If you’re just starting your college career and you’re already thinking about grad school, you’re way ahead of the game. There are a bunch of things to think about and prepare for if you do want to attend graduate school right after college. Whether you want to go to medical school, law school, or get an MBA or other Master’s degree, follow this timeline to help prepare.
Your freshman year of your undergrad is embarking on a 4-year journey to complete your undergraduate degree. It’s filled with new experiences, the chance to create lasting relationships, and to pursue your interests both academically and personally. Exploring those interests are part of this journey, so don’t limit yourself to thinking about just one career or academic path. Your goals are what really matters, and college will offer you every chance to obtain them.
Fall Semester: Sign up for extracurriculars and clubs; explore your academic possibilities
Meet with your advisor
College advisors have experience helping students succeed. They’re there to help you pursue your interests and set you up to succeed in the future. Utilize this resource throughout your entire college career, especially as a freshman. Let your advisor know of your plans to attend graduate school so they can help craft a plan for you.
Explore what the campus has to offer
College campuses are more than just a place to take classes and get a degree. Clubs, sports, student government and other activities will all help you meet people with similar interests, enjoy your time in college, and build your resume. You never know what you’ll find, so get started early.
Choose stimulating classes
Many students will try and choose easy classes to ensure they maintain a high grade point average. While that’s all fine and dandy, try to choose classes that are intellectually stimulating and offer you something to look forward to. Boring, easy classes are ten times worse than fun, hard classes.
Winter Break: Enjoy yourself, but keep focused
Winter break is meant to be a break, so enjoy yourself, hang out with friends, and spend time with your family if you are close enough. This is a good time to de-stress after a long and hard first semester.
Reassess your goals
Now that you have a whole semester under your belt, think about the classes you’ve taken and what you want to take next semester. Sign up for the classes you want as soon as you can because the good ones always fill up the fastest.
Take a hard look at your finances
After one semester, you should have a decent idea of how much money it takes to pay for your college expenses and daily living. If you’ve taken out loans or plan to in the future, you want to be sure that you spend that money responsibly. Think hard about how much student debt you want to have after you graduate.
Spring/Summer Semesters: Continue your academic exploration and use summer to de-stress
Continue to explore your academic interests
The majority of your first few semesters of your undergrad will be taking general education credits. For those classes, be sure to choose courses that will interest you and stimulate your mind. If you have to take a subject that you have no interest in, it might as well be something that you’ve never studied before.
Plan out your prerequisites
While most classes will be generals, you also want to plan for your next semester when you will have to begin taking prerequisites so that you can get into the upper division classes you need for your graduate degree. You don’t want to end up taking more classes than you need and extending your years in college.
Meet with your advisor again
If you haven’t chosen a degree yet or just need some help planning out your next semester, meet with your advisor to keep the conversation going. Again, advisors are there to help you succeed, so you might as well let them.
Don’t stop pursuing your goals just because it’s summer time
You’ll have about three months off from school if you aren’t taking summer classes. Use this time to de-stress and enjoy yourself, but don’t forget about your goals for graduate school. A lot of the times there will be summer programs on campus or in your home town that will expand your experiential knowledge and help you further on down the road.
If you are taking summer classes, keep your eyes on the prize and don’t get distracted. Summer classes are accelerated and shorter compared to the fall and spring semesters, so don’t let yourself get behind.