Grad school can be a life-changing undertaking, with the potential to boost your potential, alter your career path, and even change your perspective on the world. Whether you’re still pursuing an undergraduate degree or you already hold one, getting a graduate degree may be the right choice for you.
However, it is also a significant undertaking that can be expensive and highly time-consuming. For these reasons, you must be sure the path and program you choose are right for you.
What Are My Career Goals?
Knowing where you hope your career will be in five to 10 years will give you perspective on what your grad school path might look like. Set a goal and make a plan that includes not just further schooling, but all other aspects as well—potential jobs, future home cities, and so on. All of this information will come into play in your decision.
If you are also planning on advancing your studies and pursuing a Ph.D., you can also look for schools that allow students to pursue both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. simultaneously to save time and money.
The majority of accredited graduate programs require an examination score of some kind for entry consideration. Which type of test you take depends on what your career goals are.
- LSAT- The Law School Admission Test is required for entrance into law school. Although the most common career path for those with a law degree is one in law, you might also consider law school if you hope to be a judge, politician, or journalist.
- MCAT- The Medical College Admission Test is required for entrance into medical school. With a medical degree, you can become a doctor or surgeon or even consider a medical administration career.
- GMAT- The Graduate Management Admission Test is required by many Masters in business administration programs. You can use an MBA in a career in any sector of business.
- GRE- Graduate Record Examinations is a more generalized standardized test. If you are looking into pursuing a degree in areas like English, communications, and history, you will likely need to take the GRE. You can practice by taking GRE sample tests.
How Prepared Am I for the Application Process?
No matter which program you pursue, you will need to take one of these standardized tests to gain admission to your choice school, as well as working on other aspects of your application.
If you don’t currently have adequate time to study and prepare, taking a major exam can waste time and resources. Wait to apply until you know you have the time, money, and focus to score well.
How Are My Finances?
Based on a 2019 study, four-year master’s degrees cost an average of $9,000 to $20,000 annually at public institutions and about $32,000 to $44,000 annually at private universities. Tuition fees increase almost every year, so these rates have only grown. From the initial application fees to the completion of a program, you will have to invest significant money.
Research different schools and compare their programs and prices. Familiarize yourself with the costs associated with the specific programs you’re interested in. Consider where you’re at in terms of income, savings, debt, and other financial responsibilities.
You can also look into scholarships, grants, and other financing options like loans. Although it may seem overwhelming, there are ways to manage your grad school finances without sinking into debt right away.
Am I Ready to Move?
The perfect program won’t always be conveniently located near you. Sometimes, the best program to add value to your career and skills will require moving to a new city or state. If this is the case for you, ask yourself, is this worth it to you? Craft your list of possible programs based on places you’d be willing to live. You can also consider searching for future job opportunities if you are looking into working while studying.
If you don’t want to move, and there are no local options, consider online options. There are more institutions than ever offering distance learning programs for postgraduate degrees. This option tends to be more accessible, more flexible, and often less costly.
How Stable is My Support System?
Emotional and practical resources are an essential part of a graduate school education. Studying for a postgraduate degree will require commitment, focus, and strong time and stress management skills. You will need a solid and stable support system.
If you have children, you may need to figure out new childcare arrangements. If you’re working, you must consider whether you can afford to stop while in school or if you’ll need to craft your schedule to allow you to work.
Check-in with your loved ones about the significant undertaking you are about to commit to, and ask them if they are willing and able to support you through it.
So, Are You Ready to Go to Grad School?
Postgraduate programs are an excellent opportunity to level up your career and expertise, but they also come with great responsibility. Try to be fully prepared financially, mentally, and emotionally before starting your journey. Plan ahead, know your options and set your goals to help you work towards the right degree for you.