Returning to school to earn your graduate degree can be an intimidating process.
If you have been away from the institutional learning environment for a few years, it can be a challenge to return to that atmosphere. If you are considering graduate school directly after earning your undergraduate degree, you may feel lonely and unsure of yourself as you see your peers enter the workforce.
Financing Your Degree
One thing that is probably weighing on your mind as you consider working on a graduate degree is how you will pay for it. Your college may offer some aid for individuals working on their master’s or Ph.D., and there may be some work-study that lowers your tuition bill. Funding the remainder through student loans allows you to focus on your schoolwork without the distraction of holding a job. Your first stop when looking to finance your education with loans will probably be federal student loans. These are offered by the federal government, and, if you plan to work in particular under-served careers, you may eventually qualify for loan forgiveness.
The drawback of federal loans is that there is a cap on the amount you can borrow. This cap will prevent most people from using federal loans to finance the full-amount needed unless they have substantial outside help when paying for school. Private student loans are a great way to bridge the gap between what is offered by the federal government and what is required for you to finish your degree. Private student loans are easy to qualify, have favorable repayment plans, and the interest rate can be even lower than your rate for federal loans.
Meeting the Requirements
Each graduate program has its requirements. Some may want you to take the GRE, many will want letters of recommendations, you may need to submit samples of past work, and all will require an application. The process of applying and then being accepted to graduate school is not quick or easy. If you are considering attending, it is best to get the process started early. In addition to the things you are required to do, such as taking the GRE, you need to allow time for others to prepare their letters of recommendation.
Boost Your Odds of Success
Graduate admissions can be a competitive process. It is easy to have your heart set on one school and one specialty, but it makes sense to have a backup plan as well. Make a list of the schools you are most interested in. Look up the admission criteria for each school and create a calendar with due dates and requirements. If any of your target schools require the GRE, start studying as soon as possible. A strong score on this admittance exam can boost your odds of success. Think hard about who you ask to write your letters of recommendation. Ideally, the people you ask for these letters will be individuals who know you well and can speak of the quality of your work on a personal level. Finally, get comfortable talking about yourself. Interviewing is a common part of the admissions process. You will have a limited amount of time to create a positive impression on the admission committee, so you want to be comfortable, confident, and able to talk passionately about your work.