As the Senior Relationship Manager for the Alumni program I often get questions about graduate school. I get these questions from brand new alumni, as well as alumni who have worked for a few years, have been on deferment and are now considering going back to school, both funded and non-funded areas. I hope to answer some of these questions in my next few blog posts.
When I applied to graduate school it was after much deliberation with my mentors but very little understanding of the process. The process itself can be very confusing and so I wanted one of my first posts to the community to be about this process. I will be sue to write a separate post just in the graduate program inquiry form and the Gates portion of that process, but I wanted to give some helpful tips on where to start and what to do.
First, where are you in the process? Are you a recent grad and have you gained work experience in the field you're interested in studying? Have you decided in the specific field? What made you choose this field instead of something similar? Have you looked into schools or programs? Have you spoken to advisors, faculty members or admissions people in those fields?
After you've decided on what you want to do (which is often the hardest part) the next step is developing plan for getting there. What is your action plan?
Some of your action plan will be decided for you. Depending on the type of program, you may need to start studying for standardized test. Whether that is the GREs, SOPHAS, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT or another, you want to give yourself plenty of time to not only take the test, but potentially retake the test if your not satisfied with your score. If your applications are due in January 2017, you should AT LEAST been studying by January 2016 and many advisors recommend taking the test some time in that spring, planning ahead for a retake that summer, if necessary. Some schools average scores while some take the highest score. Find out what your top choice prefers.
Often, applications require personal statements and recommendations. I will go into more detail about these in another post, but I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked for a recommendation and had to say no. With my schedule, I can't write you a decent recommendation with only a week notice. The most common mistakes I see mostly revolve around poor planning. Give your recommender at least a month and help them help you. More on this later.
Overall, the graduate school process is stressful. Help GMS help you. As you apply for your graduate schools, if you are trying to get GMS funding, you should be submitting your graduate program inquiry form at the same time. This is a form that allows us to evaluate whether the core curriculum of your program truly fits into one of our seven funded fields. We reach each of these individually, so please narrow down your search and submit no more than (preferably) 5 programs.
And last thing I will leave you with: picking a graduate program is all about best fit. When I applied to school I got into a graduate program that was s 2nd in the nation for education at that time. Although it was a great program, it was clear across the country. The program that I was looking for was specifically Higher Education Administration and Counseling Student Personnel. The program I chose was top 5 and top 10 in both and provided a better financial package. I couldn't have been happier with my decision because it was what was best for me.
Looking forward to talking and discussing those very important topic with you all. If you'd like to follow my blog, please click the heart on the top left to favorite the blog and be sure to follow me!
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