By Megan Randall, CPDC Undergraduate Career Coach
When I first considered going to grad school, I had no idea where to start. I navigated the process by myself because I didn’t know what else to do. While I managed on my own, I’ve realized there are many things I would do differently now. Below are a few of the tips I’ve learned since, which I hope will ease your own process of considering going to grad school:
- Ask yourself WHY you want to go to graduate school. At that time in my life, I was two years out of college. I had been applying for study abroad advisor jobs in Boston for months, with no luck. I kept seeing job descriptions that said, “Bachelor’s degree required, Master’s degree preferred”. The realization that getting a Master’s degree would make me more competitive for the jobs I wanted led me to apply to grad school. There are many reasons to go; this is just one. If you’re unsure about your own reasons, consider using our “Is Grad School Right For You?” worksheet or meeting with an Undergraduate Career Coach.
- Reflect on your values & determine what you want out of a program. Before you start your search, reflect on the qualities that are most important to you in selecting schools/programs to which you want to apply. Also, ask yourself what you want to get out of grad school and how earning a Master’s degree or Ph.D. will help you achieve your career goals. Reflecting on these factors will help you compare and narrow down your options once you start searching. For example, you can consider each school’s/program’s location, student demographics, admissions requirements, cost, scholarship opportunities, reputation, size, networking opportunities, etc. Make a list of your top values and selection criteria and have it handy as you begin to search.
- Thoroughly research & compare graduate programs to narrow down your options. I did a Google search when I started searching for programs, and I immediately felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of results. Instead, consider using websites such as Petersons.com and Gradschools.com, which are designed to help you research and compare programs and explore scholarship opportunities. Additionally, attend our Virtual Graduate School Fair today (10/1) to learn about hundreds of graduate programs across the U.S. and abroad! As you research, document what you learn in a spreadsheet so you can compare programs/schools afterwards. Especially make note of each program’s classes offered and faculty interests/research specialties that align with your interests. In general, we recommend narrowing down your options to a number that works for you, whether that is 3, 7, 10, or more.
- Start early, know it’s a process, and know you’re not alone! Considering and applying to graduate school can be complex and time intensive. It’s never too early to learn how to chunk out these processes into small, manageable steps. Remember that you’re not alone! Our Undergraduate Career Coaches can help you narrow down your options AND complete your applications, for up to a year after you graduate.