Choosing a graduate school is similar to the undergrad search; however, there are more avenues and opportunities to choose from. When I began the process, I was in-between directions, but I had a college chosen depending on my career choice.
There are levels to the grad processes that can total in weeks or even months:
- Interest meetings
- Grad testing
- Financial research
- Interview (varies)
Wherever you are on your journey, whether you know what you want to study or just have the gist of it, these five crucial tips can help you succeed.
Know the mode…
Like undergrad, there are many modes for continuing your education. You can choose from distance learning, blended, or entirely on campus. The difference is the normalcy within each choice because it is a personal preference. Will you stay in the States or go abroad? Where will you live: at home or in an apartment?
Along with choosing a mode, you need to know what and how you expect to complete your studies. Will you attend part or full-time? Will you work simultaneously and where? Would you do your doctorate or master’s degree? A master’s degree is intertwined in the doctorate program such as for dentistry, medical, and psychology programs in some fields. If you choose to do your master’s, choose a major that will accomplish your goals while allowing an opportunity to further your specialty in an advanced degree.
For example, if someone desires to study business, it is more profitable to explore different business areas rather than getting a B.S., M.B.A., and D.B.A. with the title business. Diversify within the field to include business administration, international, marketing, etc. I studied English, and I will pursue a master’s in the education field.
Think of the end in mind. Will you want to go back to school after? If so, reserve that field. If not, see if a school offers a master’s degree. For example, if someone wants to study clinical psychology, this would be a fantastic doctorate. On the other hand, if the person does not wish to further their post-graduate studies, there are master degrees for this field.
Knowing the basics, such as the major or field, narrows the search filters. While you can use a grad school website, you can use a general search engine for ideas if you don’t have one already. Now, you can include the mode while searching. If you desire an on-campus study, narrow down some states and visit or research the surrounding area.
In one of my career classes, we had to write a list of everything we need to do to attend a grad school and reach our desired job. This is incredibly helpful to map out your plan step-by-step.
Find your Niche.
Upon finding schools, start making a list on Google Sheet or Excel. On my list, I included several categories:
- College name and degree
- Location (if on campus)
- Credits needed and years for completion
- Application requirements and dates
- Scholarship opportunities/aid
Don’t choose a career simply for the salary. Find what you’re passionate about. If you do, it’s no longer a job but a purpose where you can grow.
Apply and Attend
Start applying! This year, most programs waived the requirements for grad tests such as the GRE. If not, or if you’re applying later, begin prepping and studying. Know the scores you need and application components. Give yourself amply time to take and retake if needed. Attend an interest meeting to get to know the college, faculty, and program better. Better yet, speak to alumni from the program! Contact the department and request information. This gives you an idea of where graduates are upon completing the program and you’ll gain first-hand insight from their experience.
For one particular meeting that I attended, it became the deciding factor why I didn’t apply. I didn’t feel like I could thrive in the stiff environment. There was an emphasis on the result and work rather than relationships or growth.
Fund and Prepare
While applying and waiting for the next stage of the process, I suggest thinking of your funds. Do you want to apply for scholarships, tuition assistantships, graduate teaching/research, or financial aid opportunities? See which ones are offered at the university and begin the application process.
I chose a distanced program with blended internships. I will be attending school full time while working. I committed to my grad school based on the flexibility, seamless transition from certification to degree, and incredible courses. I also loved how interactive, helpful, and relational the faculty members have been throughout my process.
Good luck as you apply! Which program and/or university are you applying/attending for grad school?