Several Questions to Ask Yourself
Going to graduate school usually involves a career choice. You really need enthusiasm in this career area to be able to keep up with the demands and intensity of graduate life. Take some time to investigate your field of interest before applying. Talk to alumnae or professors in the field and read resources on the subject.
In many professional fields such as medicine, law, psychology, and education, an advanced degree is necessary. For others, a graduate degree can enhance your earning power in an occupation and influence how far and fast you will advanced in your field. Most human service fields are examples of this. The chances of obtaining increased responsibility on the job will be enhanced through obtaining an advanced degree.
You may need to take a couple of years off to work to save money for graduate school. Many graduate students are able to cover all or a substantial amount of the cost with grants, fellowships or assistantships. Obtaining loans are also a possibility. Make sure you investigate these options before deciding you do not have the financial means. Remember, most fellowships and scholarships are competitive and are awarded early.
Take some time to assess your energy level. Do you have the motivation to stay in school for one to seven more years? You may need to take some time off to "discover yourself" and/or gain some work experience. After taking time off to work, many students find they have goals more clearly defined and are better prepared academically for graduate school. They also find they have a better perspective on life in general and the energy to invest themselves in their education. Taking time off can also give you the information needed to determine exactly what program you need for a particular field. In addition, some graduate schools will not accept students without some prior work experience; this is true of most MBA programs.
Make sure you are deciding to attend graduate school for the right reasons. Some students feel tempted to continue their education because they do not feel ready to face the demands of "real life" or are not clear on what career they want to pursue. These are exactly the reasons not to go to graduate school. Some graduate schools that incorporate internships and work related experiences into the program serve as a good transition period from college to the work force. You need to be clear on your goals before committing the time and expense.
Going to graduate school full-time is a more intensive process and allows you to interact with the colleagues in your program at a closer level. Some programs require that you go full-time and it may be difficult if not impossible to get some types of financial aid without attending full-time. However, attending graduate school part-time does allow you the chance to work in an organization that is willing to pay the bill for graduate school.
Although there is no ideal profile for the successful graduate student, there are some qualities that are important in order to make it through productively. Some of these skills include intelligence, initiative and self-discipline. Most graduate programs assume that students will maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. Time management skills, being focused and persistence and important qualities. In addition, the ability to establish good working relationships with your fellow students, faculty and internship mentors are also important.