Students choose graduate school for many reasons, including intellectual curiosity and professional advancement. Some choose grad school because they aren't sure what to do or don't feel ready for a job. However, these are bad reasons to attend graduate school. Graduate school requires an intense commitment of time and money. If you're not sure you're ready then it's best to wait. Graduate school is different from college because it requires a higher level of academic commitment. You must enjoy and excel at reading, writing, and analyzing information. Speak with professors and graduate students to get a better idea of what's involved in graduate study. Most first-year graduate students are overwhelmed and remark that they had no idea of what they were getting into. Seek a first-year student's perspective for a reality check.
It is expected that students will maintain at least a 3.0 average during graduate school. Some programs deny funding to students with less than a 3.33 average. The coursework will be challenging. Going to graduate school affects the rest of your life. There are both pros and cons to continuing your education. Seek information from multiple sources including the career-counseling center, your family, graduate students, and professors. Take your time with it. Most importantly, trust your judgment and have faith that you'll make the choice that's best for you.
Graduate School Research
There are some careers, such as law or dentistry, which require an education beyond a bachelor degree. If you are aware that your career will take you into further and higher education beyond that level, you can plan ahead. Graduate school is very narrow and specialized in any given field. Given time, you can decide early about what program applies to you. It’s also very important to consider your interests and favorite courses. Seek advice from professors about the difference among the various specialties of your field and research existing employment opportunities for each specialization.
Researching graduate schools is an exciting task. Just like with your undergraduate university, look for a school that meets your needs. Most employers like their employees to be diversified within their education, which means looking beyond your current university. Look for a university with a location that is relevant to your field; i.e. Business Administration universities should be located in a big metropolis. When deciding on which university and where, always factor in the cost of relocating or commuting. Graduate school will be expensive, then add in the cost of moving and you have incurred a big expense that you may not have planned.
Like the SATs, graduate school standardized tests permit students from a variety of universities and colleges with differing grading standards to be compared. Standardized tests are also the basis for awarding fellowships and other forms of financial assistance. Most standardized, graduate-school tests are designed to identify potential success or capacities for success, rather than measure specific knowledge or achievement. Remember that although performance on standardized tests is a strong factor in the admissions process, it is not the only element that will net you an acceptance to the graduate school of your dreams. Undergraduate transcripts, recommendation letters and a personal statement are other considerations.
Like standardized exams, recommendation letters should be familiar to you. Nearly every graduate program requires applicants to submit letters of recommendation. Don't underestimate the importance of these letters. While your transcript, standardized test scores, and personal statement/admissions essay are vital components to your graduate school application, an excellent letter of recommendation can make up for weaknesses in any of these areas. A well written letter of recommendation provides admissions committees with information that isn't found elsewhere in the application. A letter of recommendation is normally written by a faculty member and consists of a detailed description of the personal qualities, accomplishments, and experiences that make you unique and perfect for the programs to which you've applied.
Most graduate programs require two or more letters of recommendation. Choosing your letter-writers often is difficult. Consider faculty members, administrators, internship/co-operative education supervisors, and employers. The persons you ask to write your letters should know you well enough to:
Keep in mind that no one person will satisfy all of these criteria. Aim for a set of letters that cover the range of your skills. Ideally, letters should cover your academic and scholastic skills, research abilities and experiences, and applied experiences (e.g., co-operative education, internships, related work experience).
The Personal Statement
The personal statement is an important part of the graduate school application. It provides the admission committee a chance to distinguish you from other A+ applicants and the opportunity to get to know you at a more personal level. Your personal statement has the ability to determine if you will be accepted or rejected by a school. Therefore, it is necessary that you write an essay that is honest, interesting, and well structured. Many students write personal statements that are fascinating but incomprehensible to the reader and as a result, they may be rejected. Thus, the structure and organization of your essay is a crucial component to your personal statement. With a well structured essay, the reader will not only be interested in the content of your essay but will also know that you have the capacity to create a legible essay.
When you receive and are ready to accept an offer of admission to graduate school, call or email your contact for the program and follow up with a written letter that is faxed and then mailed to the program. A short professional looking note indicating that you've made your decision and are pleased to accept their offer of admission is adequate.
Keep in mind, like your undergraduate studies, your time in graduate school is important. You are again investing in your future that will open up even more opportunities than your undergraduate degree. Work and study hard, and soon you will receive the benefits of a great education.
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