Grad School: What You Need to Know

Averi Amsterdam, Staff Writer

Graduate school: two words that separately don’t sound too scary, but together they create a sense of panic and terror.

You’re casually making your way through junior year of undergrad, impatiently waiting to finally be 21 and legally able to drink, and the horrific question about grad school is asked. All of a sudden, flashbacks of junior year of high school and the never-ending questions about going to college come flowing back. You thought once you received your letter of acceptance at 18, all questions about furthering your education would stop. Instead, here you are once again, searching for colleges and programs. Just when you needed more stress in your life, right?

Fortunately, SUNY Oneonta understands that students will have endless questions about how to approach the whole “grad school” concept. This past Wednesday, a LEAD credit event took place in the Red Dragon Theatre in Hunt Union. During this session, there was a panel of four Resident Directors (RDs) answering questions and sharing the stories of their graduate school paths. One important lesson learned from their unique grad school stories was that there is no direct path. There is no one set formula for how to go about furthering your education after completing your undergraduate studies.

Is it okay to take time off between undergrad and grad school?

Yes. It is different than taking a gap year between high school and undergrad; employers don’t frown upon it. Whether or not you take the time off is up to you. Sometimes you need to take the time to figure out exactly what you want. The gap year also gives you time to experience real adult life and to grow up more.

So, you’ve decided to go to grad school. What do you look for?

There are schools that require a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and ones that do not. It is up to you if you want to subject yourself to another standardized test. Next, it is important to look at the programs, courses, and their reputations that are of interest to you. Usually, the program itself and its reputation has more weight in the professional world than the name of the school alone. Finally, internships are important, and they build your résumé.

A one-page résumé: another scary combination of words. How do you make that work?

You were really involved around campus and held several jobs, but how do you cut it all down? Your résumé should be designed to what the program wants; it’s okay to have more than one. Make appointments with your professors because they will not only provide another pair of eyes to review your résumé, but they will also help you take out the unnecessary information. It is important to be concise. Finally, like any other paper you have ever submitted, play with the margins to ensure it’s one page, and review your résumé so you know it like the back of your hand.

Online classes versus on campus classes:

Just like taking a gap year, this is mainly based on preference. The RDs on the grad school panel were able to provide insight on both. Online classes require a lot of time management skills, including staying on top of deadlines, and being able to set aside time to do your readings and other class work. However, you aren’t confined to one location, giving you more flexibility for a job.

On-campus classes give you the continued structure of a classroom setting, making it easier to have time set aside for your class work, because you actually have to show up to class. However, this results in you having to work near your school, or vice versa.

Neither one is better than the other. The panel all had a good experience with the learning style they chose.

Finally, the audience asked for some advice. The panel all agreed grad school is a lot of advocating for yourself, learning to say “no” (and being okay with it), understanding that your social life changes, and balancing your time. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone’s path is different, so don’t let anyone else discourage you.

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