Kev Pab (Advice/Help)

“Dear Sally,
Congratulations! It is my distinct pleasure to inform you that you have been admitted as a graduate student at the University of…”

Photo by Tara Winstead on

Those were some of the first words I read after a cycle of applying to over ten PhD programs across the country. After a couple of interviews, I finally received a letter from one of my top choices.

Receiving this letter was the tip of the iceberg. What came before this was a hard-fought, lonely journey. I sat there, silently reading, as tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought about all the hard work, the long nights, the payments, and the preparation. It was all for this. I chose this school. And they chose me back.

As a first-generation student of Hmong refugee parents–a story that many of us can relate to–navigating academia was one of the largest hurdles I have ever faced. But, it also served as a source of my greatest strength–struggles that motivated me to strive for more. To push the envelope.

A large majority of my academic journey was lonely. But, I can’t say that I was always alone. I received help in academia through many forms. And my (full-ride) acceptance into one of the most competitive R1 universities wasn’t just a win for me, but a win for my community of supporters. One of those supporters were mentors from a program called, Project SHORT. Project SHORT is one of the first student-led organizations committed to working to shrink the socioeconomic gap in medical and graduate school programs–one application at a time.

When I was applying, I learned about this program (randomly) through a mentor who shared a twitter link. After getting matched with a student mentor, I was able to directly connect to someone in my field to help coach me on the application process. With my student mentor’s help, I was able to submit a competitive package and secure multiple interviews.

After acclimating into my PhD program over the past year, I’ve decided to volunteer to give back to the future students who are looking for mentors by becoming a mentor in this program. If you are looking for a way to get direct (free) mentorship on building your graduate application this cycle, give Project SHORT a try! They match mentees with mentors in their specific area* to help build a competitive academic package. I hope this reaches the person who needs it. I know it pab kuv (helped me) when I needed it.

*Disclaimer: I have already been matched with a mentee in my area for the Fall 2022 cycle. I study Developmental Psychology (emphasis in psychobiology with a research background in behavioral neuroscience). However, I am open to limited (free) consultations if you are looking for general grad school advice. I am not being paid to advertise this organization nor is this a guarantee for graduate school admissions. I am simply just putting information out there that could be useful as a resource from my own experiences.


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