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Life > Academics

The Challenges of Applying to Grad School While in Undergrad

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

As a second semester senior, I’m rapidly approaching the end of undergrad at Penn State, but it doesn’t feel like I’m any closer to finishing school.

While my applications are out and pending grad schools and I’ve already received some acceptances, keep reading for some of the many challenges that come with applying to grad school as an undergrad.

The Issue of Time

Nothing stressed me out more than heading into the summer before senior year knowing that applications would be opening soon for grad school. If there’s one thing I learned, take your LSAT, GRE, MCAT or whatever standardized exam you need early and write your personal statement even earlier. You can always start studying or write a statement that can be lengthened or shortened, but the stress becomes infinitely greater when you’re pressured to sign up for new exams or make a new draft of a personal essay.

One of my friends that is finishing her second semester at law school told me that there aren’t many people in her law class that are straight from undergrad, and I can understand why. Studying for standardized tests, getting applications in, and meeting for interviews with schools is already time consuming, coupled with spending your last year at school and with friends pushes it over the top.

Timing has felt like such a struggle and this feeling has been new to me, especially being someone that excels at time management. I guess what I’m suggesting is make sure that you know what you’re giving up if you apply to grad school while finishing your undergraduate degree.

Standardized Tests

Yup. You thought studying for the SAT or ACT was bad? Try being in college and while your friends are going to game day or to a social event, you have to stay back to take a test that a small percentage of people in the country take. It’s tough.

So start early and join a study group if you can, but before you do anything, make sure you’re not wasting your time studying for a program you’re not yet set on attending.

Knowing Where You Want to Spend the Next X Years of Your Life

Obviously, I am not in full control of where I will spend the next three to four years because it depends on where I get accepted. But as a hypothetical, if you have options, where would you want to go? I applied to schools throughout the east coast, and maybe a few in the Midwest, but I still am not sure where I want to be.

I can’t foresee myself being too far away from family and friends, but from what I understand, it’s not like I’ll be going out every weekend or having weekly dinners at home because people study a lot in grad school. I’m hoping to start visiting schools soon and like undergrad, I know I’ll end up at the right place, I just need to get to that point.

Saying Goodbye to Undergrad

All of my friends are entering the workforce after graduation, but I don’t feel ready to move on from us all being in school together. I’m not so worried about making new friends in grad school programs, rather it feels like my friends will be moving on with their lives while I’m still doing homework and taking tests.

I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to undergrad, or being at Penn State with my friends, and the thought of leaving in 2 months is jarring. On an optimistic note, I feel ready to be in grad school classes that undergrad has prepared me for, and to be in a specialized program or class is exciting. I know these feelings just come with the emotions of graduating and heading somewhere new.

You got this

While it wasn’t easy, I knew applying to graduate school and attending straight from undergrad was the right choice for me. Questioning your plan is normal and the best advice I can give is to do the research before committing to a plan. Know what steps you have to take and decide if this is the right time for you.

The option of always going back to school is always there, but overcoming some of these challenges now may be the better option for you with where you are in your life.

Fourth-year Schreyer student majoring in political science, global and international studies, and minoring in ethics.