Wait...I can study that?
Graduate school application season is coming up soon, leaving many people wondering just what it takes to apply and be accepted to a graduate program. Grad school can be useful for many reasons, like to further a career or work towards personal goals. There are countless programs in many fields, with increasing access to specializations that weren’t around a few decades ago.
When I was in my undergrad program, I had no idea a specialization in game studies was even possible, much less that’s what I would end up doing for my graduate career. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a passion for turning anything I do into a game so I can get more things done!
The Very First Step
The first and most important step in your grad school journey is deciding what you want your degree to be in. There are many options, from game studies (as mentioned before), to plant biology, to social anthropology, agricultural communications, graphic design, computer science, creative writing, parks management—and more! Many programs also allow interdisciplinary studies, where you can tailor your degree to your specific needs. If you're wondering what the benefit would be to you earning a higher education degree, you can use the SMART goals method to figure out what you want, and if a graduate degree aligns with your goals.
It’s recommended to have a list of at least 4 to 6 schools that you want to apply to—some schools which you feel very qualified to get into, some schools which evenly match your level of qualifications, and some which may be difficult to get into considering the competition (but that would be very exciting if you did!) This gives you a good range of options, because applicant competition varies from year to year, and you never know what background or interests a specific program may be looking for more of.
Things to consider when looking into a graduate program include location and local cost of living, acceptance rates, qualifications to get in, tuition cost, whether faculty specializations match your interests, whether graduate students teach, and if there are tuition waivers or stipends available for teaching or research positions. You’ll likely end up with a list of schools where some have more good qualities than others—but rarely will there be a school that matches every one of your desired attributes. It could be helpful to write out the list of your priorities in order so it’s easier to see which schools match more high-priority features.
Some grad schools have a fee to apply, which may factor into whether you want to apply to those schools or not. Some fields allow you to go directly into a PhD if you choose to, while others require you go into a master’s degree first.
During the application process, you will be filling out forms with your information and information about your education history. You will have to provide a transcript, or transcripts, from your undergraduate college on the form. The specifics of the application process vary depending on the program you’re trying to get into, and the specific school.
Many graduate programs require:
a personal statement (where you explain why you’re a good fit for that school’s program)
letters of recommendation (both from academic and professional mentors)
A resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
Also, depending on the program, you may have to take a test and score above a certain benchmark in order to be considered. The most common test is the GRE (the Graduate Record Examination), which tests your general knowledge on many subjects, but specific programs have their own tests, like the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Once you have met all the requirements for your application, it can take a few weeks to over a month to hear back on whether you were admitted. Once you have all your acceptances back, you can determine which school is the best fit for you and start making plans.
Of course, a to-do list can come in handy when keeping track of all these steps!
Nerd out with your coach!
All along this process, the coaches at Autism Personal Coach can be a sounding board to help you figure out what it is you really want. We can help you in researching schools, creating spreadsheets to organize your findings, and reaching out to faculty to learn more about programs. Applying to a graduate program is already stressful, but with all the steps and decisions to make, it can be even more so when you’re autistic and haven’t experienced the process before. But, no matter where in the journey you are—from idea generating, to writing your application materials—we’re here to help and support you.
If you're concerned about how to manage your energy once you're in graduate school, our coaches are happy to help you with that as well. But first, here is an article you can read about how to maintain your energy levels.
Don’t be afraid to reach out today to talk with one of our coaches about your educational aspirations!