It is never too early to think about graduate school. In fact, it is always a great idea to start early so you can identify which program and school will meet your career aspirations. It was around this time when I started thinking about my next steps after undergrad because I knew that there were applications due in December. I could vividly recall feeling panicked because one, I did not have any money for school and two, I was not sure what career path was right for me. There was only one thing I was certain of; I needed to plan ahead. When applying to graduate school, you should definitely plan ahead of time because it requires a great deal of self-reflection, research, and constant communication between you, the program that you are applying to, and your potential references.
You need to think about why you want to be in a certain career and if that career path makes you happy. For me, I knew that I wanted to help students become successful. Therefore, I the career path that I decided to take was the path to become an advisor within higher education. I also realized that I enjoyed helping transfer students because I could empathize and relate to their transitional experience. Hence, the reason why I wanted to work at a place like the Universities at Shady Grove.
“There are a great number of wonderful graduate schools, but which one is the right one for me?” was my question. Knowing where to start your graduate school research is always frustrating. However, I provided you with some ideas to keep in mind to help you start your process. Below are some of my suggestions to ask yourself.
- Location – determine the area of where you want to go to school (some prefer closer to home and some prefer out-of-state)
- Do they offer your program and if so, does their program meet what you want to accomplish and do they provide opportunities that will allow you to do internships?
- What types of financial aid do they offer? Can you work while you are in school?
- What is the faculty to student ratio?
- What resources are provided to students to ensure that they become successful?
- Will their program provide you some type of certification or licensure that you will need once you are ready to apply for jobs in your field?
It is important to maintain contact with your academic adviser and professors who can become one of your references. Many graduate schools do require letters of recommendations from their applicants because this is a testament of your potential success in the program and what you can contribute to the program as well.
Personally, I had to do quite a number of self-reflection to determine my interest and what will help me accomplish my goals of helping students succeed and giving back to the community. One of my long-term goals is to establish a scholarship for students like myself. By being involved in the community, I can meet individuals who may share the same goal and may be able to help make this goal come true (you never know). I have been very fortunate to have had many opportunities that helped me get to where I am today. Therefore, it will be life fulfilling for me knowing that I have made an impact in someone’s life.