Graduate or professional school is not for everyone. It represents a significant investment in time, energy and resources, with no guarantee that the outcome will meet your expectations. In addition, most graduate education represents a significant departure from the traditional learning/teaching methods to which most students are accustomed.
If you have a clear sense of what career you want to pursue and an advanced degree is required for entry (i.e. Law, Medicine, College Teaching), then graduate school is for you. Or, if you want to immerse yourself in the study of a particular academic discipline purely for the love of it, then advanced study may prove to be satisfying and valuable.
However, if you are unsure of your goals, fearful of job hunting or following someone else's goal for your life, then talk with an objective counselor or advisor before taking this step.
Things to Think About
Information sought within you:
Examine your interests, abilities, and especially your values.
- Do you have the necessary interest and ability to pursue graduate school?
- Think about how much value you place on others' advice.
- Why do you want to go to graduate school? Examine your career goals and objectives.
- Are your goals realistic?
- Is graduate school necessary to accomplish your goals?
Information sought from outside you:
- Is graduate school necessary for the career field that interests you?
- Have you investigated career opportunities available to you at every educational level?
- What are the job prospects in the career field you are interested in at each degree level?
Information about your goals:
- What outcome do you expect if you get more education?
- What will you gain and what will you give up if you attend graduate school?
- What if you are not accepted into a graduate program?
Exploring Graduate School
Like job hunting, investigating and choosing and applying to graduate schools takes considerable time. Your final decision can have an impact on your future academic success and your career/life achievement later.
Some of the more important factors to investigate are program details, the general nature of the program, faculty, and reputation. Some students also look at admission requirements, competitiveness within a department, on the job training opportunities and placement of graduates. Still, others may be concerned about the size of the institution, geographic location, cost and the availability of financial assistance and housing.
Getting this information does not have to be difficult but will require time and effort. You may want to begin with Peterson's Annual Guide to Graduate Study and other specialized directories available in the Career Development Center's Career Library, 109 Netzer. Based on your specific criteria you can narrow down the possibilities and begin looking at college websites.
Other sources for investigating graduate programs include faculty advisors, faculty and others who are alumni(ae) of particular schools, and program representatives who often visit college campuses to recruit students. Of course, you will want to write or call the graduate schools of your choice for detailed information and applications. However, you should do some preliminary exploration to avoid receiving information from schools that you would not consider.
If at all possible, you should visit those colleges that are most attractive. In addition to seeing physical facilities, living quarters and geographic features, you can make arrangements to talk with students, faculty, advisors and career center personnel.
When you finally make applications, you will want to consider schools in which you believe admission will be difficult, somewhat difficult and not difficult. This strategy combined with your intensive information search will allow you to make the best choice from alternatives available.