Most people believe that if you want to go to a graduate school program then you need to start planning early. It is recommended to start looking into programs two years before graduating. However, looking into graduate programs does not have to be intimidating or overwhelming for those that are beginning their research on it. Here are some steps to start planning for a post-grad education.
Why do you want to go into Grad School?
One of the big questions you should ask yourself is if you need a master’s degree. Graduate school often costs more than an undergraduate degree and there is not a lot of financial aid given to graduate students.
Given the significant investment, it is important to be sure that you want a graduate degree. Some careers require a post-grad degree while others don’t. Make sure to know your reasons for going to graduate school. Overall, post-grad education is career-minded, meaning that the degrees you pursue are intended to support you in your career path. However, a master’s degree also allows you to pursue an interest. To decide if you want to pursue a specific post-grad degree, you can take internships in the field of the degree to give you a sense of what the work entails.
Finding the Right Program
Do you know what post-grad degree is needed for your career path? Are you looking for a Masters in Business Administration or a Masters in Communication? There are a variety of grad school programs with different specialized studies. One quick Google search can bring up a variety of results that you can search based on university or program. After you find a fitting program in a university, it will have a description of the overview and learning objectives of the program itself. This information can allow you to decide whether the program aligns with your career goals.
The location of the university is another factor that you should consider when choosing a degree. Do you prefer a small or large class size? What is the campus community like? Make sure to visit the campus if possible to find out if the school would be the right fit for you. You want to make sure that you will also enjoy the experience to get the most out of your graduate education.
Meet the Requirements
Make sure that while you are looking at programs, you also look at their requirements. For example, to apply to medical school, you need to meet specific class requirements. Most programs will require a personal statement and provide a prompt. If you need feedback on your personal statement, the Academic Resource Center (ARC) offers writing appointments for personal statements (make sure to book your appointment as soon as possible since spaces tend to fill up).
Another common requirement are letters of recommendation. It doesn’t hurt to start building those relationships with professors and faculty on campus. To start doing so, make sure to attend office hours.
Ask Your Professors for Advice
Asking professors is a great way to get more information about grad school. Having been through the system, professors will be able to help you out and give you their insights on graduate programs. This way you can also let them know about your educational or career goals, and allow you to start building a professional or mentor relationship. This is something that can help you in the long run whether you choose to apply to grad school or not.
Talking to professors can also help you get a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are important in the application process because they validate your qualifications. For most grad schools, letters of recommendation are absolutely necessary and they can serve you well into your professional career.
Are you going into law, medicine, teaching? Do you know the difference between the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)? This is where you look at the requirements for your program. Typically, medical schools require MCAT scores, law schools require LSAT scores and business schools require GMAT scores. There are two versions of the GRE, the General Test and the Subject Test, and the test you will need to take depends on the graduate program. The required tests will be listed in the requirements of the program that you choose to pursue. Some programs don’t even require an entrance exam, such as a Masters in Fine Arts.
It is usually advised to start preparing for the test at least two months before you take it. There are different prep courses available from a variety of test companies. In addition, the ARC offers prep courses almost every quarter that you can sign up for.
Don’t Stress Out!
Don’t forget that you don’t have to go into grad school right after graduating. There is always the option to take a year off to focus on and improve your application. Maybe you might want to take this time to complete internships or to prepare for the exam. Taking time to strengthen your application can be what can get you into your dream school or program of your choice.
While thinking about grad school itself can seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. By looking at the requirements and researching programs early, you can boost your confidence and build a strong and competitive application.