As a recent Master’s Degree graduate, I’d like to share some tips for students headed off to graduate school or even just considering it.
1. Be prepared to not have a free moment. Working and going to graduate school part-time evenings and weekends is nothing like your undergraduate experience. You have to really want this and be truly dedicated. It’s incredibly hard to manage your work life, school work, and personal life. Know what you’re getting yourself into and make sure that this is 100% what you want to do.
2. Join professional associations and organizations within your field (student rates are much cheaper!). They will provide you with great resources and professional development opportunities to get involved. In addition, go to professional conferences in your field to learn more and more importantly to network. You WILL graduate before you know it and you need to be active in your field and show your colleagues how good you are at what you do.
3. Make friends in your program – these are your future colleagues and professionals in the field. Once you’re employed after you graduate, it’s also great to have someone to bounce ideas off of other than a supervisor or boss – get their contact information and stay connected after graduation. Also, depending on your field of study, some programs are more project based with more group work than others. It can be difficult to engage in group work now that you’re probably not living on campus or connected with many other students.
4. Be involved in class and develop positive relationships with your professors. Your professors, much like your classmates, are your future colleagues and you’ll probably be asking them for letters of reference upon graduation. They may also have an in somewhere once you’re looking for jobs.
5. Complete an internship. Many Master’s level programs require it. If they don’t, make sure you are either working in your field already or have some kind of internship experience, whether it’s paid or unpaid (paid is preferred but be prepared for something unpaid, as most are). You’ll need to get your foot in the door somewhere and have some kind of experience on your resume.
6. Make sure that this is what you truly want to do. This is a huge commitment, so make sure you at least work in the field first and understand what being a professional in this specific industry means. Don’t invest all the time, money, and energy into something unless you really know this is for you.
7. Choose a college for the quality of the program, not for brand name. You are most likely paying for this college experience on your own with no help from your parents. Now is not the time to acquire tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Even better, try to find a job in your field of study where your employer has tuition reimbursement options available and will help you pay for your schooling.
8. Understand that it may take more than 1-2 years to complete your program. Some programs will advertise that they are 1 or 2 year programs, but be careful. They are probably assuming you will go full-time (including summers) and are not including any kind of internship or practicum requirements in that time frame. For example, I was told my program was a 2 year program and it ended up taking me 4 years to complete it. If you are working full-time and only taking classes part-time in the evenings and weekends, it will take you longer than someone who can take 3-4 classes at a time because they are only working part-time or are unemployed.
Ultimately, graduate school is a huge investment of time, money, and energy. Be well informed and do your research! Please share any additional tips you have!
About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.
About the author: Laura Guarino is the Student Services Coordinator with the College Resource Center, LLC. Laura has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Boston College and a Master’s degree and license in School Guidance Counseling. She also holds a certificate in College Admissions Counseling. Laura is at the forefront of the college admissions process for the families of The Smart Track™ Toolkit.
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