7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying to Grad School

Posted September 25, 2012

You graduated from college and earned a bachelor’s degree, but now what? Do you start looking for work or do you go to grad school? This is the dilemma so many college graduates face every semester. While many are eager to jump into their first jobs, others find themselves wanting to go back to school to have more credibility in their field, increase their earning potential, change careers, or do anything but work. You may think grad school is the only way to achieve your professional goals, and maybe it is, but before you send off your grad school application and never look back, ask yourself these seven questions to help you make the right decision right now.

  1. Why do I want to go to grad school?

    This is by far the most important question you should ask yourself long before applying to grad school. Why? Because you need to know if you’re doing this for the right reason, or if you really want to earn a graduate degree as bad as you think. U.S. News & World Report suggests writing down your reasons for going to grad school and list them in order of importance. This will hopefully give you a better idea why going to grad school is a good idea or not.

  2. What do I want to study?

    Many students don’t even consider the possibility of applying to grad school without knowing what they want to study, whereas others know they want to keep learning but don’t know what specific discipline yet. If you are on the fence about what type of academic or professional degree you want, then you need to think long and hard about your passions, what excites you, and how you can turn these motivations into a career.

  3. Where do I want to study?

    This is another important question you have to ask yourself before applying. Where you study has a huge impact on your overall grad school experience. The school and, most importantly, your department and advisor can make or break your graduate education. When looking for grad schools, be sure to talk to faculty members in your desired department. Also, consider your flexibility in terms of location, cost of living, climate, and proximity to family and friends.

  4. When will I apply?

    Timing is everything when you’re applying to grad school. You want to give yourself enough time to complete all exam and application requirements, but you also want to make sure you are mentally, emotionally, and financially ready to take the next step in your education. If you need more time to decide if grad school is a realistic possibility or not, then wait, but know that the longer you stay out of school, the harder it is to go back.

  5. Will I be a full-time or part-time student?

    Depending on your financial status and personal demands, this may be an afterthought for many grad school applicants. Those who go full time generally focus primarily on school and complete their degree more quickly, whereas part-time students usually juggle work and other personal obligations outside of school. Before you apply to grad school, think about which category you fit in and weigh the pros and cons of both.

  6. Can I get hired without a graduate degree?

    It’s absolutely necessary to have a graduate degree for some careers and not for others. Before you make the leap to grad school, you have to ask yourself if earning a master’s degree is the difference between getting a job and not. Do your research and look up current job requirements for your desired field. Again, think about why you want to apply to grad school in the first place and let this be another factor in your decision.

  7. Do I have what it takes?

    It’s true, grad school and undergrad are completely different. Sure, you’ve pulled all-nighters and spent hours studying during your undergraduate program, but grad school is double the studying and sleepless nights. Professors don’t take pity on you or give you second chances in grad school. It takes a professional, motivated, and responsible student to make it through this grueling academic experience. Are you ready to put it the work?

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