4 Important Grad School Considerations | 06.18.10
Ah, the ever-present question. In truth, there is no clear cut answer, but there are some definite graduate school tips that make life much easier and can decrease your stress. Let’s explore some factors to weigh when deciding when to start your graduate degree:
1) Do you know what you want to study?
This question probably sounds silly, but just as it was important to have a solid idea of what you wanted to do in undergrad, planning for graduate school is even more vital. Don’t fling yourself into a general studies program; spend the time to research and figure out what you want to study well beforehand and be strategic about the timing.
2) Have you worked yet?
Sorry folks, I don’t mean part-time! Full-time work, internship and/or co-op experience is a necessity when applying to graduate schools, just like if you were applying for a real job. No matter what your field is, real-world exposure is a sought after commodity in academia and can significantly up the ante on your grad school application.
That being said, it may not be required for every degree out there, but if a selection committee has two applications in front of them, one with job experience and one without, all other things being equal the experienced candidate will be chosen.
3) What does your debt look like?
Unfortunately, student loan debt is virtually inevitable in this day and age. It becomes especially important when you want to go to graduate school due to the fact that existing debt can make it difficult to secure private and Grad PLUS loans on your on credit. In order to maximize your ability to take out future financial aid, it usually is wise to try and pay down a good portion of your existing loans before taking on another degree program.
4) Do you have a long-term personal plan?
Above all else, graduate school should be a vehicle to get you to a goal. It is great and very important to have #1 squared away, but how does this extra knowledge and invested time get you closer to your dream?
Also, consider environmental factors as well. Are you currently seeing someone or in a serious relationship? Graduate degrees generally take between 1 and 3 years to complete — if you’re looking into living together or getting married, having no stable income for that period of time could be problematic.
These are all things you should keep on the back-burner of your mind when going through the research and application process to graduate school. Be diligent, thoughtful and thorough — you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
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