Graduate school Featured

11:46am EDT January 31, 2005
Attending graduate school is a significant step which involves planning, commitment and discipline to complete a rigorous, yet fulfilling, program.

Adults often wonder if graduate school fits into their career plans. Should they enroll part time and continue employment, or go full time? And, what is the best graduate program to help achieve goals and objectives?

In today's market, there are many reasons adults are considering and seeking a graduate education.

* As society becomes more fast-paced and competitive, many employers are requiring more education. An advanced degree in such fields as organizational leadership or business can open the door to expanded career opportunities.

* For some adults, a master's degree allows them to concentrate on practical knowledge and skills needed for certain professions, such as teaching, nursing, social work or pastoral ministry.

* For adults who enjoy learning, attending graduate school provides tremendous personal and intellectual satisfaction.

Before attending graduate school, consider these questions.

* What is the benefit of a graduate program -- what career opportunities will be available?

* How long will it take to achieve the degree?

* What will it cost? Is financial support available?

* Does the college have a solid infrastructure for meeting the needs of graduate students?

Traditional master's degree programs take typically one to two years to complete if you attend full time. A traditional doctoral program can take five to seven years if attending on a full-time basis.

Many graduate schools recognize that adults are not always able to stop work to pursue an education. Look for a college that offers graduate programs with evening, weekend or online courses.

As you consider graduate school, devote some time to researching graduate programs that address your career and personal goals. Seek a graduate program with a mission and purpose that meets your needs. Explore and apply to colleges with strong academic programs and which offer services and support to help you achieve your career goals.

Learn about application deadlines and requirements for admission, since they may vary among institutions. Typically, the following are required for admission.

* Completed application form

* Application fee

* Current resume

* Official (sealed) transcripts from colleges attended

* Reference/recommendation letters

* Letter of intent/statement of goals

* Graduate admission tests (e.g., GRE, GMAT, LSAT)

* Application essays

Become familiar with the many resources available at colleges to help you in making your decision. Often, faculty and staff are available and accessible for advising and dispensing information about specific programs. In addition, a prospective student can seek advice and information from the graduate admission Office.

Finally, consider the cost of a graduate education. Financial services such as loans, scholarships and grants depend on the college and academic program you select. Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement benefits for employees, so check this at your place of employment.

Graduate school is an excellent way to advance in your career, but remember to evaluate your interests and goals and be clear about your expectations for pursuing a particular field of study. Information about graduate programs is on college Web sites.

The Web site www.petersons.com is another resource to research graduate programs nationwide.

Marilyn Hoskins, M.S., is assistant director for graduate recruitment at the College of Mount St. Joseph, where she works directly with prospective students interested in graduate studies. Her career in higher education includes positions at Stanford University and Tufts University. Reach her at marilyn_hoskins@mail.msj.edu or (513) 244-GRAD (4723).