Graduate School Information
There are many reasons to pursue a graduate education. Some of the best reasons for enrolling in a graduate program are the love of a particular subject of study and the desire to study it in depth or the need for an advanced degree to enter the profession of your choice. Unfortunately, some students will use graduate school as a way to temporarily delay career decisions. Students who are apprehensive about entering the job market should carefully evaluate their decisions to enter graduate school. In some instances, an advanced degree will increase your marketability, while in other instances, additional work experience in your field will be more relevant. Consult with a staff member in Career Services for more information. Many students will also face pressure to attend graduate school from parents, peers, or mentors. Make sure any advice taken reaffirms your professional goals. Graduate school is self-directed, and it can be difficult for a student to be successful in graduate school when not self-motivated.
Perhaps you are interested in attending graduate school but are unable to select a specific field or degree program. You will want to spend some time defining your interests before graduation. Visit the Career Services resources library, use FOCUS (a computerized career exploration program), talk with faculty members, read educational institution literature, and consider an internship or co-op. If those exercises aren’t helpful, you may want to consider gaining a year or two of work experience to enhance your perspective.
Whatever your motives are for attending graduate school, it is a good idea to think about the impact this decision will have on your life. Will the degree prepare you for a specific occupation or career field? If so, what is the employment outlook for that field? When you select a field of graduate study, you are also defining a profession and lifestyle. Make arrangements to talk with professionals in that field about the benefits and liabilities of that path. Currently enrolled graduate students are also useful sources of information. A full-time master’s program will typically take two years to complete, while doctorates and some professional degrees require an additional three or more years. Part-time enrollment will require additional time and may even be discouraged at some universities. During this time period, you will focus intensely on your academic subjects and the individuals in your program. You will typically forfeit a competitive salary, workday routine, and leisure time. Are you comfortable with the thought of living the lifestyle of a student for a few more years?
Given the costs that you and your family have incurred over the past few years, this can be a legitimate concern. Everyone places a different value on education, and ultimately you will need to decide if graduate school is worth the financial sacrifice. Before making that decision, however, you should familiarize yourself with potential funding sources. Fellowships or scholarships may be awarded by individual departments or institutions as well as outside organizations. Institution-based aid most frequently takes the form of a graduate assistantship. Graduate, teaching, or research assistants work part time in exchange for a stipend and tuition reimbursement. Federal loans are also available to many graduate students. The types of aid available to you will vary tremendously from one institution to another. Make sure you investigate these options carefully before making any decisions.
Is the program/institution nationally recognized? Is it recognized on a regional or local level? If you choose to look into program rankings, be advised that there is no single rating for graduate or professional schools that is universally accepted. Read several different reports and ask faculty members about the reputations of the programs you are considering.
Is this an area in which you want to spend two or more years? Ties that you develop here could also lead to jobs in this area. Be sure to consider the cost of living in the area when weighing total expenses.
How long does it take to complete the program and what percentage of students who begin actually complete their degree?
Where do graduates of the program typically find work? What are the job market trends in your chosen field? How much assistance is provided by the institution to find employment?
Do you meet the prerequisite requirements, GPA, and graduate admission test scores?
Are the faculty conducting research in areas that are of interest to you? Are professors seen on the cutting edge of their field? What have they published? What is the student-faculty ratio? Have you visited the campus to meet with any faculty to discuss the program?
What type of housing is available? How extensive and available are labs and facilities? How comprehensive is the library? What computer and laboratory resources are available?
Keep in mind that it can sometimes cost less to go to a school that seems expensive at first. Internships, fellowships, and assistantships that offer tuition and a stipend in exchange for teaching or working on campus can offset the costs of graduate school.
Graduate and professional school information is available in the Helmke Library and Career Services, and may be available in various academic departments. Career Services has some graduate and professional school catalogs and copies of the IPFW Graduate Bulletin. Information about graduate admissions tests (GRE, LSAT, etc.) is available through Testing Services (Kettler 232B, 260-481-6600). Make an appointment with one of our staff members or a faculty member in your department to review your graduate school admissions strategy.