How to Prepare for Grad School: 32 Tips for Undergraduate Students

Are you thinking about continuing your education after completing an undergraduate degree? How can you start preparing for grad school during your undergrad?
 
We asked deans, professors, and program directors to answer the following question:
 
If an undergraduate student approached you for advice about how they could start preparing for graduate school, what is one tip you would share with them?
 
Thirty-two deans, professors, and program directors contributed to this article with their best advice on preparing for grad school.
 
Tip 1: Reflect on and review your intentions to attend graduate school: Do you have a clear goal and purpose, or are you biding time because you don’t have a clear career pathway?
 
If the later, graduate school is not the place to bide time. Graduate programs require students to have a focused intentionality, a maturity of mind with advanced skills in research and writing. Most programs move rather quickly, hence you need to enter with clear intent and the ability to activate your passions and intellect with original research and performance.
 
If the answers to these prompts are clear and affirmative, then I suggest the following:
 
Do research on the graduate programs and the faculty who teach in those programs. Find a faculty member or cluster of graduate faculty who are doing work that interests you and could inform the nature of your very particular intentions.
 
Graduate programs look for students who will fit within the realm of what current faculty are teaching, and students who can and will push/advance the discipline – even beyond their own (faculty) contributions. Hence, Graduate Programs are interested in training and nurturing the next professoriate... Read More.
 
Tip 2: If an undergraduate student seeks advice on how to prepare for graduate school, my first question would be to ask them why they want to go to graduate school, given that getting into top programs is difficult, they need to invest two years (mostly) of their lives, and pay hefty tuition and/or carry student loans.
 
The idea is not to discourage them from grad school but instead to have them think deeply about their motivation and have a compelling case for themselves and have clarity about their decision.
 
My second question will be to ask them in which area they want to pursue a graduate degree…and again, why? What is their motivation: love for knowledge, don’t want to grow up and leave the university, get a lucrative job after graduation?... Read More.
 
Tip 3: Work backwards: What does the student want to do with the degree (research-academic, teaching-academic, government/policy, business/corporate)?
 
Based on past hiring at the desired institution, the undergrad knows the type/quality of grad program they need to target. Once you know this, a little research tells the student what is needed to gain admittance to the desired program (math requirements, undergrad research experience, work experience, etc)... Read More.
 
Tip 4: The most important tip I can give is conduct research right away about the requirements of the programs you aspire to attend.
 
Not only should you pour over the graduate school website but you should try to contact admissions, current students and faculty. You should have focused questions prepared. Always be polite and respectful of everybody’s time.
 
You might learn something like the program only accepts students with perfect math scores on the GRE or that grades on specific advanced courses carry the most weight. This facts will help your planning and goal setting.
 
It is not a secret that getting into a top graduate school is extremely hard to do. You should thoughtfully plan out your undergraduate course schedule as a freshman once you know what courses are required and valued... Read More.
 
To read all 32 tips please refer to the source article by clicking here.
 
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