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Benefits of graduate school outweigh its daunting nature

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll tracked trends leading up to the Nov. 6 election. Marquette Wire stock photo.

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll tracked trends leading up to the Nov. 6 election. Marquette Wire stock photo.

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Going to graduate school is an enormous commitment that demands to be treated as a full-time job. Procrastination is deadly, sleep is a luxury and it can be difficult to keep your goals and priorities in check. Despite the hurdles, many graduates affirm that their decision to attend was a solid and life-changing one. 

Before the classes and the rigorous academic workload, though, comes the obvious but difficult decision to apply in the first place. This first step in the graduate school process can be daunting, sometimes even more than the actual program.

For Marquette’s graduate school programs, deciding to apply isn’t a choice that has to be made alone. With many interested undergraduates at its door, the graduate school offers counselors and advisors to current undergraduate students in order to desensitize them to the application process.

To apply to Marquette’s graduate school, students need to complete an application form, submit official transcripts, fill out application questions for their individual program, provide letters of reference, complete a specified essay, take applicable exams for whatever program is of interest (for example, to apply to the law school, you must take the Law School Admission Test) and pay a $50 application fee, though Marquette allows applicants to request a fee waiver.

Applicants hear back from Marquette six weeks after the application deadline by a letter in the mail. Getting accepted into graduate school is a huge accomplishment that should be recognized as such and celebrated, particularly since graduate schools are becoming more and more selective.

Marquette’s business, law, education, health sciences, engineering and nursing graduate schools are ranked in the top 100 for each of their programs by the U.S. News & World Report.

Students from around the world come to take advantage of Marquette’s graduate programs. Currently, Marquette’s graduate school represents all 50 states and 56 countries as well.

Getting into the graduate law program was one of current law student Meghan Pirics’ biggest accomplishments as she finished up her undergraduate degree at Marquette.

“Being accepted into the Marquette Law School was awesome,” Pirics says. “I wanted to continue studying at Marquette while pursuing my dreams by attending law school, and being able to make that happen was really amazing.”

Many students like Pirics apply to graduate school to go after professional goals and dreams, and these students consider the stress and competitiveness required of students through the admissions process to be worth it.

According to the Marquette graduate school office, the things that deter students from pursuing graduate degrees the most are often financial concerns. The cost of higher education can scare students away from continuing their studies.

The thought of graduating with large debt and the state of fiscal affairs can force people into accepting jobs right out of college in order to stay fiscally responsible. Despite this, the Council of Graduate Schools reported last fall that there was a 1.8 percent increase in first-time enrollment of students in graduate programs than in the previous year. This followed a 0.8 percent decline from the year before, which demonstrates that more people are enrolling in graduate programs than ever before.

The CGS said that the national increases were seen in mathematics, computer sciences, health sciences and engineering graduate programs more than any other programs. Education and business programs held the largest total enrollment, accounting for 20 and 16 percent of total enrollment.

Not all students are deterred because of finances and many can qualify for merit or need-based financial aid. Marquette’s graduate admissions office says that they provide approximately “$12.5 million in stipends and tuition scholarships from merit-based assistantships and scholarships, privately funded and grant-funded fellowships and scholarships.”

In addition, the office compiles external fellowships and scholarships for both prospective and current graduate students to look through in order to help students finance the cost of graduate programs.

The scholarships and extra financial support help to alleviate stress for students as they face hurdles such as exams and application essays in pursuit of graduate school. The most common exam that students take in order to be admitted is the Graduate Record Examination. The GRE is a standardized exam required for master’s and doctoral programs with test centers in more than 160 countries. Like the SAT and ACT, it is proctored and offered multiple times throughout the year. It also costs $185 to take it.

While some schools have a minimum GRE score for applicants, Marquette’s Graduate Office says that they consider applications in their entirety and don’t have a minimum. For international students, the GRE is combined with the Test of English as a Foreign Language  exam, which does have minimum score requirements at Marquette. These requirements vary depending on the program.

Despite the increase of graduate students over the last year, and the Marquette Graduate School’s assurance that there is an increasing interest in graduate programs as a whole, some people do not believe that graduate school is necessary or warranted for them.

Graduate school is highly competitive, expensive and stressful, and in occupations where a graduate degree might not be necessary, these strains challenge students to think carefully about whether graduate school is a good fit. Some programs are only a year or two long, but some can go on for as many as seven years, and that kind of investment demands time and money.

When thinking about graduate school as an option, it is important to speak to counselors and advisors to get a full picture of whether or not it is the best option. A graduate degree does not necessarily equate to a guarantee of getting a higher salary, and return on this kind of investment might be slow.

Even though these drawbacks are clear, millions of students still apply to graduate school every year. Marquette has a well-ranked graduate program and advisors willing to speak to students about applying, which is a resource that students should take advantage of. Graduate school is an exciting opportunity that should be examined on a personal level, because when it is a good fit, the experience can help students really be the difference.

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