For many of us, completing our undergraduate degree is just a stepping stone. Even as we're handed that parchment, we’re already looking ahead to the next thing. For some, that next thing is grad school. There are so many different things to consider about grad school: programs, certificates, schools, fees, and even the choice to go at all. It can overwhelm even the strongest of us. Below are four steps to help calm your nerves and get you on solid footing.
1. Do your research
Not every school is the same. While programs may be similar across schools, they aren't exact replicas of each other. For example, Dal’s clinical psychology PhD program includes three comprehensive projects instead of exams, while most schools require comprehensive exams with written and oral components. Fees and requirements can also vary, so look at each school’s website to get a sense of the program structure, application requirements, and deadlines.
2. Look at all possible avenues
Don’t get stuck on a track that everyone else is following, or that others think you need to pursue. Look into what you want to do and how far you’ll need to go in your education to get it. Many fulfilling careers only need a master’s degree, some require a doctorate degree, and some don’t need either. You should also consider the many options that exist for your program. For example, psychology majors can become clinical psychologists, school psychologists, social workers, and counsellors, all of which need different levels of education. Research as much as you can and see what aligns with your future goals.
3. Ask yourself the hard questions
Now is the time to be real with yourself. If a program is heavy in research, and you can’t stand research, it’s most likely not the program for you. If a program requires long hours of work or requires you to move far away, and those are commitments you can’t fulfill, then it definitely isn’t the program for you. If you can’t even imagine spending another second in school, then grad school is most likely not the place you’re meant to be. Sit down and look inwards about what you want to achieve, where you want to be, how you currently feel, and how you can make everything work the way you want.
4. Don’t be afraid
As daunting as it is, there’s no need to worry. You’ve already come so far and will go even further. Grad school is just another hurdle that you’ll jump, and you’ll come out the other side an even stronger person. And if you don’t go to grad school, that’s okay too! You’re still going to crush the next challenge that comes your way. No matter where you go in life, whether it involves grad school or not, we know you’ll be amazing.
Still having trouble deciding? The awesome advisors at the Bissett Centre in Halifax and the Student Success Centre in Truro can help you clarify your goals and figure out what you need to achieve them.