If you are thinking about getting your Masters or Doctoral degrees, this year is a good year to submit your application! With the pandemic peak subsiding and its associated restrictions loosening in some regions, getting your graduate degree will now likely be more welcoming than in the past two years. Attending classes online has been a challenge for instructors and many students, so returning to class with face-to-face instruction is refreshing for many. Especially when it is a class that you are interested in, because in grad school, many of your classes will be much more interesting and relatable than those in your undergraduate studies.
Steps for you to take to ensure that you start your graduate journey on the right foot:
Review application deadlines and requirements for school(s) of your choice.
Many universities have deadlines in the summer for fall admission. So, it is best to prepare early so you can get your application submitted on time. Check not only for the university’s requirements, but also for the department that you wish to be a part of. Especially because the department’s requirements will likely be more detailed than the university’s requirements.
Prepare for any exam(s) that are required
You may or may not be required to take an entrance exam to the university you wish to attend. Many institutions and departments have entrance exams, such as the GRE, but many do not.
There are several types of entrance exams depending on the field you wish to study. The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is the typical exam in the US for most fields of study, and some versions of this exam are specific to certain fields. For example, there is a specific GRE test for biology, chemistry, literature, mathematics, physics, and psychology. And, there are also other exams in the US that may be done in lieu of the GRE for a specific field of study, such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for some business schools, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). Also, some schools may only accept exam scores from a limited number of years prior to your application, such as five years. So, do your due diligence in reviewing your institution’s entrance exam requirements.
If you are required to take an exam, get study guides (digital or physical) to help you. Kaplan is a major test preparation company in the US that produces several study products (and classes). I was required to take the GRE and I used Kaplan’s GRE study guide and vocabulary flash cards to help me pass the GRE. Be sure to get the most up-to-date study guide for your exam in case there have been any recent revisions.
Reach out to potential advisors
You will need a graduate advisor (aka supervisor) to guide you on your research and completing your degree. Find an advisor that has similar interests to yours. Also, make sure that he/she/they are actively conducting research. For those doing scientific research, this will help you potentially get a higher quality thesis, as it will more likely have significant funding support. It may also help get you hired as a research assistant with your advisor, giving you more time to work on your studies and research than a teaching assistant. Finding interested advisors will also help you narrow down your search for universities to apply to.
Submit your application.
You’ve studied your butt off and made connections with professors. Now what? Well, submit your application to the university! It is common to apply to about three universities, just to make sure that you can attend a graduate school somewhere in case for whatever reason, things don’t work out with your first choice of universities.