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Undergrad to Master's Degree

Plan, prepare, and perform
Planning is just as important as performing

Many anthropology majors, which is what I was, decide they want to get a Ph.D.. I had big Ph.D. dreams once, but was rejected by the two Ph.D. programs I applied to. Thus, I found myself enrolled in a master’s degree program.

If I could go back to right before I started graduate school, I would take more time off instead of only one year. During time off, you can get experience in the field you want to work in, rest and also save money for graduate school. Graduate school is much more demanding than undergrad and it would have been lovely to have money put away so that I would not have had to work as much as I did.

The smaller amount of time a master’s degree takes compared to a Ph.D. is a great benefit. Since master’s degree programs are around two years, I was not stuck in a long Ph.D. program. You can always go to a Ph.D. program after completing a master’s one. This can also allow you to take time off between a master’s and Ph.D. if you would like to. If you do not want to get a Ph.D., you can get to your career after about two additional years of studying.

When thinking about a master’s degree program, you have to figure out a topic to write your thesis on, if your master’s degree program requires a thesis. Your thesis will be your main focus of your master’s degree work. You will need to investigate the faculty of universities to make sure there is at least one professor who can advise you on your thesis and mentor you on your work. On your application, you will most likely have to write a statement of purpose, where you can detail the research you would like to do. In addition to the statement of purpose, there are several other components to master’s degree applications—standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and transcripts.

There are two types of standardized tests for master’s degree programs, GMAT and GRE. The GMAT is taken by students who want to pursue a Master in Business Administration degree, while the GRE is for most other majors. Some programs do not require a standardized test score, so be sure to find out if the schools you are applying to require it.

If you never had to ask for a letter of recommendation, here is a quick explanation. A letter of recommendation is where a professor, mentor, etc. will express how and why you are qualified for the graduate degrees you are pursuing. I had a lot of fears asking for letters of recommendation and also felt like I was bothering teachers. It is part of a teacher’s job to write them, so please do not feel like you are bothering them. Remember to give the writer at least a month to write your letter. Many teachers are asked to write letters from multiple students and you must allow them to have time to write yours. Lastly, choose a writer who knows you well, likes you and can speak to your work as a student.

A personal statement is where you will showcase how and why you are qualified to go to graduate school. Basically, a letter of recommendation for yourself. Make sure you give yourself a lot of time to write one and I will probably take several drafts. The university may have specific questions you have to answer in your personal statement, so make sure to answer all of them. Make sure to include how and why your abilities and background make you the perfect candidate. Do not hold back in talking about yourself. As with your statement of purpose, make sure to have at least three people proofread it and give you feedback.

The decision to pursue a master’s degree is a big one. Think about how much, if any, time you want to take off before attending. Research universities to find people whom you want to work with and would like to be mentors during your studies. Lastly, figure out what is required for each university. The most common pieces of master’s degree applications are a statement of purpose, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and transcripts. Each school may have different requirements, so do extensive research to make sure you submit everything on time.

Katelyn Cano
Katelyn Cano

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