Preparing for Applying to Graduate School

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Robert Simon
Graduate Programs Manager
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
robert.simon@ce.gatech.edu

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Summaries

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There are several compelling reasons to consider graduate study, and preliminary steps taken now will improve students' prospects for graduate school later.

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Many undergraduate students find themselves immersed in their academic pursuits, adjusting to campus life, finding time for extracurricular and social activities, and perhaps even working.  As such, thinking about graduate school may not be at the forefront of their minds.  However, there are several compelling reasons to consider graduate study, and preliminary steps taken now will improve students' prospects for graduate school later.

Attending graduate school increases knowledge in areas of interest, enhances one's ability to take on more challenging work, and expands a student's professional network. Furthermore, numerous studies and reports have demonstrated that lifetime earning potential is increased dramatically with advanced degrees, as is quality of life, health, and other social metrics.  The question undergraduate students should be asking is not whether or not to attend graduate school, but where?

Selection of a graduate program should consider several factors, including quality of the program (faculty, curriculum, facilities, and reputation), a student's specific area of interest, cost, and location.  Although many graduate students do receive financial assistance in the form of graduate research or teaching assistantships, the availability of funding varies considerably depending on the program, applicant, and area of interest.  Location can also dictate living expenses, so students are best advised to consider all aspects of a specific graduate program before accepting an offer of admission.

Some students may think they can wait until their final year as an undergraduate student before thinking about graduate school.  This is not the case.  In fact, some of the strongest applications graduate programs see are those from students who got involved early in research, such as summer research, independent study, or class projects.  Experience with research centers and/or a prominent faculty member at one's undergraduate institution is attractive to graduate schools as well.  With that said, research is not the only way to improve your application; leadership experience in clubs, associations, athletics, and other endeavors can bolster an application, as can community involvement, mentoring, and tutoring activities.  Internships and co-ops are also a valuable asset to any graduate application.

It is never too early for any undergraduate student to begin preparing for applying to graduate school.  Aside from the aforementioned, interested students should contact their advisors, professors, and any other individuals on their undergraduate campuses that can offer insight into graduate school.  Not only will all these steps help down the road when applying to a graduate program, but they will undoubtedly enhance the student's undergraduate experience as well.  

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Keywords
graduate school, graduation, professional preparation
Status
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Mar 4, 2014 - 7:18am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:15pm