Students interested in post-graduate studies should prepare themselves mentally for the application process, said Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Sandra Witte.
Prospective students should gather resources as soon as possible and “look around, investigate, do some self-reflection and self-evaluation,” she said.
“Talk to people with careers developed in the field they are interested in so that they can get an understanding of the path they might want to take and what are the best ways to achieve their goals.”
Students who have already decided which field they are interested in should meet with a faculty advisor, Witte said, to get ready for the application and entrance exams that are required by specific fields.
Most graduate programs require a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 and an entrance exam, such as the Graduate Record Examaninations.
The Craig’s School of Business, for example, requires a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 and a 550 score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), said Tom Burns, the manager of the Craig School of Business Graduate Program.
The GMAT is a fundamental knowledge-based exam that tests proficiency in English and high-school level mathematics.
Burns said post-graduate study is rigorous, but students with a good educational background and work ethic should do well. Burns said students who came in to the master’s program with a mature attitude tend to be more successful.
“For example, sometimes you see students come in just to get their degrees and feel that it will open a door,” Burns said. “I think that’s the wrong attitude. But if they come in, say to the master’s in business, they probably have the idea that they are going on to improve their job skills and personal skills.”
There is a lot of responsibility that falls onto students’ shoulders, Witte said.
“Students have to be proactive in getting the job done,” she said. “They should not expect someone to appear in the class to turn their work in. Students often have to make their own schedule. There will be deadlines but not the kind they have as an undergraduate.”
There is a lot of individuality in post-graduate programs compared to undergraduate, Witte said.
“Most of the time, the programs have some built-in flexibility so students can really identify the areas they want to focus on and take the coursework and research,” Witte said.
Post-graduate studies are also a multi-disciplinary field, where many majors and fields coincide, Burns said. Students need to be well-rounded not just academically but in personality.
“Somebody who came in might be strong in math, and that will work very well but there will be behavior-type classes like leadership so that person has to be somewhat ‘broad,’” Burns said.
By being well-rounded, students are also expected to apply textbook situations to real-life practical situations.
“I’ve seen a lot of students make it through because they’ve done a good job learning how to learn,” Burns said. “They’re the type who can sit down, read, digest materials, use it effectively, and that usually comes with time. Also, sometimes there’s compound learning where you learn in one area and you use it in another area.”
A factor that students should consider is timing, Witte said. Students should consider if they currently have enough financial resources to support themselves while still being able to provide personal daily expenses. Witte said students should remember that it is not necessary to enter post-graduate studies immediately after graduation.
Burns is concerned with students who apply for post-graduate schools without being fully committed. He suggests they wait.
“People have to be ready,” Burns advised. “Don’t rush it. There’s no reason just to get a masters because they think they have to have a master’s. They should have a personal goal in mind, personal improvement, possibly a career goal, because I think their heart is not going to be in it because their passion is not.”
It is also better for students to have more experience in their desired field before entering the program, Burns pointed out. Many Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs require experience, so students who worked before would be at an advantage.
“We do like to see people get experience for two reasons,” Burns said. “We think that the learning is better, and we think the outcome later on is going to be more beneficial, where they can actually move into the market and move up pretty quickly.”