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So You Want to Go to Graduate School

College is a marvelous thing. Like high school, you’re working through a four-year program towards a degree. Unlike high school though, most of you are now living away from home taking classes for a specific field of study all the while preparing for the real world and the next phase of being an actual adult- the working world. While some people finish their four-year degree, and enter this daunting new world right away, others –depending on their intended career path and goal—dive headfirst into a whole new round of education: graduate school.

Whether for a Master’s or Doctoral degree, graduate school is a lot different from being an undergraduate student. Gone are all of the extracurricular activities and general education classes, and instead are replaced with specific major courses, internships, externships, clinical practice, and a moderate amount of professional development. Before jumping right into graduate school, there is one thing that must be accomplished first: applying and being accepted into a program of your choice. This entire process seems exceptionally daunting, and it should –trust me. I just finished my own round of applications – but it is not together unmanageable. There are several things that must occur during this process, and I’m here to help you exactly with that. 

  1. Decide if you actually are going to grad school

For some majors and career paths, graduate school isn’t mandatory. Sure, a higher degree will set you apart from others and aid in your long-term career path, but for professions like teachers and nurses, you really only need a Bachelor degree. For other career paths – like mine, audiology—you must have graduate schooling to work in the professional world with your fellow adults. 

2. Know what you are going to grad school for

Graduate school is a lot more specific than undergrad, so thus you need to have a better picture and idea of what it is you want to do. If you want to be a nurse anesthetist, then you will apply to that program. If you have a general business degree and want to further it, then that’s great but you need to decide in which facet you exactly want to further yourself, whether it be markets, accounting, or business management. 

3. Research and narrow down selected programs

Like it or not, not every college and university out there is going to have the specific program you would like to attend. A lot of institutions have more common programs such as business and education, but if you’re looking for a degree in biomedical engineering, you might need to look a little further than your immediate state. Apart from looking at programs, you need to narrow them down. True, you can apply to 15 different programs, but that is a tad excessive. Narrow down your list to 6 or 7 and you should be in good hands. 

4. Look at program requirements

Across the board, the same program at different schools is going to result in the exact same thing: a degree in that specific program. What may differ though are the requirements going into that graduate program that need to be satisfied beforehand as an undergraduate student. At one school, a basic chemistry class may be required and seeing how you got a B+ your sophomore year of college, you meet that requirement no program. At another school, however, basic chemistry, organic, and inorganic may be the baseline; seeing as you don’t meet these prerequisites, it might be a good idea to look at another institution’s program instead. 

5. Look at program fees and costs

This goes with researching designated programs, but a huge factor of graduate school – especially nowadays—is money. Graduate school is not cheap, especially for programs like mine where you’re paying for another 4 years. To be honest, cost alone can be a major determining factor between schools and programs, so look carefully!

6. Schedule and take the GRE’s

The GRE’s are essentially the college version of the SAT’s, and maybe even then pumped up on steroids a bit. Most grad programs require GRE scores or other equal exams (MCATS, CPA Exam, etc.) to be put on file with your formal application. It stinks to drop another $200+ on a single exam, but trust me, it will pay off in the long run. 

7. Ask professors for letters of recommendation

This is a big one. Your personal essay, transcript, and application can speak a lot about you, but something that can incredibly aid your chances of gaining acceptance are letters from your professors. Your professors know you and your work ethic first hand, so asking those who you have a positive relationship with can really enhance you overall application. As already existing professionals in the field, a positive word from them can make or break acceptance between you and another applicant. 

8. Understand and organize deadlines

Like it or not, most programs have a specific deadline for applicants interested in becoming a student for the next school year. While these deadlines may vary from each other from weeks to even months, a common theme is an early spring semester deadline (January, February, and March). These deadlines are created by the institution for a specific reason, and it is vital that you adhere to them to guarantee the best chance of admission. You can have a top notch and flawless application, but if you miss the deadline for submitting all relevant materials (application, resume, transcript, etc.), you’re basically out of luck.

9.Breathe

The last thing you can do in terms of graduate school is simply to remember to breathe. You met all prerequisites, submitted personal essays, transcripts, and GRE scores, and paid every single application fee. At this point, being accepted becomes out of your hands, so the best thing to do is remain positive, sit back, relax, and BREATHE. 

Hi there! My name is Lindsey Woods and I am a Senior at Bloomsburg University. I'm an audiology major with a minor in special education. I am originally from Landenberg, PA.
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