3 tips for selecting a graduate program

Interested in grad school but not sure where to start? Here are a few tips!

Is the world getting better or are things staying the same? As thoughtful people who wrestle regularly with this question, we know that our professional and personal choices influence the answer.

If you want to work for peace and justice, you need a pool of resources from which to draw. You need experience; you need a network; most importantly, you need to master the underlying principles of this interconnected world if you want to have a meaningful impact.

A graduate degree in international affairs brings together these different pieces to provide a springboard to the future. It can allow you to use your training to launch a successful, change-making career in the public, private, or non-profit sector. The possibilities are limitless. College students have so many opportunities to choose from when it comes to life after undergrad; different paths exist for different needs and interests. While there is obviously no one right path for every student, a graduate degree could be a solid option.

But where would your search for a graduate degree start? What programs provide the knowledge to combat the problems of our time?

Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Plan for What’s Next
By definition, choosing a professional degree program should be about what comes after you graduate: your profession.

Selecting a graduate program should involve a discernment process. Look for job descriptions for which you aren’t qualified (yet) to find out what kind of degree and skills they require. Think about whether you prefer a flexible or highly structured program. Consider non-academic factors, such as internship opportunities and the cost of living in an urban, suburban, or rural setting. Understand your financial situation and the amount of (good) debt you can take on.

2. Go Beyond Websites
Online information serves a useful purpose as you begin your search; it provides an overview of basic questions. However, there’s no substitute for conversations with faculty, mentors, and other contacts that focus on your personal needs.

Direct conversations with admissions representatives in particular will not only help you determine whether you and a program are the right fit, but can also help you figure out how to address gaps in your experience and offer advice on financial aid.

3. Tell YOUR Story
It’s easy to worry about who else might be applying, what their GPA was, and how well they did on the GREs.

However, YOU have a distinct story to tell a story that sets you apart from other candidates. Describe in your essays what drives you to pursue this particular program at this particular time. Explain what life experiences you bring into the classroom that will help others better understand the topics at hand. Show how being a ONE campus organizer shaped your thinking about the world. Use honest and direct language to demonstrate your ability to think clearly and critically.

Admissions committees want to know as much relevant information as possible about you to make the best decision for the institution and for you.

Graduate school can be a tremendously rewarding experience. Finding the right program which meets your professional needs will help you change the world.

Want to learn more? Join SIPA and the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) during our Graduate School Recruitment Fairs across the globe this fall. See our recruitment schedule here.

Article Reprinted With Permission By Carmen Iezzi Mezzera, Executive Director, Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (@apsiainfo), via Campus.One.Org.

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