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Do This Now to Pursue Grad School Later: It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

It is estimated that about 1 in 5 HDFS majors will go on to earn a graduate degree at some point (Walker & Blankemeyer, 2013). Because graduate school is highly competitive, it is important to begin preparing now if you want to pursue this path in the future. HDFS majors often pursue graduate degrees in the following fields:

  • HDFS

  • Counseling or psychology

  • Marriage and family therapy

  • Social work

  • Health

  • Education

  • School psychology

These are highly competitive fields. For the best chance of getting into graduate school, do not wait until your senior year to begin planning, if at all possible. Increase your likelihood of getting into a good program by following these steps:

1. Prioritize your grades. While some students think GPA will not matter once you graduate, it matters a great deal if you plan to attend graduate school. Your transcript will follow you and influence your chances of being admitted. Attend class, participate, complete your assignments on time and produce quality work.

2. Seek out high-impact experiential learning opportunities, and keep a record of what you have done. A good GPA is just the beginning. Stand out by obtaining research experience, participating in campus organizations related to your field of interest, and completing related service and internships. You will forget half of what you have done by the time you graduate, so develop a good record-keeping system.

3. Learn about the many different types of graduate programs by reading about them online. Pay particular attention to the types of work that graduates of the program engage in and consider whether or not you might like that type of work. Look for accreditation information and signs that students who complete the program are successful later. Make a note of programs’ admission requirements. Note that meeting these requirements does not guarantee admission, so you want to aim to exceed them whenever possible. Attend events related to getting into graduate school hosted by UH Career Services and your program to learn more.

4. Get to know your faculty members, and leave a positive impression on them. Most graduate programs require 3-5 letters of recommendation, so you want to make positive connections. Show up to class on time, participate actively in class, be respectful of others, demonstrate professionalism, produce high-quality work, and demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and interest in learning.

5. Prepare for the GRE (or GMAT or LSAT or MCAT depending on the type of program to which you are applying). Even if you easily earned a high score on the ACT or SAT without preparing, do not underestimate graduate entrance exams. Students often find them to be more challenging than college entrance exams.

6. During the summer and early fall of your senior year (if you want to go immediately to graduate school), take plenty of time to carefully prepare your graduate application materials, and prepare to several programs to increase your chances of acceptance.

7. Take challenging courses that will prepare you for graduate work. Contact the schools that you are interested in and ask them what types of courses they look for when reviewing transcripts and applications. Depending on your goals, you may want to take more statistics courses or other courses than are actually required for your major. Many of my past students who have gone on to graduate programs, especially doctoral programs, took a few advanced statistics courses (even if they were outside of our home department).

Bonus: Develop relationships with your faculty members and ask them for advice.

I hope this helps if you are planning to pursue graduate school in the future!


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