Grad school fair gives students a peek at postgraduate options

Sam Black

Yu En Mui, a Carlson School of Management senior, shuffled slowly through Wednesday’s graduate school fair with a handful of college brochures and an eye on her future.
Like other students who are finishing their junior or senior years of undergraduate education, Mui doesn’t know for sure if a postgraduate education is for her.
Wednesday’s graduate school fair provided a place for potential graduate students to get information on graduate schools. This fair, held in Coffman Union’s Great Hall, was sponsored by the Office for Special Learning Opportunities. About 70 schools handed out literature and talked with undergraduate students about their prospective graduate programs.
Dennis Nunes, a recruiter from St. Cloud State University, often meets students like Mui who came into the graduate fair not knowing exactly if or when they want to attend graduate school.
“We live in a credential society,” he said. Graduate degrees are becoming a ticket for admission into some professions.
About 10 years ago a student of communication disorders only needed a bachelor’s degree to enter the profession. Today, Nunes said, to be licensed or hired, you need at least a master’s degree.
Peter Syverson, research director of the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington D.C., said bachelor’s degrees are good for a general education, “but employers are looking for candidates with some level of specialization.”
People often start their career and want to move up, or move on, Syverson said, and so they go back to graduate school to upgrade skills or change careers.
According to the U.S. Census bureau, a master’s degree will net the average worker an additional $10,701 per year more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Those with professional or doctorate degrees earn even more money on average.
The jump isn’t “unlike a high school diploma vs. an undergraduate degree,” according to Nunes.
Mui recognized the value of having a master’s degree. Many companies don’t hire people who only have marketing majors, she said. Having a graduate degree “gets you a lot further and it helps you stay competitive.”
If students are on the fence about whether or not graduate school is for them, one recruiter suggested they do more than look at the bottom line of costs and rewards.
Melody Kyser Baker, a graduate studies recruiter from Kent State University, said some graduate students are just interested in studying more about one certain topic.
Others just want to stay in the University climate in order to attend graduate school because they are academically talented and are looking for ways to improve their skills or knowledge.
Some students seek information about graduate schools because they were impressed by a particular professor who sets an example for them.
But graduate school isn’t for everyone she said. “You have to be disciplined and focused,” she said. Because many students, especially doctorate students, don’t ever finish their degree, “It’s a very long commitment.”
Even though students may see the value of getting a graduate degree, Nunes suggests students know their educational and career goals before applying.
According to Nunes, “One needs to make that decision in undergraduate school,” he said. Because in graduate schools “there are no undecided majors.”
In undergraduate school students learn what societies already know, he said. “In graduate level education, you are on the cutting edge of what we do not know.”
When students are juniors or seniors, they should start considering their graduate school options, according to Michele Fisher in the University’s Graduate School admissions office.
In order to keep the doors open to graduate school, a student should get good grades. Low grades are the primary reason students are rejected from attending graduate schools, Fisher said. The Graduate School at the University uses 3.0 on a 4.0 point scale as a benchmark for what all applicants must meet.
In addition to good grades, students must take appropriate standardized tests and complete the necessary application procedures.
The graduate school’s application process shouldn’t be overlooked, she said. Students should start cultivating their professors for letters of recommendation, she suggested, after they’ve had a couple of classes with them.