Throughout your time in undergrad, all you can think about is walking across the stage, getting your degree, and never having to open Blackboard again to turn in an assignment. But sometimes, there is the option to continue your education by going to graduate school, adding to your education, and getting a second degree. Once you make the decision that going to graduate school will be beneficial to you and your future, there are various components and questions you have to consider before making your final decision on which programs to apply to.
I began looking into graduate school a year before I graduated from undergrad. I realized during quarantine after everyone was sent home from school, that I wanted to go to graduate school so that one day I could teach English classes at the college level. In between working on classwork, I would Google search English graduate programs that were not too far from home. During these searches, I realized I needed to be looking at the tuition rates, location, graduate assistant opportunities, and the types of classes that are offered.
Graduate assistantship jobs are a great opportunity to gain experience in various areas of campus while also gaining a paycheck. Sometimes GA positions offer a tuition decrease for those who work a certain number of hours each week. In my experience, I found that these positions were extremely competitive. Most college students are hurting for money and will take any position that will pay and look good on a resume! These positions range from being a dean’s assistant to a GA for the athletic department to working with student services. My suggestion is to apply to as many positions as you possibly can and take the interviews as they come!
Taking a look at the class catalogs is not a bad idea when you are looking at programs. For me, I wanted to have diversity in the classes I was taking. I am in the English graduate program, and I knew the areas of literature I wanted to study and found that the school offered those classes along with classes that I knew I needed to take to broaden my range of literature knowledge. If the catalog is not available on their website, do not be afraid to reach out to the program director to ask about the classes they offer. That allows them to see that you are serious about their program as well.
After all the research, conversations with those close to me, and acceptance and rejection letters, I decided to enroll to the English graduate program at the school where I did my undergrad. This decision was made because of multiple reasons. I figured out that I would be able to afford tuition with the help of my parents and I was offered a place to live for cheap, so I knew that it was possible. I also realized how much I loved the rapport that I established with the professors in the English department over the years. It really came down to the relationships that I had here that helped me make the ultimate decision.
For students who are interested in applying to graduate school, I suggest starting the research process early. The applications cost money and sometimes it’s hard to find that as a college student. The majority of applications require letters of recommendation and professors need a few days to write a thoughtful recommendation. Starting early gives you enough time to make sure you have everything in place and completed.