It’s the time of year when seniors—and some proactive juniors—begin thinking about the next step after graduation. For some, this could be transitioning directly into a career. For others, it’s exploring the possibility of graduate school, either to hone in on a particular area of study they are currently enjoying, or to switch gears and try something completely different.
There are a lot of factors that go into researching potential graduate programs, such as the number of years required to complete further school, the financial responsibilities, the career outcomes of individual programs, and so on. With that said, though, there are three specific and time-sensitive factors that everyone should get clarification on right away.
This may sound like common sense, but this will vary from program to program. Some masters programs will have rolling admission, which means they accept students year-round every semester or quarter. This is an ideal scenario, as it gives you flexibility as to when and how quickly you need to gather your application materials. However, some programs may only accept students once a year, in which case you want to make sure you’re ahead of the game; if you miss the deadline, chances are the program won’t consider you until the following year, at which time you might not be able to consider further schooling.
If you’re looking at multiple programs—and it’s recommended that you do—be sure to jot down the admission deadline date for each institution you’re considering. If it’s unclear on a university website, contact the Admissions Coordinator at that institution for further clarification.
The most common exam that people will need to complete for graduate school is the GRE. The good news is that some masters programs will not require a GRE (woohoo!). If they do, though, you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to not only take the test, but to factor in any preparatory time you might need before the exam. Similarly, you may want to factor in time to retake the exam if you’re looking to obtain a higher score before the application deadline.
For students interested in specialized advanced degrees, you will want to do some research to ensure you take the correct exam for that program. Whether you’re considering law school (LSAT), medical school (MCAT), an MBA program (GMAT), etc., the same rules apply: give yourself plenty of time to prep, take, and (if necessary) retake the exam before the application deadline date.
While this is becoming less common, it’s possible that some masters programs will require that applicants have at least 1-2 years of professional work experience prior to entering the program. For some, this could be experience in any field, while others will be seeking applicants who have been working in the field of their intended program. Either way, this is a requirement to take into consideration early, so that you can begin to map out post-undergraduate career plans that will be an ideal fit for your long-term academic goals.
Beyond the time-sensitive requirements noted above, it’s important to review each admission requirement very carefully. Some items, such as a personal statement, can be created on your own time, while others, such as letters of recommendation, will depend on how quickly you can reach out to and receive a response from a potential reference.
Ultimately, it helps to meet with a career advisor first to determine whether graduate school is right for you, and what programs would be the best fit given your professional and academic interests. By knocking out this first step, you’ll be ahead of the game and more prepared for any and all graduate admission requirements.