Is Grad School Right For You?

Thinking about Graduate School? Take a minute to think through!

Deciding whether graduate school is the right choice can be a difficult and daunting decision. Pursuing an advanced degree requires a significant investment of time, energy, and money. It is important to reflect on your goals, motivations, and interests to determine if graduate school aligns with your personal and professional aspirations. Here we provides information to help you gather resources, understand graduate programs, what they look for, and criteria to consider when selecting a graduate program. 

Before you start preparing for graduate school application, reflect on the following questions and ask yourself: is graduate school the best option for me?
  • What is my professional direction?
  • How will grad school help me move ahead in my career?
  • What type of degree should I pursue?
  • Am I already burned out on school?
  • When should I apply to graduate school?
  • What is the financial impact of grad school now?

You might want to gather some information to find out if graduate school is a good choice for you. Here are several places where you can get valuable advice and information:

  • Faculty in your field of interest: Faculty members can provide valuable insight into the academic and career paths associated with a graduate degree. They can advise you on the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing a specific program, career paths that may be open to you with a graduate degree, and the skills and knowledge you will gain from the program. 
  • People working in your field of interest: Talking to people who are currently working in your field of interest can give you a sense of the types of opportunities that may be available to you with a graduate degree. They can also provide insights into the relevance of specific programs, the skills and knowledge that are most valuable in the workplace, and the challenges and rewards of working in your field of interest. 
  • Graduate program websites: Websites provide detailed information on the degree requirements, available courses, research opportunities, faculty, and career paths associated with a specific graduate program. You can use these websites to explore the different programs available, compare the requirements and opportunities, and determine if the program aligns with your academic and career goals. 
  • Professional associations: Professional associations provide a wealth of information on the latest developments and trends in your field of interest. They can also provide access to networking opportunities, conferences, workshops, and other events that can help you learn more about the field and connect with other professionals. By participating in these events, you can gain valuable insights into the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing a graduate degree, and get a better sense of the skills and knowledge that are most in demand in your field of interest. 

There are several types of graduate programs available, each with its own focus and requirements. Some of the most common types of graduate programs include:

  • Professional Master's programs: Professional degree programs are designed to provide specialized training for specific careers and are usually industry-oriented. These programs typically require 1-2 years of study beyond a bachelor's degree and may include internships or other practical experience.
  • Master's programs with thesis: Master's degree programs typically require 1-2 years of study beyond a bachelor's degree with more research focus. These programs provide advanced training in a specific field and may require completion of a thesis or capstone project.
  • Doctoral programs: Doctoral degree programs typically require 4-6 years of study beyond a bachelor's degree, and may include coursework, research, and a dissertation. These programs are designed to prepare students for careers in research, academia, or other specialized fields.
  • 5-year BS-MS program at UIUC: Some programs and departments offer 5-year program for current Illinois students to obtain a B.S. with an M.S. degree. Please consider reaching out to your academic advisor to ask about the program details, eligibility, and admission requirements.

It is important to carefully consider the different types of graduate programs available and choose one that aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Graduate schools look for applicants who are highly motivated, have a strong academic background, and are a good fit for the program. By demonstrating these qualities through application materials and interviews, applicants can increase their chances of being admitted to their desired graduate program.

Motivation: Why are you interested in Graduate School?

Graduate schools look for students who are highly motivated and passionate about their field of study. This is demonstrated through letters of intent, personal statements, and interviews. A clear and compelling explanation of why you want to pursue a graduate degree, what you hope to gain from the program, and how it fits into your career goals can make a strong impression on admissions committees.

Academic Background: Why are you going to be successful in Graduate School?

Strong academic performance is a crucial factor in graduate school admissions. Admissions committees look for evidence of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and the ability to excel in a rigorous academic environment. This is typically demonstrated through undergraduate transcripts, GPA, and test scores. In addition, relevant coursework and research experience can demonstrate a strong foundation in the field of study and potential for success in a graduate program.

Fit for the Program: Whether you are a good fit for the program.

Admissions committees also evaluate whether applicants are a good fit for the specific graduate program. This includes considering the applicant's research interests, career goals, and fit with the program's faculty and research strengths. Many programs also consider factors such as work experience, community involvement, and cultural background in their evaluation. A strong fit with the program can demonstrate a clear path to success in the program and beyond.

When choosing a graduate program, it is important to consider several factors, such as program focus, requirements, and reputation, as well as your own interests, goals, and preferences. Here are several factors to consider:

  • Reputation of the Faculty 
  • Quality of the Program  
  • Financial Costs 
  • Admission Requirements
  • Application Deadline
  • Available Course Offerings 
  • Employment
  • Facilities
  • Geographic Location 
  • Student Life

Having Questions about Any of the Steps?

Make an Appointment with ECS to Discuss Your Steps