Deciding to attend graduate school takes serious thought, professionals say

Once SATs, ACTs and college applications are in the past, undergraduate days of hungover 8 a.m. classes and Fridays off feel like they will last forever.Unfortunately, reality catches up with the easygoing collegiate life, and the option of attending graduate school needs to be addressed.

When should students begin investigating graduate schools?


“You need to know what’s out there. and what you don’t know can hurt you,” said Dan McGrew of Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

McGrew said it is essential to take an active role in the process and said research is critical.

Chuck Dunning, associate director of University Career Services, said students should be investigating the idea of graduate school during their junior year.

Dunning said he recommends that students attend graduate school only if they have a strong interest in a particular academic field, or if their field of interest requires an advance degree.

Students are advised not to pursue graduate school if they are unclear about their future.

“I would tell people not to go to grad school if they do not know what they want to do,” Dunning said. “It’ll be a waste of time and money.”

For many people, getting a few years of work experience allows them to come away a more mature person and more aware of what direction to go, Dunning said.

It is also essential for students to research the pros and cons of pursuing graduate studies in each specific field.

“America’s newsrooms are populated with folks holding master’s degrees, and they aren’t making a dime more than those with undergraduate degrees,” said J.R. Labbe, a senior editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

She said that as far as journalism is concerned, a strong portfolio, creativity and adaptability to change are important factors in moving up in the job market.

“Advancement in this business is about, ‘What have you done for me lately?'” Labbe said.

In other markets, pursuing a graduate degree may be indispensable to advancing one’s career.

Misty Otto, public relations manager for Pier 1 Imports Inc., said that further education is definitely a plus, but that applicants without graduate degrees are not looked down upon.

“I think a graduate degree is definitely an asset,” Otto said. “It wouldn’t be harmful.”

Unfortunately, further education can also be a costly asset.

“It is a decision that each individual must make,” Otto said. “There are definitely pros and cons of each.”

Once students have investigated the graduate school options available to them, Dunning said, they should begin filling out applications by the end of their junior year.

It would be a safe bet to start sending applications a year prior to when a student would plan to begin graduate school, Dunning said.

Potential graduate students can find information concerning expectations for higher education at

Whether a student plans to attend medical school, law school, business school or apply for other graduate programs, detailed descriptions of all entrance exams are available on Kaplan’s Web site.

Practice tests and test tip books for all entrance tests are available online.