Grad School: The next frontier?
Many students may be intimidated when they hear the words: graduate school. But to others, these words mean a higher level of income or a more secure job position. Some people attend grad school because of their intellectual curiosity or because they want to learn more about a certain field. Applying to graduate school is just the beginning. Once you’re in the school, a fulfilling future waits.
“I would definitely recommend grad school to anyone who has a strong interest in their field. Grad school is a great place to explore your field further and really dive into some of the issues that you just breached the surface of in the undergraduate level,” Donald Painter, a USF grad student, said.
According to Painter,most graduate classes are centered around discussion, and the topic of discussion is usually a theoretical body of literature — graduate students are expected to really dive into a theory or a body of literature and figure out exactly what is going on.
“There is a much higher reading level for graduate classes; it is not at all unusual to read a book or more a week for a graduate class. There is also a heavier writing requirement and a big push to get your writing published in scholarly journals or presented at conventions, etc.” Painter said.
Students looking to attend graduate school should apply during their senior year. The last semester is the best time to apply, said Francisco Vera, director of USF Graduate Admissions. Many schools, however, mandate that students apply up to a year prior to the date on intended enrollment.
“Pay attention to deadlines, it all depends on the department deadline. Some departments at USF conduct interviews and others do not,” Vera said.
Diane Harrison, Dean of USF Graduate Admissions, said it was important to make contact with administrators within the department you are considering for application.
“The admission decisions are made at the department level within the faculty,” Harrison said. “It is always a good idea to contact the person listed on the Web site as the graduate coordinator or director of graduate studies, e-mail them and ask questions about their program.”
Allow time to take your admission test early. Early testing allows for retakes.
Some graduate schools conduct interviews. Vera said the reason for this is that some departments have “limited access programs,” which means that they want to have a complete file on hand of each applicant due to the fact that the program is at a high demand.
“You want to make sure that what they have to offer is what you want to do,” Harrison said. “Look at the Web site, the faculty research and the program’s goals.”
Whether it is the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT examinations, USF has preparation courses to help ease the tension. The USF testing center provides students with review sessions and help students prepare for the dreaded date.
USF’s Educational Testing Service allows busy students to take their exams during weekend or evening hours(usfweb.usf.edu/UGRADS/EANDT/).
There are a few basic things that are necessary when applying to most graduate schools in Florida: recommendation letters (at least three), resume, statement of purpose, transcripts, GRE (and sometimes additional subject-specific tests) and the application.
“The statement of purpose, which unlike the essay for undergraduate admissions, this has to focus on why you want to be in graduate school, what you want to research and why you think you’d be a good fit for the department you are applying to,” Painter said.
Recommendation letters are required in nearly every graduate program. They are a way to make up for any mistakes or weaknesses that may have occurred in your previous work. Although many people think this is not an important aspect in the decision process, it is.
The admissions team needs to hear from others to confirm their opinion about a student. This part in the decision-making process is crucial. Letters can be written by previous professors, internship supervisors, employers, coaches or co-workers.
About.com’s Web page on graduate school recommends making an appointment to speak with your letter-writers. Give your letter-writers plenty of time (three to four weeks at minimum). Provide a file with all of your background information, including your college transcript, resume, research experiences, past internships, list of honor society memberships, awards, work experience, goals and a copy of the application recommendation forms.
With school, though, also comes a cost. At the University of Florida, for instance, the estimated cost of graduate school tuition for Florida residents per credit hour costs $179.35 and $667.92 for nonresident students per credit hour.
Loans and grants are available through the financial aide departments at each school. Loans are also available outside of the school, depending on personal income levels. Also, many graduate schools offer teacher assistantships, fellowships and scholarships to defray the cost of tuition.