This last year has been a little interesting for me as the tables turned and I became the graduate school prospect. Instead of giving advice on grad school, I was the one asking it. One of the best resources that I used to get me started is the book I give just about everyone I know who is interested in going back to school. Page five helped me most to figure out which program would be best for me.
From there, I started evaluating where I stood with the application packet. First, there’s the critical fact that I had yet to take the GRE. Since I didn’t want to wait another semester to start taking classes, I decided to apply as a non-degree seeking student. That way, I was able to take a grad class immediately and start studying for my entrance exam. It’s a great option for several reasons. I already mentioned the first, but the second is that I was able to get back into the mode of studying. Let’s face it – I haven’t picked up a stack of 3×5 cards since 2003 and the thought of studying for the GRE cold was a little overwhelming.
My first class helped me realize that the students in the program are incredibly close-knit and proud of their program. They are part of a wonderful community and were very supportive and welcoming to me as a newbie. It was encouraging to see such a diverse group of students that were ready with advice at any given moment.
Now that I’ve taken a class, I have the summer months to keep me occupied. I didn’t want to lose momentum, so I accepted an internship with a local charity to help me gain another perspective of nonprofits. My summer months are relatively quiet at work, so taking on another position was something I felt I could handle. Plus, I already volunteer with this organization on a regular basis, so it was a natural fit.
This fall will be another story altogether, and this is where I really enlisted the help of other graduate students. Two students in particular have been incredibly helpful. Both have unbelievably busy schedules and one of them travels just about as much as I do in the fall. I can be gone anywhere from three to 11 days during the fall, averaging travel to at least two cities a day. I didn’t want to wait until January to take another class, and figured that it was incredibly important for me to get tips from someone who was in a position much like my own.
There are so many paths available when going back to grad school. I really recommend that you take the time to talk with students who are in a situation similar to yours. Find out how they balance life, work, school, etc. Also, rely on your program director. S/he will be more than happy to help connect you with current students and alumni. There’s no reason to go at it alone.
Other posts you might find interesting:
Considering grad school? Get an application fee waiver
The application process: Part one
The application process: Part two
The application process: Part three
The application process: Part four