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Prepping for Graduate School

Worried about grad school? Learn what the director of the MLA had to say about finding the right program for you.

Due to the high cost and time commitment associated with graduate school, students must prepare for and choose the right program or risk wasting time and money. On February 2, Paula Krebs, director of the Modern Language Association (MLA), came to BYU to speak with students about graduate school. She shared her four biggest tips on how to pick a program and ensure their education leads them toward a career they are interested in.

First, evaluate why you want to get an advanced degree. Graduate school leads some people toward academia and tenure track, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Krebs advised students to know whether they want to join academia or business after college so they can pick a program that will help them achieve their goals. Students should pick a program that fits their skills and interests. More than that, students need to know what they will be getting out of their graduate program in terms of skills and opportunities.

Second, be aware of what assignments and skills are part of your chosen program. Krebs discussed how students get a lot of valuable knowledge out of their undergraduate degrees, but they should be learning new things during their graduate degrees. Completing a 20-page research paper teaches a certain set of skills, but completing a dozen of these papers may not be as helpful as completing a variety of different assignments. Krebs encouraged students to ask the university questions about the assignments and experiences associated with its graduate programs.

Third, pick a program with a few jobs or career paths in mind. Some graduate programs lead into internships and jobs more readily than others. Krebs talked about the misconception that a student needs to study for one specific job. A single degree can lead to a variety of jobs since it teaches transferable skills and competencies. Students should be open to a range of possible jobs, since it isn’t likely they’ll get their dream job right out of school and it may take some moving around to discover their perfect job.

Fourth, beware of graduate programs that are a bad investment. While most graduate programs work hard to prepare their students for careers and life beyond, others reap profit for the university without giving the students the skills they need. Krebs warned students to look out for these cash cows and avoid attending a grad program that doesn’t offer financial aid options or have a high career placement rate after graduation. The cost of many advanced humanities degrees can be supplemented with scholarships or work programs provided by the college. If you can’t find any options to help pay for your degree at a certain school, you may want to look into other programs at different universities.

“You love to learn, and you know how to learn, and you’re adaptable!” Krebs said, assuring the students that they have what it takes to tackle graduate school. Any student who wants to go should be able to do so; they just need to watch out for these four common pitfalls. Graduate school can be a valuable asset to students who know what they can get out of the experience.