Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Wonderful World Of...Grad School?


I'm a year and a half away from graduation. I'm a year and a half from needing to find a job. I'm a year and a half from grad school.

I love school, you guys. I'm always saying I want to be done, but in my heart, I know that's not the case. 

So, I've been looking into graduate schools and graduate programs recently. It's a process similar to choosing a college or university with a main difference. There are a number of graduate programs to choose from and most of the time students have to apply directly into that program. If you think grad school is for you, you're probably wondering how to choose what (and where) you want to study in the net chapter of post-secondary education. Fret not, here are 5 tips/things to consider when choosing a school and program: 

1. Location is everything: Try to choose schools in the area you would like to live/begin your career. Most graduate programs offer flexible scheduling because full time work is often the way students finance their education. By furthering your education in the city you'd like to work, you're leaving yourself open to whatever job opportunities may pop up (and you're giving yourself an excuse to live in a place you've always dreamed of). 

2. Pick a school with programs you'll love: Chances are, you'll be holding down a job (which will likely be full time) while you're working on your master's. If you don't love what you're studying or you feel like it isn't relevant, reconsider the school or furthering your education. Schools seem to be including a variety of programs that allow specialization, which is great! This way, you'll be in a program you love and that will help further your career.

3. Finances: Grad school, like undergrad, is going to be expensive. You might feel like you're drowning in a sea of student loan debt. If you aren't holding down a full time job and you want to gain experience in your field, consider becoming a teaching or research assistant. This is a great way to build up your resume, make some money, brush up on your skills, and it's fantastic practice for being in front of people (because you're going to be in the working world). The schools I'm planning on applying to offer these TA options for the area I'm studying as an undergrad and for classes  where my master's training will be put to use.

4. Evaluate Competition: Master's programs can get extremely competitive! It's imperative to make a strong impression. Join groups like PRSSA if you haven't before you finish your time as an undergrad. Go for a few internships. Volunteer. Make sure your brand is solid and cohesive. All of these will help you stand out. 

5. Make sure you're ready: Sometimes, people head to grad school the moment (ok, this is a bit of an exaggeration) they are handed their B.A. or B.S. But, that's not the plan for everybody. As a graduate student, you will be expected to have certain skill sets and a broad understanding of topics. You may have gotten all of these tools in your time as an undergrad, which is great! But sometimes, taking a second to plummet yourself into the working world will provide you with an extra bit of understanding and might give you a sharper focus on the program you would want to enter. Say, for example, you're planning on entering a program for publishing after you've earned your B.A. in English. A year into working, you realize that you want to use your writing skills for social media. You can then re-focus and enter a media studies or media management program.

I hope these five considerations have been helpful! These are items I've been considering since, like I said,  I'll be getting ready for grad school so soon.

Do you have any tips to add? Any thoughts? Let me know! Tweet @UndrPRssr!



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