerships Program Information Session (10/12/22)
Preparing for Graduate School Interviews (11/2/22)
Succeeding in Graduate School (For Future & Early Graduate Students) (4/18/23)

Important NOTES: 1) You can find the latest version (2020) of the above workshops in the OITE YouTube Channel Playlist "Graduate School: Preparation and Resources" . 2) These previous versions are essentially very similar in content as workshops presented during the 2021-2022 academic year. Previous recordings including additional recorded events  are listed below. 


The OITE will offer  the OITE Graduate School Personal Statement Writing Working Group in the fall. This working group was designed to provide a framework to guide you through writing an effective personal statement for the application. It will focus mainly on the general personal statement though we will provide some tips on writing a research statement and/or responding to additional writing prompts. The group will meet once a week for three consecutive weeks to provide a dedicated space to think about, reflect on, and get started with writing.

1. Review the general structure and organization of the personal statement.
2. Brainstorm and reflect on the experiences you can use to develop each section of the statement. Each meeting will focus on a specific component of the statement.
3. Learn and apply strategies to facilitate the writing process.
4. Receive individualized feedback on the final draft of the personal statement.

The working group will be offered early Fall. The OITE will send an email to the OITE-POSTBAC listserv with information about the group and how to register.

REcordings of prior OITE Workshops and Events

Everything You Need to Know to Get into Graduate School

This workshop will give you an overview of everything you need to know to get into graduate school including deciding whether you are ready to apply, factors to consider when choosing a school or program, the application process, and drafting a strong personal statement.
Webinar Recording (summer 2020): Choosing and Applying to Graduate School 
Webinar Recording (summer 2020): Writing Personal and Research Statements for Graduate Programs
Webinar Recording (2018): Both topics covered

Interviewing for Graduate School

This workshop will cover the interview process from the perspective of both those doing the interviewing and the applicant. The discussion will address what to expect, how to prepare, what kinds of questions you might be asked, and appropriate interview behavior. 
Recording 11/5/2020
Webinar Recording (2017)

Succeeding in Graduate School (For Future Graduate Students)

Unlike undergraduate education, graduate school is often unstructured. You will be deciding how to spend your time, what lines of investigation to follow, and what skills you need to develop. You may have to create opportunities for yourself. This workshop will discuss strategies for thriving and achieving your goals in graduate school.
Recording of the April 6, 2020 workshop
Webinar (2018)



2022 Virtual Graduate and Professional School Fair

The Virtual NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair will provide an opportunity for attendees to prepare for the next step in their careers by exploring educational programs leading to the PhD, MD, DDS, MD/PhD, and other graduate and professional degrees. Last year, more than 280 programs from across the U.S. (graduate schools, medical and dental schools, schools of public health, and other biomedically relevant programs) participated in the Virtual Fair in the hopes of recruiting future students. This year the fair will welcome all interested college students, postbacs, and other young scientists.

The 2022 Virtual NIH Graduate & Professional School Fair will consist of (1) live workshops on getting to graduate and/or professional school (July 18th, 2022) and (2) online exhibitor sessions - the opportunity for you to learn more about the participating institutions and programs (July 19th through 21st, 2022).


Online Resources from the OITE (Videos)    

Panel: Getting into a PhD Program in the Biosciences
In this panel, admission directors share their insights and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the application process. 

What Admissions Directors Think about Getting into Graduate School
Students applying to graduate school often have questions about the application and admissions process. In this video, admissions directors answer, in their own words, some of the most frequently asked questions.

Thoughts on the Graduate & Professional School Experience 
In this video, former NIH alumni (students and postdoctoral fellows) share their experiences finding support, understanding different work environments, and navigating the complex process on moving their career forward.

Tips on applying for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (Summer)
This webinar will help you understand the process for submitting an NSF GRF and share tips on how to prepare a successful application.


Other Useful OITE Resources

CV vs. Resume: What's the Difference? (YouTube Video)
Guide to Resumes & Curricula Vitae (PDF)

Resumes & Cover Letters (YouTube Video
OITE Guide to Cover Letters (PDF)

Thoughts on Choosing a Research Mentor (webpage)

Teaching and Mentoring (webpage)

Establishing and Maintaining Networks (You Tube Video)


OITE Careers Blog

This blog includes topics that are relevant to the process of choosing, applying, interviewing, and transitioning to graduate school. Some topics discussed are:

GRExit- Grad Schools Dropping GRE Requirement

Getting In: Everything You Need to Know about Graduate and Professional School Admissions

Grad School Apps – Five Kisses of Death

Answering Diversity Questions During an Interview

Re-Applying to Graduate Programs

NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair


Postbac Career Exploration Series Workshops

Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology

Careers in Public Health

Careers in Psychology

Public Health from Admissions to Career Opportunities


Wellness Resources

The OITE offers many discussion groups and workshops to help trainees manage stress and focus on their overall wellness. Look for the following when you visit our wellness page:

Resilience Groups
Mindfulness Meditation Groups
Wellness Wednesdays

Workshops in including Managing Stress and Promoting Wellbeing and Becoming a Resilient Scientist


External Resources:

The resources listed below are for informational purposes only and are not endorsed either by NIH nor OITE. 

Professional Science Master's Degrees:

MD-PhD Degree Training:

Public Health Degrees:

Careers for MPH Students:

Resources on the PhD for Biomedical Scientists:


Although current data have put into question the predictive value of GRE scores as a measure of success, some schools still require the GRE; others do not. Please make sure to check with each school to which you are applying to learn what their specific requirements are (including whether they require a GRE subject test). For general information about the GRE, visit the official website of the Education Testing Service.