Taking a Graduate Degree: The Practical GuideAugust 12, 2019

You should be thinking about a graduate degree during your final year as an undergraduate student, if not the year before it. This is an option that you must think long and hard before pursuing it. Are you up to it?

There may be many changes in the workforce, but there's no doubt that it becomes more competitive than before. Many employers are looking for specialists, and a graduate degree is a proof of it. In other words, a M.A. (or M.S. or M.B.A.) would give you an edge over the other job applicants. There are some companies that don't require a graduate degree, though. As a matter of fact, some universities don't require an undergraduate degree if you’re dead serious about pursuing a graduate degree. If you have the knowledge, experience, and the right attitude, you have a good chance of gaining admission to the department of your choice. If you didn't opt for a gap year before entering the university, you wonder if it would be the right thing to take advantage of the gap year after graduation. It would depend on how you make of it.

Attending a full-moon party wouldn't hurt your chances, but better make sure that you don't encounter anyone who knows you back home. You may argue that you deserve it after studying hard, and you have a point. Then again, social media could be a factor. If you want academia to take your application seriously, you might adopt a serious approach on your holiday. Teaching English would give you an edge if you decide to pursue M.A. English, if not any specialised degree related to English literature. You could turn your social media accounts into extensions of your portfolio, which would reveal your passion in history, art, and culture. Professors would be interested if you decide on further study of Medieval Literature. This is one aspect of your application, and you're still far from making that important decision. And you must not rush yourself into it.

You need to plan your application, as well as envision the next year or two (if you really want to pursue it). If you don't have any hesitation, the next step would be the details.

5 Steps in Choosing a Graduate Course

Taught or research? You should expect that the modules are both core and optional, and they can be tutorials or seminars. The latter could be workshops or discussions and/or debates. Different staff members, coming from the faculty no less, would assess your performance. And you should know the best time and place to study on your own. You rather opt for a coursemate to guide you, if not motivate you. This option could be challenging, if not near impossible. You have a career and/or family to consider. One meeting may do, which may be a no-issue after your first few months in the program.

Attend and chat. You may get as much information about your prospective universities and courses from websites, but nothing would beat the real thing. Arrange your schedule accordingly, so you can attend the open days. This is an opportunity to chat with members of the academia and older graduate students. You must request their contact details, so you can exchange emails afterward. But you would have a good estimate of the learning environment. In other words, spend a few hours in walking around the campus grounds and knowing the establishments that students frequent to. The library must be on the top of that list.

Choose part-time study if you want to keep your job. This is the best thing about graduate studies, as it offers flexibility. You can finish it in two or three years, which might be longer than the usual year. It's not about who graduates first, as you're aware of how much time and money you would spend on it. In this regard, talk to your boss before you're determined to pursue it. If you have a family, assure them that your graduate studies wouldn't affect the tranquility in the household. If it happens, make it up as soon as possible.

Apply as early as possible, so you can plan your personal statement ahead of the deadline. Six months is long enough, but you can do it a year before you go back to studies. Making a personal statement would be one of the reasons. There's a huge difference (in making a personal statement) when you apply for a place in an undergraduate program. You have experience, which you must highlight in your statement. It must not be less than 300 words and it shouldn't be longer than 500 words. You must make sure that you include the relevant skills, as you need to state your goals (in pursuing graduate studies). Knowledge and passion wouldn't guarantee an unconditional offer, so recall how you manage the coursework during your undergraduate years. You can add your achievement in the workplace, which is what other applicants would think of. Bring your A game.

If you don't have an undergraduate degree, do the following. You want to specialise in a particular branch of knowledge, so you must prove to the academia that you have an impressive knowledge about it. You can back it up with hobbies related to it. If you join any club of like-minded people, provide details about it. All of these would not only impress the professors, but it would also assure them you have a commitment to stick to the program until the very end. If you can describe your job in glowing details, they would know that you can handle the demands of graduate studies, which would be more than you have managed during your undergraduate years.

The Perks of Having a Graduate Degree

A Master’s degree would accelerate your promotion in the company where you work for. It also sends a notice to recruiters, which is a good thing if you have career ambitions. Age may or may not be a factor, so it's all about tailoring your CV according to the skills that employers are looking for. You're not looking that far, as you want to show the same zeal that you have demonstrated during your undergraduate years. Experience is on your side, so there's no need to be daunted on what is about to come. It's all in your mind.

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