Preparing for Graduate School
If you’re considering an advanced degree, you should know that both the application process and resulting transition from your undergraduate to graduate will require some preparation, careful planning, and time and effort on your part. All that hard work will pay off though if you find a program you love that will fulfill you personally and professionally. So do your research and know what’s expected of you so that you’re as prepared for graduate school as you can be.
Do Your Research
If you already know you’d like to go to graduate school right after you’re done with your bachelor’s, you should start doing your research on 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 been exposed to as an undergraduate, talk to your professors and department heads. They may have advice on which programs are better than others, or even whether you should be considering a graduate degree right out of college. If you’re considering several options as far as what you’d like to study as a graduate student, take the time to figure all of that out before you commit to a 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, and essentially make you an expert in that field.
Once you’ve done that, put the same kind of 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 thoroughly as you would be looking for jobs. (You may even want to think about it even more seriously, as you may be a graduate student for longer than you’d be at your first job out of college.) If you find yourself in the enviable position of being accepted to a number of graduate schools, look at 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 you got on a 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’re 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 about nine months before 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, know that the spot you were offered at the graduate school of your choice may not be waiting for you when you’re ready to start your program. You may need to reapply all over again if you wait too long, as many programs that offer deferment at all will only allow you to postpone your enrollment for a year.