Graduate school is a tremendous commitment of time and money. It may also be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of your life. In order to prepare yourself for the time and energy that graduate school requires, you should reflect on your personal motivations for seeking an advanced degree. Are you truly willing to commit the resources that graduate school requires? Here are some steps you can take to answer that question:
- Examine your career goals along with your interests and skills to ensure that graduate school is the right path for you. Do not let graduate school be a default if you are uncertain about what you want to do post-graduation. Make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser to assess whether graduate school is the right path for you.
- Talk to graduate students in your prospective field to find out what graduate school is really like.
- Do not assume you need to go through the process of deciding about graduate school or applying to graduate school alone. Talk to graduate students and professors about your personal statements, the best writing sample to use, and the best programs. Make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser to review your personal statement, writing sample, application materials or to discuss your career goals.
In order to succeed in both your admissions applications and your time as a graduate student, you need to prepare yourself academically. It is never too early to start taking the steps that will help you succeed.
- Get to know faculty by attending office hours, taking seminar courses, and/or working as a research/lab assistant.
- Take challenging coursework that will help you decide if graduate study is what you wish to pursue. Go beyond your department’s requirements to build up your knowledge, skills, and abilities in your chosen field.
- Take critical theory, methods, or skill-building courses in your field.
- Write seminar and research papers. This will help you gauge your interest in research and writing and may provide you with a strong writing sample for your application.
- Look for or create a capstone experience for your College education. This might take the form of a thesis paper or project, or an independent research course exploring a particular topic.
- Take necessary language courses. Even though your planned graduate work may not involve a foreign language, many programs in the humanities and social sciences require all students to pass a language exam or show competency in a language other than English.
- Participate in research as much as possible. Use summer opportunities, course work, and/or independent projects to give yourself an edge.
Applications to graduate school can be extremely competitive. Give yourself an edge by doing as much professional preparation as you can, drawing on the resources available to you as an undergraduate or alumnus/a.
- Develop strong relationships with faculty.
- Attend departmental lectures and functions.
- Attend conferences and colloquia.
- Conduct research through research assistantships, summer research opportunities, coursework papers, or thesis papers and projects.
- Submit your work for awards and prizes.
- Organize colloquia, conferences or exhibits.
- Apply for research or study grants.
- Study the foreign language(s) needed for graduate or professional work in your field.