By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
Whether you’re a sophomore undergraduate student, a recent college graduate or full-time professional, chances are the thought of going to grad school has crossed your mind.
“It’s never too early or too late to think about grad school,” says Magnolia Hernandez, associate director of the University Graduate School. “Applying and going to graduate school is a special process. It’s very personal, and you have to be very critical about the programs you are looking at and be very clear about what you want to do.”
There are plenty of great reasons to apply and go to grad school – including higher salaries, more opportunities for career advancement and an economy that is adding millions of jobs that will require at least a master’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you consider making grad school your next step:
1. What’s my dream job?
Before applying for a particular graduate school program, it’s vital to think beyond grad school. Start with the end in mind: what career path or industry do you want to get into? If you don’t have an answer to that question, you might want to pump the brakes and get a better idea on that before moving forward.
When you started your undergraduate career, you didn’t necessarily need to have a major picked out and you were able to explore a wide range of different subjects before eventually majoring in one or two. That’s no longer the case in grad school, which will provide you with specialized knowledge through concentrated study in one area.
Once you know what your end goal is, you can identify several graduate degree programs that will help you get there.
2. Why do I want to go to grad school?
Going to grad school just because everyone else is or because it’s expected probably will not help justify the amount of time and money you will have to invest in this effort.
There will be those moments when you might want to call it quits. The reasons why you got into grad school in the first place will help you push through. If you’re not clear about the reasons why, take some time to think them through.
3. Which schools have graduate programs I’m interested in?
Once you’ve identified what your areas of interest are, or which graduate degree programs interest you the most, identify a list of several schools that might be a good fit for you.
FIU offers 106 master’s, 33 doctoral and more than 50 certificate and specialist programs in nine different colleges and schools.
Make sure to talk to faculty, advisors and students who are involved with the program to learn more information and find out if the program is the right fit for you.
4. What are the minimum requirements and key deadlines for the graduate programs I’m interested in?
Taking the GRE. Letters of recommendation. Sending in your transcripts.
These are just a few of the items that might show up on your admissions process checklist as requirements for the programs you’re interested in. Make sure you are aware of everything that is required to apply to your program. Just as important — double check when these items are due.
To find out what the admission requirements are for FIU graduate programs, click here.
5. Is now the right time for me to go to grad school?
Answering this question is very personal and varies with the individual. Maybe you’re still burned out from getting your bachelor’s degree and want to take some time off. Perhaps you want to get some work in a particular industry under your belt before deciding getting a grad degree will help you advance in that field. You could also be ready to jump into grad school right after getting your bachelor’s.
No matter your personal situation, you need to consider whether the timing is right for you. Grad school is a lot of work; don’t enroll unless you’re up for the challenge.
6. How am I going to pay for it?
There’s no way around it: grad school is expensive. But the good news is that if you look hard enough, you can find many ways to go to grad school without breaking the bank. Graduate assistantships, fellowships and scholarships are just a few examples of ways to help offset the costs.
If you are working, there are a lot of companies and businesses that offer tuition reimbursement plans and other education benefits to their employees, so ask your employer if they offer any assistance. Some plans provide help for a job-related degree program and others for general educational pursuits.
7. How long will it take to complete the program (part-time or full-time)?
Grad school isn’t just a big investment in terms of money – it’s also going to take up a lot of your time as well. Take a look at the realities of your life, both professionally and personally, and decide whether grad school on a part-time or full-time basis is the better choice. Also think about how long it will take to complete your desired programs at your own pace.