What You Need to Know before Applying to Grad School
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Whether youíre a freshman still figuring out what you want to major in or a senior stressing over graduation deadlines and internships, chances are, you have given some thought to attending graduate school. If youíve thought about looking at an advanced degree, either here at our very own Florida State University campus (which offers 121 masterís degree programs and 78 doctoral degree programs in subjects ranging from biomedical science to law) or maybe in a state as far away as Hawaii, you might just have some questions.
So how does grad school even work? What does it take to get in?
Most experts would say that you need a stellar GPA, good test scores, a well-written statement of purpose, and depending on the program you are interested in, a body of research experience, and/or a published thesis/ dissertation to finally graduate.
If this sounds like way too much work and unnecessary stress, hold on to your hats, because it gets worse.
First, thereís the GRE, a nearly four-hour test designed to measure aptitude on reading comprehension, vocabulary, and mathematic concepts like algebra and geometry. (If you just had a flashback to SAT prep, you arenít alone. The tests are very similar, in format and content.) These tests can be scheduled at almost any date, but the Princeton Review recommends starting early, as most graduate programs have application deadlines in December and January.
Deadlines are a huge part of the stress of applying to grad school, according to Rebekah Gupta, Florida State senior and psychology major. ďItís really hard to balance stuff like studying for final exams, work, keeping up with the required research labs and managing applications all at once,Ē says Gupta. ďWhat's worse is that in the field I want to work in, itís basically essential to have a masters or PhD, so I have to get in.Ē
Gupta isnít the only one concerned. Recent studies have shown that while only fifteen percent of Americans currently hold a masterís degree or a PhD, applicants in fields such as education, public affairs, psychology, and social work are finding that a bachelorís degree isnít enough for an entry-level position.
But what if you donít want to work in any of those fields? Should you still consider applying for a graduate program?
According to the United States Census Bureau, people holding an advanced degree make $10,000 more per year on average than their bachelor degree holding peers. And as an added bonus, employers are more likely to hire a candidate with a masterís degree or a PhD. However, itís worth noting that it takes, on average, five to seven years to earn a masters degree, and even longer to earn a PhD.
Another component thatís worth considering is the financial aspect. ďSo far, Iíve paid almost $1,000 out of pocket just for the application process,Ē say Gupta. In addition to paying to take the GRE ($195 a pop), applicants should be prepared for the $27 fee for sending scores, as well as the fee for sending transcripts, and individual program application fees, which can vary.
However, itís not just the application process that can leave a dent in your wallet. ďThe most competitive programs are the ones with funding,Ē notes Gupta. ďIf you canít get funding, you could end up paying like $40,000 a year in tuition.Ē She adds. ďItís ridiculous.Ē Many millenials are wary of getting an advanced degree, especially in light of the ballooning student loan debt crisis and the current job market.
If you consider getting an advanced degree an investment, as many people who have or are working to attain an advanced degree do, it might be worth checking out some programs here at Florida State or elsewhere. Remember to start your search early, stay on top of deadlines, and be prepared for just about anything.
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