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Second steps

Grad school and other postgraduate possibilities


By Catherine Burgess

It seems at this point in the semester that everyone and their dog, and even the odd cat, are applying for programs after graduation. I may simply be especially tuned into this since I am one of the many graduating students at Memorial who are planning on beginning the second degree in the fall. But it is, in fact, application season and the deadlines for those applications are drawing near.

In the final year of studies, there are a multitude of things to consider for life after obtaining that first degree. Graduates could take a year or two away from studies, go straight into a career, or begin a graduate or doctorate program. Moving on to a second program is my path, and the process of applying is proving to be an exciting whirlwind.

I am brand new to the game this year. In the final term of my undergraduate degree, the past several months have been all about perusing program details from other universities. Now, the deadline is nigh and my mind is constantly occupied with thoughts about my application process (you can see here, how it has leaked its way into the column).

Given the nature of the programs that I’m considering, I haven’t had to look for a supervisor. My application season has been about preparing a portfolio and writing an autobiographical sketch. Writing my sketch has felt like trying to get a manuscript published; back and forth between author and editor, I think my letter is on its seventh rewrite — that is certainly not to say that it hasn’t been an enjoyable writing process.

Those of us moving onto more university need to find a program and choose a supervisor, investigate funding options, assemble applications and portfolios, and prepare and book auditions. It makes for a fairly hectic few months. As myself and the other soon departing students funambule between the final course load and applications, it’s quite easy to overlook something as major as remembering to apply to graduate if you don’t keep a level head.

Graduate Students’ Union president Kimberly Keats offers some valuable guidance for the undergrads considering grad studies. “My advice to undergraduates who are planning to pursue graduate studies would be to do your homework, thoroughly research prospective graduate programs and advisors,” she says. “Beginning and completing a graduate program is a substantial undertaking and commitment, and you should be sure it is what you want. Seek out advice from other graduate students, post-docs, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

All the frantic grad school preparations will pay off. Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Noreen Golfman commented on the importance of the experience and skills gained in graduate studies. “It doesn’t matter what area one pursues; these skills carry over into all fields of graduate studies, and are invaluable for whatever one does in life.”

“The best thing that ever happened to me was an undergrad prof recommended I go to graduate school. I don’t think I even knew what that meant, but I took her advice and here I am,” she adds.

Speaking from experience, it’s true that encouragement from a professor can make deciding what to do post-undergrad run far more smoothly. It was motivation from a few professors that in part helped me determine my path after graduation.

Regardless of what we undergrads choose to do once we have graduated, whether it is to begin a new program or to explore something away from the university campus, Ms. Keats provides this message: “Choose to do something that you love, something that makes you come alive.”