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Reasons to Consider Graduate School

So, you think you are burned out with school. Take a deep breath and consider the possibilities I pose to you in the minutes it takes to read this page. You may be a returning student who has spent the last three years rising early and staying up late in the library. Or, you might be a senior anticipating graduation and vowing never to crack open another book again, especially of the boring academic genre. On the other hand, you may be a freshman who has committed yourself to finish your baccalaureate degree in four years or less and take the labor market by storm. Well good luck! Presently we are in an economic crisis, none of the current indicators present an optimistic picture of the job market. Just pick up your local paper or catch a glimpse of the national news. I am not just trying to scare you. However, you should strongly consider going beyond your baccalaureate studies and pursue an advanced degree.

Advanced studies include professional schools like medicine, law and graduate programs. Professional schools provide our doctors and lawyers with the knowledge and skills they need for practice in their fields. Along with professional degrees, there are certifications in clinical and technical skills. Another area of advanced studies includes a variety of academic degrees such as master’s degrees, doctor of philosophy degrees, and doctor of education degrees. These credentials can prove to be highly advantageous to individuals who want to gain higher pay, broader benefits, prestige, and make a difference.

There are a number of reasons to say yes to graduate school. Advanced academic and professional degrees will make you more competitive in today’s labor market. Many corporate and managerial positions require advanced degrees for their applicants. With an advanced degree you will broaden your occupational options significantly. Persons with advanced degrees have a number of advantages over people who settle for baccalaureate degrees. They tend to receive higher pay, have more comprehensive benefits, and are awarded more prestige than baccalaureates.


What do Graduate Programs Require to Apply? Most graduate programs require a bachelor’s degree in a specific or related field. Your chances of being accepted are high if you have a 3.0 GPA or higher. With a 3.5 GPA it is almost a cinch that you will meet the requirements for most graduate programs. Don’t let you GPA deter you from applying to a graduate program. There are a number of options for students with marginal GPAs. One example is to apply as a probationary students. If your GPA is not what you would like, ask your graduate advisor, coordinator, or graduate college about probationary applications. In addition to the GPA requirement, students will be asked to take either a general or discipline specific examination (a.k.a. GRE or graduate record exam). Your score may vary between a score of 1000 and 1500 depending on the admissions standard. There are workshops designed to prepare students for these examinations. However, many students perform well on these examinations without taking these workshops.


You might be wondering, “how do I select a graduate program that is right for me?” One of the first considerations in selecting a graduate school is location, location, location. There are institutions of higher learning as well as professional schools in every sector of the country. There are schools located near thriving metropolitan areas. These schools tend to be located in close proximity to office buildings and rush hour traffic.

There may also be a number of distractions in these areas not found on a similar scale in a small college town. Small town campuses tend to define the municipality itself. In a “college town,” students must drive a considerable distance to find the kind of night-life almost always found in larger cities. This option presents fewer distractions for students who wrestle between academic studies and having a social life. Small town campuses are also good for families. Many graduate students will find affordable housing and schools to meet their needs and those of their loved ones.

A second consideration in selecting a program, are specialty areas offered. Select a program that offers the program you will be most interested in. What is the most interesting area in your field? The specialty area you are interested in will motivate you to complete your graduate studies. For some this is a very difficult choice for them. However, in considering graduate studies you will explore many important parts of your personality and interests if you take the time to do so. Another option is to visit with professors in prospective programs. Ask them what areas they teach in and publish articles and books. It would also be helpful to read current journals, job advertisements, Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Princeton Review for hot areas in your field.

Finally, select a program that provides financial support to its graduate students. For students pursuing their master’s degree, graduate programs often offer fee waivers and assistantships. Fee waivers enable students to attend college without having to pay tuition. However, fee waivers do not include other fees. Assistantships, on the other hand, are a form of employment in an academic department. You may work with a faculty member on their research or in their classes. If you don’t ask you won’t know. This information is not always explicitly available to applicants to graduate programs. Only if you ask the right questions will you benefit from the available resources for graduate studies. Another source of funding is grants. The beautiful thing about grants is that they are not paid back. These are financial benefits paid to students of all types: racial and ethnic minority grants, academic grants, grants for women, and many others. Ask your graduate coordinator, advisor or graduate college for more information. Finally, master’s students can apply for loans. Unlike grants and fee waivers, loans are repaid to the lending institution. Grants can be either supplemental or to defray the total cost of attending graduate school. Some states have “forgivable loan programs,” ask your graduate coordinator for information about forgivable loans. If you have a desire to attend graduate school you can. Now is the best time to make a choice to do so. A college education is not getting any cheaper.

Students pursuing their terminal degrees (doctoral) qualify for all of the funding provided to master’s students with the addition of “doctoral fellowships.” Fellowships come in two types. Some fellowships are pre-doctoral fellowships. These awards are provided to doctoral students while they are completing their programs. A second type, is post-doctoral fellowships these awards are available to students who have completed their doctoral studies. These award are provided to doctoral graduates who are interested in further studies in a specialized area in their fields. These awards are usually given for a period of 1-3 years. Post-doctoral programs enable doctoral graduates to conduct research and publish articles without the responsibilities of teaching. However, it is important to keep in mind that these programs are not a source of permanent employment. It is not possible to work full time and complete graduate studies at the same time. Doctoral fellowships are a way to obtain financial support for graduate studies. The advantage of this source of funding is that you are not required to pay it back. Again, if you can put doctoral studies in your sights you can find the funding to do so.


There are a number of tips one should consider for surviving and succeeding in graduate school. The first is time management. There is no substitute for organizing one’s time around their list of priorities. In addition to the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing, it is equally important to compose a list of other priorities. Advanced academic study requires more reading, oral and written examinations, in-class and professional presentations, and on hands participation in research and teaching. For this reason, it is important to compose a schedule of daily, weekly, and monthly activities. Set a schedule of days and times for reading, researching, writing, and relaxing. Yes, it is important that you schedule times for exercise, rest, and relaxation.

A second tip is to develop collegial relationships with other graduate students. Students who have been in the program are an invaluable resource. In-coming graduate students can greatly benefit from the experiences of their predecessors. However, a word of caution is warranted in this regard. Not every graduate student who came to the program before your arrival can provide you with the guidance and advice you need to succeed. There are some questions that are best answered by the graduate program director or coordinator depending specific to their graduate program. It is some times most advisable to consult with your graduate advisor about specific academic degree requirements in your program.

Finally, foster a strong relationship with the professors in your department. There is no substitute for taking advantage of their office hours. At these times it is possible to ask questions related to your specific interests and circumstances. Professors are a source support and encouragement for the struggling student. Make them earn their money.

Manage your education like you would a multinational corporation. You are the chief executive officer (CEO). So, take an active role in determining your own future. Some goals will only be realized with the preparation an advanced degree program will provide. Sick of school; get over it! Learning is a life-long process; make every opportunity count. Go for your dreams!