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Graduate Admission

How to Know You’re Ready for Grad School

» How to Know You’re Ready for Grad School

“Am I ready for graduate school?”

That’s a question everyone thinking about earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. has asked themselves. And for good reason, graduate school is a big commitment. 

Before you make that commitment, you’ll want to know whether it’s the right decision for you. Here are five questions you can ask yourself to figure out if you’re ready for graduate school.

Why go to graduate school?

Before you commit to graduate school, you should know why you’re going in the first place. Grad school takes a lot of work. If you’re going just because you don’t know what else to do, you probably won’t make the most of it. As you decide, ask yourself whether grad school is the right choice for you at the moment.

Here are some top-of-mind considerations. You’ll want to be able to answer at least one of these with a yes:

  • Will going to graduate school help me achieve my professional and financial goals?
  • Will it help me achieve personal goals, such as bettering society or being more creative?
  • Am I really passionate about what I’m studying? (More on this later.)

Do I have time?

Grad school is a big time investment. While you’ll typically have fewer classes per semester than you did as an undergrad, you may also be doing your own research, launching creative projects, reading heavily every week or attending labs and conferences. You may even become a TA and teach classes or labs along the way.

If you know that you won’t have time to commit to a full-time schedule, you can always study part-time. Plenty of programs (including many of ours) offer partial course loads, which can be ideal if you are working or have other commitments. Not every program has a part-time option though, so be sure to check first by contacting the program or the school’s admission office.

No matter which option you choose, before you commit to grad school, make a realistic assessment of how much time you have to devote to earning your degree. You might want to reach out to the program you’re interested in to find out what sort of time commitment they expect from their students. Then, decide if the program you’re considering will work with the amount of time you have.

Can I afford graduate school?

Graduate school isn’t just a big time commitment — it can be a big financial commitment too. Before you decide to go to grad school, you’ll want to have a financial plan.

The good news is that most schools (including Chapman) offer fellowships, scholarships, or even stipends to help you out along the way.

Take a look at the financial assistance programs at the schools you’re interested in (here’s ours) and see what options are available to you. Believe it or not, some programs even give you full funding.

You also have the option of taking out a federal loan or private loan to help fund your education.

Paying back a loan can seem daunting. But remember that going to grad school can lead to career opportunities that can justify the financial investment. Also keep in mind that, unlike many undergraduate loans, federal loans for grad students are unsubsidized. 

Am I passionate about what I want to study?

Compared to undergraduate, graduate school is much more in-depth. No matter what field you go into, you’ll dive in deep, and a large portion of your time will be dedicated to study, research, discussion and papers.

If you’re thinking of going to grad school for something you don’t care much about, you’re going to burn out or get bored quickly.

If you’re not sure whether you’re ready for the grad school experience, don’t worry. Many schools let you sit in on graduate classes as you consider the program. This is a great way to immerse yourself in a day in the life of a grad student and see if it’s something you want to do, so it’s worth reaching out to the program(s) you’re looking at to see if they will let you do this.

What do I want out of my degree?

Going into graduate school, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do with your degree. But you should at least have an idea of where you want your degree to take you when you’re finished. That way, you’ll have something tangible to work towards along the way.

Graduate school is rewarding, but it’s also tough. Being able to see that light at the end of the tunnel is a great motivator and can inspire you to keep going even when the going gets rough.

It’s okay not to know exactly where you want to end up. Almost every school out there has a career office (some even have dedicated career assistance for specific programs) that can help you find the path that’s right for you as long as you have an inkling of where you want your graduate degree to take you.

To sum up...

  • Have a reason to go to graduate school that aligns with your goals. Don’t go just because you don’t know what else to do.
  • Decide if you can realistically fit graduate school into your schedule.
  • Have a financial plan before you commit to grad school.
  • Make sure you’re passionate about what you plan on studying.
  • Know what you want to do with your degree — and what you want your degree to do for you.

Chapman University is a private university located in Southern California. We offer over 40 graduate degree and certificate programs and we’re committed to helping you get the best education possible. You can contact us at gradadmit@chapman.edu or (714) 997-6711.

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