The countdown has begun. It’s less than three weeks until IU’s Class of 2018 leaves for the “adult” world as it is so lovingly referred to. That means a steady stream of questions about what is happening after graduation. Does this mean going home to live with your parents as you try to find a job? Does it mean picking up and traveling the world? Volunteering with the Peace Corps? Professional or graduate school? The options are endless as many seniors have discovered in the past year.
A portion of the class will be moving on to graduate school—myself included. Undergrad was no walk in the park. There were rough semesters or classes that made you want to just quit. Graduate school will be no different, but you will probably be focusing more on your interests instead of having to take required courses such as foreign language, biology, or chemistry, just to get into the core classes of your major. However, graduating to graduate school causes a lot of anxiety if I am being honest.
Here are a few tips to prepare for graduate school:
1) Research different programs
Before accepting Xavier University’s offer to attend their M.Ed. program, I spent hours researching different programs all over the country in my fields of interest. When I narrowed it down, I spent more time researching the differences between MA, MS, and M.Ed. to see which programs really captured my attention and which ones seemed best suited for me. My initial ideas for graduate school were in Indianapolis and in Colorado. I had lists upon lists of potential schools and constantly narrowed them down as I contemplated other factors for these programs and what qualifications I had.
2) Carefully review financial options and price ranges for programs
If you do not have the funds to go to graduate school, look for graduate assistantships or loans. You can even take a year off of school to work and save up so that you can better afford to go to graduate school. Be aware about whether your family is willing to help pay or if an employer will do tuition reimbursement. There are options, but don’t go too far out of your price range. Student loans are not wished away.
3) Complete applications early
The earlier an application is completed, the sooner the decision comes back. And the earlier you get application materials completed, including essays or recommendations, the more focused on getting into this school you appear. My Xavier application was completed almost two months before the Summer 2018 deadline and it took them six days to offer me admission. Seriously, graduate schools are more selective and programs are smaller so if you have the qualifications, apply early.
4) Be prepared for interviews (if applicable)
Almost all PhD, MD, and JD programs require interviews. Some Master’s programs do while others do not. If the programs you are looking at do, be prepared to wow them. Make yourself look like a fantastic applicant (which you are!) and explain why this would be the best program for you. Be honest about why you are pursuing this degree, what you hope to get out of it, and why it will be essential to your future career. Dress professionally, ask intelligent questions, and arrive early. Practice beforehand with a friend or coworker if you want some unexpected questions to be thrown out in order to better prepare you for any twists or turns in the interview process.
5) Make a decision
Once word gets back on your potential programs’ decisions, take some time to weigh your options and make a decision from there. It is alright to change your mind after discovering that your favorite graduate program is offering you no money while another favorable program is offering a scholarship or assistantship that covers part of your tuition. Be prepared to relocate and officially have the title of “Graduate Student.” The decision can be riddled with questions, anxiety, and stress about how you will pay for it, what this brand new city will be like, and what expectations there will be as a graduate student. Once the decision is made, there should be a sense of relief in knowing what you’re doing and that you are happy with that program.
Personally it took me a month or two to decide to apply to Xavier after constant research on a one-year Sports Administration or Sports Psychology program. As soon as my application was completed and I got word back on their decision, it took me one minute to accept their offer and the next ten to tell the people I love that I’m officially going to grad school!
Early prep for life as a graduate student is always a good idea. Graduating to graduate school feels good and you should be excited for this next chapter!