Life after Guilford: Is graduate school right for you?

If you’re currently a junior or senior, chances are the words “graduate school” have been lurking in your brain, especially since the time you have left at Guilford is running out. The question “What are your plans?” asked so frequently by parents and friends seems more like an interrogation than anything else. It’s time to start thinking about life after Guilford.

According to Alan Mueller, director of the Career Development Center, about 20 to 25 percent of Guilford graduates apply to graduate school every year. But how exactly does the process of applying to graduate school work? It starts out with a search for the right school for you.

There are two different types of graduate schools: professional and academic. The professional grad programs are for students who are pursuing a specific career. Professional degrees include Master’s in Business Administration, Master’s of Social Work, and Master’s of Education.

An academic graduate program is for students who want further study in a specific subject, rather than preparing them for a specific career. These degrees can include, but are not limited to, Master of Arts, Master’s in History, Master of Science and many more.

Whether you are looking to get a Master’s in Business Administration or a master’s in general, there is a program for everything. Along with an application to the school, students are also responsible for sending in a résumé or curriculum vitae—a more academic-oriented résumé—and a statement of purpose. Just as when applying to undergraduate programs, entrance exams and standardized tests are a part of the system as well.

“Taking the Graduate Record Examination twice can make a huge difference, (as can) preparation courses, which are offered through Guilford,” said Mueller.

The GRE can be closely compared to the SAT. Many schools do require it, but there might be other exams required, such as the Law School Admission Test for law schools or Graduate Management Admission Test for management schools.

Most schools do have a minimum cutoff in terms of the scores, though there are some schools and programs that do not require these standardized tests, just as Guilford does not require applicants to submit the SAT or ACT scores.

Daniel Hood ‘11 is currently pursuing his Master’s in History at Boston College. His advice for current Guilford students was to shop around for programs, to talk to faculty advisors and to visit the campuses.

“If you’re using graduate school as a stop gap from going into the real world, you will be disappointed and broke,” said Hood. “Graduate school is not for everyone.”

Hood described the work load he has now as triple the work of his IDS at Guilford.

But if you do decide that graduate school is the right move for you, there are things you can do now in order to make the process easier.

Talking to faculty advisors from the specific majors and finding out what their experience was at graduate school can be extremely helpful. Getting in contact with Guilford alumni who are currently at graduate school can also be a great tool. It is also important to start your search for graduate schools early.

“I started my junior year,” said Katie O’Boyle ‘10. During her third year at Guilford, O’Boyle started researching graduate schools, making visits and sending out her résumé. She knew she was looking for a program that would give her teaching licensure, but that also put her on the path to receiving her doctorate.

O’Boyle’s advice for current Guilford students is to start researching different programs and getting in contact with the heads of departments from those programs. Making connections and networking can help you get a foot in the door.

The Career Development Center always has an open door and can help tremendously with any questions and concerns. With the right planning, the future and the real world do not have to seem so scary. Graduate school might just be the next step into your own bright future.