Preparing for graduate school can start as early as your Freshman year. Because graduate school can seem so far away, many students miss out on opportunities to work on areas that will influence their application to graduate school. You may or may not be entirely sure of what direction you will go, but it is important to get involved the moment you step on campus to ensure that you make the most of your time in college while securing your future acceptance in the graduate program of your choice.
Here are some recommendations that will catch the attention of graduate school reps:
Join Several Clubs
Clubs are a great way to explore interests and meet people. Join both professional and social clubs. Take on leadership roles. Admissions reps want to see commitment, maturity and drive.
Perform Community Service
Find a cause you care about and explore ways to give back to the community. Make a commitment to an organization, especially if it has a link to your interests, such as volunteering at an animal shelter weekly if you are interested in becoming a veterinarian. Admissions reps like to see volunteerism.
Perform an Internship. Or Two. Or Three.
Experiential learning – hands-on learning – is more important than ever, and internships are great for building an understanding of how your studies fit in practical application. Internships help you obtain professional experience, build your résumé, and secure your academic path.
Start a Résumé
The résumé is often the first item a graduate admissions rep reviews. A strong resume will provide an overview of academic achievement, campus involvement, and activities related to career goals. Work with the Center for Career Development to create a great résumé that is geared for graduate school. The resume is a work in progress that evolves as you go throughout your four years as an undergrad.
Consider a Part-Time Job
Part-time work on- and off-campus provide great experience for developing communication, professionalism, time management, and customer service skills. It is also an outlet for demonstrating leadership, initiative, a strong work ethic, and maturity. Often elements of a job can transfer into your areas of interest and support your future endeavors. It is a great way to demonstrate your ability to balance work and academics successfully.
Pursue Research Opportunities
As research is a large part of the graduate experience, participating in research as an undergraduate is a great way to cultivate skills and knowledge toward your field of interest. Take class projects seriously, focusing on developing evidence for your résumé. Ask your professors if they plan to conduct research in which you can participate. Look into summer research opportunities with the college or with REU – Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Look into additional coursework that could enhance your undergraduate program and provide more outlets for learning.
Foster Good Relationships with Faculty
One of the benefits of Bridgewater College is a close-knit community of faculty and staff. A small campus offers stronger relationships with faculty. Let them know your hopes and dreams. Keep them updated on your plans to go to graduate school. They can be of tremendous help. Form a relationship that bonds over shared interests, such as academic projects. It could be the difference between getting into your top-choice program or not.
Consider a Study Abroad Experience
The Study Abroad program offers opportunities for studying in different parts of the world on a long- and short-term basis. Gaining understanding of how another culture lives through an immersion experience is not only extremely rewarding, but looks impressive on a graduate school application. Being able to reflect on your cultural experience helps broaden your scope of the world around you.
Meet Regularly with the Center for Career Development (CCD)
The CCD can help you develop a four-year plan of action as you take steps toward graduate school. The staff can help with all aspects of applying to graduate school including exploring programs, developing your resume and personal statement, recommending activities, and providing the moral support that is often needed for going through this very intensive process.