Thinking About Graduate School
Here are some frequently asked questions:
- How do I know if I want to go onto graduate school?
- I already have significant debt from paying for my B.A. degree. How can I afford graduate school without getting further into debt?
- When I was in high school my parents and guidance counselor helped me pick out colleges to apply to. How do I go about choosing a graduate school?
- I’m kind of tired of being a student since the age of 5. I think I might need some time off to clear my head and decide what to do next. It is possible to apply to graduate school after I have graduated from Wheaton?
- Ok, I think I might want to apply for graduate school? How do I start and when?
- (some final thoughts)
FAQ 1. How do I know if I want to go onto graduate school?
Here are some things to consider. If you answer yes to any of the questions below you might be ready to start thinking about going to graduate school:
- You like studying a particular subject and feel ready to take your studies to the next level;
- You think that you know what kind of career you would enjoy and do successfully. This career requires advanced training;
- A teacher, mentor, advisor has suggested that you might think about pursuing graduate studies. This idea is both scary and exciting.
FAQ 2: I already have significant debt from paying for my B.A. degree. How can I afford graduate school without getting further into debt?
Did you know?
- Your undergraduate loans do not come due while you are pursuing your graduate studies?
- Many graduate programs actually pay YOU to get your degree (scholarship + stipend)?
- Accumulating debt from a low cost educational loan is “better” debt than high interest credit card debt from paying off your undergraduate loans when you have a low salary. By the time you finish graduate school your graduate degree may enable you to enter the job market at a higher salary level and you can pay off your debts more quickly.
FAQ 3: When I was in high school my parents and guidance counselor helped me pick out colleges to apply to. How do I go about choosing a graduate school?
Here are some things to consider when choosing a graduate school program:
- Reputation of the Program
The most prestigious universities (e.g., the Ivies) do not always have the best program in your field of interest. You are considering making a major investment in time and money to obtain an advanced degree. Find the best programs that will train you for the career you want. You will need to gather information about this from a number of sources: websites and materials from each school, talking to professionals in the field you want to enter, talking to your faculty members and pre-professional advisors:
- Important Scholars in the field
When you were choosing a college for your undergraduate degree you were choosing the whole college experience. When you choose a graduate program you are choosing a faculty to train you. The programs that you apply to should have faculty who are well known for their work in the field that you want to enter. Have you been impressed by a particular author(s), theoretical school, research lab? Find out where these people teach.
Check out what the school has to say about financial support for scholarships, research and teaching fellowships. See also their record of placing graduates from their programs in jobs.
- Geographic Location
Do you have restrictions on where the program can be located? Ask yourself if these are “real” (e.g., sick parent, spouse has job there) or preferential (desire not to leave New England). Remember that going to another part of the country (or even another country) can provide valuable life experience and it isn’t forever.
- Assess your Chances of Admission
Sit down with your faculty advisor and realistically assess your chances of admission to different programs in terms of your academic record (grades, test scores, co-curricular activities). Think strategically about where to apply.
FAQ 4: I’m kind of tired of being a student since the age of 5. I think I might need some time off to clear my head and decide what to do next. It is possible to apply to graduate school after I have graduated from Wheaton?
Some things to consider:
- Taking some time off between studies can be really beneficial
Gaining valuable life and job experience and re-charging your “student batteries” can make you a much stronger applicant and insure that you will maximize your time well once in a graduate program
- If you do decide to take a break before applying to graduate school, try to find a job, paid internship, or work abroad volunteer experience that will bring you closer to your career goals, rather than just paying the rent
- Keep your eyes on the calendar
Successful graduate school applications require a minimum of six months of lead time. Too much time off and you may lose the valuable routines associated with being a student.
FAQ 5: Ok, I think I might want to apply for graduate school? How do I start and when?
- Gather Information
Is there a directory of graduate programs in the field you want to enter? For example, the American Anthropological Association has a Guide to Departments. Talk to faculty ad pre-professional advisors (in health, law, etc) Check out university websites and send away for applications.
- Narrow your Choices
After assessing the best schools to apply to with your advisor make a check list of what the school applications entail (forms, fees, essay, letters of recommendation, test scores) and the dates they are due. Most programs have late December or early January due dates for financial aid. Wheaton also offers a limited number of scholarships for seniors and graduates to pursue graduate studies. These are due early in the spring.
- Plan to Take a Test Prep Course
This can raise your score by upwards of 100 points. Unless you test exceptionally well, this is a sound investment. Register for the test in order for your scores to be sent on time
- Line up your Recommenders
Make their job as easy as possible by organizing the information they need (forms, dates, types of programs, copy of your admissions essay, self-addressed stamped envelopes, etc. Give your recommenders one month advance notice.
- Write and Re-write several drafts of your Admissions Essay
Tailor your essay to each program specifically, highlighting your interests and strengths in terms of their particular program. Have someone edit your essay.
- File your Application in Advance of the final Deadline
The best time to begin the application process by talking to your faculty advisor is in the spring (or summer if you have been abroad) of your junior year. Ideally you will have all of your application choices made and take the test prep course over the summer and begin the application process itself early in the fall. Remember that there will be significant demands on your time in the fall of your senior year: the senior seminar, applications for Fulbright/ Watson/ Teach for America, TA or other internships. The more you can accomplish over the summer of your junior year the better off you will be in the fall. This is also true if you are thinking of applying for graduate school after you graduate. Faculty generally take off at the close of the spring semester so the best time to begin to meet with them about your graduate school plans is in the spring of the year you will apply (in other words, a full year and a half before you would like to enroll).
- Check out targeted scholarship programs that will either help prepare you for graduate school or help to fund your graduate program
For example, students with a very academically strong record might qualify for a Beinecke or Rhodes scholarship, minority students planning to pursue a career in college teaching may qualify for IRT (Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers). Preparation for these programs usually begins in sometime in the sophomore or early junior year.
- You don’t have to be a genius to go to graduate school.
Don’t tell anybody, but most of your professors aren’t. They are just people who love studying their subject and love teaching about it to you.
- Getting a Ph.D. doesn’t automatically mean you have to become a college teacher.
Many Ph.D.s in Anthropology hold executive positions in business, NGOs, and Civil Service.
- Take advantage of all of the resources Wheaton can provide to help you take the next step.
Isn’t this one of the reasons you chose Wheaton in the first place?