After You're Accepted to Graduate School...
Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated November 2010
Accepting the offer
You may have applied to more than one graduate program, but even if you applied to only a single program, you must assess how the program into which you have been accepted will fit your specific needs. This can be done through self-assessment, inquiries and research. You should identify what it is you are looking for in a graduate program - academically, personally and professionally.
As you head into graduate school, it is important that you explore the overall quality of the institution and program. This includes accreditation, alumni performance on professional licensing exams, facilities, computer systems and student services. Read the catalog to find out how often the courses you plan to take are offered, as well as when the professors you hope to study under are leaving for sabbatical. You want to make sure they're teaching when you're ready to be taught.
The length and location of the program are also important when it comes to accepting a graduate school program. You can also inquire how graduates do in the job market when they complete the program. And perhaps one of the most important factors to consider is the financial expenses of the program. This is all easily accessible, and should either be on the school website, or should be inside the minds of any admissions people you can contact on the phone.
Get to know the program
Once you have decided to enroll in a particular program, it's time to prepare yourself for your first year of graduate school. It is crucial that you attend the institution's orientation program, as well as any other school gatherings. This will enable you to make connections with professors and fellow students. You may even get an opportunity to speak to recent graduates about how the program worked for them.
Tour the school and become familiar with the classrooms in which you may be studying. It is crucial that you familiarize yourself with the library and the computer resources available to you. Talk to librarians, and ask if they offer tours of the library facilities. Ask for handouts available from the library. Often you will find that the library has created printed materials focused directly on the key library resources related to your field of study. Work hard at getting to know the research resources - in particular, the databases - that you will have access to, both in your school's library and from your personal computer.
The Career Center is another stop you should make. While at the school, obtain your student identification card and set up your on-campus e-mail account.
As you start graduate school, set up your support network for the times when you may need help or feel overwhelmed. Your network should include your advisor, other students and your family and friends. A mentor is another important member of your support network. Find a mentor as early as possible, at your school.
Read through the program catalogs to determine which classes you are required to take and when you should take them. Attempt to plan out your registration for at least the first few semesters. In addition, make sure that your financial aid documents have been filled out and turned in, and that you have paid your tuition and fees.
As you start graduate school, you also need to be organized and create a time-management plan. Gauge your workload expectations and weigh the importance of the other commitments in your life. If you have children, arrange for child care for the times when you will be attending classes. If you work, make your employer aware of the fact that you are going to graduate school. They may be able to make certain adjustments to your schedule that will make your life easier. At the same time, it is helpful to make your professors aware of your outside-school work commitments, in case time conflicts arise during the semester.
Brush up on your research skills, particularly if you did not do much research as an undergraduate, or if you are returning to academia after an extensive break. Begin reading about your study field of choice as soon as possible, and be sure to research current issues in the field. If you do so, you will have an advantage in your classes when starting graduate school.
You may need to get immunized in order to participate in the graduate program. You should also get your financial issues in order. If you need housing, investigate the options in the area around the school, and if you need transportation, arrange for that as well.
Perhaps you wish to write thank-you notes to those who were kind enough to write letters of recommendation for you during the application process. You may also want to let your friends and family know that you may be a tad less available for a while.
And of course, don't forget to get some rest and relaxation before starting graduate school. In fact, a vacation may be a great idea, if you can afford one. At the least, take a few days to relax, before you begin the grind of graduate class work.
And remind yourself: graduate school is a huge commitment, but once you have that degree, it will be so worth it.
Get recruited by grad schools. Click here.