Prep yourself for grad school

Christopher Ore

There are several options to consider upon graduation from the University. Some of these include getting a job with Club Med as a ski instructor in Colorado, volunteering for Teach for America, joining the Marines, getting an office job and pursuing graduate school.

The purpose of this article is to explore the option of graduate school. The decision to attend graduate school is a serious one: it is a no-brainer that one should probably attend college, but not necessarily the case with graduate school.

There are many respectable occupations where you can make mucho dinero without the JD, MBA, MD, MAC, Ph.D. or innumerable alphabet soups.

In the event that you do, however, think you are ready to consider graduate school, the issue becomes:

1. When should I go?

2. What should I study?

3. How do I get there?

4. What am I going to do with it?

The question of what to study and what to do with it are the most critical to address first. If you are fully aware and cognizant of your desire to become a doctor, dentist, lawyer, or psychiatrist, the choice of what to study is pretty obvious. But assume, for a moment, that instead you want to become a CEO of a large company or a partner with a Big Four accounting firm. Here, the decision becomes a bit more difficult. Certainly, in the latter case, it may make sense to look into the Master of Accounting and Professional Consultancy Program (either at VU or elsewhere!) but it also may make sense to consider the MBA. Also recognize that one is not exclusive of the other – graduate degrees can be multiple!

Timing is also an issue. If you decide to pursue a law or medical degree, it is probably most advisable that you do so right after college. Whereas an MBA or Ph.D. is probably best pursued after gaining 3-6 years of professional experience. Indeed, to get into to top-notch programs, there is an emphasis on work-experience.

In addition to an outstanding undergraduate degree from a blue chip university such as Villanova, you have to distinguish yourself. There are many ways of doing so – such as volunteering big-time for a well-known organization, learning two or three languages, living and working abroad for a few years, joining the Peace Corps, etc. But, for better or for worse, there simply is no replacement for a good score on the requisite standardized exams. If the graduate school you are considering does not require one of the following, that may be a red flag:

LSAT: This is the quintessential law school entrance exam. Administered only two or three times per year, this bad boy will press you for everything you’ve got. Engineers among you be warned: there is a whole lot on this exam, but not one ounce of quantitative. Instead, you will be asked questions such as: If Suzie is in back of Larry, and Larry is ahead of Sam, where is Mary? Great question.

The LSAT consists of an analytical section, a reading comprehesion section and a “games” or logic, section. This exam will run you a c-note in addition to the $100 bucks or so you will pay to the LSDAS (Law School Data Assembly Service), which is required if you intend to apply to any American Bar Association accredited law school (why would you even consider schools that are not accredited!?!?)

GRE: This monster of exam is great for everything except an MBA, a medical degree, law school or a few others. It is the “catch-all” for most graduate schools. It consists of a quantitative section, an analytical/logic/games section and a quantitative section. Offered 363 days per year, it will run you a cool $100 a pop.

GMAT: This beast will run a cool $200 and is the exam of choice for MBA programs throughout the nation and world. Also, if you intend to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. this test will often be used in lieu of the GMAT. Finally, this exam can be used for the Master of Accounting and Professional Consultancy, though not all candidates are required to take it. Offered 363 days per year, this exam consists of an essay section, a quantitative section and a verbal section.

Much like the SAT in many respects, only a bit more confusing in format. Good news for the non-math majors: the quant section has nothing harder than algebra and geometry! If you were always confused by pi “r” squared (because we all know that pies are round), you should not have that much trouble with this exam.

MCAT: This is the test of tests. This is for all the aspiring doctors who ultimately want to be squeezed for a living by HMOs and the insurance industry as a whole – not to mention the government and ideas that are still floating around about socialized medicine.

In summary, the key is to do your “due diligence” in selecting an appropriate graduate school and course of study that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. There are many, many programs out there, so make sure to do a great job of researching. Also, recognize that the time and money commitment is nothing to sneeze at: MACs can take 14 months, MBAs 21 months, Law Degrees (JD) can take three years, PhDs can easily take four to five years and Medical Degrees (with the requisite internships) can put you close to 30 by the time you are done!

Choose carefully and enjoy! Remember that grad school is almost college. The path you pick will be an asset to your future. Do not be afraid of the work or the dollar value for the benefits far exceed the costs.