My “non-negotiables” in my grad school search

Everyone has different “needs” and “wants” when applying to grad school, but some factors are more important than others. Everyone is looking for something unique to them: a great environment, a fantastic city in which to live, specific labs of interest, fun activities outside of lab. What should you consider?

What were your “non-negotiables” in your grad school match and what were you willing to negotiate?



  • Collaboration
  • Core Facilities
  • Type of science/available labs in that field (i.e. neuroscience labs)


  • Location, type of introductory course requirements, class size, qualifying exam setup

-Gabrielle Rushing



  • The school needed to have a reputation for good research
  • I wanted to feel like I could live comfortably in the surrounding area using my stipend
  • The school needed to have faculty members whose research interested me


  • The weather in the area, the distance from my hometown

-Cara Schornak



  • Research Fit
  • Guaranteed Funding
  • Balanced Lifestyle


  • Location, cost of living, rank (within top 30)

-Sierra Palumbos



  • Diverse, quality research
  • Funding guarantee
  • Exceptional career guidance and placement


  • Salary

-Wyatt McDonnell



  • An umbrella program to explore and learn about many different departments and programs.
  • Several rotations before selecting a final mentor and lab.
  • A collaborative university.


  • I was willing to negotiate on city location, and university rankings.

-Chelsea Snarrenberg



  • Guaranteed stipend
  • Compatible research interests
  • Successful outcomes


  • Location, type of program (umbrella vs direct admit), size of program

-Claire Strothman

Agree? Disagree? We'd love to hear your discussion!

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