I’ve often thought of advising as presenting our students with all the information and empowering them to make the best choice.  In some cases our interactions with students may be reactionary, they’re coming to us with a problem in need of a solution or opinion.  Other times, we are able to encourage them to think ahead and make plans for the future.  For those who work in the high school setting or work with students early in the college careers, here are some important questions to ask your students who may not be thinking of grad school yet, but are dedicated to fields/professions that require them.

Do you know what you want to study?
Often students have had a dream of being doctor, lawyer or other similar profession from a young age.  What’s important is to make sure that those dreams still make sense as they begin to grow and change.  During college they may be exposed to fields of study and interests they had never heard of before, or had the opportunity to study before. And that’s a good thing!  For some students this means creating new dreams and for others, finding ways to incorporate their new found passions into their childhood goals.

What is it I really want to do?
Law, business, medicine, these fields have more established career paths so students in these fields have not only a sense of what schooling they will need to practice the profession, but more than likely there will be counselors on campus to help them with the process of getting there.  Fields that are less determined, such as the humanities, cinema, fine arts — those will require some research.  Encourage your students to reach out to the resources available to them in your office but those that also exist in other areas of your department or online by raising their awareness to their function and purpose.

What will grad school mean for me, financially?
When I worked with high school students preparing to enter college, for some of the families I worked with, the topic of financial assistance was stressful.  Many times, I had to engage parents to view the cost of attendance as an investment in their child’s future.  The same goes for graduate school.  However, there tends to be less financial aid for master’s students.  As such, it’s important to educate students about the resources available to them, types of aid and how to get it!

How is the application process different than when I applied for undergrad?
Like the undergraduate application, applications to graduate programs are comprised of many different parts.  Depending on the program, the emphasis may be different.  MBA programs may be focusing on your professional experiences-beef up that resume! STEM programs may be looking at your transcripts to verify you not only have the academic foundation, but that you performed well in those courses.  Humanities and Liberal Arts programs may be focused on your interest in the program and ability to express it as well as future goals.   Additionally, if your students are shy, now is the time to get them comfortable with an interview setting!  For competitive institutions, funding and fellowships, most students will be required or offered the opportunity to interview.

By touching on the points above, having a clear understanding of why a particular school or program is right for them, as well as a deeper understanding of who they are and the impact they want to have on the industry or world, will prepare them for a stronger interview and application process.  A the end of the day, encouraging our students to think ahead in a multidimensional way will not only help them develop personally and professionally, but it will also ensure that our students are capable and prepared to take the next step in their academic career.

By Kendall Williams