Are you ready for graduate school? Take a look at five factors you should consider as you ponder your future.
1. The Whys and the Wherefores
So why are you going to grad school? Are you going because you want job stability? A bigger paycheck? Academic satisfaction? These are all good reasons, but remember that grad school is a big commitment of time and money. Be brutally honest with yourself in establishing your personal criteria; it will help when the time comes to make that important choice of which program to enter.
2. What Kind of Learner Are You?
Are you weaker on certain subjects? Would a traditional or accelerated length of study work best for you? Identifying the optimal learning conditions for you is vital in choosing the right graduate program. While there are common keys to almost every discipline—like excellent reading, writing, and analytical skills—your chosen track may require you to brush up on more obscure subjects before the start of classes. In general, graduate programs require students to carry a 3.0 GPA in all graduate courses, so be sure that you understand the level of knowledge and the study habits that it will take to meet your goals.
3. That Tiny Matter of Cost...
Budgeting skills come more naturally to some people than others, but finances should be a major concern for every graduate student. Studies have shown that people with advanced degrees earn more than people with bachelor's degrees. That knowledge can give you the confidence you need to attend a school with great credentials, but it can also distract you from adjusting your monthly finances now to compensate for an unpredictable economy (not to mention a big tuition bill) later. Evaluate your current financial situation and—again, employing brutal honesty—decide what you can afford to cut out now and how much of your graduate school tuition you can afford to pay using resources other than student loans. Also, check out the financial aid section at www.GradView.com, which provides a thorough explanation of the graduate financial aid system, advice for making sound decisions, and resources for funding.
4. Crack Those Books...Before Classes Begin
Whether you earned your bachelor's degree ten months or ten years ago, you're probably no stranger to research. Find out everything you can about your grad school by scouring published materials and indices and talking with students, faculty members, and alumni. For some students, it is helpful to list all criteria and bring that list along to fairs, interviews, and program-related information sessions.
5. What's in It for You?
A stellar education is but one of the many benefits of graduate school. Before you make your final decision, look at all the perks of a potential school, including job placement services (in the form of career fairs and shadowing opportunities), on- and off-campus networking, internships, portfolio reviews, and study abroad programs.
Choosing a graduate program requires a lot of serious thought, but the process needn't be too stressful. The competitive nature of academic institutions in the United States means that there are tons of options for prospective students. With the right amount of planning, you can find a program that will provide lifelong benefits.