Every person has their own distinctive life goals and dreams. A graduate program might be right up your alley if you’re thinking of reinventing yourself, brushing up on soft skills, and mastering technical skills to be more competitive in the world. This is the best qualification you can earn to gain new knowledge and pave new, better opportunities for your future.
Joining graduate school is a nerve-wracking but rewarding journey on its own. As a prospective graduate student, there are some preparations you should make to have a smooth and seamless transition.
Aside from choosing a graduate program, you need to sort out all your requirements and prepare yourself for writing an essay or two. You’ll need that to write an effective statement of purpose, one of the most important parts of your college application. Check out this recommended reading to learn more.
In the meantime, here are some vital things to know when getting ready for graduate school:
- Find The Right Program For You
First, you need to think through which graduate program you should choose. Don’t just look at rankings; send applications to the top schools in your preferred course line. This narrows down your choices and lets you focus better on your preparations.
There are also many other factors to consider, including a program’s reputation as well as the school’s accreditation. Here are the ones you might want to focus on first:
- Class Format
The first thing you need to decide on is the format of the class you’re willing to attend. Some students want face-to-face classes, while others prefer the convenience of online sessions. Schools are increasingly offering highly-regarded graduate programs online, giving students more flexibility. Those whose fields of interest are well-suited to distance learning might benefit from an online program. However, if your curriculum needs a lot of actual fieldwork, traditional is the way to go.
- School Location
Another factor to consider is the school’s location. Check if the place has dorms where you can safely live for the entirety of your graduate program. You also need to consider a school geographically located in a town or city that is convenient for you to live in. It should have affordable amenities like eateries, laundromats, and convenience stores.
- Program Or Curriculum
Another thing to seriously think about is the graduate program content or the curriculum itself. You need to pick one that provides you with the knowledge and skills to get to where you want to be once you’ve graduated. Check all the program details, such as the subjects, expected coursework, timelines, requirements, duration, faculty, and so on. Consider the electives and sub-field courses too. Also, take time to check their research styles. Investigate the research that faculty members are doing. You may be expected to do the same thing.
- Availability Of Financial Aid
This is an important aspect when choosing which graduate program to enroll in. While you may have prepared your finances separately, it helps to enroll in a school with financial support options. After all, graduate school can be expensive, and tuition and other costs can vary widely between programs. Taking out loans and paying them back can be time-consuming, so students need to be realistic about what they can afford. Assess which kinds of financial aid will be applicable for you to sustain your stay at a graduate school.
- Plan Early
Once you’ve ironed out all the details for your chosen program and school, the next thing you should do is create a calendar that shows all your important schedules. There are specific timelines and deadlines to follow. From school interviews to submission of admission requirements, all actual dates must be plotted out. The last thing you want is to forget anything important in the application process.
By being aware of deadlines, you make it easier for yourself to balance your academics with other commitments such as family, work, health, and personal pursuits. During a particularly busy week, plan which tasks you can accomplish early to avoid any last-minute scrambling.
It may also be time to re-evaluate your time management skills. Graduate school requires a lot of commitment to your studies and projects, so it’s crucial to plan how you intend to go through with your program. Evaluate your old study habits and see where you can modify them for the better. Improve your night routines and maintain a strict balance between studying and rest, as well. List down your priorities as a graduate student and keep them in sequence.
- Build Your Network
Networking is an important step when preparing for graduate school. Students should start deepening their research and engaging in person-to-person contact by this point. This can further narrow down their academic prospects.
You may start by reaching out to the admissions offices of your prospective schools. Approach staff and faculty members and ask about the graduate programs you’re interested in. How they respond to you speaks volumes about the program’s quality.
Students may also find it helpful to speak with faculty in their current undergraduate programs. You can seek support and advice from your faculty advisor, as they may have connections to the graduate school that you’re planning to attend. From then, you may get an insider’s view of other institutions’ programs too.
Lastly, be friendly with students who have started graduate school before you. They may be your fellow alumni from the same undergraduate school, or you’ve met them through other school events and clubs. Talking to other students will help you get a sense of how the classroom will be on a daily basis.
Basically, take advantage of any connections you have.
- Prepare Your Finances
You should thoroughly prepare your finances before you begin your graduate program. List down all the things that will require funding. These include tuition fees, cost of living expenses, books, and so on. Then, make an overall estimate without factoring in financial aid first. This allows you to check if have enough budget no matter whether you can qualify for financial support or not.
Next, get to know your funding sources. For instance, you may be funded and supported by family members, or you may work and study at the same time. Ensure that your financial sources can securely sustain your regular expenses.
Taking out student loans for master’s programs may be a viable choice if you feel you’re short in your finances for graduate study. Once you become professionally established, you will be able to repay your loans after successfully completing a program, at least in theory.
Fortunately, that’s not the only option. Financial aid is available in many graduate schools, including merit scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. Taking part-time courses while holding a job to cover expenses is also an option if you’re considering a master’s program.
- Prepare Your Admission Requirements
The next step to preparing for graduate school is to prepare for admission. By this point, you should have all the requirements needed.
Some of the documents you should have ready are your transcripts. Include transcripts from exchange programs and courses you have completed, regardless of whether those courses resulted in a credential. Every school comes with different admission requirements, so consider inquiring early.
Here are some application tips that can help you to get admitted easily:
- Start Your Application Early
Always give yourself ample time as part of the graduate school preparation process in general. It can take months to complete the entire application process, so plan ahead carefully.
- Seek Support From Others
The admission requirements of most schools will include letters of recommendation. Such written statements need to be written by a member of faculty from your previous school who can vouch for your capabilities and qualifications. Other documents include a statement of purpose and resumes. You need a different set of eyes to check how your written documents will stand up to scrutiny. There may be a need to revise them. It’s best to work with a faculty member who can check your documents for you.
- Keep Track Of Your Application
Keep following up on your application. Be sure to check with admissions once you have submitted your application materials to ensure all required documents were received on time. Any additional documentation or interview requests should also be followed up on promptly.
- Learn About The People You Will Be Working With
It’s necessary to learn who your future instructors will be. Research the backgrounds of the professors you will be studying under. You may be able to map out your future prospects by knowing how they can help you reach your goals.
In fact, network with a professor who has done something you’re particularly interested in. Try to learn about their teaching and research styles so you’ll know what to expect.
- Set Your Professional Goals
Graduate degrees are yours to choose from, so make the most of them. Develop and enhance your skillsets by attending workshops and events.
Before filling out your graduate school application, you must set your professional goals. These will guide you to achieving your dreams. This is your chance to explore the benefits of that degree and match it to your professional and academic goals.
Selecting the right master’s degree program for your personal goals is the key to grad school success. Preparing for graduate education can be lengthy, no matter which program you choose. So, take your time and stick to your convictions if you want to make it. Hopefully, these steps should give you the best possible start to your graduate school life.