There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a program, and it is often easier to begin weighing your graduate school decision by conducting a personal assessment and by speaking with faculty members and alumni.
Before making the decision to attend graduate school, take some time to learn more about yourself and your motives for seeking a graduate or professional degree. By carefully outlining your goals, talents, and abilities, you can avoid the frustration of choosing a school or program that is not in your best interest. To begin your assessment, start by asking yourself the following questions. Feel free to record your answers and share them with your career counselor, faculty advisor or whomever is assisting you in your decision.
- What are my short-term and long-term career goals? Where do I see myself in five years? Ten years? Where does graduate study fit into these goals?
- Do I have a passion for a particular subject or combination of disciplines? What are my skills and strengths? Am I mentally and physically prepared to undertake such an extensive commitment?
- Do I have other needs or obligations that conflict with attending a graduate or professional degree program? Will I need to take out loans? How is the job outlook for my prospective field or industry?
- What type of value do I place on a graduate degree? Am I going to graduate school to please others? Am I using graduate school as a means to avoid seeking employment?
Faculty members and your pre-professional advisors are among the best sources of graduate and professional school information. They possess tremendous knowledge in their areas of study, and they are abreast on current issues and trends facing their industry or field. Faculty members can give you information about their graduate institution(s), and most are happy to share their experiences as graduate students with you. They can help you locate programs that suit your needs and interests, and they can help you decide whether a master’s or Ph.D. program is best. Also, your professors can give you valuable contact information of faculty members at other institutions, and on some occasions, they may even contact a friend or colleague on your behalf. While interviewing faculty members, consider asking the following questions:
- What is your background? Where did you obtain your graduate degree(s)? Why did you choose this particular program or institution? What was your experience like?
- How did you make your way into this field? What career options can you pursue with this degree?
- Should I go to graduate school right away or take time off to work for a year or two? What kinds of work experiences are preferable?
- Who else should I see/call/write for further graduate school advice? Can you recommend other faculty members at Oglethorpe or elsewhere who may be willing to give me additional information?
Note: ALWAYS ask this last question or something like it, and remember to follow up when a professor shares his or her contact information with you.
OU Alumni are also an excellent resource for graduate and professional school advice. Contacting the Alumni Office can connect with you with many resources that might help you in your research. For example, you can locate alumni who are professionals in your field of interest, or who might be attending a graduate school that you are thinking of applying to. Alumni are usually happy to give you information on their programs and what the transition from Oglethorpe to graduate school is like. Alumni can tell you which degree or combination of degrees is helpful for the work they do or if a graduate or professional degree is necessary.When arranging informational interviews with OU alumni, be sure to sample more than one opinion. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- What has been you career progression? Why did you choose this particular graduate program? How do you feel about your decision to pursue graduate studies?
- How does one typically move through your field or industry? What types of degrees or credentials are preferable? How has graduate school fed into your long-term goals?
- How did your OU education prepare you for graduate school? How is graduate school different from college? What courses do you recommend I take? What journals/magazines do you suggest I read?
- Who else should I write/call for further advice?
Note: If you need any help with arranging informational interviews, contact Career Services or refer to our Informational Interviewing and Networking handout.