Making the decision to go to graduate school is exciting. It can also be overwhelming and nerve-racking. Saint Rose graduate student Sarah Uzzi G’21 shares tips and insights from her personal experience. If you missed it, catch up with Part 1 of Sarah’s journey.
As I discovered during my journey to graduate school, the application process involves a large commitment of time and finances. I found it crucial to follow the appropriate steps to secure my spot in the program I had chosen. I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned throughout the process.
Step 4: Planning Is Key
Each graduate school has different requirements. I discovered that some institutions require two letters of recommendation, while others require three. Some require standardized test scores such as the GRE or GMAT, and the deadlines for everything can extend over a span of months.
When you’re looking into grad schools, it’s a good idea to make note of the requirements and their deadlines for each institution where you’re applying.
When I was going through this process, I was in my senior year of college, balancing a full course load, work, and social activities. Whether you’re planning to go to grad school right after graduating or have been out of school for a while, are working full time, are caring for a family, or are in military service, you’ll probably find that it’s helpful to keep your grad school research organized.
I made a spreadsheet that listed for each school: school name, location, degree type, GRE requirements, and application deadline. A tool like a spreadsheet can help you keep your thoughts organized and keep track of contacts at schools, pros and cons, and any other aspects important to your decision. If you know you don’t perform well on standardized tests, for example, then you might want to de-emphasize schools that require the GRE.
Step 5: Finding Funding
Funding your education is an integral part of the decision-making process. Not only will it influence what programs you apply to, but it will also affect how many you apply to, as there are upfront costs for each school.
For the most part, each application has a fee averaging from $50 to $75 or more. Standardized tests like the GRE can cost $200 or so, not even counting any prep courses or practice books you may want to invest in. There are even little costs that add up, such as sending your transcripts and sending your GRE scores. All of these costs are required before you even get accepted to the college.
Then, of course, there are the costs of actually attending. I found that it really pays to do your homework here.
Be sure to talk to any stakeholders in your education – for example, your parents, spouse, or family – to ensure that everyone understands how graduate school will affect your expenses and budget. If you have a financial advisor, it might be a good idea to consult them about any options you might have. In my situation, I knew that I would be funding my education entirely on my own, so I looked into loan options and saw what I could feasibly take on.
You will want to reach out to each institution to ask about what type of financial aid they provide. Inquire about any teaching assistantships, graduate assistantships, and scholarships they have. Every little bit helps (and don’t forget to add this information to your spreadsheet)!
If you’re a veteran or active service member, you may have GI Bill or Yellow Ribbon benefits available, or be eligible for additional scholarships from the federal government, local government, or other organizations. You might even be able to receive transfer credit for your military service.
If you have any questions, reach out to your college’s financial aid and admissions offices. They should be happy to clarify any points for you.
Step 6: You’ve Been Accepted! Now What?
Being accepted into graduate school is a great feeling. All of those days spent writing your personal essay, gathering materials for your application, and surviving the dreaded interview have finally paid off.
But what if you’ve been accepted to a couple (or more) programs? It’s a nice problem to have, but how do you decide?
In my case, I went back through the steps I originally took to narrow down my options. I looked at the type of degree I would earn, the location, funding opportunities, and how the school made me feel.
I narrowed my choice down to two. Each college had a great reputation with reputable programs. One offered a doctorate degree, while the other offered a master’s degree. The deal breaker: Not only did Saint Rose have more affordable tuition, but they also offered me a graduate assistantship – which my other candidate did not.
Saint Rose was also close to some of my family, which I had been away from for so long. Going to Saint Rose would provide me the opportunity to be close to them again and watch my little cousin grow up.
Finally, I looked at how each school made me feel. The department chair, Dr. Andrew Shanock, consistently reached out to me throughout the application, interview, and acceptance process. He wanted to make sure that I knew all the information and was comfortable in making my decision. He made me feel welcome before I even committed. It was obvious that Saint Rose cared for their students and this is what ultimately led me to decide that Saint Rose would be my future home.
Focusing on Your Goal
Choosing a graduate school is a very important decision that can feel both nerve-racking and exciting. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, but remember that you’ve set this important goal to further your career and enhance your education. I firmly believe that by following these steps, you will find yourself on the path to choosing a grad program that will make you happy and help you enhance your career.
– By Sarah Uzzi G’21
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