Is Grad School Right for You?

in Education

So, you’ve made it through four years of college and you’ve earned your degree. You can picture yourself landing your dream job and launching a successful career. However, you still have a lingering question: should I go to grad school?

Maybe you’re five years out of college and working in a field you love but feel like your options are limited. You think to yourself: would I have more opportunity for advancement if I went to grad school?

The benefits of an advanced degree are numerous, and so are the reasons for earning one. Many people go back to school even after working for several years to improve professional prospects in their current career. Others go back to school to change their careers completely because their interest and skills have evolved. Whatever the motive, pursuing a graduate degree may what you need to thrive in your career.

Here are some advantages graduate studies have compared to undergraduate studies:

  • Greater Earning Power– Many people who choose to attend grad school say earning power is their motivation. While important, money shouldn’t be the only reason you pursue a graduate degree.
  • Work on Advanced Projects– For example, a computer scientist who delved into computer graphics years ago can go back to school to learn the standards for CGI technology used in the modern film industry.
  • Immersion and Pursuit of Passion in Your Career– With a wide range of general education requirements, you probably didn’t love every class you took as an undergraduate. Or, you just didn’t know what career you wanted to pursue. As graduate students, many people have more definitive goals and have greater motivation to do their work because it’s what they love.

The Basics of Grad School

Attending graduate school is a different experience than earning a bachelor’s degree, associate degree or a certificate. Sure, they all require you to attend classes taught by experienced professors, but that’s the extent to which they’re similar.

While an undergraduate program provides you with a necessary foundation in your field of interest, a graduate degree builds upon that knowledge, allowing you to specialize within a specific area of study. Your work is more directed in a master’s or Ph.D. program, and you’re less supervised by professors. They tend to serve more like guides and mentors than undergraduate professors.

Choosing a Graduate Program

There’s a lot more to choosing a graduate program than merely looking at their rankings. While a program’s reputation is essential, it’s only one of several factors to consider.

The best way to choose the right program is to first determine whether you want to further your current career or switch to a different profession. Either way, you should talk to a mentor to help you make the right decision.

Grad School Next Steps

Once you’ve narrowed down potential schools, spend some time researching each program before applying to any. Typically, applying for graduate programs takes time, work, perseverance, and patience. Careful planning and staying organized can prevent the whole application process from becoming overwhelming. This juncture isn’t the time to cut corners or rush.

The importance of submitting a compelling application can’t be overstated. It’s the only opportunity you have to sells yourself to the admissions committee. So it’s worth putting in every second and effort to get the application right.

Every school has its own application forms and supplemental submission processes, which can also vary by program. However, the basic requirements are remarkably similar from school to school, and they most likely include the following:

  • Transcripts– Transcripts are perhaps the most crucial supplemental documents graduate degree applicants need to provide. You will often need to acquire an official copy of your transcript from your school registrar.
  • Application Form– This document provides necessary information like your name, address, educational background, and other contact details.
  • Standardized Test Scores– The most common graduate school qualification exam is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. It can be nerve-racking, especially if you’ve been out of school for a long time, but’s manageable.

Everything You Need to Know About the GRE

The GRE is designed to measure a students’ analytical writing skills, verbal reasoning, creative thinking, and quantitative reasoning. It’s typically taken by prospective graduate and business school applicants. This test has three sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning– This section measures your ability to analyze and draw viable conclusions from a discourse.
  • Quantitative Reasoning– This section measures your ability to solve problems using mathematical models, to understand/interpret/analyze quantitative information and to apply basic skills and elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
  • Analytical Writing– The section tests your ability to: support ideas with relevant reasons and examples, articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively, examine claims and accompanying evidence, control the elements of standard written English and sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion.

Tips for Effective GRE Preparation

  • Understand the exam format and requirements before preparing for it. This will help you save time.
  • Take a practice test to examine your time management and problem-solving approach, among other factors.
  • Practice answering questions before looking at options. This approach will give you a sense of independence, enabling you to think outside the box.
  • Get an experienced tutor to help you identify your weak points.

GRE Test Dates

The GRE exam schedule for paper-delivered testing for the General Test is set for Nov. 9, 2020, while the dates for GRE Subject Test are Sep. 14 and Oct. 26 of 2020.

Students also have the option to reschedule or cancel the test date they’ve chosen for the GRE within the same testing year. But you need to put in the rescheduling request at least four days before the scheduled test date.

Do What’s Right for You

Attending graduate school entails a lot of work. Just to apply, you need to research programs, take the GRE, apply for scholarships and write countless essays. However, if you know what you want and getting there requires a graduate degree, it could very well be worth it. A graduate degree can open up a world of opportunity and help you take your career to new heights.

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