One of my greatest achievements this year will be walking across the stage a second time for my master’s degree. Before I get there though, I have a long road of hard work ahead of me. After braving through my first semester and coming out with a 4.0 GPA (whoo hooo!), I feel compelled to offer advice to my peers who may be considering graduate school or are preparing to apply to their program of choice.
If you’re a recent graduate or a student still in undergrad, you may be considering graduate school. When I began to consider going to graduate school I was super excited, but then I allowed the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) to kill my joy. I hate standardized tests honestly, truly. Some programs don’t require that you submit GRE scores, but a lot of programs still ask for them and my program was one of them.
I studied for months before I took the test for the first time. Flash cards, study books, online resources, and so on were all my tools for conquest. When I finally did take the test though, I ended up not getting as high of a score as I needed for the school I wanted to get into. I was completely devastated, but in retrospect I realize that my biggest challenge was dealing with fear and doubt; not the test itself.
You absolutely have to have a positive mind set while you are preparing for the test. I was literally studying, but then telling myself that I wouldn’t do well and I didn’t. When I took the test the second time around I was able to boost my scores, but I went in with a lot more confidence in myself.
The best thing to do is to take as many practice tests as you can, and behave as if you are taking the test for real. This way, when it is time to take the real test you won’t have as much anxiety about it because you have already experienced it ahead of time.
Also, remember these scores don’t define you. In the grand scheme of things, the GRE is just one aspect of what it takes to get into grad school. Make sure that your letters of recommendation and your letter of interest/essay is on point too! These are just as, if not more, important than what you get on the GRE because they will ultimately prove to the acceptance committee that you are a right fit for their program.
Getting past the GRE will be the greatest feeling on Earth, especially once you’ve gotten all of your other application materials in as well. Being accepted into graduate school is when the real fun begins. I’m not being sarcastic; I genuinely mean fun!
Let me be 100% honest with you though, getting all A’s was not easy. There was a lot of coffee, no sleep, and some crying involved with that.
If you think you can go into graduate school procrastinating, you are in for a very rude awakening. Procrastinating in graduate school and procrastinating in undergrad are two very different evils. Trust me! When you’re trying to be an adult, and still go to school it’s so easy to put things off until the last minute. Don’t do it! Procrastinating in undergrad might leave you groveling in your professor’s office for some extra credit, but procrastinating in grad school could mean probation or getting kicked out of your program.
If you don’t mind a lot of reading, you’ll love it! If you get a migraine from the thought of reading, you might have some trouble. This past semester I know that the money I spent on textbooks was well worth it because I literally read about 3 of them cover to cover.
The best part about grad school for me is being around people from various backgrounds and ages, having good relationships with my small class, getting to know my professors a lot better, and actually being able to find relevance in the work I’m doing in class in my life. In undergrad after a while I was just trying to get by and get out. Graduate school is completely different because everything you do is your choice, and no class will ever feel unnecessary to take. Even though it has been challenging, I have no regrets when it comes to the decision I made to continue on with my education.
No matter what you decide to do in life, you will have to work hard for it. Whether it’s graduate school, going straight into your field, or anything else; It all takes hard work. Things may not go the way that you expect it to, but I can promise you that if you stay encouraged and focused you can get where you’re trying to go. If you’re looking to graduate school as an easy way out of transitioning into adulthood, or to defer your student loans, you will be kicking yourself by midterms. Be sure that you know why you want to get your master's degree because that reason is going to be what carries you through. If you’re looking for an opportunity to grow in your career, to expand your knowledge of a particular field or of the world, I would strongly advocate for you to look into it!