A slow economy can lead a lot of people to evaluate their professional options, whether voluntarily or by circumstance. Enter: graduate school. Masters and doctorates have fast become a way for people to revitalize or refocus their careers in lieu of successfully effortlessly landing your dream job.
It’s not at easy as it may look, though. Keep in mind some basics while you ponder reentering student life.
- Study the school and its surroundings. Being familiar with the schools that you’re interested in a no-brainer. But if you’re transitioning from a full-time job to grad school, your ideal program might not be in your most immediate vicinity. Research any expected cost of living changes, especially if you’re relocating to unfamiliar territory. Check out whether or not the school’s physical location can help or hurt your job prospects post graduation.
- Ready yourself for entry exams and processes. Different schools have different expectations, but most programs not in the arts will require some sort of entrance exams, which you might be out of practice with, whether it’s the GRE, LSAT, MCAT or GMAT. Register for the test(s) within a three-month period and study as much as you need to. Keep in mind that you’ll never have as much time as you actually want.
- Look for scholarships as soon as you decide that grad school’s in your future. You’re probably thinking about school because you want to better your life. Or maybe you just want to live off of loans for a bit. Either way, you need money. Competitive scholarship deadlines might take place before your schools’ application deadline, so start looking early.
- Borderline annoy your financial aid counselors. Once you’re in, don’t forget that your financial aid counselors are there for a reason. It’s their job to better direct you and help you better weigh your aid options. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come prepared. Fill out your FAFSA, take your financial aid entrance exams and keep an eye for your Master Promissory Note. Your financial aid office is free game after that.
- Evaluate your health insurance options. If you’re transitioning from a job into school, your employer should offer to extend the same benefits you received while employed, only you’ll have to foot the bill. COBRA in particular can be expensive, but you might be able to afford at least vision and dental coverage. If you’re under the age of 27, you can try to convince your parents to put you under their plan. How you convince them is another thing altogether.
Overall, remember that time goes by faster than you think. Those deadlines catch up fast, so either avoid procrastination or be prepared to beg for extensions. Results may vary.