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Preparing for Graduate School

How Should I Prepare for Graduate School?

If you think you might be interested in pursuing a graduate degree, then there are several steps you can take while an undergraduate to make yourself a stronger candidate.

Research Opportunities

As the pursuit of a graduate degree necessitates a commitment to research, becoming involved in research while an undergraduate can help you:

  • Decide whether graduate school is indeed right for you.
  • Narrow your interests.
  • Learn about professional opportunities that are available to those conducting intensive research.
  • Establish working relationships with other researchers.

If you think you might be interested in pursuing a graduate degree, you ought to consult with your major advisor and/or major professors to see what opportunities might be available.

Independent Study and Tutorials

Taking a tutorial (or independent study) as part of your undergraduate experience can be beneficial. Generally, tutorials take one of two forms – either you work on your own independent research project or you work in conjunction with a professor on his or her research project. Either way, such experience can provide you with skills and specialized knowledge you normally would not obtain through your regular classes. In addition, tutorials can also be a vehicle through which you produce a writing sample, narrow your interests, or develop a project upon which to base fellowship and grant applications.

Professional Associations

Professional associations are a great resource for students considering graduate study and fellowships because they serve as a hub for information. Such information can include:

  • Fellowship and grant competitions
  • Job openings and publication opportunities
  • Conference announcements

While you do not need to become a member of a professional association, memberships for students are relatively inexpensive and often provide a variety of benefits. For further information about the professional associations that serve your academic discipline, consult with your major advisor or major professors.

Conferences and Publishing

Attending conferences and attempting to publish in a peer-reviewed venue are significant ways that you can demonstrate to selection committees that you are a diligent and committed scholar. If you are interested in either of these options, you should seriously consider enrolling in a tutorial and discuss this possibility with your major advisor.

Know the Requirements for Each Degree Program Now

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you are considering applying for graduate school, you need to be aware of the minimum academic prerequisites for entrance into the programs. Begin by researching some of the programs at schools or in geographic locations you might be interested in attending. Evaluate whether you have met the minimum course requirement, minimum GPA requirement, and whether you are prepared or can be prepared to take the required standardized test(s) for admission. If not, you may need to consider taking the necessary (graduate or undergraduate) courses as a non-matriculated student in order to bolster your academic background as well as to prove that you are capable of succeeding in the discipline.