8 Ways to Prepare for Grad School Early
Graduate School Is The Final Goal For Many Students, But Often Applying To Grad School Gets Pushed Aside Until The Last Year Of Undergrad...
However, there are many benefits to starting your preparations for grad school early. While there’s no need to start writing personal statements and gathering recommendations in your freshman year of college, there’s a definite need to get your course load planned out and your options researched.
If you space out your preparations for graduate school across four years, you’ll find yourself feeling more prepared and confident when it comes time to submit applications.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND IN THIS ARTICLE
- What is Graduate School?
- Why Should I Start Planning for Grad School Early?
- 8 Ways to Prepare for Grad School
- Do You Want to Go to Grad School?
What Is Graduate School?
Graduate school refers to high-level academic programs that specialize in specific areas of study. Students must complete at least a bachelor’s degree before becoming eligible for most graduate degree programs. These programs often require a higher level of academic commitment than typical four-year programs.
The term graduate school encompasses a wide range of courses, from law school to Ph.D. programs. Not every career or profession will require a student to complete graduate studies. Despite this, the admissions process for top graduate programs is still extraordinarily competitive.
For many people, earning a master’s degree will be the first step in grad school. As of 2018, the most popular fields of study for master’s degrees include:
- Public administration
- Computer science
Students choose to attend graduate school for a number of reasons. While some may be drawn to furthering their academic passions, others may be hoping to earning a higher paycheck or score a coveted job with a graduate degree.
Regardless of the reasons you may want to attend graduate school, it’s important that you begin preparing as early as possible to give yourself the best chances of admission and success.
Why Should I Start Planning For Grad School Early
Graduate school is a serious undertaking. Due to the rigorous course load and admissions process, students should begin preparing for graduate school while they are still in undergrad.
By preparing for grad school early, you give yourself more time to create a plan. The competitive nature of grad school admissions means that students with strong extracurricular, academic, and leadership records have higher chances of admission. Students who focus on excelling in their undergrad program and creating a well-rounded resume of college-level extracurricular activities will feel less overwhelmed when it’s finally time to apply for graduate courses.
In addition, starting your graduate school preparations early gives you plenty of time to find your internal motivations and set long term goals. When seeking advice from professors or academic advisors about graduate school, you’ll hear one question more often than any other.
“WHY DO YOU WANT TO GO TO GRAD SCHOOL?”
If you’re already thinking about attending graduate school, you’ll usually find that you can answer this question at least somewhat. However, it’s important that students take the time to really consider why they’re drawn to attending graduate school. Are you trying to avoid “the real world” by extending your college years as long as possible? Are you attending graduate school “because that’s what everyone in my field does” or because of your own well-thought-out reasons?
At the end of the day, there are tons of excellent reasons to attend graduate school, but you’ll need to take your time to do some soul-searching here. Really consider what about grad school appeals to you and why it’s worth the time and effort it will take to get in.
Thinking about grad school early on gives you plenty of time to research different schools, programs, and the benefits of a graduate degree overall. It also gives you plenty of time to consider your motivations. Preparing for grad school early allows you to feel more comfortable with your final decision.
You’ll also feel more prepared for the selective admissions process.
8 Ways To Prepare For Grad School
Due to their competitive admissions, grad school requirements often narrow down applicants to only the best and brightest in their field. As such, students who begin preparing for grad school early give themselves an advantage. Learning how to prepare for grad school before you ever leave undergrad is essential if you’re looking to give yourself the highest chance of being admitted.
EXPLORE YOUR PASSIONS
Undergrad is one of the best times to explore your passions. Even if you came to college knowing what your grad school major was going to be, there’s still plenty you can learn about your own academic interests while attending undergrad. As we grow and experience new things, our academic passions often change or narrow in focus.
Taking the time to explore the various niches and career pathways within your college major while you’re still an undergrad is an excellent way to prep for grad school.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
While you work through your undergrad years, it’s a good idea to set aside some time to research your graduate school options. Start researching the different program options available in your field of study; explore the differences and what each program has to offer.
Contacting programs directly is the best way to get information about grad school; this way, it comes right from the source!
Each graduate program will have different entrance requirements as well. Note the requirements for your top graduate schools and keep the list close at hand as you go through your undergrad schooling. Knowing that you must maintain a certain GPA throughout undergrad or that you’ll have to pass a certain test to enter grad school can help you better prepare for your application.
WORK WITH YOUR COUNSELOR
Building a strong professional relationship with your college counselor is key to making your life while applying to grad school easier. Working with your counselor at the beginning of your undergrad studies to tailor your course load for grad school can save you time, money, and plenty of headaches.
Additionally, your counselor can go beyond helping you plan for grad school and help you find the right program for your needs. Counselors have guided students from all walks of life to apply to a plethora of grad programs; the chances are high that your counselor will be able to offer valuable guidance when searching and applying for graduate school programs.
FOCUS ON UNDERGRAD
While it may seem obvious that you have to get through your undergrad years in order to get to your graduate school experience, you must achieve more than just going through the motions. Coasting through undergrad is not an option for those looking to prepare for grad school.
Grad schools often require students to have at least a 3.0 GPA, with the exact requirement varying from program to program, meaning students should place an emphasis on maintaining their grades.
However, you should still seek challenges and growth during your undergrad years for personal reasons as well. During a competitive admissions process, students willing to take challenging courses and push themselves out of their academic comfort zone stand out in a way that those who only take the required courses don’t.
BECOME A LEADER
Students looking for an edge on their grad school applications should focus on the quality of their extracurricular involvement versus the quantity. Attaining leadership positions in a few select organizations that apply to your passions and interests is a better strategy than joining every applicable club on campus.
Volunteer work is also an excellent way to display leadership qualities in your grad school application. Not only does volunteer work add to your resume and application, but you’ll also learn useful life and career skills along the way. While you work through your undergrad degree, consider volunteering with charities and organizations that align with your beliefs and values.
EARN VALUABLE EXPERIENCE
One way to show that you’re serious about your future career, graduate school included, is to earn hands-on experience in your field. Ways to gain that experience include participating in work-study programs, snagging an exclusive internship, or working an entry-level position in your field during the summers.
Having the ability to manage responsibilities in a professional environment is key to both being admitted into grad school and succeeding once you’re there. By gaining hands-on experience in your field before ever applying for graduate school, you’ll be creating a record of your work ethic that you can point to in your application.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Building your social network goes hand-in-hand with working within your field and taking your undergrad studies seriously. The best time to start making relationships with peers and respected members in your field is well before you start asking them for letters of recommendation for your grad school application.
You shouldn’t limit your relationship-building to professors, mentors, and professionals within your field. Take the time to start building relationships with like-minded peers as well. Having friends applying for grad schools across the country in your field can be beneficial both during and after grad school.
HONE YOUR WRITING SKILLS
If you were hopeful that your college application essay was the last entrance essay you’d ever have to write, you’ll be sorely disappointed when it comes time to apply for grad school. Between personal statements and the process of asking for a letter of recommendation, you’ll be making good use of your writing skills throughout your grad school application.
Therefore, it pays to take advantage of the resources offered to you through your undergrad program to sharpen your writing skills. Whether that means attending writing seminars offered by your college or merely visiting the student resources center to find a writing tutor, most colleges have resources available to help students build this invaluable skill.
Do You Want To Go To Grad School?
It’s important that students have their own reason to attend grad school, rather than attending grad school solely because they think “it’s the right career move” or “it’s what my family wants for me.” While these can be powerful motivators during the beginning of grad school, as time wears on and the courses become harder, having internal motivations keeps students focused.
Keep in mind that grad school expenses will come in addition to the price tag attached to your undergrad degree. How do you plan on paying for your college education, and how does your plan include paying for your graduate degree?
For some students, the additional cost of a graduate degree may be too much to handle on top of their bachelor’s degree debt. In that case, students may choose to work in their field of study for several years before heading off to graduate school. As we mentioned above, this isn’t always a negative. The hands-on experience you can reference in your grad school application is a definite bonus; the only drawback would be that you risk losing focus after entering the work-force and never attending grad school at all!
Regardless of how you plan to approach grad school, WeAdmit counselors have you covered when it comes to the first step in your college education: being admitted into undergrad. Whether you plan on attending the same college for both your undergrad and grad degrees, or you’re simply focused on the first step of finding the right college for your first four years, WeAdmit’s team approach is designed to get the ball rolling on your future.
So What Do You Think: Are You Ready To Prepare For Graduate School?
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