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How I came to be here...

Well, I’ve been saying for a while that I wanted to write about how I decided to come to Minnesota for grad school and I’ve finally got a moment when I can devote a while to doing the story justice.

I started picking out which programs and schools to apply to in the fall of 2005 in preparation for starting graduate school in the fall of 2006. I ended up applying to 5 schools. The 5 finalists were University of Washington, University of Minnesota, University of Arizona, University of Illinois Chicago and Ohio State University.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which programs to apply to. I knew that I wanted to apply to a school of public health masters level program, but I was pretty torn between biostats, epi, and health services. I ended up choosing to apply to the EPI MPH program because I thought it would fit best with what I wanted to get out of graduate school. After I thought a lot about what I wanted to do, I decided that what I really wanted out of my masters program was to learn as many analytical and study design skills as I can so that when I go out into the work force I can work on many different areas of public health and have the toolkit of skills I will need to do many different aspects of study design and analysis.

Looking back I’m not really sure I spent as much time choosing the schools I would apply to as I should have. I’ll admit that my first choice was not the U of M, though I am quite happy with it as my final choice. My first choice was the University of Washington because it’s a good school and I’m from Seattle so I wanted to stay there with my family and friends, but my grades weren’t quite good enough to get in there. As for the other 4 schools, I did get in to all of them, but for several reasons, the U of M definitely came out waaay on top of the other schools. The application for UofM was a million times better than any of the other schools I applied to. I heard back about my admission about a month and a half after I sent in my application and the student services office was always available for questions and super helpful in terms of directing me to people that could answer my questions. That combined with the fact that U of M is a highly ranked school clinched my decision.

I didn’t actually visit the U of M campus before I accepted my admission here because I didn’t have time to schedule a trip. It worked out fine, but I was a little nervous about moving out here having never been to Minnesota.

If you’re reading this and you are a prospective student, please feel free to leave me a message and I’ll try to answer your question or point you to the person who can!


Hi, Thanks for sharing your story! I'm applying right now to schools of public health and finding that it's really hard to get a good idea of what the school is like from the websites. That, and the fact that we did applications mostly through SOPHAS this year is making it especially hard to get a feel for the different schools. So far I've gotten in to UIC (I saw that you did too!) and I visited them last weekend. Very nice overall, but like you said, they aren't a ranked school, so that's a consideration. I also got into Emory, but U of MN and U of MI I'm still waiting to hear from. Those are basically my top choices. U of MI is pretty close to where I live so I think that's my first choice if I actually get in. ;) (I also applied to OSU and Pittsburgh) (I'm doing community health/behavioral science stuff.) I have a few questions about U of MN if you wouldn't mind. :) How is financial aid/are there many opportunites for research assistantships and TA positions? Secondly, do you like your professors and classes? Also, how is the area in terms of living experience (cost, things to do, ease of getting to and around campus)? Lastly, do you have any suggestions or knowledge about any of the other programs I mentioned? I would love to hear your perspective! Thanks in advance for your time. I think it's really cool that you're blogging for the school; it's such a great way to hear a bit more about what students think.
Hope to hear back from you!
Mia Hemmes

Thank you for asking such great questions Mia! I wish you the best of luck in getting offers from the schools that are your top choices. I definitely know the feeling of wanting to go to the school close to home, but if you do end up going to school further away, just pick an airline and rack up those frequent flyer miles!

“How is financial aid/are there many opportunities for research assistantships and TA positions??

When I came to MN this fall, I did not have a research position lined up. I worked for two years as a Research Assistant when I was an undergraduate (in the not too distant past), so I thought I would have a pretty easy time finding a job with my experience level. It turns out the RA positions are extremely competitive and getting one can actually be very difficult. It took me about 4 months to find a 50% appointment as an RA. In my opinion finding a graduate assistant job is really dependent on talking to professors and faculty and making personal connections with them. With the position I have now, I actually met the researcher that hired me through one of my mentors from Seattle who put in a good word for me. I would suggest that you talk to some faculty at your undergraduate school and see if they have any colleagues at the school you are moving to that they could put you in touch with. It’s definitely a matter of getting your foot in the right door.

On the other hand, it also depends on the department you are in. The biostats department for example works very hard to make sure that all of their students have either an RA or TA position. I am in the Epidemiology program, which is very large and hence cannot place all of the students. So you should call the division heads at the schools you are thinking of attending and pick their brains about how the system works at that particular department/school.

As far as TA positions go, I’m not as familiar with those. I have heard through the grape vine that professors don’t usually hire first year students as TA’s (since they haven’t taken the classes yet) and some professors prefer to hire PhD students. Though I know there are MANY exceptions to that rule of thumb.

I have been able to get loan money without much trouble, so even though everyone tries really hard not to take out loans, they are a very dependable option, and in my opinion it’s better to be in debt for a little while and get the education you want rather than to put off going to school until later. I took out a ton of loans my first semester, it was pretty necessary since I had moved here from way across the country and didn’t really have any sorts of job connections lined up immediately.

There are many scholarship opportunities, though some of them are specifically aimed at certain populations or majors. You should definitely apply for the ones you are eligible for. Usually there is some kind of career counselor/scholarship person at a school who can help you. At U of M it’s Barb Laporte and she is wonderful!

“Secondly, do you like your professors and classes? “

As with any school there are some professors that are better than others. I would say that I “love? about 50% of my professors and just “like? the other 50%. I haven’t met any professors that I really dislike yet. The professors that have been around longer I think tend to be more comfortable with teaching and just have a better classroom presence. My classes have been really really great so far. The materials covered in them are very interesting and relevant. So far I’ve taken Pathophysiology, Epidemiology 1 and 2, Biostatistics 1 and 2, a SAS class, Cancer Epidemiology, and I’m taking an online research ethics class after spring break.

Classes are definitely difficult! I tell people that difficult is a good thing because you wouldn’t want to spend XX-thousand dollars a year to hear stuff you already know!

“Also, how is the area in terms of living experience (cost, things to do, ease of getting to and around campus)? “

I have had a fairly positive living experience so far. The summer before starting my program, I flew out here for a weekend to look for an apartment. I had done some online research to look for apartments but I had a really hard time knowing where apartments were in relation to school and knowing weather a neighborhood was a good one or not. I ended up getting a studio apartment that is about ¾ of a mile from campus for $625 a month. It’s a little more than I wanted to pay, but the landlord was nice, it was one of the ones I had seen online, and it was clean and well maintained. So I’m happy with that even though I have to walk about 6 blocks to the nearest main bus line and about ¾ of a mile to school.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it before or not, but I do not have a car. I think it is slightly more difficult not to have a car here in Minneapolis than it was in Seattle, but just slightly. The light rail and the hi-frequency bus routes go a long way to making it possible to live without a car. I occasionally go to the grocery store, but I actually have been getting my groceries from www.gophergrocery.com. They are super nice, have a pretty wide selection of stuff, do next day delivery, and the delivery is free if your order is over $75 and only $2 if your order is over $35. Their prices are comparable to somewhere like Cub or Rainbow when the stuff is not on sale.

Getting around campus is pretty easy; there are shuttles that can take you to the distant places like west bank, east bank, and the St. Paul campus. So far, all of my classes have been in the health sciences area of campus, so pretty much I get to school in the morning and just move around within 3 or 4 connected buildings. The nice thing about campus in the winter when it’s really really cold is that you can go in between buildings through the tunnels and not have to lug around your coat all day.

“Lastly, do you have any suggestions or knowledge about any of the other programs I mentioned? I would love to hear your perspective!?

Let’s see… you mentioned that you are interested in doing community health/behavioral science stuff. That is a pretty broad interest base (which is great! I’m the same way in that I’m really interested in a lot of things). I’m sure you have probably looked at http://www.sph.umn.edu/education/degrees/home.html. But I think it does a better job of breaking down the degree programs than I could. I can add that I am in the MPH Epidemiology program, and I love it, so go epi! ;-) But it sounds to me from your short description of what you are interested in that Epidemiology or Community Health Education. If you have any specific questions about a department, talk to their division head. If you have trouble finding out who that is, let me know and I can put you in touch with them.

Let me know if you have any other questions I can answer! Good Luck!