I recently wrote a blog post on how undergraduates should think about graduating and applying for graduate school. If you are an undergraduate and missed this blog post, take a look at the blog here. Now, I want to write to graduate students who are in the process of earning your Master’s degrees or Doctorate degrees. Read the following tips to learn what you should be doing now and over the next few semesters leading up to graduation.
When Should You Think About Graduation?
As I described in my earlier blog, it’s usually better to think about graduation as early as possible. If you don’t know what you’re aiming toward, then you might feel lost during your years as a graduate student. In fact, there must have been a reason you applied to grad school in the first place. If you’re in that normal grad student rut in which you ask yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” then back track to when you were first applying to grad school to remember why you felt grad school was the right choice for you.
When you remember what you wanted to do for your career, then you’ll be able to ask yourself some more questions: “Do I still want to do that for the rest of my life?,” “Am I still on the right track to getting there?,” “Have I gotten distracted along the way?,” “Am I gaining the right skills to reach that goal?,” “Do I have any backup plans in case my first choice doesn’t work out?,” and similar questions. When answering these questions, be honest with yourself because the time that you spend in grad school is important, and you should spend this time preparing yourself for what you want to do the rest of your life. On the other hand, if you aren’t in grad school and you feel that earning your Master’s or Doctorate degree would be best for your career, then you shouldn’t wait too long to earn one or both of these degrees.
What Decisions Do You Have to Make?
One of the biggest decisions that graduate students have to make is if they want to stay in academia or venture out into the workforce. Some graduate students may want to expand their skills and explore new environments, and others might want to stay where they have conducted research so they can continue doing so with the same professors and researchers. Many graduate students have a tough time with this decision because they don’t want to disregard the hard work they put into their grad years, but they might also want to find out what else is out there. I plan to write another blog post about the pros and cons of each of these decisions in the near future, so keep an eye out if you aren’t sure you want to stay in academia or go into the workforce.
Other decisions that are difficult to make in grad school include what classes to take to get exactly what you want and need out of graduate school, how to network best with professors and classmates in your program, and which organizations will benefit you the most versus the ones that will not benefit you at all. There are, of course, many other decisions to make in grad school, and I hope to write about them soon. To ease your mind about the many decisions you need to make in grad school while gearing up for graduation, I want to bring back a word I used in the undergraduate blog: realistic. During your time as a graduate student, remember what you can and can’t handle. Try to reach your goals, but if you try to force yourself to reach unrealistic and almost impossible goals, then you might end up being disappointed in the end. As I mentioned before, spend your graduate years preparing yourself to do what you love, and have a few backup plans just in case things don’t go the way you planned.
If you want more practical advice about how to think about graduating with your Master’s or Doctorate degree, visit our page entitled Life After Grad School. I hope this gave you a basic idea of how to look at graduation with an optimistic attitude and how to realistically visualize yourself as a successful academic or candidate in the workforce. What kinds of decisions have been tough for you in grad school, and have they changed through your grad career?