Do I Stay or Do I Go? Helpful Grad School Application Tips

by Dylan Ruffra

I remembered once I decided that I wanted to go into Student Affairs, I had the huge task of deciding which graduate school I wanted to attend. This took time in looking over the details the institutions provided and making a tough decision. I had to think about what I really wanted from a graduate program through the different experiences the program would offer me. Aspects I looked at specifically were the location of the institution and if it was in proximity to my home, which was a big thing for me too. I had great mentors who helped me get ready to look at schools and navigate my search. As you are going through your graduate school search some things to think about are application requirements, the graduate program description, location and assistantships.

1) Application Requirements- One of the most important things to look at is the application requirements. It is important to look at everything they need from you before applying to the program. Some schools will require you to take the GRE. This is a test that takes a lot of preparation for and cost some money as well. It is vital to do well on this since some schools use these as one of their main criteria. Another aspect to think about is how many references they require. You want to be finding good references who will say nice things about you. It is important to make sure you are giving references enough time to complete the required documents and inform them on what schools you are applying to. Schools might also require personal statements or cover letters. You want to make sure you are answering the questions that they are asking and double checking your documents before submitting them. Different schools have different application requirements, so it is important to know the requirements to be considered for the application process.

2) Graduate Program- It is good to also know what the schools graduate program entails. How many credit hours is the program? When looking at a graduate program you want to know what classes you will be asked to take. It is good to know if the program is more researched, theory or counseling based. Another question is how long it will take you to complete the program. The program could require coursework to be completed over the summer or only be fall/spring semester. You want to know how long you are going to be in school for. It is good to know if the program has a final project such as a thesis, scholarly project, or a final exam. Every program has a final project; it is good to decide how you want to do it. Do you want to do a test, paper or a project?

3) Location- Your location can be a big decider of where you go to school as well. How far are you willing to go away from home? Some people like to stay close to home, others are willing to move. It is good to know how far you are willing to go away. Once you know how far away you are willing to go, you can to start researching schools. If there are certain states you do not want to live in that can help eliminate schools from your list. Location can make all the difference in your search.

4) Assistantships- Some colleges offer graduate assistantships to do while you are in the graduate program. This offers you experience in certain Student Affairs departments, while you are graduate school. Some of these assistantships will help you pay for your tuition and others pay graduate students as stipend. These assistantships can give you a lot of experience working with students and when you start to look for a job. They are also offered in a wide variety of things to do in different departments.

There can be a lot of different things to think about when applying for graduate school. It can be a hard process but I hope these tips have helped. If you truly care about making a difference for students you will be great for this field.

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