Resources & Considerations
There are excellent resources at Wesleyan for the prospective graduate student. Professors are one of your best resources because they have completed the entire graduate process from filling out applications to the job search following graduate work. Also, check with alumni who are doing the work you want to do. Ask them about their educational experiences. The Career Center's alumni network (WesCAN) is a good place to begin.
Before you can begin selecting schools, you need to define your goals and decide what it is you hope to gain from graduate school. If you have decided what career you are striving for and have done some basic research, you probably have a good sense of which degree you will need. You should know whether you need to earn a Master's or Ph.D. or one of the variations of each (i.e. M.Ed., M.S.W., Psy.D.). You should also have a sense of the specialty you're after. Defining these goals will make the selection process much easier, because you will know exactly what you are looking for in a program, and whether a particular school can satisfy your criteria.
- Reading: Examine professional journals and publications. They will provide you with important insight on your field. Know that graduate studies require extensive amounts of independent reading.
- Writing: A major part of graduate work involves writing. You will be expected to write as much, if not more than you did in college (depending on your major). Often the final product is a thesis or some extensive work on a particular subject.
- Statistics: Most graduate programs require a statistics course. You may want to take a statistics course as an undergraduate or during the summer to prepare yourself for this course, especially if you have not taken a mathematics course recently.
- Presentations: You will be expected to deliver presentations in graduate school. If you become a teaching assistant, you can count on addressing crowds often. To prepare for this, practice speaking to groups as often as you can. Student organizations often provide exciting speaking opportunities.
- Research: Library research skills are a vital component of graduate study. Be prepared for extensive research even if you are not doing dissertation work. If you become involved as a research assistant, you will have research for your professor as well as your own.
- Organizational Skills: Graduate school will require you to juggle a variety of assignments and activities. You may also be involved as a teaching or research assistant. The better the organizational skills you have, the easier it will be to manage several demanding responsibilities.
- Motivation: You need to want to be in a particular program. Do not jump into a graduate program too quickly. Examine all of your options carefully.
- Timing: Consider your options. Time away from an academic environment is often valuable and graduate schools look favorably on applicants who make a conscious decision to gain experience and then return to school.
- Qualifications: Choose a program most appropriate to your academic level and experience. Before applying to a program assess the qualities that you have with those of the department.
- Economics: Graduate school can be very expensive. Explore all options through the graduate school you plan to attend in addition to seeking out books and internet sites on grants, fellowships and scholarships for graduate study.
Once you have decided what degree you will need, you need to start examining specific programs to find the ones that best suit you. You also need to evaluate what you have to offer. Barron's, Peterson's or Arco publish listings of graduate programs. These publications list addresses, program offerings, tuition costs, degree requirements and the relative competitiveness of each school. The information is very basic, but can give you an idea of what the schools can offer. These books are generally indexed by program and by geographic location. Your goal, at this point, should be to find 5-10 schools that interest you. Try to get a mix of schools in terms of selectivity.
Now your job is to contact these schools and request catalogs, financial information, applications and anything else you might want. As the material arrives, read it carefully. Learn as much as you can about each program. Now your task is to evaluate your own qualifications.