4 Questions to Consider Before Applying to a Graduate Program

The sad truth is that not all graduate schools and programs are created equal. When selecting a graduate program that is right for you, many factors should be considered and weighed before deciding. I have put together a few questions to consider before selecting a graduate school and program. Selecting one that is right for you and that will bring forth the results in which you hope to achieve.

What is the goal you wish to achieve with a graduate degree?

Having long-term goals regarding your education are key. What do you desire to do with your education and will the training take you there, must be answered. Creating a plan can help you decide what it is you do desire to achieve with that chosen degree. Once you have established the long-term goal, it then makes it a little easier when narrowing down school options that are right for you.
Short-term goals are great to have, but when selecting a graduate program, your long-term goal is most affected by your choice. A short-term goal that says, “I’m busy and want to hurry up and get the degree so I will choose this one and it will all be fine,” doesn’t speak to your long-term outcome in any way. After completion of that short-term goal, it is likely that the results were not adequate.
Drive home the understanding of long-term goals. “I want to get from A to Z. What is the best route and what methods and options will get me there in the most productive manner?”
If you have never written a long-term goal plan before, there are numerous free templates online to help you get started. You can also reach out to individuals who have written out goal plans before and receive some wisdom and knowledge from their perspective as well.

Which school and program can offer the best opportunity for your success after graduation?

Once you have decided on your long-term goal, you can move on to narrowing down the potential schools and programs that are right for you. Understanding that getting to Z can be achieved down a zig-zag road or a straight and narrow path can help you in debates with yourself that consider other schools out of short-term goal thinking. You cannot compare apples to oranges, and you cannot assume schools are all apples. Be sure you gravitate toward schools that can successfully help you achieve your long-term goal and that upon graduation you can speak the language of someone who has a graduate degree while earning the letters behind your name.
Take into consideration the issues that may arise when considering some of the newer graduate program degree paths. Some of these paths offer degrees in a condensed period and have no in-class training what-so-ever. Collaborating with classmates is vital to an actual graduate degree program. If you can earn your degree by googling all the answers, you haven’t deserved it at all, and potential new employers or colleagues will know it. It is not realistic to do something by cutting corners and reach the finish line of success.
Realistically speaking, only a handful of schools will be the right choice for you and your program needs. Compare each side by side and find out which program offers the most value added to you.

How and when will you plan to attend graduate school?

This is a valid question and at times not properly evaluated due to short-term goal planning. “I want it now so that I will settle for this school over another school.” Graduate school is not going anywhere and if you are going to consider it and commit to it, do it right the first time. Will you live on campus? Are you willing to not work and can you financially take care of yourself and a family you have one? Will you attend classes at night or online and will that choice reflect on my success in any way? Does one of the schools in the running have a webcam program so that you can participate online but not have to move from my current home? Am I ready right now or should I wait until a later date, until I can properly prepare?
Do not settle for now and short change yourself because you are too focused on your short-term goals rather than your long-term one. A year passes by so quickly. Take the time to plan it out and discuss with those important in your life to solidify an idea. Make sure that plan meets the needs of you and your family on the long-term level, to achieve the real success and happiness you were after.
Graduate degrees are earned in the traditional 2-year classroom setting, online, the combination of the two, and fast-track programs that cram everything into a shorter timeframe. You must decide what works best for you, and if that choice provides the results, you are hoping to achieve with a graduate degree.

How will you pay tuition costs?

Graduate school isn’t cheap. That is the reality of life in general. It takes money to make money, and without being willing to give a little to get a lot, the outcome will be just that. Sacrifice is often made during grad school when it comes to finances. But again, selecting the right one will offer you a wealth of opportunity and success for the long-haul.
There are now multiple avenues and streams of funding for graduate schools and programs all over the country. Scholarships and loans offered by every school in some capacity. They understand the costs that go into it and the usual financial state of someone entering a graduate program and are happy to help you learn how to obtain your educational goal.
Create a financial plan that can be executed through the duration of your graduate program and be sure to stick to it. Reach out to schools and understand how others have afforded their institution without the personal stream of income to foot the bill. Preparation and proper planning on the front end will provide a much smoother process once in school. Assuming you will find the money later causes unnecessary stress and issues that can avoid had you properly planned.
Tuition payments are achievable for anyone and everyone. It simply takes proper planning and educating yourself on what is out there to help you afford the degree of your choosing.

All of these questions are extremely important and should take into consideration during the selection process. There are other issues to consider as everyone is unique and will require their own set of considerations when selecting a graduate school and program. Keep in mind; graduate school is meant to be tough. It is expected to challenge and grow you in ways you never thought possible. If it weren’t supposed to be easy and not challenge you to rise higher and become a better version of yourself, then there would be no need for them at all.

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