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GREady: Get Ready for Graduate School

Do you want to attend graduate school? If the answer is yes, shift the gear in drive. This blog will help you 1) stay informed about graduate programs, 2) decide on graduate schools, 3) apply for graduate schools (including the GRE and personal statements), 4) prepare for interviews, 5) find funding and lots more. Although this site cannot guarantee a masters or doctoral position, it does promise that you will be a very competitive candidate for your desired program!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Do You Want To Go To Graduate School?

Perhaps you are sophomore in college or a laboratory assistant in a pharmaceutical company and have been pondering about whether or not to apply to graduate school. The decision to apply and later attend graduate school is a life altering experience and could very well be the biggest decision of your career. Chances are, since you have clicked on this blog, you have seriously given this some thought and only need a little more information to make the final commitment.

First of all I would like to briefly mention that I cannot tell you how many times I have heard potential graduate applicants state that “four to six years is too much time” or simply that they are “too old to try.” These types of negative thoughts can only dim your desire to apply for a short while and leave you later with the question , “what if I had taken the chance?”. You must ask yourself if not applying is worth giving up hope of a better future. A friend of mine told me that the best way to think about it is that odds are in six years you will still be six years older unless you have found a youth elixir, if this is the case, could you share your secret with me? So, would you rather be six years older or six years older with your masters or doctoral degree?

Before applying to graduate school, some other points to consider are the following:

1) Do You Have A Family? An immediate family is a huge factor in going to graduate school. This is especially so if you have children. They, as well as yourself, will have to make a lot of sacrifices such as moving to a new city or maybe even new state, financials, and time commitments. Also, this is a huge factor if you have elderly parents that you are caring for. You will have to make some arrangements if your parents are not able to take full care of themselves for long periods of time, such arrangements should be a part-time care giver. Make sure to have a family meeting to see how the rest of your family reacts to you attending graduate school.

2) Are You Prepared For Long Hours Of Studying? The first two years of a doctoral program are often the hardest. You will be expected to devote a large portion of your time studying for core classes and later for taking qualifying exams. Some universities suggest that when you are preparing for qualifying exams that you might want to attend the core classes again so that they will jog your memory.

3) Do You Like To Research? Right now, you are probably saying to yourself, “Duh, of course I like researching otherwise I would not even be interested in applying to graduate school.” However, some applicants do not realize how integral this is to graduate school. The majority of your graduate school career will be focused on researching, which means long hours in a laboratory and/or libraries. Also, you will have to be prepared to give monthly talks on your research and defend it in front of a committee.

4) What Will You Do With Your Final Degree? This is somewhat far in your future but is worthy of serious thought. Once you have your degree, what do you do with? You must be sure that the job market is favorable for those with masters or doctoral degrees in your field.

5) Is There Funding? One of my friends, who applied to a doctoral program in history, had to take out numerous loans to cover her tuition, books, apartment, and other living costs. This can get very expensive pretty fast. Before applying, see what the graduate school program offers in terms of teaching assistants, research assistants, fellowships, grants and scholarships. Also, check online and at your own university to see if graduate school funding is offered to alumni.

6) Is This What You Really Want? Taking points 1-5 into consideration, try to picture yourself 10-15 years from now. What are you doing? What is your life like? Has your life improved? If you see a favorable picture, you know graduate school is definitely in your horoscope.

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