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If you’re a junior or senior undergraduate, now is the time to start considering graduate school.

Grad school may not be for everyone. Earning a graduate degree requires a lot more time, money, work and dedication than an undergraduate degree.

If you are at all interested in continuing your studies after graduation, there are a few things to consider to thoughtfully make a decision.

Questions to ask yourself before making a decision on grad school:

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What are your reasons for wanting to go to grad school?

Not all professions require a Master’s degree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s out of the question to earn one. Maybe you’re considering grad school because you want to add to your resume, have a leadership role in a company or expand your knowledge on a subject, but keep in mind, work experience also looks great on a resume. Time spent working toward a graduate degree is time lost working in the real-world. If you do go to graduate school, it’s best to do an internship over your breaks or part-time. List the reasons you truly want to go to grad school and do research to help determine if it would be beneficial in the field you would like to work in.

What do you want to study?

Students often pursue a topic related to their undergraduate degree, but you can really go on to study anything you’re interested in. Focus on what you really want to do after you graduate. It’s important to not only study a topic of interest, but to choose an area of study that will help you obtain a career in your desired field.

What are you looking for in a grad school?

There are a lot of grad schools to choose from. How on earth will you ever make a decision? First, determine what you are looking for in a grad school. Do you want to attend a prominent school? Do you want a program with hands-on classes? These are questions to ask yourself to help you during your research. Then, start by researching the top grad schools offering the program you would like to study. Start to dig deeper by looking up student reviews, professor reviews, graduate statistics, etc. Call an admissions counselor to find out more about the program or go to a grad school fair to explore your options. Once you narrow down your search, take time to visit the campus if you can.

What will it cost?

It’s wise to compare costs of grad schools before deciding on a college. Grad school is expensive, but do not let that completely hold you back from going. There are ways to make costs more manageable. Financial Aid provides grants and loans to help pay for tuition and living costs each semester based on financial need. Also, be sure to apply before the colleges’ application deadline to be considered for scholarships.

Choosing to go to grad school is a big decision. It’s best to think about why you want to go to grad school first, then do research and weigh your options. Obviously, checking out the classifieds and looking for a job will always be an option. Sometimes students find it better to work a few years before going while others go right away. It always depends on what you want to do with your life and how you think grad school will make a difference.

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