Should you go to graduate school?

First, why do you want to go to graduate school?  If it's to avoid employment or to delay paying off your student loans, your reasoning is faulty.  If your answer, "Because I'm passionate about learning and I want to both broaden my mind and further my career" then you are ready.

Also consider Peterson's "A Guide for Potential Grad Students: Should You Go To Graduate School?"

Things to consider:

  • Campus size - Do you like the size of UWL?  Do you want to try something smaller?  Larger?  Is it time for a change or not?
  • Faculty  - Research the faculty.  Do their areas of specialty match your interests?
  • Location  - Graduate school can be an adventure.  Do you want to experience a completely different region of the county - the world?  You can always return once you have your degree.
  • Placement  - Contact the Career Services Office at that campus.  Check out graduation rates, placement in related fields, potential employers and salaries of graduates.
  • Which program  - Many people pursue a masters in an area unrelated to their undergraduate discipline.  This may require satisfying some prerequisites.  Others will enhance their undergraduate studies.
  • Emphasis area  - Academic programs can have identical titles at two different schools yet be very different.  It is important for you to decide what you want to learn and then find a masters' program that matches your interests.

Questions to ask:

  • Thesis, comprehensive exams or both  - Universities vary in their graduate program requirements.  Some schools require a comprehensive exam while others require a thesis.  Still others allow students to choose.
  • Degrees and certifications offered  - It is important to know exactly what degree or certification you wish to obtain.  Masters' programs differ significantly in length, internships, practicum, requirements and etc.
  • Deadline for application  - Don't miss it!
  • Profile of students in program The  minimum GPA to apply  may not tell the whole story about the competitiveness of the admissions process at particular shools.  Some programs may list a minimum GPA (say 3.0), however the GPA of students typically entering the program may be much higher.  Ask to see the profile of the most recent entering class to see if you are a fit.
  • Work experience first  - Some graduate programs require that graduate students have "real life" experience.  These students are better able to contribute to class discussion.
  • Possible assistantships  - Many schools offer assistantships which can help pay for your education.  Some even pay the entire cost.  You may receive a stipend tuition waiver or both.  It is important to research the possibilities!
  • Financial assistance  - In addition to assistantships, schools may be able to offer you financial aid or scholarships.
  • Entrance exams - Many graduate schools require applicants to submit scores from a standardized examination Information on the test dates, times and places can be found at the Counseling and Testing Center on the second floor of Centennial Hall.  WisCareers (under Career Exploration on the left) offers many free practice exams.
  • Questions about the program
    • How many candidates are admitted each year?
    • What is the typical class size?
    • Is the program primarily research orientated or experiential?
    • Is a Masters required or may a student go directly to the doctoral level?
  • Professional goals  - Do you want an M.S., M.A., Ph.D.?

Additional things to consider

  • Talk to your current professors.  They network with colleagues at various institutions and should be able to refer you.  They are also likely to be aware of the reputation of the school of your choice.
  • Consider being a part-time student.  Some graduate programs allow you to pursue your degree while you work full-time.  You may even be able to find an employer who will pay for your continuing education.
  • Tour the campus to get a "feel" of the university and the program.
  • Many graduate programs require one or more of the following items:  a personal essay, an interview, letters of recommendations, and a statement of your educational goals.  Obtain letters of reference from your current faculty while you are still fresh in their memory.
  • What is the culture of the program?  Some are more collaborative while other promote competition.  Talk to currently enrolled students to find out their perspective.