How To Succeed in College/Graduate School
Undergraduate vs. Graduate school
Choosing your undergraduate university based on whether or not it has a graduate program in an area you are considering pursuing may not be the best choice. Whether or not you get accepted into graduate school is not really based on where you receive your undergraduate degree, but what you do to set yourself apart from other students applying for the same graduate degree program. Also, undergraduate students often change their majors. Thus, if you choose a program because it has graduate program X and you end up switching to major Y, your decision to attend that university based on the graduate program could become a problem. Finally, universities with graduate programs often have faculty who are more focused on teaching graduate students and doing research than on teaching undergraduates, so you may not get many opportunities to work with those professors, even if they are well-known scholars.
Why consider graduate school?
You should only consider graduate school if you are very dedicated to a chosen career path and realize that it is going to take a very long time and a lot of hard work to pursue that career. Graduate school is extremely challenging.
If you're considering graduate school based on any of the following reasons, you may want to reconsider:
- you don't know what else to do with your life
- you "kind of" like a topic
- you think it would be cool to have a PhD
- you don't want to disappoint your parents
- you did well as an undergraduate
Increasing the odds of getting in
If you're still interested in graduate school, take some time to talk to professors who work in the field you are interested in. Try to find a general understanding of what it would be like to work in that field and see if you are truly interested in pursuing that career choice. Be sure to ask the advice of various people so you aren’t given biased information, and really think about whether graduate school is the right course of action for you. It is a long, hard, five to seven year process that is not suited for everyone.
There are also some things you can do to increase the odds of getting in:
- gain valuable experience in your field by working directly with a professor
- maintain a competitive GPA
- network with people in the field
- make connections with your professors, as you'll need letters of recommendation