Grad School Series: Getting In

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Fast Fact: Each year, 27% of the Centre College class of 2012 who responded to the outcomes survey went on to graduate school.

Now that you’ve decided To Go or Not To Go to grad school and you understand the Application Timeline, it’s time to think about how to get into grad school!

Getting into grad school is far from a slam-dunk. Undergraduates are up against not only their peers, but also nontraditional students who have been in the work force and are returning to school enhance to their skills.

Set yourself apart from the competition and stand out to graduate school admissions recruiters with these helpful tips.

Do your homework.

Thoroughly research the schools that fit your area of concentration. Take a look at the scope of their programs, investigate their requirements, find out about financial aid options and processes, and so forth. Get the lay of the land. Graduate school admissions recruiters want to see that you are genuinely interested in attending their institution, so learn all you can and make an informed decision about the schools you would like to attend.

Ask questions.

Tammy Manka, associate director of graduate admissions at Marywood University, recommends scheduling a campus visit (or two) to get a better feel for a school than what’s on the website or in marketing materials.

And ask plenty of questions.

“Ask for a meeting within the department you’re interested in. Research the area where the school is located. Is it a place you can see yourself living for two-plus years? And ask to speak to an alum, if possible,” she suggests.

In addition, “Be sure you have a good understanding of what the program offers that you’re looking for, and what you’re looking for that it doesn’t offer,” says Ellen Driscoll, associate director of graduate admission at Suffolk University in Boston. “Be realistic. Given what you know about the program, be honest with yourself about your appropriateness as a candidate.”

Understand each school’s application process.

Once you’ve done your homework and narrowed down your choice of schools, make sure you have your materials together before you start applying. Every school is different, and you may not have to send the same packet of information to each one.

Do the schools require scores from standardized tests like the GRE, MCAT, or GMAT? Give yourself plenty of time to take (and retake, if necessary) the required tests.

Do you need to provide a writing sample? Carefully craft your sample.

“We look for quality as well as content,” Manka says. “We want to see that the applicant can write at a grad school level. Think about what you’re writing.”

Do you need a list of references? Lisa Palacios, director of student recruitment at the University of Texas – San Antonio, recommends putting together a packet of information for references—a school brochure, information about the program you’re applying for, and a copy of your resume so they can refer to it if necessary. Your references are vouching for your academic performance as well as professionalism, so give them the tools they need to write you a glowing referral.

Don’t procrastinate.

Graduate schools have firm deadlines that they expect applicants to meet. These deadlines are in place for a number of reasons, not least of which is financial aid. Make sure you give yourself enough time to complete in-depth documents like the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) or any financial paperwork. Keep track of necessary deadlines. Don’t leave everything until the last minute.

Tailor your materials and check your work.

It sounds simple, but Driscoll recommends applicants read directions carefully.

“Make sure you’re sending admissions materials to the appropriate place, that you have all materials in the form that the school requests, and that you have all of the credentials the school is asking for,” she says.

Manka echoes that, and says that one of her pet peeves as a graduate admissions representative is receiving poorly written application information. She receives materials riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, or addressed to the wrong school.

Double- and triple-check your application packets before mailing them out. Spellcheck your application and have someone proofread it—spellcheck doesn’t catch everything, and certainly won’t catch a missing word, misplaced comma, or garbled sentence. Verify school addresses and check that you have addressed your materials to the appropriate contact person.

Having trouble deciding on a field?

Maybe you aren’t ready for graduate school. Talk with a career counselor to clarify your reasons for attending grad school and to identify the major that fits best with your goals.

Tips for graduate school applicants

If the program allows it, reach out to the program director in advance of applying to show that you’re a serious candidate. This can also help you get a sense of whether you are a good fit for the program (and give the admissions staff a sense of how good a fit you are).

If your program requires standardized testing, prepare for the test. That might mean a formal prep course, if you’re so inclined, but the key is to know what to expect—don’t go in cold. And, take the test well in advance of the deadline—early enough to allow you to retake it if necessary.

Experience can make all the difference in being chosen. If you CAN get experience, get it. If you HAVE experience, make sure that your resume is complete, accurate, and demonstrative of your work.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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Grad School Series: Application Timeline

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Have you decided that you’re definitely heading to grad school?  (If you’re still on the fence, check out our first post in our Grad School Series: To Go or Not To Go.)  But if you have decided that grad school is in your future, follow this general timeline to keep yourself on track. Time frames are approximate: Check the deadlines for your schools of interest and adjust accordingly.

Junior Year (Fall)

Many graduate schools look at applicants’ grades from the last two years of undergraduate courses. If your GPA is an issue, it’s time to pull your grades up.

Junior Year (Spring)

Decide which fields interest you, then start looking for programs and schools that match your interests.

As part of your research, investigate what kind of financial aid options will be available to you at the various institutions, including grants, loans, fellowships, and assistantships. This will help you weed out programs that you can’t pursue because they don’t offer the level of support you need.

Schedule your entrance exams. You may want to take these exams in the spring of your junior year so you get them out of the way (and have time to retake them if necessary) and can spend the fall filling out your applications and working on your writing samples.

Summer Before Senior Year

Most graduate schools look for well-rounded individuals with good grades and some relevant work experience on their resumes. An internship can be an excellent way to gain some professional experience in your chosen field. In some fields, volunteer experiences are also helpful—provided they give you relevant experience and are not simply “envelope stuffing” exercises. Stop in at your college’s career center for help in identifying internship and volunteer opportunities.

Senior Year (Fall)

Get your transcripts from all your post-secondary education, including an up-to-date transcript for your current institution. Be prepared to have transcripts from study-abroad and other institutions that transferred credits.

Line up references and provide them with the information they need to write a complete reference.

Schedule your entrance exams. If you weren’t happy with your scores or decided to give yourself more time to prepare, you can take your entrance exams in the fall. (Some exams offer multiple test dates in the fall, enabling you to retake your exams again if necessary.)

Fill out your applications. Take your time, read directions carefully, and check and re-check your applications to ensure they are complete and error-free. Have someone proofread your applications.

Senior Year (Mid-Term Break/January)

Submit your applications.

Senior Year (Spring)

This is when acceptance letters begin to arrive. If you have applied to and been accepted at multiple schools, you may want to pay another visit to your top choices. Talk about your plans with a trusted faculty member or a career counselor at your undergraduate institution.

Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you plan to apply for financial aid. (You’ll need your prior year’s income tax return to complete this form.)

Once you make your decision, notify the school of your acceptance. As a courtesy, tell the other schools that you are declining their offers.

If you’ll be relocating for graduate school, start researching housing options in your new location. Can you afford to live alone, or will you need to find a roommate? Does the school offer assistance with housing or pairing graduate students as roommates? If so, call on those resources.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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Grad School Series: To Go or Not To Go?

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Right about now, Career Services is seeing many juniors and seniors who want to talk about grad school plans.  One of the biggest worries is about whether or not a student should continue her education. This short guide may help alleviate some of this stress for a student trying to decide about life after Centre.

Should you go on to graduate school? Is it the right move for you at this point in your career? How can you decide whether or not this is the right path for you at this time? Give your decision careful consideration, weighing all the factors, including:

Your career path

What do you truly want to do? What excites you more than anything? If it’s a profession you absolutely, positively must pursue, and it requires advanced education, then you’re probably an excellent candidate for further education.

“You go to graduate school to become an expert in a certain area or to be a professional in certain industries, like law, medicine, or engineering,” explains Cindy Parnell, director of career services at Arizona State University.

Investment of time, money, and energy

Graduate students find out very quickly that their days of frat parties, general education courses, and hanging out with friends are over—graduate school is, well, about school.

Your marketability to an employer

Not every profession requires an advanced degree, so do some research on potential career opportunities before committing to more education.

“Students run the risk of thinking today that grad school might be the answer. Depending on the program, you want to have the fieldwork experience as well as grad school. If you go on to grad school without having any fieldwork experience, you run the risk of being over-educated [and under-experienced],” says Shayne Bernstein, associate director, career development services, at Hunter College.

Opportunities within the field

If you do plan to work before going back for that advanced degree, will more education help you move up the ranks at your company? Have you landed a job in your undergraduate area of study, and now you’re thinking you want to enhance what you’ve learned, or pursue a totally new field? Depending on your professional career path, advanced education may help you reach your career goals.

Your motivation

Can’t think of what else to do next? Don’t think of graduate school as a way to hide from the job search. You face wasting a lot of resources.

Bernstein suggests giving careful consideration to your decision to pursue graduate school.

“Don’t go if you’re not passionate about something,” she stresses. “Don’t go for the sake of going to graduate school. Go because you’re passionate and you want to develop your skill set in a certain area.”

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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Attention Sophomores! Announcing the Sophomore Survival Program!

InternDCcropIf you are a sophomore, now is the time to starting thinking about your plans for the upcoming summer!   The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has provided a suggestions for obtaining an internship, and with that in mind, Career Services has developed the Sophomore Survival program. 

This program will be held on Thursday, October 10, 5:00-7:00 on the 3rd floor of Crounse.

Get all the information you need for career success in one event!  Attend three brief sessions on resume writing, interviewing, and summer internships. There will even be pizza and a drawing for a grand prize at the end.

To register, please email Career Services.

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Teach for America Recruiting on Centre College Campus

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Teach for America
Information Session: Monday, October 7, 6:00pm, Crounse 301
Individual Meetings: Monday, October 7 and Tuesday, October 8, Career Services (Old Carnegie)

Teach For America finds, trains, and supports top college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. Teach For America’s network includes 11,200 corps members teaching in 48 regions across the country and 32,000 alumni working in education and many other sectors to create the systemic changes that will help end educational inequity.

A representative from Teach for America will be on campus on October 7 and 8.  On the evening of October 7, they will hold an information session in Crounse 301 at 6:00 p.m.  Snacks will be provided and sign-up is required.  Call (859) 238-5283 or email careerservices@centre.edu to sign-up.

A representative will also be available for individual meetings with students throughout the day on October 7 and 8.  To sign-up for an individual session, Centre students should follow these instructions:

  • Go to our website at:  http://www.centre.edu/career_services/index.html.
  • Sign into CentreWorks. (Your username is firstname.lastname.  Your password is NOT the same as your Centre password.  If you do not remember or haven’t gotten a password, click “forgot password” and you can generate one.)
  • Click on “events” at the top of the page.
  • Choose “workshops.”
  • Pick your preferred day to meet with Teach for America and RSVP for a time slot on the right hand side of the screen.

Contact us at (859) 238-5283 or by emailing careerservices@centre.edu if you have any questions.

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Centre Hosts Annual Law School Fair

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Law School Fair
Tuesday, October 1, 3:00-5:00pm
Campus Center, 2nd floor
List of Law Schools Attending

The Centre College annual Law School Fair is scheduled for Tuesday, October 1 from 3:00 – 5:00 in the Ewen Room in the Campus Center.  Students from all class years are welcome to attend, and it is highly recommended for seniors who are applying to law school.  So why should you attend, how should you prepare, and what should you expect?

For underclass students, this is a great opportunity to meet with representatives from law schools, ask them what they look for in applicants and get advice on what you should be doing between now and senior year to make yourself as attractive a candidate for law school as possible.

For seniors, you should be prepared with some knowledge of the programs offered by your top choice schools.  You should also have questions for all of the institutions as you may find yourself interested in some schools you have not previously considered.

Regardless of class year, we recommend dressing up slightly (no suits, but no torn jeans either).  When you arrive, you will check in at the registration table in the hallway.  From there, the event is casual.  Each law school will be set up at a table and you will be able to walk around and talk to each one on a drop-in basis.  Most of the representatives will be professional law school admission representatives.  A few will be graduates of that particular law school.  Either way, they are friendly people who are interested in sharing information about their school and in learning about you.

We look forward to seeing you there!  If you have any questions, stop by Career Services in Old Carnegie, call us at (859) 238-5283, or send an e-mail to careerservices@centre.edu.

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Thinking About Life After Centre as the New School Year Begins

Whether this is your first semester at Centre or your last, Career Services would like to welcome you!  Watch this blog and our website for upcoming events.  To make an appointment, give us a call at (859) 238-5283 or come by our office in Old Carnegie between the hours of 8:30 – 4:30 Monday through Friday.  We look forward to working with you and hope you have a great semester!

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Senior year is a very scary time for many college students.  You have spent virtually your entire lives in school, and many of you are now facing life outside of academics.  For this reason, some students put off dealing with the idea of graduating and leaving college, but this is not to their benefit.  Many employers recruit for full-time staff members in the fall.  Among these are Nestle and Mercer.  Mercer, for example, is already looking for staff for their Boston office to begin work in June.  When an employer actually starts hiring college students will depend on the industry, but employers that begin early typically hire multiple college students for a training program or for multiple locations.  Employers that generally just have one job to fill will recruit to fill the position when the opening becomes available.  Come to Career Services to talk about the timing in your field of interest or to begin your job search.  Now is a great time to set up your profile on LinkedIn (a professional networking site).  Instructions for how to do this are available in Career Services.

Although most graduate school applications are not due until February/March, some schools have rolling admissions, in which case it would benefit an applicant to apply early.  In addition, graduate school admissions tests should be taken early in case you want to retake the exam.  Personal statements also usually take multiple drafts and can be time consuming to complete.  Begin by researching schools of interest and finding out their admission requirements and deadline dates.  Read some of the sample personal statements in the Career Services library and begin thinking about your own.  Prepare for and sign-up to take the appropriate graduate school entrance exam for your field of interest.  Be sure to talk to your professors about your goals.  If you want them to serve as a reference for you, be sure to ask their permission and provide them with a copy of your resume.  Career Services is happy to help you with this process.  You can also check out our Graduate School Resources page.

Although thinking about life after Centre is scary, now is the time to start.  Career Services is happy to help, and we look forward to working with you!

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Senior Celebration!

All seniors (class of 2014) are invited to Senior Celebration!  Aly Partain ’12 and Andrew Snyder ‘09 will be in attendance to give you some insight into senior year and life ‘post-Centre’ – so bring your questions for them!

Senior Celebration

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Guest Post: Phone Etiquette for a Successful Job Search

Ashley GairingDr. Ashley Gairing has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and has worked in Admissions, Advancement, Communications and Marketing in independent schools. She is also a Centre parent/alumni parent of three and serves as a member of the Career Services Advisory Committee. Dr. Gairing’s favorite pastime is immersing herself in the study of American Education.

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Your mastery of telephone interview skills may determine your success in the job search.  Due to the huge numbers of electronic applications landing in employers’ in boxes plus cost cutting measures, many applicants will begin their job search process with a phone interview. It is important to make a great impression before they meet you, so let’s start at the beginning with some basics. Start by paying attention to the way you answer the phone and record a professional voice mail recording. Once you have secured a phone interview, prepare thoroughly for the experience. Research and prepare answers to typical interview questions and learn as much as you can about the position and the company. Consider a practice interview with a friend or family member. Record it and listen to your voice. You should sound both enthusiastic and professional, and your voice should be clear and strong. Develop and rehearse a powerful closing statement.

When the scheduled day arrives, plan to wear business attire and sit at a desk or table to set the tone for the phone interview. Try to use a land line to avoid static or dropped calls, and turn off call waiting. There needs to be absolute quiet. Have your resume nearby, and perhaps tape it to a wall in view. Develop a short list of your accomplishments and have a pen and paper in front of you for note taking. A glass of water is also a good idea. When you receive the phone interview call, answer the call with your name. Use the interviewer’s title and last name, and do not use a first name unless you are instructed to. Please be sure to smile when you speak as it will lift your voice. Slow down your speech and speak clearly and never interrupt the interviewer. No gum, mints or food, please.

During your phone interview, focus on the interviewer and ask for clarification when necessary. It is fine to pause briefly after a question to collect your thoughts. Give short answers and include your background and skills in your answers when possible. Be sure to ask intelligent questions about the company. It is important to leave strong first and final impressions. Remember, your goal is to secure a face to face interview. Tell the interviewer why you are perfect for the job, and link your qualifications to your previous professional experiences, thereby communicating why your qualifications make you a perfect match for this job. Thank the interviewer at the end, and follow with a thank you note that reiterates your interest.

From time to time, you may be asked to do a Skype interview. Here are a few added suggestions that apply to this video interview experience. Most of the above preparations apply, but do pay close attention to your backdrop, which should be professional. Light yourself in an even and flattering manner, and use an Ethernet port for a secure connection. Please be sure to choose a professional handle, and plan to dress in professional attire from head to toe. Don’t risk a blazer with pajama bottoms. Darker colors with a touch of color in a lady’s blouse or gentleman’s tie work best. Tape your resume out of the interviewer’s view and skip note taking and the glass of water, since you want few distractions. Sign on to Skype 10 minutes early, and be prepared for the video call. When you are connected, initially check yourself on the screen. Then smile and greet the prospective employer and continue to look into the camera to make eye contact. Your camera should be in position for the interviewer to see your head, shoulders and hands. Pay attention to your posture and your body language, and lean in to show your enthusiasm. Remember to rehearse that powerful closing statement!

I wish you every success in your job search and know you will make your very best first and final impressions during your interviews!

–Ashley

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Guest Post: Using Social Media to Enhance Your Professional Brand

Ashley GairingDr. Ashley Gairing has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and has worked in Admissions, Advancement, Communications and Marketing in independent schools. She is also a Centre parent/alumni parent of three and serves as a member of the Career Services Advisory Committee. Dr. Gairing’s favorite pastime is immersing herself in the study of American Education.

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As you contemplate your undergraduate finish line, I offer you my congratulations. Today as you immerse yourself in the job search or graduate program application process, I ask you to consider some tips on using social media to enhance your personal and professional brand. Regardless of your next academic or career destination, I encourage you to remain vigilant about the advantages and disadvantages of instant electronic access to personal information.

Make social media work for you. Use Facebook to publicize your positive and professional self. Choose pictures that show you receiving awards, enjoying healthy pursuits, and partcipating in important occasions that reflect positively on you. Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct and that the interests that you follow on your profile will cast a favorable light on you as a candidate. It is best to stay neutral on politics, religion and social issues during your job search process.

Be sure to join LinkedIn and develop an impressive profile there. Attach your resume and any relevant blogs you have written to your profile. Update your job status and keep your information current. Use your LinkedIn account to view job postings by recruiters and find out about networking events. Twitter provides a means to connect with people you do not know based on common interests. When paired with LinkedIn, Twitter can help you connect, network, and find job listings. Make sure you create a separate professional Twitter account and use your full name as your handle. Include a brief bio that includes your professional attributes and upload a professional photo. Do your research and Tweet intelligently about your desired occupation as you follow businesses and professional associations in you field of interest. Please resist using abbreviations and txt spk, and remember to link your LinkedIn account to your Twitter account.

Now there also are social media pitfalls to be avoided. Please remember to always be respectful and avoid posting anything you would not want public in your professional life. Manage your privacy settings and be cautious when accepting friend requests. Facebook is not about the race to acquire the most “friends.” Keep all your status updates positive and try not to over share. In just this week alone, I have read postings on being hung-over at work, arriving late, hating a job, the unfairness of having to take work home, and the joy of playing hooky. Remember, writing it is just like saying it aloud, but with Facebook, you are saying it aloud while simultaneously sending it out into the world. Facebook is free, so your information, which becomes their information, is not secure, even with privacy settings.

When others post, please resist the urge to join their drama or jump on the bandwagon with negative comments. You already know how to remove embarrassing pictures and comments from your page, but be sure to ask your friends to remove any inappropriate pictures of you, now defined as anything you would not show your grandmother, from their Facebook page. Your idea of a fun slang phrase may be seen as profanity by an older adult, so please choose your words and captions carefully. Consider designing a private and professional Facebook page or keep your one page squeaky clean. Don’t assume that an employer won’t think to reverse the letters of your first and last names to find your real page, i.e., Hobby Bunt for Bobby Hunt. Many have lost good job offers because they underestimated the resourcefulness of their prospective employers. Be sure to Google yourself. A recent study reported that seventy-five percent of employers Google applicants before meeting them.

If you are kind in your words and actions and thoughtfully project your best self both electronically and in person, you will set yourself apart and be a desirable candidate. Again, congratulations and best of luck in your ultimate journey toward that first job!

–Ashley Gairing

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