Should You Go to Grad School?
Deciding whether to go to graduate school or not can be daunting. You’re already in debt for your undergraduate degree, and the thought of taking on two more years’ worth of loans is hardly appealing. So, is grad school the right decision, and if so, how do you get into the best program for you?
- Remember that grad school is about preparing for a career.
It might be best to work for a year or two in a field that interests you and learn what degrees, if any, are necessary to advance. Many programs, such as MBA programs, prefer that you have actual work experience before applying. You might also find that once you’re employed in your field, the work isn’t as personally rewarding as you thought it would be. How nice not to have invested in a master’s if that is the case!
- Do your homework.
Some of the top master’s programs can be found in schools with no name recognition at the undergraduate level. Pull lists of top schools from online searches. Attend grad school fairs (like the one at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders). Don’t forget to consider the type of learning environment in which you thrive. Small versus large, urban versus rural. If you hate long winters, don’t pick a school in the snow belt!
- Ace your entrance exam.
Knowing how to take the test is just as important as knowing the material! Take a free GMAT, GRE, MCAT, or LSAT from the Princeton Review to see your starting point, and work to get where you need to be. (AAUW branches, you can hold practice tests for easy fundraisers.) If you need classroom or small-group instruction, private tutoring, or online prep, use the code AAUWSAVE15 for a 15 percent discount on products from the Princeton Review.
- Start planning your applications at least a year in advance.
You’ll need letters of recommendation, a portfolio of your work (for some programs), your transcripts, entrance test results, and great essays. A financial investment of this type requires the right preparation. You can also use this year to really determine that this is the right program to advance in your chosen career (see item 1!).
- Secure funding.
You don’t have to pay for every penny of grad school. Many organizations are sources of graduate funding. AAUW alone will provide almost $4 million in fellowships and grants this year, making us one of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women. Many employers have a tuition reimbursement program. See if yours does and what the guidelines are. Again, research online options. A great deal of money goes unawarded every year. Look for it!
Many thanks to AAUW collaborator the Princeton Review for their assistance in assembling these tips.