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Graduate School: Some Basic Information

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I don’t go around broadcasting the story to everyone I know, but after earning my bachelor’s degree in education and realizing that – unfortunately – teaching was not my dream career after all, I decided to give graduate school a try. One of my part-time jobs during my undergraduate studies was keeping the books at a small IT company and calculating the payroll checks, so I knew that I enjoyed accounting. I signed up for the GMAT and filled out an application for the business school at my university, and I was accepted.

What is Graduate School?

Graduate schools are colleges or universities that award advanced degrees, such as master’s degrees and PhD’s. Many universities that award bachelor’s degrees also offer graduate degrees; they are not always two separate institutions.

Graduate degrees are much more specialized than bachelor’s degrees: you might earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and then continue on with your studies to earn a master’s degree in art therapy or marriage and family counseling. Graduate school typically consists of harder courses and a lot more research than undergraduate school. Graduate students are expected to have relevant experience in their field of study, and professors admit that they have higher expectations of graduate students than undergraduate students for this reason.

Financial aid is typically available to most graduate students, as with undergraduate students, but graduate school tuition is much steeper than undergraduate tuition: it normally ranges between $10,000 and $25,000 per year at public schools and can be as high as $40,000 per year at private institutions! If you plan on becoming a doctor, you could very well rack up over $100,000 in loans just during graduate school.

I immediately noticed that graduate school was very different than undergraduate. Perhaps another factor in my situation was that I had gone from studying education to studying business, which are almost at two ends of the spectrum, but it seemed as if everyone was in competition mode and the professors gave me the impression that they were bored with everything going on.

Who Should Go to Graduate School?

If you’re going into a career that requires an advanced degree, then graduate school is a necessity for you. Careers in medicine and law require you to attend graduate school, and you’ll be able to advance further in your career in many other fields even if a graduate degree is not 100% necessary.

If you’re considering going to graduate school simply because you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree and you’re not sure where to go from there, I’d suggest thinking things through a bit more. I did just that, and I wound up dropping out after one semester because I realized that I didn’t like it and didn’t want to spend more effort (and money!) toward a degree that I probably wouldn’t use.

It’s also extremely important to remember that at some point, you’re going to have to repay your student loans. I ran into a girl from college a few years after our graduation, and she confessed that she was working toward a second master’s degree in music and planning on getting a doctorate as well because she owed over $100,000 in student loans and couldn’t afford the calculated monthly payment. Be realistic each time you sign your name to borrow more money!

Applying for Graduate School

As with undergraduate school, the application process for graduate programs varies from place to place. In some cases, your undergraduate degree needs to be in a similar academic field, for obvious reasons— we would not want to go to doctors who studied French or Art before attending medical school. Other programs are more lenient, as I mentioned earlier I have a degree in education yet was accepted into an MBA program.

The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is required by many institutions. The GRE is a standardized test that is supposed to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. The test is not related to any one particular field of study.

Other graduate schools or graduate programs require different admissions tests. For example, the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is required by many MBA / business programs, and the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, is required for people hoping to go to law school. Similar exams exist for other areas of study. These entrance exams are very expensive and considered to be very difficult—most students go through prep courses before sitting for the actual tests!

For More Information

I just wanted to provide you with a basic snippet of information regarding graduate school, but be sure to check out the rest of StateUniversity.com while you’re here! We have extensive profiles available about colleges and universities across the entire country, and you’ll be sure to find the school and program that’s right for you. Have fun, and good luck!


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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