Getting ready to go to graduate school can be a lengthy, confusing process. There are several resources and steps to take to help make the process easier and more affordable. It’s important to remember that no matter what you do though, preparing for and going to graduate school will take a lot of work, and you must take an active role in bettering your chances at admission. The steps we’ve listed below can help ease your admissions process, but take your time to make sure you’re making the right choice when you’re committing to go to graduate school.
1. Take the GMAT Exam
Think of the GMAT exam like the SAT for business school. The GMAT exam is a 3.5-hour multiple-choice, computer-based exam that is designed to test prospective graduate students on skills like verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing.
To help prepare prospective students to take the GMAT exam, many experts and graduate school admissions workers recommend that these students take classes or hire private tutors to help boost their scores. Taking a course to elevate your score can help you stand out amongst other graduate school applicants to increase your chances of getting into your chosen school.
An added bonus to taking GMAT preparation courses and boosting your test scores is that many organizations offering grants or scholarships will use your test scores to determine an initial amount of financial aid to provide you with. The better your scores, the more likely you are to enter graduate school with a large amount of money to help you cover your expenses.
2. Line up your financial aid
Graduate school can, unfortunately, tend to be rather expensive. If you take the time now to set up your financial aid, you can have a reasonable estimate of your out-of-pocket costs figured out before the semester even starts. Make sure that you’ll be able to afford your expenses while you’re going to school so you have some spending money and flexibility throughout the academic year.
One of the most important things you can do to help cover some of the expenses of graduate school is to apply for grants or scholarships. Many grants and scholarships award academic excellence, so studying hard can help save you money in the long-term.
3. Get an internship or a job in your field
Getting an internship can greatly improve your chances of getting into graduate school. When looking at applicants to their graduate programs, admissions workers will look for anything that sets an applicant apart from the rest. Having experience in your field before you even go to graduate school is a great way to accomplish this.
If you’re considering an internship in your field to help you prepare for graduate-level coursework, one of the best places to look for is at your undergraduate school. Your school likely has resources to help you find an internship that can help prepare you for the kind of work you’ll be doing in graduate school.
Another good way to similarly get some experience is by finding an employer in your field that will hire you right out of undergraduate school. If you’re lucky and seeking a long-term commitment with an employer, they might even be willing to help you cover some of the costs of your education.
4. Make connections ahead of time
Sometimes knowing the right person can be hugely beneficial when you’re applying for graduate school. It’s important to work on building connections early while you are still an undergraduate student to make sure that you have a network of people who can help you through the process of preparing for graduate school.
Maintaining good relationships with your professors by going to office hours, staying in touch with them about exams and assignments, and being an active participant during class will be a big help to you in the future. Your professors are familiar with your work and know exactly how to write a recommendation for you that can help get you into any school you choose. If you don’t make friends with your professors, you might struggle to get the help you need when you’re preparing for graduate school.
5. Do your research!
This is perhaps the most important part of preparing for graduate school. Before you set your sights on any school, you need to make sure that the school offers the kind of program and curriculum that will benefit you the most. Since it’s so expensive anyway, you should be aware of the ins and outs of the programs you are applying to so you can earn a degree that you’re happy with.
If you have a specific career in mind that you’d like to pursue after graduate school, make sure that the work you’re doing is actually preparing you for what you want to do in the future.
6. Plan for your future after you graduate.
Going to graduate school is an expensive commitment. Make sure that you have a loose plan of how you want to proceed after graduate school so that you can make a return on your investment. If you’re considering a certain degree or program but aren’t too sure how you’d use your degree after you graduate, you should take a step back and reconsider your program.
Once you’ve settled on a career path, consider what degree or type of education will be most beneficial in helping you pursue that path. Make sure that you’ll have a way to cover the costs of your degree, and that you are getting the most out of your time spent in graduate school by earning a useful degree.
Applying for graduate school is a difficult process— but certainly not impossible. There are so many resources to help prospective graduate students get into the school of their dreams. You can’t wait around for the help to come to you though, so take it upon yourself to be proactive and take any steps you need to better your chances of being admitted into your chosen school.