Grad School Preparation
Graduate programs are for college graduates with their bachelor's
degrees who seek and advanced degree, master's or a doctorate, in their
area of interest. Applying to professional or graduate school requires
patience and serious consideration. If you have any questions about
applying to graduate school or how to prepare for entry exams, contact
the Career Center by calling (706) 236-2292.
Researching Graduate School
As graduation quickly approaches, seniors may wrestle with the
age-old question "Which comes first, graduate school or employment?" For
some, this is an easy decision to make; for others, additional thought
and evaluation are required. If you are confident that an advanced
degree is required for entrance into your chosen field (law, medicine,
etc) and you are academically prepared, you should apply for graduate
school admission. Keep in mind that post graduate school admission is
generally very competitive. You may need to complete additional
coursework or gain work experience to be considered a strong candidate
for the program of your choice.
If, on the other hand,
your decision is based purely on default or lack of clear career
direction, graduate school may not be for you. Some seniors decide to
enter graduate school to avoid the complicated process of finding a job.
This strategy can actually lead to more frustration as some students
find that graduate school did not provide the "answer" that they sought.
Furthermore, very few employers are willing to take a risk on a
misdirected candidate regardless of his/her educational credentials. If
postponing a career decision is your reason for considering graduate
study, schedule an appointment with an advisor in the Career Center to
discuss your options.
Some will argue that by attending
graduate school immediately following undergraduate school, you will be
more successful because your study skills are well developed and you are
comfortable with the academic environment. Others will insist that you
need a break and that work experience will help you to solidify your
It is important to consider the value of
work experience prior to graduate school. Related work experience will
add to your credentials and may strengthen you application for more
competitive programs. Work experience may also help you identify related
career paths that were unfamiliar to you. This exposure may cause you
to redirect your interests and to apply to different programs than you
may have originally considered.
It is also realistic to
consider the financial impact of graduate school when deciding whether
to pursue a graduate degree. Many employers value continuing education
and will help their employees fund advanced degrees on a part-time
basis. Some employers will even pay 100% of educational expenses for
The decision to attend graduate school
is yours to make; no one else can make it for you. Be sure to give this
decision careful thought.
RESEARCHING GRADUATE SCHOOLS
Graduate degrees can be academic or professional. Academic degrees
focus on original research, whereas professional degrees stress the
practical knowledge and skills needed for a particular profession.
Master level programs may take one to three years to earn, and
doctorates usually take an additional four years to complete.
you have decided to attend graduate school, it is then time to begin
researching potential universities and programs. Begin by talking with
faculty who share your interests. They may also have colleagues at some
of the institutions that you are investigating who could provide you
with insight into those universities.
For a listing of accredited
programs in your area of interest, start by looking through graduate
reference guides such as the Peterson's Guides available at the Career
Center. These directories will give you basic information on degrees
offered, tuition, faculty, student-faculty ratio, and contact
information. You might also check them out at www.petersons.com. Other
Internet sites to assist your graduate school efforts can be found in
the Career Center graduate school handout located in the Career Library.
After identifying programs of interest, you should
research to learn about pre requisites, the graduate school catalog,
application materials, and financial aid information. Several graduate
school guides are now available on the Internet. To help you research
graduate programs, use the time line handout available in the Career
Visit these links to further explore your graduate school options.
If possible, visit the campuses that most interest you. A first-hand look is essential for your top programs, and is recommended for your "medium" and "back-up" schools. If the school does not require an interview, request one. If the school does not allow interviews (some will interview by invitation only), arrange for a "campus visit" during which you can speak with faculty and students.
There is some debate about the role of interviews with faculty and students. Few programs require an interview as part of the application process, and the official rhetoric is that interviews play no part in admission. Graduate school interviews are just as likely to be for the benefit of the student - serving as an information-gathering session - as they are for the benefit of the admissions committee. To a large degree, then, interviews are informational only.
However, a positive interview can do nothing but strengthen your application. Use this time wisely to demonstrate to the professor(s) that your interests, goals, and skills are compatible with the program, will enhance the program, and/or will be furthered by the program. The interview also allows the professors to put a face and a personality with the numbers and words on paper.