So it has been about a full year since I started my grad school search. This past year has been full of amazing opportunity and adventure surrounding my search. I have a few friends that are starting their search for grad schools and it takes me back. So I thought to help out, I would dedicate this post to the steps I went through in my search. Now I did not do this without help. My mentor guided me through this search, but I did the work all on my own.
I assume if your looking at grad schools you have committed or thinking about committing to this field. When you get to a certain part of your search you need to fully be ready to put 100% into this search. Finding the right grad school is important and if you half-ass your search then you could end up somewhere you will not be happy. I also suggest you do the work all on your own. While I highly suggest finding someone to help you, you need to make the decisions for yourself. This search again is about finding the best fit for you. So with that in mind here is my guide to the grad school search.
**Note: I suggest starting this over the summer you have plenty of time.
1. Decide your non-negotiables
The first step is deciding what you want in a school, program, and location. It really helped me to talk to those within my department. I asked about their grad school experience and find out why they choose that school and program. I decided that I needed a school that had football team, leadership training, somewhere in the Southeast or New York, and a few other things specifically about the program. Before even starting your search really think about what you can not live without and what you can. This will really help narrow down the search.
2. Create a running list
Now that you decided what you want out of the search time to organize it all. This will help when going through all the schools to keep this straight and easier to deal with. I did it by creating an excel sheet on Google Docs, but you should organize however it makes sense to you. Printing out sheets of information could be a great way if you’re a visual person!
Finally it is time to start searching!! I have added a bunch of resources to help in finding schools, but Google is a great resource. As you find schools that interest you start checking off your list of non-negotiables. If it doesn’t fit then move right on, is going to be a hard time and you need to keep focused. If you don’t stay focused you will end up with 50 million (OK…so maybe like 100) institutions. I would also suggest either limiting yourself to a number or a date. That way when you reach that point you know to stop looking. If you haven’t come across a school by this point I would say it just wasn’t meant to be!
4. Take a few days off
After doing all that searching you need a few days to clear your head and not think about it. This will really help when you move onto the next step. While everything is up to you, I suggest waiting a few days before counting the search. Having fresh eyes will make the process a lot easier and more enjoyable. You won’t become filled with dread and then begin to hate this process.
5. Each week eliminate 2 to 3/Start personal statement and resume
Now is the time to really get down to the grind. Each week remove 2 to 3 schools from your list until you at a point where you have a decent list. I would suggest getting down to 10 to 15 schools by the end of this step. Also, now is a great time to look at starting your personal statement and resume. Think about questions that are frequently asked for personal or goal statements. Break it up and answer each question on its own. This will allow you piece together full statements and not have to start from scratch for each one. Have a trusted professional or friend look over your resume. I went through about 15 versions of my resume before finally getting to one that I use now. It is better to start these now. Since most applications are due in December or January, you do not want to be doing these when you are also working on normal school work.
6. Decide your top ___
Now depending on how much you want to spend on application fees, decide what your top schools are. I applied to 5 schools and got accepted to 3. I suggest no more than 10. Think about the more you apply to the more money you spend and it could also make the decision harder. But now is the time to go back to your list and remove all the schools until you have the ones you want to apply for!
It is finally time to apply! Make sure you have all the information ready when you go to apply. I found it is best to get it all done at one, that way you don’t forget about any parts. After applying make sure to follow up with everything and then check for assistantships. Once you apply you should be able to apply for assistantships, some schools you can’t apply until you get accepted but it is better to check as soon as possible. You can always call the university to check on that as well!
Now it is time to sit back and wait! Take some time off and enjoy the last semester at your undergrad. While this is an important time don’t forget to live in the now. One of my favorite musical sayings is “Everything in life is only for now”. So enjoy the now after all your hard work!!
If you want to know more about what I did after applying let me know and I will create another post just like this with my next steps!
Til next time ❤
**Comment any suggestions you have for those applying or any questions you have about my application process!**