How can I prepare for graduate school?

 If you are certain you want to go to graduate school, you will need to prepare in order to:

  • be admitted to the program you want; and

  • be successful after you are in.

A. Join the academic community

Professional organizations. All fields of study involve a national or even global community of scholars, who conduct research, teach, and publish. These people know each other and often meet at conventions and conferences. Professors can help their graduate students and their most promising undergraduate students become part of the community.

  • Become a student member of your field’s professional organization(s).
  • Read the organizations’ journal(s) regularly.
  • Attend national and regional conferences.
  • Ask your professor(s) to introduce you to others in the field.
  • Author/co-author a conference presentation.
  • Author/co-author an article for the organizations’ journal(s).

Honor societies. Academia has a number of general honor societies and many fields have their own honor societies, as well.

  • Join and become an active member of an honor society.
  • Serve as an officer in your honor society.
  • Help your honor society actively contribute to your field.

Faculty. The faculty in your graduate field can not only teach you about your field, but also help you choose a graduate program and provide references for applications.

  • Take smaller (upper division or even graduate-level) courses in your graduate field.
  • Take a Directed Reading and Research course (399 or 499) with a faculty member.
  • Participate actively in class.
  • Take advantage of office hours to discuss your areas of interest and possible research topics.
  • Ask their advice about graduate programs in your field.

Graduate Students. Graduate students who are currently in the programs you are considering can give you an insider’s perspective.

  • Make a point of talking to graduate students in every program you are considering.
  • Ask them what it took for them to get in and perhaps even for tips on applying and being admitted.
  • Find out what their program is like and whether they like it.
  • Talk to graduate students in UHM’s program.

B. Develop a focus in a specialty area (especially important for academic degrees)

Your identity as a graduate student and, therefore as an applicant, very much depends on your specialization, or area of focus.

At the graduate level, there is a high degree of specialization. For example:

  • Not just Psychology or even Social Psychology, but how social cognitive theory applies to an understanding of minority relations.
  • Not just Geology or even Geochemistry, but the use of stable isotope biogeochemistry to determine the cycling of chemicals in the ocean.
  • Not just Art History or even Nineteenth-Century Painting, but the use of color and shading in French impressionism.