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The path to and through graduate school is not as scary as it sounds

Should I go to graduate school? How much will it cost? Will it be worth it? Some undergraduate students may find themselves asking many of these questions as they near graduation.

To assist in such a transition and to lessen the anxiety, Aaron Whelchel, a history instructor and history academic advisor in the college of arts and sciences, along with Kate Mcllraith, an academic advisor for the college of arts and sciences, provided a seminar called Graduate School Basics: A Workshop for Undergraduate Students.

The seminar focused on a variety of questions students have about graduate school. Presented here are questions many undergraduate students may be asking themselves about graduate school.

How should I prepare for graduate school?

Many programs have minimum GPA requirements so a good academic standing is vital. Getting to know instructors and establishing relationships with faculty mentors is always a good idea according to the graduate school seminar. The better instructors know a student as a person the stronger letter of reference they can write for that student.

Performing undergraduate research helps students build experience in their field. Volunteering and internships also help students stand out in a graduate application. Professional experience, such as job shadowing, helps students gain experience and indicates a strong interested their field.

Research graduate programs early was the advice of the graduate school seminar. Knowing and reviewing the time-lines and deadlines for each program is a great way for students to keep track of the tasks that must be done prior to and during the application process. Many students take required entrance exams early to ensure they make time to study and get a good score.

There are many different types of exams so making sure to know which are required for a certain program is vital.

It never hurts to read and research potential future faculty advisors and committee members. Getting to know what they are doing and connecting with them via email is one way a student could get his or her name known within the program.

How can I fund graduate school?

  • Research or Teaching Assistant programs: Some programs offer research assistant (RA) or teaching assistant (TA) positions to graduate students. Those programs help graduate students fund their education.
  • Financial aid: Applying for financial aid is the same as with an undergraduate degree. Graduate students must fill a FAFSA form and follow the program’s financial aid requirements.
  • Student loans: Loans for graduate students work differently so it may be necessary to look into specific loan requirements. A student’s credit and student loan history may be taken into account when applying for loans.
  • Grants and scholarships: Grants and scholarships are also available but in as much abundance as for undergraduate students. Employment funding is sometimes available. This program works when an employer funds a student’s education while the student works for them.
  • Tuition Remission: Tuition reimbursement by the state for public service employees who take a certain number of credits is an option. Students can check their program’s specific requirements for whatever forms of financial aid services that are being provided.

What should I expect in graduate school?

Mcllraith said that students could expect longer papers and comprehensive exams throughout the academic year. Many programs require a thesis or dissertation.

While in graduate school, both Whelchel and Mcllraith stressed the importance of getting to know other graduate students. Knowing fellow students creates a support group who share experiences and advice. Many of a student’s fellow graduate students may become future colleagues.

Does WSU Vancouver offer any resources for students planning for graduate school?

Christine Lundeen at the Career Services office in the Student Services Building can help students find information on graduate programs, locate testing centers and provide testing metrics to help students find the best programs for them. Lundeen can be contacted email at clundeen@vancouver.wsu.edu or by phone 360.546.9155.

Faculty mentors have gone through graduate school and can provide students with contact information for certain programs and strategies for success in a graduate program. Academic advisors can also help students determine what classes they need to take during their undergraduate years in order to prepare for graduate school.

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