To say this semester has been busy is an understatement. It seems like I have multiple assignments due in multiple classes all throughout the week, but I am grateful that I'm really enjoying my classes this semester. I've run into a few undergrad friends while on campus who have mentioned wanting to apply to grad school when they graduate. This is also a popular topic from readers who email me so I thought I would post a few tips regarding the grad school application process.
Here are five tips for getting started on the grad school application process, based on my experience. I am so happy that I chose to attend grad school
1. Have a career goal(s)
I think it's so important to have a career goal or goals before you select a grad program or decide to attend grad school. Otherwise, you may waste your time and money. I made a list of possible careers and then did some research to find out what types of masters degrees could lead to those careers.
2. Study for the appropriate graduate exam & sign up for it
Once you know your career goals, you should also know what type of graduate degree you are seeking. I am earning my Masters of Science in Public Policy, but some people go to grad school for their MBA (Masters of Business Administration), MPA (Masters of Public Administration), LL.M. (Masters of Law), and more. So figure out what degree you are seeking before you sign up for the general graduate exam (GRE). I took the GRE and did well after several months of serious studying.
3. Find potential schools/programs and look for professors/faculty who inspire you
After I signed up for the GRE and started studying, I began looking for possible grad schools and programs that would help me achieve my career goals. Georgia Tech was immediately my first choice because I had such an enjoyable undergrad experience, but I still did research on other Public Policy/Political Science/Public Administration programs across the nation. I made a list of schools that I could apply to based on rankings, specialities, location, tuition costs, program length, and the faculty members' interest. Georgia Tech ultimately offered a great program that had professors and faculty that did research in the area of policy I am interested in, and I appreciated the familiarity of the campus along with the ability to start my program in January.
4. Look at financial aid options/graduate teaching positions
After having to pay for some of my undergrad college, I wanted to have a graduate experience that was paid for by someone else. And lots of people encouraged me to only attend grad school if I could get it paid for, great advice! My program offers teaching assistant positions and research assistant positions, and this is common at many graduate programs. I asked the program advisor about the likelihood of obtaining a position before applying and I'm so glad I did.
When you have decided on a program(s) to apply to, check out their application and application process even if you're not ready to apply yet. Completing my application took me a couple of months. The hardest part is writing your personal statement and preparing for your interview (if your program requires this). Definitely give yourself enough time to complete the application (your graduate exam score is part of this) before the deadline. I had several friends who had completed a masters program read over my personal statement and provide feedback. I probably edited that paper 25 times before I was satisfied with it (and it was under the character limit).
See my posts on similar topics: