22 Jan

Start Early: Preparing Your Child for Graduate School

I focus mostly on undergraduate studies here at the Pay for College Blog, but most parents would agree that what happens after college–be that graduate school, a job search, or (hopefully not) boomeranging back home to mom and dad–is equally important.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts with those of you whose children might consider graduate school so you can start the conversation–and preparation–early. You may find that getting a head start now will save you both time and money in the long run.

Getting a Head Start

College itself is a daunting task for most teens to take on, so it shouldn’t be surprising if your child hasn’t yet begun to prepare for graduate school. However, to get the best possible chance of moving right from undergraduate studies into a post-grad program, it is important that your student start working toward that goal during his or her college years. Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Visit the Career Center. The career center at your student’s college will likely be an excellent resource in helping him or her start up a to-do list for graduate studies. Many schools also offer practice interviews, essay assistance, and other help with the grad school application process.
  • Accelerated Programs. Some colleges offer accelerated programs where your student can earn both a bachelors and masters degree in only five years.  What a great college funding strategy!  My son, who is now a sophomore in college, plans on participating in this type of program at his university.  Pre-planning is crucial here.  The curriculum for the graduate degree usually begins in the junior year of undergraduate studies.
  • Prepare for the Entrance Exams. Just as most undergraduate colleges want standardized test scores as part of the admissions package, so too do grad schools. Instead of an ACT or SAT, however, your student should find out what test his or her intended field of study will require. For most students, this will mean the GRE for grad school, or the MCAT for medical school. You and your student should work out a study plan to help him or her prepare for this test, and also discuss who will cover the cost of tutoring and test fees.
  • Get Experience. Graduate schools like to see that a student is taking his or her field seriously, so volunteering, interning or working in the field can strengthen a grad school application. Not only will it enhance your child’s CV, it will also allow him or her the opportunity to see how he or she feels about working in this career field on a daily basis.
  • Network. Not only does networking give your student a pool of people to write letters of recommedation, it may also lead to connections at a graduate school or in the job market later on.
  • Discuss Finances. Now is also the time to talk to your student about how to finance his or her graduate studies. Decide whether you feel your student should take on the full responsibility of paying for school on his or her own, and if you reach that decision, help him or her come up with ideas about how to do so. Discuss options such as working, taking night classes, saving, applying for scholarships and grants and using student loans. Offer to assist with budgeting advice.

All the best,
Deborah Fox

photo: harrykeely

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