Depending on your career and life plans, graduate school will make sense for you at different stages – immediately after graduation, after a few years of professional experience, or much later in life. The resources below will help you clarify why you are considering graduate school, whether and when it would be the right path for you, and how to choose programmes that are a good fit.
At any point in your undergraduate or professional path, use these general guidelines to determine whether graduate school is the right choice for you.
|You SHOULD go to graduate school if…||Your chosen career path requires an advanced degree (e.g. medicine, academia).|
|You are passionate about an academic field and would like to study it further.|
|You would like to change careers or progress faster in your current career.|
|You should NOT go to graduate school if…||You are not sure which career path to take and want some time to think.|
|You want to delay searching for a full-time job and/or going into the “real world.”|
|You are only doing it to please other people (family, friends, professors, partner).|
When graduate school seems to be the right choice, ask yourself these questions and discuss them with your academic and CIPE adviser:
1. What are your career or life path goals?
2. What kind of advanced degree do you need to achieve them?
3. How does having a graduate degree affect employability in your field of interest – would it make you more or less likely to find a good job?
4. Can you afford to cover the costs of a graduate degree, including having to postpone full-time paid employment for 1-5 years?
5. Is there a special circumstance (e.g. a scholarship bond), that makes it difficult or impractical to attend graduate school right after graduation?
6. Are you able and willing to commit to 1-5 years of coursework that is often much more rigorous than that at the undergraduate level?
7. What are the prerequisites for a graduate degree in your chosen field (CAP, major, coursework), and how can you fulfill them by the time you graduate?
8. Have you pursued hands-on experience in your chosen field to gain a better sense of its day-to-day realities?
Find further considerations in the links below.
Peterson’s: The Graduate School Decision Basic Considerations
Pursuing Graduate School (DePauw University Hubbard Center for Student Engagement)
Idealist: How grad school is different from undergrad
Master’s vs. Ph.D.: Which is Right for You? (GradSchools.com)
Find a Ph.D.: How to Choose the Right Doctorate (Times Higher Education)
Vivek Haldar’s advice to prospective PhD students
Phil Agre’s Advice for Undergraduates Considering a PhD
After determining the type of degree and focus of study, begin to narrow down schools: do online research, speak to your advisers and professors at Yale-NUS, connect with faculty, current students, administrators and alumni of your chosen programmes.
If you can, visit your schools of interest to get a sense of the culture and meet face-to-face with faculty, students and administrators. This is not crucial, however, especially for overseas schools. At the beginning, the school’s website and the conversations with faculty and students should give you a good indication if this is the place for you. You can always visit once you have been admitted, and take advantage of the travel funding that schools sometimes offer to admitted applicants.
The Princeton Review: 4 Tips for Choosing Graduate School
Quintessential Careers: Criteria for Choosing a Graduate School
USNews: How to Narrow Down Your Business School Application List (also applies to other grad school programmes)
Throughout your pre-graduate school journey, you should stay in regular contact with CIPE, your major adviser, your academic adviser and Vice Rector, and any other people who are supporting you during the application process.
If you are fortunate to be accepted into two or more of your top choice graduate programmes, choosing “the one” can be difficult. Consult with your advisers, family and friends before deciding. Remember to also update your recommenders on the outcome of all applications that they helped you with, whether it is positive or negative, and to thank them for their support.
The advice above also applies if you received only one admission offer. It can be tempting to accept it so that you won’t have to go through a whole new application cycle. However, you should seriously consider if this is the best option for you, if you would be genuinely happy to go there, if it makes sense to go at this point in time, and if the conditions they are offering you are reasonable (or if you should negotiate them further, especially in the case of funding).
If you received no acceptances, there are many opportunities still open for you. Talk to CIPE and academic advisers about your options, including reapplying, full-time employment or a gap year of focused and meaningful activity. If you are set on reapplying to your chosen schools, reach out to their admissions committees for feedback and discuss your application with faculty and advisers to identify areas for improvement. Most importantly, do not let the experience dampen your spirit – a “No” now can easily become a “Yes” in the next admission round. The extra time is also a good opportunity to reassess your goals and gain useful experience.