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Preparing for Graduate School

If you are considering an advanced degree, keep in mind the application process and academic transition will require careful planning, time, and effort on your part. Hard work will pay off once you find the program you love - one that fulfill you professionally and personally. Conduct thorough research and know what’s expected of you so that you’re adequately prepared for graduate school.

Do Your Research

If you already know you’d like to go to graduate school immediately after your undergraduate, start researching where you’d like to go and what you’d like to study well before you’re studying for final exams as a college senior. If you’re pursuing a graduate degree in a field of study you’ve already had exposure to as an undergraduate, talk to your professors and department chair personnel. They can direct you to the better programs, or even whether you should be considering a graduate degree right out of college. Considering more than one option for graduate school? Learn as much as possible before committing to the school. You may have been able to explore different major options as an undergraduate, but graduate school is meant to hone one particular field of study to essentially make you an expert in the field.

Once you’ve done that, put the same effort into choosing which graduate school is right for you, and determining what your priorities are when it comes to picking a program. Consider the decision as if you were job hunting. If you find yourself accepted to multiple graduate schools, weigh the pros and cons of each program. We explore this topic on our main page, but look at things like the financial aid offered, a school’s reputation and location, and the vibe felt on your campus visit. Doing your research is crucial to making sure you end up where you should!

Create a Timeline

Whether you’re still in the planning stages, or getting ready to start applying to your list of graduate schools, it’s important to be forward-thinking. Will you be going to graduate school the fall after you graduate from college? Do you want to work in your desired field for a few years first and wait to apply? How long will it take you to get your life and finances in order before you feel ready to go to graduate school? Create a timeline that is specific to where you are in the process and your intended start date.

If you are a college senior looking to go to graduate school immediately after graduation, you should have taken your requisite standardized tests at the beginning of the school year. Applications are typically due around nine prior to your expected start date, which would mean late fall/early winter due dates for you college seniors. You should be evaluating any admittance letters by the spring of your senior year. If you decide to expand your timeline and defer enrollment, be aware that you may lose the spot you were initially offered when expected. You may need to reapply all over again if you wait too long, as many programs that offer deferment will only postpone enrollment for a year.

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Last Reviewed: July 2020