What you need to know before Starting Graduate School

Being accepted to graduate school comes after a long, cumbersome process. Applying to several different schools is a seemingly endless chore that may entail different requirements for each one. Acceptance to a graduate program is therefore an important accomplishment. Before you embark on your first semester there are things you should know about graduate school.

One of the most important things to be aware of is the higher cost of graduate school. College tuition is rising everywhere and graduate school has always been at the top tier. If you are a non-resident, it may cost you over $1,000 per credit. Be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for funding, fill out necessary applications to be considered for scholarships and take advantage of any opportunity to offset the cost of your program.

Something you may be awarded with is a teaching assistantship. This is a faculty position at your school and will constitute a part time job while you’re in graduate school. Your assistantship may come with a tuition waiver so make sure you investigate this possibility.

Your school work and your teaching assistantship will both have to be juggled, so brush up on all your organizational and time management skills. The workload and time commitment in graduate school is far greater than in undergraduate school. There is also a focus on research, academic writing, projects and presentations. Get to know your university’s library system very well to make your research tasks easier. Have a comfortable office space set up so you can work easily. Make sure you put all due dates and deadlines on a very visible calendar.

Your schoolwork will take a different tone in graduate school. There is an emphasis on excellent written and verbal communication skills. You will be required to participate more willingly in class discussions. Even if the subject matter is less than inspiring, you will still be required to be fully engaged in class. As an adult you will be expected to form ideas, questions and opinions about subjects and be able to communicate your ideas effectively.

Graduate students are always considered adults and as such are expected to be resourceful and independently minded. Do what is necessary to know your department, your faculty and your school so you know exactly where to go to get what you need. Keep up with departmental activities and meetings and be supportive of your fellow students.

Working independently is extremely important in graduate school. No one will hold your hand to make sure you get your work done on time. You may also be expected to work on independent projects. Be prepared to volunteer for activities and projects so you become a presence in your department. Everything you accomplish in graduate school is part of your professional development and needs to be of the highest quality.

Your work in graduate school will be more focused directly on your career choice. Therefore you will be asked to maintain a professional attitude throughout your degree program. Your communication and interaction with faculty should always be conducted in a professional manner. You may even be required to dress in a more professional way.

Going to graduate school is an exciting time in your education. It is definitely an upwardly mobile step to take. Treat this time as an opportunity to excel professionally and you will take valuable tools and information with you as you begin your career.