Why all college students should present at an academic meeting

Science, the apocalypse, and teaching / Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Dr. Greg and I are on our way to Austin, Texas I was inspired to write this post during our 5-hour layover. We’re accompanying two of our research students to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) where all four of us are presenting research posters. It’s an exciting experience and wonderful bonding opportunity.

If you’re in college (or support a child in college) you should consider presenting in an academic conference. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will help you grow as a person.

Many students go through the daily routines of college and never consider the full potential of their professors. There’s a high likelihood your professor does some pretty cool things outside of teaching.

If you have any burning questions you want answered or any research ideas, approach your professors! There’s a good probability they can work with you and make it happen! If you’re going through college and don’t have any interests or cares, you probably don’t belong in college or are at least in the wrong major.

Let’s say you’re sitting in a sociology class and you want to know “why people play video games in groups.” There’s a research project! Conduct some surveys, collect data, etc.. Then you can make a research poster or presentation.

There are so many research conferences for every specialty you can think of! Some institutions have their own annual research meetings. There are many state or regional meetings that provide a venue for student research.


Some reasons you should consider presenting at an academic meeting would be:

1. You are in the spotlight for a limited time.

People read through the programs and pick topics of interest. Usually people come to your session because they CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING! They want to hear what you did and why.

In general, you have to speak about your poster for only 5 minutes or less. Oral presentations last about 15 minutes. It’s not that difficult! If you’re passionate, you can do anything for 5-15 minutes!

A lot of these opportunities are also associated with student competitions. You have a chance to win an award (which looks great on a resume) or even money.


2. It gives you a chance to be creative.

When you’re making a poster or presentation, you are in control of what everything looks like and how it’s presented. You get to organize content and have a chance to showcase your ability to organize photos and color palettes.

3. You get to travel.

Most of the time, your institution will pay for you to travel and present your research. It’s good for you and them! Your institution’s name is on everything you do, which gives them positive publicity.
I’m accustomed to institutions paying your registration fee, hotel, and most of the travel costs!

In graduate school I was able to get 90% of my conference paid for. I was able to travel from West Virginia to California! It was a great experience and I won second place in the student poster competition. I’ve been able to travel to California, Arizona, Wisconsin,—and now, Texas— for free!

4. You meet people.

A lot of people attend these meetings specifically to network. You meet so many people from around the world that have the SAME interests as you!

Research meetings are a great place to network and meet collaborators. You could meet your future graduate school adviser or mentor at one of these meetings! You never know.


5. It looks good on a CV or resume.

These academic meetings or scientific conferences are professional events. It will make your resume look that much better!

If you’re struggling to have the grades for your graduate program, it never looks back having research and presentations on your CV. Increasingly, professional schools such as medical or physician assistant schools favor students who have had undergraduate research experience. For example, the students we are accompanying on this trip both intend to attend professional school, not necessarily pursue research-heavy degrees. Regardless, all graduate programs (research or clinical) desire students who can read, appreciate, and apply research.

6. It’s fun.

I like learning. These meetings give me the chance to see what others are doing. You get to meet new people, travel, and add positive experiences to your CV or resume. Attending an academic meeting is an experience that’s hard to beat.

If you have any ideas, remember investigating your idea is possible! Don’t let Negative Nancy’s hold you back (they are everywhere!). Fortunately, there’s always that ONE faculty member who remembers well what it is like to be a student and who wishes to cultivate your curiosity.


If you’ve ever presented at an academic meeting, please share your experiences below!

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2 Replies to “Why all college students should present at an academic meeting”

  1. While I am personally doing a history PhD, I found your post very helpful! I’m just in the first month of my PhD, and I don’t know what these types of conferences usually entail and what happens at them, but your post gives me a good sense of how they work! Thanks 🙂

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