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Attending graduate school is something not all students are ready to do. Graduate study usually is more about research and going deeper in a certain field. While this is not an obligatory requirement for a good position right after school, a master’s degree can come in handy later in life when applying for a leading position. Some companies may require graduate education from the CEOs and directors. So, not to waste time and money afterward, people decide to get the most during their school years. Doctoral degrees are more for people who would like to devote their lives to research and studies. They often stay at a university as professors.
So what is the difference between undergraduate and graduate education? Graduate studies differ from previous years a lot. The whole atmosphere is completely changed. Students get competitive, the coursework is done individually and is more in-depth than all previous papers. In addition to the academic differences, there are many details that even undergraduate students do not know.
One of the main issues to research is the types of graduate programs. There are more of them than an average student knows.
A Master’s degree is what comes to mind when thinking about graduate studies. This is the next step in the academic ladder after the initial Bachelor’s degree. This is truly the most in-demand graduate degree in the country. Every year, about 500,000 students apply for the program. The two degrees that are usually awarded are the Master’s of Arts and Master’s of Science. The longevity of a program varies and depends on the university and the major of choice. Some programs may take as little as a year, other – up to three years. However, the most common duration is two years.
In most cases, a graduate student has to complete about 6-8 advanced courses to get the Master’s degree, as well as write a study project or thesis. The courses are usually elective and the focus is placed on the thesis that determines the final grade. Despite the great number of student given by the statistics, those are only 3% of the U.S. population making the degree a privilege that raises the status of a student considerably.
Another common graduate degree to get in the U.S. is the Doctoral degree. This program follows the Master’s and is meant mostly for the future scholars and university faculty. The common diplomas are Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). These programs are usually even longer than the Master’s and may take up to 5-8 years. However, this is the highest credential a person can get. The program consists of full-time advanced classes that are followed by an exam to complete the first stage of the studies. Then comes the second stage that is all about an intense independent research. It takes at least a year to write a dissertation that is meant to complete the Doctoral studies.
In most cases, the two-abovementioned programs complete the list of the graduate meaning. Yet, some universities have something else to offer. Professional programs are also considered to be graduate studies. This is a specialized degree for international students as well as locals in a certain area. The admission process is even more competitive than for the previous two programs. Professional degrees offer a pick on the future career and practice the skills needed in the future as well. They are a bit shorter and often last about a year or so.
The application process for graduate studies may be a bit longer and more complicated than for undergraduates, but the general procedures are the same.
Firstly, a student should examine all possible offers and look for the placed requirements. Knowing that you meet all the requirements is the step. All universities have their own lists of requirements and each has to be considered separately. The most important and common of them are:
- A completed Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification from a recognized educational establishment
- Two letters of recommendation from professors or eligible figures
- Graduate admissions test results
- Previous academic excellence
- Proficiency in English for international students (can be proven by international exams such as TOEFL or IELTS)
- A personal statement
Having all the papers gathered, a student can start the application process with completing an application form that is usually given by a university or on its website. The application can be done and sent online with the copies of the documents.
Later, a university administration may contact a student and invite for an interview. This is a common process though some establishments neglect it. The interview will be focused on the academic achievements, reasons for applying for graduate studies, and so on.
When applying for a program, following all deadlines is as essential as the application form itself. Known that graduate schools acceptance rates are not high and time really matters. Usually, admissions begin as early as fall and end in March. However, each establishment has its own dates and they may vary. It is always better to apply at the beginning of the term in case something has to be corrected or added to the application.
When accepted to a university, an obligatory step for international students is getting a study visa.
On average, the tuition costs for a graduate degree lie within the range of $20,000-$35,000 per year. Financial aid is very limited for these programs and is mostly meant for U.S. citizens.
Among the few options of aid, scholarships are the most popular. Most are offered by the universities and are awarded based on merit, though there are some need-based as well. Foreign students can also apply for graduate funding and will be viewed alongside the locals.
Another popular option, especially for the international students are assistantships. This type of aid to given as a payment to a student who works as an assistant to a professor or a department. All payments are used to cover the tuition expenses. Assistantships are usually renewable and can be achieved every year.
Among the federal offers for U.S. citizens, the most popular are student loans for graduate study. Though they are not as financially appealing as federal scholarships, they are issued to all applicants and are easier to get. Loans will have to be repaid alongside certain interest rates. Usually, the government gives students time to finish the studies before repaying a loan. To apply for a loan, a student has to complete FAFSA that should grant the help for one academic year. It has to be submitted every year in order to renew the loan. They are available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
At the end of the studies, foreign students can apply for Optional Practical Training to extend their stay for a year to master the required skill on field-related graduate jobs. OPT has many restrictions and regulation and strictly limits the kind of position a graduate can get to stay in the country.