(Northern Review Graphic/Lauran)

Hello! If you’ve found your way here, you’re probably looking into attending graduate school after graduating with your bachelors. Graduate school is by no means the only option after graduation. In fact, most people leave undergrad with jobs lined up and ready to hop into the real world. Those who go to grad school typically do so for a variety of reasons, but often it is because their job market requires graduate degrees. Grad school offers a few different degree options as well, often split into Masters or Doctoral programs. 

Master’s degrees include M.As, M.S, M.F.As, and MBAs and typically last one to two years of higher education that combines structured learning with independent research. Doctoral degrees offer Ph.Ds, J.Ds, M.Ds, and D.D.S and can span anywhere from three to seven years for the specific program and again, often combines structural coursework with independent study. 

When I started at Ohio Northern, I was majoring in Social Studies/History with an education licensure to teach AYA. By my second year, I doubted I really wanted to run that route. After talking to a few professors, some helpful and others not so much, I decided that it wasn’t really for me. That within itself gave me loads of anxiety, but then I had to decide what else I could do because I didn’t want to waste the two years of education I completed. 

I decided to continue studying history and added a second major in political science, partly because they were so connected, but it also gave me more opportunities. I realized later that if I went to grad school and pursued my Ph.D., I could still teach so that’s what I settled on. 

At this point, I’m graduating in a few weeks and I’ve applied and gotten accepted to a few Masters programs. Some have offered very generous scholarships, GAs, and living stipends. My end game is the same, but I have applied to programs with different degrees than expected and gotten excited about them all the same. 

All of this to say, I’m still not completely sure that I’m pursuing exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. They always say it’s crazy to expect 18 year olds to pick their college, major, and accept loans, but it is just as crazy to believe that a 22 year old graduate has it all together. And I think that is okay. 

There really are no hidden tricks or tips to getting accepted into graduate school. Honestly, the hardest thing is remembering to ask professors for recommendation letters in time and then actually nagging until they submit them. Most applications are self-explanatory, but professors are always helpful if you ask for a little guidance. 

The hardest, most unexpected thing about applying to graduate school is just deciding that it’s what you want. It is expensive and the scholarships you want are not always available. Programs are not as widespread as undergraduate programs, but the colleges that have them are often very specific about the program they offer. It is overwhelming trying to find the right fit and you might not even be confident when you do make the decision. It is most important to remember that you do not have to have all of the right answers now, even though you feel like you should. It is rare to be 100% confident about the choices you make, but it is expected that you feel satisfied with yourself.

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