Graduate school is a huge step in one’s professional and academic career. Without preparation, however, a graduate school may not become a reality.
Graduate school is a large step for anyone who is considering it, both in the academic and professional realm. For some, going to graduate school may mean changing careers or gaining additional skills for an existing one, while for others graduate school may mean advancing in their field or moving into a teaching role at the undergraduate level.
No matter a person’s reason for attending graduate school, there is a lot of preparation that goes into the application process and getting the acceptance letter.
Researching Graduate School Options
According to Purdue University, the earlier a student begins researching graduate school options, the better. Once a student has schools and potential programs in mind, then it is easier to make a student a competitive applicant to the program.
In addition, researching options and programs early gives a student time to change his or her mind before actually beginning the application process. Each school has different programs with different admissions requirements, course work requirements, and philosophies on various subjects.
It is also important that a student establishes himself- or herself academically while an undergraduate. Students should make sure that they take classes related to work that they wish to do in graduate school, but also participate in para- and pre-professional organizations, honor societies like the Honor Society Foundation, internships, and research opportunities to gain experience, knowledge, and to demonstrate a commitment to that academic or professional field.
For those looking for tools to research graduate schools, both the Princeton Review and the U.S. News and World Report rank the United States’ top colleges and universities in a variety of different fields and capacities.
Applying to Graduate School
The application process for graduate school can take months, especially if a potential student is looking to secure a graduate internship or a teaching assistantship.
According to the University of Washington, there are many parts of the application process, and each one is vitally important when looking to receive an acceptance letter:
- Standardized test scores Students should make sure that they take the required or recommended standardized tests for their program of interest. Most graduate students will take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE,) while law students will take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT,) and medical students will take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT.)
- Official undergraduate transcripts Students who have attended more than one school during his or her undergraduate career must remember to submit transcripts from every school attended in order to have a complete application unless otherwise noted.
- Statement of Purpose This is the student’s chance to show their personality, but to also state just what their goals and aspirations are. This portion of the application should be to the point; graduate school admissions counselors read through hundreds if not thousands of applications each year, and a student needs to stand out quickly and confidently.
- Recommendations These should be in academic and professional nature. Make sure that a student’s references are able to give quality recommendations. Students must remember to provide references with a copy of his or her resume just in case a reference needs to refresh his or her memory as to what skills the student has.
- Optional materials This may include an application fee, internship application, teaching assistantship application, additional writing samples, and interviews with program directors and admissions counselors.
Graduate school is a major step for anyone looking to further their career or education. However, if the application process and preparation is not taken seriously, it may take potential students many tries to get into a program, requiring a lot of time, energy, and money.