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The Road to Grad School

For seniors, the final year of college is filled with major decisions that impact the future. One of those decisions is whether or not graduate school is a viable option. Many people will tell you and your student it’s best to go straight to grad school while others will say you should wait and get actual work experience before getting your master’s degree. Because my field of interest has become saturated in this mobile- and social-media-driven world (and because I’m a nerd who actually likes going to school), I felt that going straight to grad school would set me apart from others and better equip me for the workforce—but I wasn’t really sure. I, like many students, found myself stressed and overwhelmed when thinking about my future and where I would end up after graduation; however, I was able to receive the help I needed from the university to find the path that was best suited for me. If your student is considering the possibility of attending grad school, here is what I did that I would encourage everybody to do.

Research Programs of Interest (Junior Year)

Before you consider or apply to a graduate program, it is important to know all you can about it. As an Integrated Marketing Communications major, I’m interested in the marketing/advertising/public relations field. I began searching for schools that had either an IMC, advertising, marketing, or public relations/communications program. I looked at each school’s curriculum, faculty, special opportunities offered, and tuition. I made a simple chart of programs I was interested in, and then I separated the schools by the degree offered. Months later, I then made a massive chart that included each school’s name, where it was located, what degree it offered, the application deadline, the required GRE score, the personal statement prompt, how many recommendation letters were required, and the tuition. I found this to be very helpful as a visual guide and reminder.

Meet with Advisor or Mentor (End of Junior Year)

It’s important to get advice from somebody you look up to that has a great knowledge of your desired industry—luckily for me, my advisor fit both of those roles. I sat down with my advisor for an intensive advising session where he talked to me about life after graduation. We discussed the pros and cons of going straight into the workforce, and then we discussed the pros and cons of going straight to grad school. I presented him with my list of potential universities and degrees, and he went over each one and mentioned how my strengths suited me for the program. He then highlighted certain programs on my list and encouraged me to focus on them heavily. One important piece of knowledge is shared that I feel everybody needs to know is that it is best to attend a different school than where you received your bachelor’s degree (unless you’re in accounting or pre-med), because you’ve learned all you can learn with the teachers you currently have. Plus, diversity of education looks great on your resume and is attractive to employers.

GRE Prep (Summer after Junior Year)

If your student has to take the GRE, GMAT, or any other exam to get into grad school, it’s important to start studying as soon as he/she can. I felt like summer was the best time for me becau