to planning for graduate study list
DELAYING GRADUATE STUDY PLAN
For many excellent reasons you may decide not to go on to graduate study immediately after college. Students often want to develop more independence and/or a clearer sense of their career plans through other experiences before they commit themselves to a specific field of study and heavy tuition expenses. Career Planning staff are available to assist you in exploring employment options and in implementing your career objectives. Experience gained through volunteer work like the Peace Corps or J.V.C., Teach for America or similar teaching programs, internships in government, or entry-level jobs in any field may help you define both the career and the graduate program that is best for you. Postgraduate experience will usually strengthen your application. (This seems to be especially true for M.B.A. programs and some areas in government and the social sciences.) It may be possible for you to combine a year or two of postgraduate work or volunteer experience with study that will strengthen your academic credentials (e.g. language courses). In the sciences two years of work as a technician in a research lab may provide not only valuable experience but also an advantage on admission to that school's graduate program. In most fields, there is no academic reason why you have to go directly from college to graduate school. If you set up a solid reading program, you can strengthen your background for graduate study. However, you should check with faculty in your field on this point. (The Mathematics Department, for instance, recommends that students begin graduate study as soon as possible after college, since graduate study builds directly on your undergraduate knowledge of mathematics, which may fade during a delay.) If you have already applied and been accepted, most graduate schools will allow you to defer a year, but you probably will have to reapply for any financial aid or fellowships you were awarded.
Even if you are not planning to go to graduate school immediately after graduation, it would be wise to consult with faculty in your senior year and get information about graduate schools by writing for catalogues etc. You can set up the list of schools which you and your faculty advisors believe are within your range. Stop by the Career Planning Center to establish a credential file and ask faculty to place letters of recommendation on file for you there. You might ask faculty to put two versions of a reference letter on file--one for the jobs or volunteer work you are applying for immediately after graduation and another specifically for graduate school. It is best that faculty write letters for you while they still have a fresh recollection of the specific work you did for them. Once the letters are on file, they can be updated in any way necessary and sent to the graduate schools you request.
After you graduate and have been away from campus for a year or so, it is not a bad idea to either call or write to faculty and let them know what you are doing as you approach the time when you will be applying to graduate school. Students often call ahead and make appointments to see faculty to renew acquaintances and get advice on graduate schools just as they did when they were here. Remember that reference materials in the Office of Distinguished Fellowships and Graduate Studies and the Career Planning Office are available to alumni/ae as well as currently registered students.
There are various ways to undertake and finance graduate school. Even if you don't have an outstanding undergraduate record, you did attend an excellent college, and at some time after graduation you may want to undertake further study. An average undergraduate record can be strengthened by part-time or full-time graduate study leading to an M.A. at a less competitive graduate school. This M.A. graduate work may qualify you to transfer into a more competitive Ph.D. or other program. So don't count yourself out. Some form of graduate study is a path for career development that every Holy Cross student should consider. Do not be reluctant to come back to Holy Cross for help in making your plans.
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