At the beginning of my second semester of my junior year at Ripon College, I knew I had to make a major life decision: where in the world was I going to go to grad school. Even though I wouldn’t be starting classes for over a year and a half, I knew I needed to make sure that I was well prepared for my post-graduate experiences and all that it entailed. If you are thinking of going to graduate school or pursuing any form of post-graduate education, here are some important tips.
Research entrance exams. I didn’t have to take an entrance exam to attend the University of Wisconsin‘s Library and Information Studies program, however, I know of many friends who have taken the GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT, and it is important to have a timeline set for when to take the test. Studying is critical, and many of my friends have had success working with testing companies such as Kaplan or The Princeton Review. It may be good to also allow yourself buffer time to re-take the test if you are not happy with your first, or even second, score.
Visit potential schools. I took a nice spring day off from class my junior year to drive down to Madison to tour the University of Wisconsin. I arrived earlier than my scheduled appointment with the admissions counselor, and took in the surroundings prior to hearing any statements, positive or negative. What this allowed me to do was to see the school, and my program, through an unfiltered lens. I created my own thoughts on the school, which allowed me to make the smartest, most well-educated decision I could have. Seeing the school allowed me to see what my life would be like if I attended. I noticed where the closest coffee shop was, saw my future favorite study spot, and stocked up on a few shirts to show school spirit. I believe my visit to Madison pushed the school into the top spot of my potential grad school list for this exact reason. The other schools I applied to were mere thoughts, and I couldn’t picture myself attending any of the other institutions. It is also a good idea to visit more than once. I spent an entire day on campus the fall of my senior year, mere days before I sent in my application. I sat in on different classes, had lunch with a current student, and was able to ask questions of both the faculty and staff.
Contact admissions departments. As I mentioned, I visited schools to see if I could fit in with the school, however, it was making the personal contact with the admissions department that helped me throughout my grad school search process. I knew the exact deadlines for applications as well as was able to meet with my adviser even before I made my acceptance decision. Knowing there were professionals out there helping guide me through my decision making process was beneficial and helped me make the right choice.
Remember to stay relaxed throughout the application and search process. It is okay to take a year off or to try again if you don’t get into the school that is the best fit for you. Graduate school has been an enriching life decision for myself, and I am ever grateful for my experience.