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Life after undergrad is a whirlwind of emotion. Some people are completely done with academia, while others decide that graduate school is the path for them.

People go to grad school for a multitude of things, but if you are wanting to expand your knowledge, focus on a new career path, or become a leader in your field, then a masters degree may be for you.
“By getting a masters in an area of study,” said Lindita Camaj, Director of Graduate Studies at the Valenti School. “It shows that you have taken coursework and you have accumulated knowledge and experience that makes you an expert or a master in a certain area of study.”

Those who strive to excel must consider the tediousness of an application. No matter the school a student is applying to, it’s important to get to know the graduate program. Before beginning the application process, students should research the school and figure out why it will benefit them. Students should also take note of deadlines listed, as these can be helpful for financial reasons.

For example, with the Valenti School of Communications, students who apply during the priority time period have an opportunity to earn scholarships or financial aid to help them pay their way to their masters degree.

Once familiarized, students need to send in an official transcript and begin acquiring recommendation letters from professors, allowing them plenty of time to write. Graduate applications also require a purpose statement, this should be completed using the knowledge a student acquired while researching the school they are applying to.

“It’s going to be very impressive to the admission committee, if you have already done some research on our website about what we offer and what you want to get out of it,” Camaj said. “Do some research on the faculty members you will want to work with and why. Making the application letter as specific as possible will really set you aside because we know that you are serious about grad school, you’re just not applying as an afterthought.”

Along with a purpose statement, a student must submit a writing sample. This writing sample should be a research paper that reflects a student’s ability to use the critical thinking skills acquired during their time as an undergraduate.

“The writing sample is very important to show us that you already have research skills and critical thinking skills that sets you apart,” Camaj said. “Having a nice research paper you’ve done at the undergrad degree and other grad program just tells us okay, this person already knows how to read a research paper, we don’t have to teach them these basics. This person will sit well in our program.”

If a student does not have a good GPA, a great application with outstanding recommendation letters, an astonishing writing sample that’s been peer read and reviewed, and a unique purpose statement can help compensate. In some cases, a school might ask that a student also take a test. The Valenti School typically requires GRE scores, but due to COVID-19, this has been waived for a third year in a row.

According to Camaj, the benefits of a masters degree last a lifetime. The classmates and faculty grad students work closely with may help with future endeavors. The experience helps students’ minds and mentality grow, and there is always the benefit of more money– those who earn master’s degrees typically have higher salaries.

“Those relationships that you form with your professors and your peers are lifelong,” Camaj said. “Think about all these people who are sitting within the classes who will become leaders in the industry tomorrow. Just having those connections will really set you up for success.”

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