What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘application

Often students who are planning to go to graduate school dismiss internships and even the idea of career planning entirely.  I’ve truly had student-after-high-ability student absolutely refuse to consider the idea of working on career exploration and development activities while in college because “I’m going to graduate school.”

So, if this is something you’ve thought, you aren’t alone.  Lots of students only focus on getting a degree.

Consider this:  Just because you plan to get ANOTHER degree doesn’t mean you are prepared to enter the job market.  Just having a degree (even an advanced one) does NOT automatically get you hired, nor does it guarantee a satisfying meaningful career.  It just means you have cleared the academic hurdles set up by a specific program before they will issue a degree.

I’m not saying that degrees aren’t important and valuable, nor am I dismissing just how hard you might work to earn the degree.  What I am saying that a degree is not the entire recipe for success.

Getting any degree at any level is a huge commitment of time, energy, and money.     Yet, going to school is only part about the classes and subject matter.   Half of why you come to college is to learn technique and information.  The other half is about networking and gaining experiences.

So, here’s some very real talk on the issue of graduate school and internships:

1) First, internships, volunteer work, and other experiences that show involvement, leadership, and dedication make you a better candidate for graduate study.  Engaging experiences make you an more interesting person who can write better letters of application, have more people to ask for letters of recommendation, and brings more meaning to the process.

2) You might not anticipate this, but it’s possible that you might not get into graduate school or not get into programs you want to attend or it’s possible that by the time you are finishing up your seniors year you just can’t bear the idea of MORE school and decide to put grad school off for a year or two.   Internships lay the groundwork for your career, providing experience and networking connections in a field.

2) Graduate school just is not all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s a lot of work.  If it’s meaningful work that fits into your long terms career goals then it’s enjoyable and worth it.  At least most days.  😉   But if graduate school is just because you are good at school and feel that “it’s just a logical choice and really what else would you do?, then you are going to graduate over-educated and completely ill-prepared for a meaningful job search.  Internships, volunteer work, and leadership experiences at any time help prepare you for the job market in ways that more school never will.

3) Internships, volunteer work, and leadership experiences all help you explore who you are in different situations.  These experiences help you develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t when interacting with people in professional settings.  Eventually, school will be over and you will need to confront the question of “what you are going to do when you grow up?”

4) Depending on which graduate program you attend there may be a HUGE range of career development support available to you.  Some graduate programs are absolutely AMAZING in terms of what they provide in terms of leadership development, networking opportunities, internships, practicums, co-ops, residencies, clerking, teaching, researching, or other applied learning experiences.  Yet, sadly some number of graduate program are abysmal, providing even less support for graduate student career development than the inadequate scraps of career services they provide for undergraduates in the same programs.

I could probably write volumes on the subject of the inadequacies of career development at university, but I’ll sum it up this way… depending on what type of graduate program you are looking at and why you are looking at it, they might be selling a dream that isn’t as shiny as you think it is.  So, if you are going to graduate school because you want to be faculty, be prepared to examine the rusty interior of academia before choosing that path.   More on that topic in future posts.

No matter what your educational plans are in relationship to your career plans…wherever you are in your journey, it’s never too early or late for more experience.   So whether it’s a part time internship or a volunteer experience or any other kind of structure that allows you to meet people and connect with specific fields, it’s an invaluable in yourself.   You are totally worth it!

Sending fabulous energy!

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If you are thinking about going to graduate school, you may  have wondered about staying at your undergrad school for grad school.   It’s a deeply understandable idea, especially if you really like the subject, the school, and already have a place to live and lots of friends.  Yet, it’s often a very good idea to broaden your horizons.

Depending on your program and field there may be certain conventions specific to your field, so a great place to start is with talking with the faculty and graduate students in your program.  Certain programs strongly discourage or even flat out refuse to accept undergrads from their own program.  Other programs strongly encourage their applicants from their own undergrad program.  So, what gives?  How do you make sense of this?

Well, it might be helpful to first outline some of the key elements of a graduate program:

1) Graduate school is professional training that provides focus and direction for your career.

2) Graduate school provides grounding in key philosophies and practices within a field.

3) Graduate school provides a network at the school and access to professional networking through faculty, conferences, symposium, research, practicums, internships, residencies, and other experience designed to connect you with those in the field.

So, with these 3 key elements in mind, consider the following: no matter how wonderful your undergraduate program is, attending a different program for graduate schools gives you the opportunity to broaden your exposure to training in your field, acquaints you with more philosophies or approaches in your discipline, and of course widens the number of people in your network.    Perhaps that helps explain why some programs make policies that encourage you to look elsewhere for graduate school?

Yet, in certain cases staying at the same school might be the convention in your discipline.  For example, because K-12 licensure or certification is state-by-state, the convention has been to stay local when going to graduate school for education.  There may even be curricular and other encouragement to start undergrad in some kind of pre-education program that provides early or guaranteed entrance to graduate school.   That makes a great deal of sense given the way education is currently governed.

Yet, for most fields, you are likely to find it’s more the norm to look for programs across the country that are a good fit for the exact training, experience, and networking you desire.   This is particularly true if you are a competitive candidate for a number of program.  Often people regard their home school as a “safety net” program.   This is because a place where you are already known, liked, and succeeding isn’t regarded as stretching to the next level of what you can handle.   Making connections from where you are to where you’d be a great candidate is a lot more challenging and presents an opportunity for you really learn, grow, and integrate yourself into the field.

One element that many people find very surprising is that when looking at graduate programs that they are NOT limited to programs that are an exact match to their undergraduate studies.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • You might have an undergraduate major in English, but get an MBA.
  • You might have a film studies major and go on in Public Policy and Administration.
  • You might have a music degree and go on to a graduate program in Psychology.
  • You might have an business degree but then go to law school.
  • You might have an art degree but go to medical school.
  • You might have a biology major and get accepted into a Public Health program.
  • You might have an engineering degree but go on to study environmental design.

There are literally hundreds of examples I could give you of students who studied one thing as an undergraduate and successfully went on to graduate or professional school in another area.  So, how could that be?

Well, for some programs like medical school or related health professions, you need specific classes and experiences to get accepted.  Some students have these classes and most find they may need a few additional classes to meet these application prerequisites.    At the same time, what surprises many is that they didn’t need a specific degree in chemistry or biology to go to medical school.  They needed a core set of science classes, and very importantly, a compelling story of good fit for the medical program.

Yet in other cases, a minor or a core set of classes that may have been part of the general education curriculum may be sufficient academic preparation for entry into a graduate program.   You will need to research specific programs to see what courses, experience, scores, recommendations, or other evidence they require to evaluate your application.    For many students they are able to plan these courses into their general education.  For other students, it may require additional studies prior to graduate application.

The key is to broaden your horizon as early on as possible: look beyond your current school or even your current major to find the best graduate program for you.  Knowing what you want from a program is a good start.  Then, researching what is out there.  It’s a process.  Start from where you are.  There are many resources to assist you on your path. Use them all.

Sending fabulous energy!