Planning Ahead for Grad School
by Sophia Salazar

It’s never too early to consider pursuing graduate school after finishing your undergraduate education. Graduate school is often associated with higher earnings and is sometimes necessary to gain access to upper management jobs in certain fields. Graduate school also gives you the opportunity to dedicate time to studying specific topics not offered in sufficient depth at the undergraduate level or to set yourself up for a career change later in life. While grad school is a big commitment that you don’t necessarily need to decide on when college begins, it is wise to keep up your grades and stats to keep the door open in the future. Here are some key things to consider during and after your undergraduate education to prepare you for graduate school in the future:

  1. Keep your grades in good shape
    While it’s never advisable to slack off in college, it’s understandable that your grades might not be as polished as they were in high school for many reasons (adjusting to a new environment, more challenging classes, extracurricular activities, etc.). However, try to keep your grades up as much as you can so that you show a demonstrated aptitude for graduate-level courses (most graduate schools accept GPAs that are at least a 3.0, but it can vary by school and field). While high scores on standardized tests like the GRE and GMAT might be able to make up for a lower GPA, it’s best to stay strong academically (especially in subjects related to the field you want to study in grad school).
  2. Beef up your resume
    Applying to grad school is unlike applying to undergrad in that you don’t have to participate in a million activities to come off as a “well rounded applicant.” While it certainly helps to have a variety of interests and experiences, a lot of grad school admissions panels are looking for applicants with a demonstrated interest in the subject area they want to pursue. This means participating in meaningful and relevant clubs, internships, programs, and jobs that can prepare you for the subject area you are studying. Opportunities like research experience with a professor, a competitive internship in your preferred field of study, or leadership in an on-campus organization related to your field are all great things to add to your resume. During college, seek out opportunities that truly interest you and can relate to your graduate school path.
  3. Establish good relationships with your professors and employers
    Just like undergrad applications, you need strong letters of recommendation for your grad school application. Depending on your field and subject, you can get recommendations from academic and professional references, so still establish good relationships with your professors by attending office hours and seeking out projects or opportunities to help them out. Keep in touch with professors throughout and after college, and let them know what you’re up to. Same goes for your internship or job supervisors -- stand out and leave an impression that can help them write a glowing letter of recommendation in the future.
  4. Check that you have the prerequisites necessary for your field of study
    For certain graduate programs or fields of studies, there might be prerequisites you need to fulfill or demonstrate at the time of application. For example, for business or international studies programs, you might have to show coursework in economics or a foreign language. Take a look at prerequisites at graduate programs you might be interested in early on so that you can try to knock them out in your undergrad classes. However, if you could not complete necessary requirements for the programs you’re interested in during undergrad, you can potentially make up courses through an online program or community college later on (check in with admissions officers about how you can fulfill requirements).
  5. Consider taking a break between undergrad and grad school
    In a lot of cases, going straight from undergrad to grad school is not considered ideal. Many different types of grad programs encourage you to take a couple of years in between undergrad and grad school to gain “real world experience.” You should consider working in a related field to your graduate subject field, or even look into a fellowship program (think Fulbright or Peace Corps) in between school.

While these pointers are meant to set you up for graduate school, considering all of these tips will help set you up for success on the path you want to explore in college and beyond. Follow the path that calls to you most and see the work pay off!