Congratulations on taking this next step in your career and future! Take some time and celebrate your success. Once the emotional high of getting into the school of your dreams wears off, it can start to feel a little intimidating. But don’t worry. We’ve come together this far, and I wouldn’t leave you without some solid parting advice.
Explore Your Next Steps
Apply for financial aid
One of the first things to look at after getting that acceptance letter is your potential financial aid package. Some schools will give you a financial aid offer along with your acceptance. If that’s the case, count yourself lucky and relax a little while you wait for your first semester to come around.
If you weren’t that lucky, take some time getting to know the financial aid department at your school. They will help connect you to different financial aid sources you might qualify for. If you think you might qualify for a scholarship, grant, or assistanceship, go ahead and apply. The more financial aid you get, the less you’ll have to worry about repaying when you begin your career. Most programs will offer at least some kind of financial assistance to their graduate students.
Take some time to search the Internet for scholarships as well. If you intend to work in an underserved area, have a military background, are returning to school after a long absence, are a parent, or any other long list of qualifications, there may be aid available to you. Spend the time researching your options so you can worry less about finances and focus more on your studies.
Once you’ve applied for scholarships and know what’s available to you, it may be time to look at loans. Focus on federal loans first, as these have lower interest rates, more lenient and income-based payback plans, and may allow you to apply for loan forgiveness after a certain number of years.
Prepare for potential relocation
If your grad school isn’t in the area, it’s time to start packing and getting ready for a move. Relocating can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the new area, and a little research can go a long way. Look into both campus housing and local rental rates and see how they stack up against each other. Most of the time renting off campus is less expensive, but this is not always the case.
If you do decide to rent off campus, research the various complexes, buildings, and neighborhoods available. Online reviews are a good resource if you’re conducting an apartment hunt from faraway. But if possible, try to visit the area before making your final housing choice.
Talk to your employer
If you are working an unrelated day job to pay the bills, this will not be a particularly difficult transition. On the other hand, if you are working in your field and may want to take a new position with the same company once you graduate, you should tread a little more carefully. Let your supervisor know how much you’ve enjoyed your position and that you would like to talk to the company about opportunities once you graduate.
Some jobs will offer to pay for your graduate program in exchange for your agreement to work with them for a set number of years once you graduate. If the organization you work for offers this kind of program, take advantage of it. You can always break the agreement, provided you pay back the tuition costs, if you change your mind later.
Discover Tips for Succeeding in Grad School
- Participate actively in your classes. In undergraduate, school is largely a thing that happens to you. In grad school you need to be an active participant. Do the required reading, raise your hand, argue your points and beliefs. You may sound foolish a few times, but you will gain confidence.
- Don’t forget the importance of networking. Forming lasting relationships with current and future leaders in your field is one of the best things you can do in grad school. This will affect you future career opportunities and your professional satisfaction.
- Don’t be afraid to take some risks. If you get offered an amazing internship in a foreign country, take it. If you have a choice between researching something you are truly passionate about and something that seems safe, choose your passion. Don’t let the resources of your school pass you by because you were too intimidated to use them.
Graduate school is an exciting and challenging time. You will likely work harder than you ever have, but if you’re learning about a field you’re passionate about, it will be totally worth it. Congratulations on taking this next step!