Are you prepared to attend graduate school? There are many reasons why people decide to go to graduate or professional school and some reasons are stronger than others. You may want to analyze your motives for attending graduate school. Here are some of the things you should consider before deciding to attend:
- Need — What kind of position are you interested in pursuing after graduation? Does it require a graduate degree?
- Desire — Are your interests compatible with the activities you will be involved in during advanced training? Are you motivated to explore the detail of that particular specialty area?
- Awareness — Are you aware of the different types of positions held by individuals with advanced degrees in your area of interest? Will this degree actually prepare you to get the job you are seeking?
- Skill and fortitude — Will your academic skill and personal motivation get you through the intensity and pace of graduate study?
- Timing — Are you ready to commit a few more years of your life to your studies with little or no money coming in?
- Cost — Can you to afford this graduate education? Will you be able to get a well-paying job after graduation that will allow you to pay back your loans, if necessary?
Are you prepared?
It is important to understand that most graduate programs are going to be significantly different from your undergraduate experience. You are generally regarded as a professional-in-training and are expected to behave as such. This means there is little room for excuses and slacking off. As an undergraduate you may have been able to skate by in some classes with little effort and poor attendance. This is much less likely to be the case in graduate or professional school. Your professors assume that you are in the program to study and become a professional in the field, not polish up on your partying skills or catch up with your Facebook contacts.
Your grad school professors are less likely to accept excuses for late or poor quality assignments. You will be expected to attend every class and be an active participant. Professors and your academic advisors are crucial partners in your graduate school success and if you tick them off, they will be less likely to help you score internships or write letters of recommendation for you.
Your classmates can be your greatest source of support in graduate school. However, if you are poorly prepared for class and do not take it seriously, your classmates will be annoyed. They will then be less willing to work with you on projects and papers that are necessary for your success in the program. Your graduate classmates are also important people to network with. If they view you as unreliable and unprofessional, they will not be willing to refer you for future positions.
Perhaps you have decided that graduate school is not the best choice for you at this time. This could be for a variety of reasons. Don’t worry, that does not mean that you will never go. Many graduate and professional schools prefer to enroll students who have a few years of work experience. Working during these years after undergrad will be useful for you to learn more about your career field. I also recommend you seek out various educational opportunities, like free or low-cost community-based courses. In addition, your employer may financially support or even provide continuing education training. Always keep your eyes and your mind open to non-traditional educational opportunities.
YES, you are ready to go now
Great, so you have done your research on what your graduate school experience will be like and also looked into whether you will be employable after you graduate. Here are some tips for grad school success from a recent graduate of a master’s program.
- Seek out programs that are a good fit for you and offer the financial support you need.
- Get connected with a study buddy (or two). Connecting with someone who has a similar work ethic to you can really help you get through the rigorous schedule and work load.
- Talk with people who have been in the same graduate program for a year or more. They can give you invaluable advice about the professors and how to handle your upcoming course load.
- Reach out to your professors. They are invested in you becoming a successful professional in the field. They likely have some wisdom and advice to share that will help you be successful.
When you are ready to attend and you know what you are getting into, graduate school can be one of the most enlightening and challenging experiences of your life.
If you are looking to attend grad school, but do not wish to go back full time, an online university may be the way to go. Check out Walden University, a great example of unique education opportunities designed to fit your schedule and goals.
Lori Bielek is the Marketing and Technology Coordinator at University of Delaware’s (UD) Career Services Center where she advises students in the arts and sciences through all steps of their career development. You can connect with Lori through LinkedIn or her UD Career Services Twitter account (@UDcareers)