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How Being an Undergraduate Research Assistant Can Prepare You For Grad School

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

One thing for certain is that being an Undergraduate Research Assistant can help you get into graduate school. It is an obvious resume-booster and shows admissions councils that you are a studious, organized and ambitious student.

However, the benefits of obtaining a research position in undergrad don’t end there. Being a Research Assistant can also prepare you for what graduate school is going to look and feel like once you start attending classes there. 

Time management

It is no secret that graduate school is time consuming. Law school, which is where I will be heading after my undergraduate years at Penn State, is known for being especially time consuming and challenging at times.  

The fact that it’s time-consuming means you will often have too many assignments to finish than you do days in a week. This is where time management comes in. I am currently an undergraduate Research Assistant for the Department of Criminology at Penn State University, and my time management skills are my best friend.  

I am often doing complex geo-mapping processes that can take me upwards of a week to finish, and that’s if everything is running smoothly in the project. I have had to learn how to balance my research with my other weekly commitments such as homework for classes, participating in service events with my sorority and other social activities.  

This balancing act has prepared me well for law school. I have learned how to manage my time efficiently so that I am completing homework, studying for exams, attending social events and clubs outside of class and completing my research responsibilities all while excelling in the classroom academically.  

collaborating with others

Every college student I know has complained about working in a group project at least once in their time here as an undergraduate. Even the people who are very extroverted and love to work with other people have gotten annoyed once or twice at their groupmates. Research is like one big group project; people do work individually and then they bring it all together at the end.  

I adore the professor I am doing research under and have become really good friends with the graduate student that I am partnered with. It is necessary that you get along with those you are working with because if there are any issues then the research may not be finished in time for a deadline, or the research might not be thorough enough to draw accurate conclusions from it.  

In graduate school it is necessary to learn how to collaborate with others. If you cannot work well in a group and create a final product that everyone has contributed to, many future careers will be difficult for you.

Take a lawyer for example — one is never alone in the practice of law. There are teams of professionals that work together to make sure our legal system runs smoothly and treats every individual in it with fairness. Learning to collaborate is an important life skill that will serve you well in any career you choose to pursue in the future. 

These two life skills can help you long after you have left a research position, moved onto graduate school and beyond. If you are interested in gaining these valuable skills, take the first step and visit your campus Office of Undergraduate Research.

Penn State University’s Office of Undergraduate Research can be found here.  

Veronica Figg is a Sophomore at Penn State University with a major in Criminology and a minor in English. She is a student in the Schreyer Honors College. She has been writing since she was young. When she isn't in class you can find her in the library curled up with a good book or working on her second novel.