Last week I mentioned that I had a few choices with how to handle grad school. Two of those were-stay at ERAU for 1 year and do an accelerated program or go to VT and take 2 years for my degree.

Civil engineering has a ton of disciplines within it which is usually the reason civil engineers go onto grad school.

  1. Transportation
  2. Environmental/Water Resources
  3. Structural
  4. Materials
  5. Geotechnical
  6. Construction Management

Typically in grad school you’ll focus on just one of these, but some programs also offer a general civil masters where you would take classes in multiple categories. Even if you are on a track you can and most likely will cross over into other tracks. For example, my department is called Transportation Infrastructure and Systems Engineering (TISE.) Within that department I am on the Systems Engineering track. However, one of my requirements is to take a class on the infrastructure track. The class I took was Infrastructure Asset Management which was actually a required class for the Construction Management track. I’ve also take 2 statistics classes through the statistics department and am taking another one next semester.

I knew I was only interested in transportation and ERAU had just started a transportation track but with how small the department was you had to just take what was offered. There we no options. Additionally, with the small size of the department they didn’t have a ton of funding and it was usually a crap shoot if you were going to get it or not.

VT runs in my boyfriends family. His aunt and uncle meet while doing their masters in electrical engineering. His sister and brother’s girlfriend both did their undergrad there. So the fact that they are ranked top 10 for civil engineering and they are known for having very generous funding it made sense that he went there.

VT also made sense for me. Like I said their civil engineering program is nationally ranked in the top 10 and they had funding. As someone looking into transportation they also have the VTTI or Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The VTTI is the second largest transportation research institute in the country. It can often be hard to find a civil engineering graduate program that has transportation and they had one large enough to have a whole research institute.

The week before my senior year started I went down to VT to see the campus and talk to the TISE department head. He looked over my CV and saw that I had a lot of experience and we discussed my research interests and why I wanted to do a PhD. He felt that I would be a good fit for their program and that they would have funding for me. So I went ahead and submitted my application.

When I told my undergrad adviser I wanted to look at VT for grad school he told me to look up the professors in that department and then look at their CVs and papers to see if their research aligned with what I wanted to study. This was very beneficial when deciding who to reach out to contact about applying. Reaching out beforehand and visiting with them (or even a Zoom meeting) when you look at a school is VERY IMPORTANT. It puts a face with your name. You’re no longer just Emily, a name on an application. You are a person, a student, a researcher, and you have characteristics and a personality that aren’t seen on a digital application.

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