Inside Admissions: What to consider before applying to grad school

Applying for graduate school is a large decision in someone’s life and involves many difficult questions.  Is this what I really want to do?  How hard will the work load be?  Can I fit it into my life?  Can I afford it?  How will it benefit me and my future career?  Can I get in?  It is not a decision to be taken lightly – there are many different aspects of a school that an applicant should look into as they decide.

As you start your search for a graduate school that fits you, here are some aspects to take into consideration:

  • What job do you want to obtain after graduation? Does a particular graduate school prepare you for that job?  Does it provide you any licensing that you need for that job? (For example, in the state of Michigan you must complete a 500-hour practicum during your MA program to become licensed as a psychologist and not every program offers a practicum experience)
  • Does the program have a cohort or flex schedule model? Some programs are set up where you take classes with the same people every semester and your schedule is fixed.  Some programs allow you to sign up for different sections of a particular course that best fits your schedule.  There are pros and cons to both models.
  • Where is the school located? Will you need to move to attend?  If you are going to move, are there resources and/or entertainment nearby?  Will you have a support network there?  If not, how will you build one?
  • What methodology or theory is the school focused on? Does that fit with your mentality about the field?
  • Are you ready for graduate school? Graduate school can be and should be demanding.  Only 8.9% of the population have Masters degrees.  If it was easy, everyone would do it! Graduate school is pushing you to learn and broaden your understanding, so you want to make sure that you pick a school that will provide you the right challenges that you deserve as a student.
  • Are there current students you can talk to from the program? What has been their experience?

Once you pick a few schools to apply for, here are some helpful tips in the application process:

  • Confirm application deadlines.
  • Make sure you take your application seriously. Send in only your best work.  Make sure it has your name on it and that your answers focus on what the school is asking for.  Also, double check all of your spelling and grammar! 
  • If your program has an interview portion – prepare for it as you would for a job interview. Dress professionally, research their website, come with prepared questions, and practice typical interview questions beforehand.
  • Pick references for your application that have the time and energy to write a good reference for you. Pick individuals who have had direct experience working with you in some capacity, whether it is a professor, supervisor, or coworker.  Some schools may have specific people they would like you to request references from, if that is the case, make sure you follow their guidelines.

Carrie Pyeatt is MSP’s Coordinator of Admissions & Student Engagement.