How to Prep for Grad School: 6 Important Steps

Did you know that how your prepare for grad school is very similar to how you prepared for your undergraduate degree? Just like your bachelor’s, you need to consider your goals, and career options, compare schools and programs, and visit the campus. It’s also a good idea to start your grad school applications early!

Like with any decision, there are pros and cons to going to grad school.

Flickr user NKCPhoto

How to Prepare for Grad School

1. Consider Your Goals

Before you even think about what schools you’d like to attend for your Master’s, you should be giving thought to your goals in your education, finances, and future career field. Here are some questions you’ll want to consider:

  • Is a Master’s required for your career goals?
  • If not, is there another reason you’d like this degree? For most career fields, a master’s increases your salary quite a bit, for example!
  • Is it financially feasible for you to continue your education?
  • What program would best fit your intended career?
  • What do you want out of the graduate program and school?

Ultimately, you want to decide if graduate school is right for you, and if so, what program will best fit your goals. There are pros and cons to deciding on graduate school:

Pros of Graduate School

  • It could advance your career
  • You could see a higher salary and more job opportunities
  • You’ll further your education and skill set
  • It can be required for some positions

Cons of Graduate School

  • It can be expensive
  • It’s additional years of education
  • There are no guarantees you will make more money upon graduation
  • It can be stressful and time-consuming, especially if you’re working or have a family

2. Review Your Finances

Of course, graduate school can be costly as we mentioned above. So before taking your next steps, you’ll want to review your finances, your current student loan debt, and your goals for your financial future. You should also complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as there are packages available for graduate students from both the federal government and universities.

3. Pick Out Schools

Just like you did with your undergraduate school search, you’ll want to create a running list of universities that look like strong contenders for your graduate education. Think about what’s important to you, what you want out of a school, and where you’d like to live for the next 2+ years. For some, the choice can be easy – they’ll simply earn their Master’s from their undergraduate school! For others, though, that may not be an option, or it may not be the best option.

You can also take the lessons learned from your initial undergraduate search and your undergraduate experience to help you decide on potential universities.

4. Compare Programs

Next, you’ll want to compare the graduate degree programs in the schools you picked out. How do they stack up against one another? You should

  • Ask current students and alumni of the program about their experiences
  • Look into hiring rates after graduation from the program
  • See if it has the correct classes for your career goals
  • Compare costs
  • Check out the reviews of the program
  • Compare locations
  • Think about anything else that matters to you in a university and location

5. Start the Application Process Early

From searching for the correct graduate program to submitting your application, applying takes a lot of time. You shouldn’t wait until the last minute to decide on a school. It’s recommended that you start the application process about six months before you apply to grad school. 

6. Visit Campuses

Just like you did with your undergraduate school, it’s a good idea to visit university campuses. You’ll want to tour the facilities as well as the nearby village, town, or city. These visits can give you a true idea if the school is right for you or not. An official tour can be a great place to get started, but be sure to do your own exploration as guides and schools only show you what they want you to see during these tours.

If visiting isn’t an option, either due to location, time, or cost of travel, many schools are still offering virtual tours on their websites!

Preparing for grad school isn’t scary – after all, you’ve done all this before when you searched for an undergraduate program! Completing these steps will help you ensure you have a master’s program that fits your unique needs and goals when it comes to your education.

Find the Right Grad School

Want to learn more about the various Master’s programs available to students? Our Major Search tool doesn’t only work for undergraduate majors – you can use it for graduate programs, too! Check it out here and learn more about what you’ll learn in the programs, potential career fields, and the best schools for each major.

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