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Grad School – Your Road Map

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It is becoming more and more difficult for students to be accepted into graduate programs due to all of the budget cuts and the increasingly stringent guidelines for what is required. With so many things one needs to apply to graduate school, the process of applying can become overwhelming. This article is for students with plans on attending graduate school in the future, but are not really sure the right steps to take.

As a McNair Scholar, I have had a lot of training on the types of things that admissions officers look for when reviewing graduate school applications. These steps should help you to navigate around the grad school maze. Highlighted in green are some of the major requirements necessary for applying to graduate school.

1) Talk to your professors.

Get as much advising as you can. Make the most out of their office hours! This is the time when you can ask questions, get to know them and their research interests, and find out what they did to get through graduate school. When it’s time for your letters of recommendation (Graduate School applications require 3, particularly professors in your department). Professors will often refer you to the right resources, internships, journals to read, conferences to attend, etc.

2) Find out which programs and resources are available and take advantage of them.

Talk to your academic advisors, your department’s office staff, your tutors. Apply for scholarships, attend seminars, visit the Multicultural Center. These resources are here to help you, and oftentimes are overlooked by students. Get involved. Be a teacher’s assistant or a research assistant for a professor you enjoy. It is a great learning experience, and great for your resume/curriculum vitae (academic resume). Volunteer. Intern. It’s good stuff.

3) Study, study, study.

Manage your time so that you have committed time periods of studying. Figure out what is best for you. You need to study to keep your GPA up, and to practice for those entrance exams like the GRE’s, the LSAT’s, or the MCAT’s. Great scores are a must! Get in a group, create a study space, do what you need to do to stay focused, and organized. One of my favorite professors, Dr. Tavano-Hall in the psychology department always says, “It hurts to get an A.”

4) Check out what you like.

Are you really interested in a certain subject? Research about it. Look at potential graduate schools and programs that you are interested to identify the right fit for you. Really develop your strengths and interests, and discover what you are passionate about. Contact schools of interest. Contact professors of interest. Ask questions, and do your homework. Being proactive is the best thing you can do for yourself. Knowing what makes you an individual will come in handy when writing the personal statement and statement of purpose that you will need when applying.

5) Push yourself to excellence.

Know what you want, and then go after it. Keep focus of your goals, do not allow yourself to slip into procrastination, and most importantly, take it one step at a time. You can do anything that you set your mind to. If graduate school is what you want, commit energy into achieving your goal. So make one and go for it!