I have officially completed my first term of graduate school! Miracles do happen... I figured I would share some tips on how to get there for people who are considering attending in the future.
1. Figure out how to study. This can take time, but finding out what works for you is really important. It took me awhile and a lot of motivation, but it happens when you want it to. More and more students are going to graduate school now, and the admission criteria is getting harder, so do what you need to do if you want/need to go.
2. Decide fairly early what you want to do, and know the requirements for the program. There may be prerequisites that you need to get accepted to the program, as well as standardized tests such as the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc. It is understandable that you may change what you want to pursue, but knowing what your expected to do makes the journey more manageable.
3. Devote yourself. You may have to get rid of habits of going out every weekend. It takes time to get used to, but in a fairly short time period, you'll be happy with your decision. Make sure that you get to bed at a reasonable hour in order to wake up and study the next day. Especially if you are working, making time for studying needs to be planned and sleeping in till noon every day probably won't help you. Read everything you can about your future career/program/field, get multiple opinions....
4. Get involved in research! It is not as hard as it sounds, and it broadens your understanding of the field you are going into. For example, if you are pursuing psychology, you can choose a sub category that you are interested in such as child psychology, and then simply start writing out your question (just something you are passionate/curious about). You can also begin looking for a faculty member who has similar interests. This can usually be found on your school's website. You can then contact them for advice and they will usually be more than willing to help! Don't forget, they were once in your shoes! At most universities, there should be a research-based class that will help you get started as well. Mine was required in my major, and we had the opportunity to conduct the research on our own with the help of professors and GA's, as well as learn about a computer program that compiles data, so we were involved in the entire process. When I started the class, I was totally intimidated by research, but I am so glad that I stuck it through because now I know the basics and will be able to further my research in graduate school.
5. Research the program of interest. Just because a university has the program you are interested in, doesn't mean that the program is accredited. Also, just because a university is accredited, doesn't mean the specific program is accredited either. Knowing this can save you from looking at programs that aren't necessarily worth your time. For example, since I am pursuing a masters in counseling, I wanted to choose a school that was accredited by CACREP.
6. Attend a graduate school seminar. Many schools offer general information graduate school sessions that give you up to date information on standardized tests, financial aide information, admission criteria, etc. I still have the notes that I took during the session I went to, and I've referred to them more times than I can count.
7. Finally, be organized! I honestly believe I would be lost without my planner! It is nice to see everything laid out in front of you when you start a new week. Also, I keep a "To-Do" list for each of my classes. I will write down every single assignment/presentation/something that my grade depends on and keep the list in the corresponding folder. It puts the course into perspective and for me has always made things more manageable!
These are just my opinions/advice about pursuing graduate school. Remember: everyone is different and depending on what you are going in to you could alter this advice. I'm looking forward to posting another blog on advice for while you are in graduate school, but I need a little more experience before that happens :]
Thanks as always for reading :)