Considering Graduate School
Graduate school can be an exciting venture - an opportunity to focus your academic studies on a particular interest, meet other people with similar goals and ideas, and develop the skills and credentials needed for the field you want to pursue in the future. Because grad school can be expensive and stressful, it isn't a decision that should be taken lightly.
Is Graduate School the Right Move?
There are a few questions you should ask yourself when deciding if graduate school is right for you:
- What am I interested in and do I want to study it further?
- Do I need a graduate degree to get a job in the field I'm planning to pursue? If so, do I need a master's or a Ph.D.?
- Am I ready mentally and financially to commit more time to school at this point in my life?
- Would my application be stronger if I worked in the field for a few years?
- What is the average age of students in the program?
Consider Program Requirements
Does the program require test scores including GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, GRE General, or GRE Subject Tests? Does it require that you've completed specific coursework? These are things you'll want to know in advance since they require a bit of planning even before you start the application process. Check the admissions website for this information. Also be sure to read the program description carefully on the department website. Does the coursework look interesting to you? Unlike most undergraduate curricula, you'll likely focus specifically on one area in graduate school. Be sure that the courses sound interesting and thought-provoking. Find out if practicums, internships or field experience are required.
Developing relationships with faculty is a vital part of being a graduate student. It's a good idea to do some research on the faculty at the programs you're considering. Check to see if they have bios on the department website, or do a search on the internet to look for publications, presentations, and other information. The faculty should have diverse experience that should parallel your own interests or spark new ones. Having a faculty member as a mentor before applying can be an important asset to your application.
When choosing a graduate program, consider the surrounding area and its resources. You will likely be doing research and spending a lot of time reading and writing. Are the campus and surrounding area conducive to that kind of work? Are there places nearby where you can study? Do you need access to cultural resources such as libraries and museums? Will you be distracted by too many tempting activities? Is there enough to do so that when you need a break, you can have some fun?
Frequently the Admissions page of a school provides the percentage of their graduate students who are employed after finishing coursework and what fields they go into. This can be important information in deciding if a particular program is likely to lead you to the career path in which you're interested.