How to prep for graduate school as an undergraduate
If you have your eyes set on attending graduate school, you’ll probably want to know how you can start preparing for the experience as an undergraduate.
There’s a lot to think about, including the admissions test, choosing a major and deciding how you want to finance your postgraduate studies.
It can seem like a daunting experience, but with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Here are some factors to think about:
Find your ‘why’
Before throwing thousands of dollars or taking on more debt to attend graduate school, it’s important to have some clarity over why you’re choosing to do your masters.
Identify your goals and interests – are you enrolling in graduate school because you don’t know what to do post-graduation? Do you have a rough idea of what plan to do after completing your master’s?
If you can’t answer those questions, you might want to rethink your decision. That’s not to say you should strike out graduate school from your list – perhaps it’s an indication that you might benefit from spending a couple of years in the workforce to help you solidify what you really want in your career before attending graduate school.
Choosing a graduate programme
Deciding to attend graduate school might be the easy part, but choosing a programme can be another battle in itself.
You might have a few areas of interest in mind, but you could also speak to professionals who are already working in your field of interest for some pointers, such as their career trajectory, their responsibilities as well as the certifications needed to reach their current role.
In addition to this, it’s also important to decide if you want to pursue a research or coursework-based graduate programme, or a combination of both.
Do your research by pouring over the graduate school’s website. Don’t hesitate to contact their faculty for advice, in addition to current students.
Develop a strong relationship with your lecturers
If you’re going to apply to graduate school, you’ll likely need some recommendation letters as part of the admissions process.
As such, it’s important to start cultivating strong relationships with your lecturers or professors now, in addition to giving them time to craft the letter.
Financing your master’s
Be it a scholarship, a student loan or borrowing from the bank of mum and dad, a postgraduate degree is a big financial investment, so you’ll want to be clear about the price tag on the front end and what the return on investment (ROI) is from the programme you’re looking at.
You can find data about the ROI of certain programmes, so do look them up.
You could also speak with the faculty and graduates for some insights about what you stand to gain from the degree and how taking on a certain amount of debt can pay off if it opens the door to lucrative job opportunities.
Prepare for entrance exams
What are the entrance exams that you’ll need to complete to gain admissions into your dream graduate school?
Whether it’s the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, or others, admissions tests can be expensive, so give yourself ample time to prepare.
In some instances, you might want to invest in preparatory courses too to help you score well on your first try, so budget accordingly.
It’s not overly ambitious to start familiarising yourself with subjects that you’ll be learning in graduate school prior to enrolling.
By familiarising yourself with journals in your field or some of the topics you’re bound to learn in graduate school, you’ll be better prepared for your classes and be able to contribute to discussions more fruitfully.
If you’ll be doing a research-based programme, reading journals ahead of time will be useful in keeping abreast in what’s new, and can potentially help you decide what issues you can pursue in your research.
By starting early and with the right preparation in place, going to graduate school doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal.