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9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying to Grad School



Deciding you’d like to pursue a graduate degree is a monumental decision, and not one to be taken lightly. If you’re determined to advance your current skills or learn something completely new, it can be a great option.

But, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself and an academic advisor before applying to graduate school. Here are a few things to ponder before obtaining an advanced degree.

Why Am I Applying to Graduate School?

This one may seem like an obvious question, but it’s important you really think about the answer. If your answer is “to get a raise at work,” perhaps try simply asking for one instead. If your answer is “to gain a new skill,” think about if there are alternative options through mentorship, online learning, or other methods.

And if your answer is “because my parents want me to,” perhaps you need to decide if you want to, too. It’s crucial you have a deep desire to study whatever the subject matter is that you’re looking into. You will be spending a great deal of time—and money—to study it.

What Exactly Do I Want to Study?

Graduate school is your time to really hone in on a specific skill. This is why it’s important to think about what you really want to study. For example, if you want to study journalism, think about what kind.

Do you want to study print or digital journalism? Would you like to study investigative or lifestyle journalism? How about broadcast journalism? Make sure to narrow it down to precisely what you’re after and find a program to match.

What Is the Existing Research in My Chosen Field?

For many graduate programs, students contributing research is key. And to graduate, most programs require either a project or a thesis that is studied, researched, and presented over the course of your grad school career. Look into the research that already exists in your chosen field to ensure you can bring a fresh perspective. You may even find yourself inspired by the holes in the existing work.

Where Do I Want to Go to School?

Sure, you may have a dream school in mind, but make sure to dig a bit deeper than that. Sometimes, your dream school may not really have your dream program, your ideal faculty, or even the optimal student body you’re after. Think about all your wants, must-haves, and needs, then go from there. And remember: A brand-name isn’t everything when it comes to learning.

Does this Particular Program Have the Classes I Want?

After you’ve decided you want to go, what you want to study, and which school you’d like to attend, now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. That starts by asking for a class selection book from the school.

Before you apply, make sure the class has both the schedule you may be after (nights and weekend classes, early mornings, or afternoons), along with the programming you want. Sometimes schools can offer the exact same degrees with totally different classes and requirements, so you need to be thorough when looking through the school’s material.

How Long Does it Take Current Students to Finish?

Now’s the time to ask the tough questions to the administration of the schools you’re applying to. And those questions should include this one: “Just how long does it take students to finish the program anyway?”

If they say it takes two years, ask if that includes summer classes or overloaded courses. This way you can get a good idea about your potential future schedule and figure out how difficult of a course load you’ll have to take, and if you’d rather attend full or part-time.

What Extracurricular Learning Experiences Are Offered?

Graduate school should be about broadening as many of your horizons as possible. Look at your intended programs and see if it offers any extras outside the classroom such as internship opportunities, mentorship, or study abroad programs.

Will this Degree Increase My Earning Potential?

Sure, money isn’t everything, but it is nice to know that graduate school could seriously increase your earning potential. Degrees from a top university in the medical field like orthopedic surgery can help you get to a job that may pay approximately approximately $465,000 a year .

How Will I Pay for Graduate School?

Put simply, graduate school does not come cheap. Those who graduate with a master’s degree in the United States carry a median debt of $57,000 . But with all that new earning potential, paying it off can be manageable.

Prior to applying for grad school, make sure to assess your finances to see where you’re at. Make sure to look into any employee tuition-matching programs, grants, work-study options, or scholarships. From there, you can decide if you need to maintain employment through graduate school or take time off to focus on your studies and take out loans instead.

If you find that you will need additional funding, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid , otherwise known as the FAFSAⓇ. This application will determine what types of federal financial assistance you might qualify for. From there, you can assess if federal or private student loans will work best for you.

Finally, once you’ve completed your studies, you could look into refinancing your student loans with SoFi. In doing so, you’ll combine your federal and private student loans, and may even score a lower interest rate. And that may even help you pay off your graduate student loans faster than you ever thought possible.

Learn more about refinancing your student loans today!

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The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation
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